OCD & The Lord's Supper
Communion Sunday brings out the OCD in me. Ever since I was little I would dread the first Sunday of the month in church. It was literally disaster waiting to happen. First there were plates stacked on top of each other filled with the worlds tiniest glasses filled to the brim with grape juice or wine, both of which stain horribly. My mother wouldn’t let me bring a container of salt with me to church as a precautionary measure, despite all of Christ’s allusions to us being ‘the salt of the earth.’ Then our church raised enough money to buy new carpeting for the sanctuary, thus also raising the stakes for the severe consequences of dropping that which was to be symbolic of the blood of Christ. As if that wasn’t enough tension, our elders never could get the knack of passing the plates along the pews. Inevitably the men would have to do something which resembled the Electric Slide down the aisle as they never knew which pew would end up with which plate next. Often two plates of bread would be coming at you from opposite sides and created a cosmological traffic jam.
I once visited my friend’s church and discovered that Catholics all drank out of the same cup. This, of course only added to my obsessive compulsive disorder. Communion Sunday was an enormous risk. Who was stupid enough to think this was a good idea?
The more I am involved in a church, the more I find myself looking to God and saying “How on earth did you ever think this was a good plan?” Just about every philosophical outlook on the world has some serious problem with the topic of free will. For those who believe in an all knowing, all loving and all powerful deity the issue is particularly sticky. We all want a deus ex machina to swoop down in a blaze of glory and fix it all when we are in a crisis. We want a god who is a very visible superhero, complete with tights and Jimmy Olsen taking photographic evidence. Even those of us who are absolute atheists would very much like to see a world which is a vast improvement on this one.
For the followers of Christ, free will in a fallen world is counterintuitive. The fact that one can freely come to the table and drink the wine which Christ gives us even when we are bumbling fools compared to our Host is shocking. What’s even more ironic to our ears is that God uses us, though we are responsible for spilling wine and forgetting which way the bread needs to be passed to take care of each other. As any guest at a dinner party will attest, there is little worse than embarrassing your host, even if it is by inadvertently dropping the wine on a beautiful new rug.
God would rather work through us and run the risk of us spilling his blood and passing his body around the wrong way than swooping in and doing everything through force. Our fumbling ways of messing up how things ought to be, misjudging what is needed to make the world truly better, even refusing to acknowledge who invited us into the banqueting hall in the first place, are exactly the actions of the type of misfits He’s always had in mind to create a perfect kingdom. To Him, it was better to risk it all and have our choice to partake in the dinner be made in freedom, than to sit down and force feed us a meal which was supposed to be celebratory.
As soon as I walk into a church and see the wine and the bread on the communion table, it takes all of my energy to not run the other direction. I worry about the plate falling, or myself choking on a piece of bread, knocking over a glass of wine or drinking at the wrong time. For a meal with the greatest cost, I confess that I am too concerned about the manners and customs to enjoy that which has been prepared especially for me. Thus making me more ungracious than the guest who, in a moment of joyful abandon, commits the worst faux pas