One Sunday, not long ago, towards the end of our 11:00 worship service, the people of First Baptist Church made their way to the front of the Sanctuary to take communion. It's a pretty simple ritual when you think about it.
You take a piece of bread, "The Body of Christ, broken for you".
Then you dip it in a cup, "The Blood of Christ, shed for you".
It only takes a few seconds, and as soon as it started, it is over. But this month, the Eucharist (another name for this sacred meal) took on new meaning for me. You see, I have been the pastor of First Baptist for almost a year and a half. I have had time to learn names and faces, to hear stories and allow my story to be heard. I have made friends, and more than that, I have become a part of the family.
It is a moving experience to look someone in the eye, give them a hearty piece of bread and call them by name, "Brooke, the Body of Christ, broken for you." Moments like these leave a lasting impact on my consciousness. It feels like for just a few fleeting seconds, we really see each other. We see our brokenness and our potential. We see our humanity. But more than that, for those few brief moments, we see the face of Jesus.
So there I stood on Sunday morning, saying to each person, calling them by name "John, Sally, Jim, the Body of Christ." Most folks respond with "Thanks be to God" or maybe "Amen". It is language that we learn as we grow up in church. Words like these express gratitude and they acknowledge that this meal is, indeed, a good gift from God. Each person, one after the other, saying the words of thanksgiving.
Then I look up and there stands Dr. Brooke Webber.
You need to know, Brooke and I have a history. Dr. Webber was the organist at the first church where I served as a pastor. Each Sunday, I would preach a sermon, go outside to say goodbye to all my friends, and then come back into the room where Brooke was waiting for me. He would proceed to critique my sermon, telling me the places where I inspired him and also offering ideas on how I could better point people to Jesus. He became a trusted friend and one of my favorite conversations partners. I left that church after two years and the odds were that Brooke and I would never again cross paths.
Yet, there we stood on Sunday morning.
"Brooke, the Body of Christ, broken for you, my friend."
He took the bread and then he put his hand on my shoulder, leaned in close and said, "Will, I am glad you are here."
"I am glad you are here."
I didn't know it at the time, but I needed to hear those words from my friend, Brooke. He spoke a word of joy and love to me that morning. Those six simple words will linger on in my imagination. After all, I believe that we all need to hear words like that spoken into our lives.
If it is true that we see Jesus in the face of other people, then I am pretty sure that I heard the Living Christ in Brooke's voice that Sunday morning.
"I am glad you are here."