Let me set the scene for you: The church service has finished, and people are shuffling their chairs into small circles, ready to take communion. There are small round tables in strategic positions, and someone is quietly walking around, placing silver dishes of bread and small glass cups of wine on each one. (Actually, to be strictly factual, I believe the small glass cups are cocktail dishes, designed for jellies or ice-cream sundaes. And the ‘wine’ is indefinable fruit juice, because this is a Baptist church and they don’t have alcoholic wine for communion.) The bread is gluten free, so that everyone can share from the same loaf.
I sit, in my circle, and look at the other people. This is a mistake—perhaps my head should be bowed in prayer, and I should be oblivious to the people I am about to share a cup with, but I’m not. I notice that at least four people in my group have colds, one lady is stuffing a tissue up her sleeve while we wait, others have red noses and watery eyes and hoarse coughs. I find this stimulates me to pray, but again, not perhaps the prayer I should be praying. I am not praying for my fellow worshippers, not asking God to heal their illnesses, to give them comfort from the sore noses and uncomfortable throats. Nope, I am asking for a miracle. I am asking that could I please, please, be protected from the germs that are about to be shared along with the indefinable fruit juice in the glass cup/jelly dish. Because I have a really busy week coming up, with a book sale, and three different occasions when we’re having a number of people for dinner and I need to cook, and a rather nice event with my family which I don’t want to miss, so please God, please protect me from the cold germs and the flu virus, and anything else that is about to be consumed in the indefinable fruit juice.
Then, as I prayed (my rather selfish prayer) I realised that God had given me a brain and a dollop of common sense. My brain told me that sharing a cup (of indefinable fruit juice) with a bunch of people who were clearly suffering from one lurgy or another, was plain stupid; especially at the start of a particularly busy week. I did not need a miracle (ie to be protected from the germs which I would certainly consume with the drink) I needed instead to use my brain, and not drink it. Perhaps being given a brain was the miracle (brains are after all rather wonderful, with their grey sludge and electrical currents that control every part of us).
And so, dear reader, I did not share the communion cup. I truly hope that I didn’t offend anyone by passing it along the line, I hope that no one felt I was being aloof, or setting myself apart, because I wasn’t. I simply decided to use my brain and not risk catching a germ that I don’t have time to fight.
What, I wonder, would you have done?
I wrote this several months ago, before I was even aware of Coronavirus. I didn’t post it at the time, thinking I would save it for later. It now seems so poignant, I decided to share it.
A good point is made here.
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Very sensible and so appropriate just now. We have an Agape lunch next Sunday and usually tear of a piece from a common (also gluten free) loaf. But I will be suggesting that someone with very well washed hands cuts it up so that we can just pick up a piece without handling the loaf and sharing what is on our hands. We have individual cups for the non-alcoholic juice which I think needs to be extended to the wine folk as well.
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