A story from within the life of my community.
The first time Dave came to church, he was pretty tentative.
Frank, a regular attendee, had pretty much drug him there, and Dave was looking a lot like someone who had been drug there.
He was fine before the service started, but when the prelude music started, he bolted for the door and sat outside, chain smoking cigarettes. Frank offered up Dave during prayer request time, saying Dave had a long history of drug abuse, and that while he is sober now, his family had pretty much disowned him. And because his family is heavily involved in the church, Dave does not do church well.
When Frank said that Dave did not do church well, there were three or four “Me eithers!” shouted from the rest of the congregation. One of them may have been me.
In any event, after the benediction, Dave wandered back in and joined us for the potluck dinner we had scheduled for that day.
I figured we would never see him again.
The next week, in come Frank and Dave, five minutes before the service starts. Dave sits down, opens a hymnal and manages to stick with us through the first song, at which point he heads for the door and chain smokes the rest of the service.
The following week, Dave makes it until after prayers of the people, but when I start in on the ancient words of institution that begin communion (“On the night he was arrested, the Lord Jesus took the bread…”), Dave is gone.
The fourth week, he sits all the way through the words of institution. Then I say what I always say:
There are a lot of different theories in the church about who is allowed to take part in communion. But here, we take the position that this table isn’t my table, or even the church’s table, but that this table belongs to Jesus. And at Jesus’ table, everyone gets to eat.
So here, we don’t care what you have done, or what your past is like, or if you’ve been baptized or not. All that matters here is that you want to eat at Jesus’ table. If you do, then you can take communion with us.
The line forms in the middle, and one by one, folks line up to accept the bread and dip it in the cup. Dave is the last in line.
“Can I really take communion?” he whispers as he approaches me.
“Of course,” I say, as I hand him the bread.
Dave takes it and dips it in the cup, smacking his lips as he devours the juice soaked bread. Then he wanders back to his seat and weeps silently as I pronounce the benediction. And before we’re done saying amen, Dave is out the door.
On Monday, Dave pops by the office.
“You know what I did last night,” he asks. “I wrote my mom.”
“Really? How long has it been since you talked to her?,” I ask.
“A long time. Maybe 20 years. Anyway, I told her that for the first time in years and years, I had been to a church and had taken communion. I thought she would want to know.”
I bet she did. And I thought you might want to know, too.