As I drive to church on New Year’s Day I reflect on the previous year, asking myself, “Am I closer to God today than I was a year ago?” I consider our new church home and the meaty teaching our pastor offers. I think of my deepening friendships with fellow Christians. I muse over more time spent in the Word.
Now the service begins and we sing How Firm a Foundation. We reach the third verse:
Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.
Suddenly I’m overcome with joy. I’m talking to myself:
I am upheld by by the righteous, omnipotent hand of God, Creator of the universe! I will go forth with confidence in 2012, proclaiming my King. I have nothing, absolutely nothing, to fear.
Three minutes later the pastor announces we’re doing communion differently on this day. Typically the elders and deacons pass the elements, pew-by-pew. Today, we’ll each approach the chancel, take our morsel of bread and cup of wine, and return to our seats, where we’ll partake together.
Anxiety gnaws at my gut. Do something I’ve never done before? Here, in church, in front of all my friends? What if I do it wrong?
Almost instantly, I begin to rebuke myself. Nobody came here to watch me take communion. No team with scorecards waits on the sidelines of the chancel to gauge my performance.
Now an argument breaks out in my head.
Performance? Ack. Communion isn’t performance, you dimwit. Just get in line and follow. It’ll be fine.
And while we’re at it, weren’t you just A.Few.Minutes.Ago rejoicing over God’s righteous, omnipotent hand? And not long before that, weren’t you thinking you’d actually grown in faith this year?
Just a minute. Hold on. You’re in church. Preparing to take communion. Give yourself a break!
Now I’m at the chancel and Pastor Robert is standing behind the trays holding the bread–the figurative flesh of Christ–and the wine, symbolizing His blood. “The body of Christ was broken for you, Sheila,” my pastor says, as I reach for the bread. “The blood of Christ was spilled for you,” he says, as I take the cup.
The bickering in my head ceases as I return to my seat and share in the wonder of communion. I look around as together, we eat the bread, sip from our cups.
I’m not the only one in tears, as we repeat this ritual–the only repetitive ritual prescribed in the New Testament–on New Year’s Day.
Driving home, I’m thinking. Yes, you did grow in 2011. And you have a lot more growing to look forward to in 2012.
And I rejoice all over again.
It’s going to be a great year.
20 They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21 And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” 23 And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”
Mark 9:20-24 (NASB)