I read the following words yesterday on a blog:
"I love it when I remember to watch people streaming into worship. It's always beautiful."
Indeed. This line took me back to a time when I was still straddling denominations. I had been reared in a high liturgical tradition, and one in which communion was always taken by rising and going to an altar to receive it from a priest. The first time I went to a mainline Protestant church (which happened to be on World Communion Sunday, probably 13 years ago) I wondered at the many stacking trays on "the altar" (not, I later learned, the correct terminology). They looked to me like those food dehydrators one used to see on infomercials. When communion was served to me in the pew, I had a powerful sense of the wrongness of it... and I wondered at that. As I pondered, over the next days and weeks, why it was that receiving communion seated seemed to wrong, I realized that the experience of watching people rise and go forward to receive, the movement of bodies, the flow, was a visual icon for me of the body of Christ. The people were the blood flowing through the body of Christ.
Some time not too long after that I was having lunch with a Presbyterian minister, and I asked him about the tradition of receiving communion seated. He paused and thought for a second, then he asked me this:
"Which would you say is more true: that God comes to us or that we go to God?" I grinned and conceded that, given what we believe about Jesus, I would have to say that God comes to us.
But I am not so sure about that any more. I do believe that God comes to us, in Jesus and in others. But I also believe that we reach out and take steps to bring ourselves closer to God. I know that the Reformers would argue (Calvin most strenuously) that we can do no good of our own accord, the image of God in us is so defaced by sin. And I take sin seriously. (How can one not, reading the news?) But I also believe, as Fox has pointed out, that an original blessing preceded and was not obliterated by the sin.
I am now at ease (and at home) receiving communion in both ways (and giving it in both ways as well). But my friend More Cows stirred my memory of the beauty of that visual icon for me yesterday. I don't think it hurts to be reminded that we are that one glorious body, and that we are less than we could be if that body were unified.