Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Interruptions and Inconveniences

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you (1 Cor. 11:23).

Taking the Lord’s Supper hasn’t changed much since I was eight years old. As a general rule it has been a Sunday morning experience, often involving small cubes of Wonder Bread and little cups of Welch’s grape juice passed in silver trays. Honestly, I’ve probably invested more mental energy in not dropping the silver trays than I have in meditating on Jesus’ body and blood.

In the midst of this standard practice, two Lord’s Supper experiences stand out in my mind. One took place at a Promise Keepers conference, a stadium event that gathered thousands of men for worship and teaching and plenty of brotherly admonition to Godly manhood. At Promise Keepers the elements came to us in a little two-unit package. A foil cover would be peeled off of the little plastic cup of grape juice and the smaller compartment that held some kind of unidentifiable bread-like substance. This allowed thousands to be served quickly. No silver trays at Promise Keepers.

The second experience that stands out in my mind was the time I took communion with an Episcopal congregation in Fort Worth, Texas. This was eye-opening for a Baptist seminary student. We walked forward and knelt at a padded rail. The priest gave us a wafer and then we all drank from the same silver cup. I told a nurse about this experience and she was horrified. I explained that the priest wiped the cup with a cloth after every person drank from it. She didn’t care. No way would she do that.

The Promise Keepers experience reminds me that ours is a world that values time and efficiency. The nurse’s reaction to my Episcopal experience reminds me that ours is a world that values the preferences that suit the individual. We share a common meal, but drink from your own cup.


When the Corinthians gathered for the Lord’s Supper they were being driven by individual preferences and the efficient use of time. The wealthy folks took what they wanted (preference) and they didn’t sit around waiting for the others to show up (time). Paul had to remind them that the meal wasn’t theirs to do with as they saw fit. This meal was given. “I received from the Lord what I passed on to you.”

We live in a world that encourages and extols two values that are detrimental to the Christian community and the Jesus way of life: Efficient use of time and personal preference or taste. This means that many of us live life in a hurry, and we resent the inconveniences that interfere with our personal preferences. This works well in America – but it presents a challenge for those who follow Jesus.

You may already be planning your day in a way that allows you to use time efficiently and avoid inconvenience. You may already feel rushed. You don’t need anyone getting in the way of what you’ve got to do. But interruptions and inconvenience can be a spiritual discipline in your life. You are invited to receive them, not resent them.

This is hard for us. The Jesus way is not always efficient in its use of time. This way of living welcomes interruptions and lingers long. We prefer to get to the point and then get to the next thing. The Jesus way also means that sometimes I set aside my personal tastes and preferences in deference to another. Sometimes we are called upon to be willingly inconvenienced.

How do you typically respond to interruptions and inconvenience? What would it mean to receive these as God given appointments in your day?

Help us, O God, to receive every experience of this day as divinely appointed. Forgive us for assuming that we control our days, that we truly manage our own time and that all things should work according to our preference and plan. Grant to us a humility that truly seeks to follow where you lead, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

1 comment:

Victoria said...

Another unusual communion experience: I grew up Catholic and the little church we attended decided to get bacon-flavored communion wafers one week. It was hysterical to see the expressions on everyone's faces when they took the bread.