Written by Daniel Hazard
Excerpt from Genesis 18:1-8
"Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, 'Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.' Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by the visitors under the tree while they ate."
Quinn G. Caldwell
As far as I can tell, here is how Communion is prepared in every Christian church everywhere:
The Deacons arrive at the appointed time, all except that one flake who freaks everybody out by being late every time. Some begin to prepare the bread; a heated discussion ensues about the right way to do it. Others begin to prepare the wine; a heated discussion ensues about the right way to do it. Somebody realizes they forgot to get an extra loaf of bread for the pastor to break, and races out to find a store open at this hour on a Sunday. Someone dresses the communion table; someone else comes along, sees the first person did it all wrong, and sets it up the right way; the pastor comes by, sees it's all wrong, and corrects the errors; the first person comes by again, sees that somebody messed his table up, and fixes it in a huff. A new Deacon, flustered at the rising anxiety in the room, manages to dump grape juice all over something important. As the elements are being brought in to the sounds of the choir warm-up, somebody snaps at someone and hurts their feelings badly. Someone else dents the 200-year-old wine ewer but doesn't tell anyone.
Just as the Prelude is ending, someone notices that the candles haven't been lit. As she calmly/frantically speedwalks up to light them, the guy who went to the store races in and lobs a loaf of bread in a Hail Mary pass from the back of the Sanctuary. It lands on the paten just as the choir procession starts. By the time the Words of Institution are spoken, the Deacons have almost caught their breath, and manage to serve the sacrament with calm demeanors and gracious smiles. The congregation assumes God put all that stuff on the table and the Deacons are just passing it out.
Here's what Abraham's household knew: it takes a lot of work to entertain guests. It takes a lot of behind-the-scenes bustling and frantic improvisation and calm smiles covering galloping hearts. So here's to all the Deacons, hosts, and entertainers out there: thank you. May you be served as graciously as you serve, may the angels you entertain unawares reveal themselves with gratitude, and may you not be the one who gets stuck cleaning up while everybody else goes out to brunch.
God, bless all the people who race around behind the scenes to throw a party for you. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is Pastor and Teacher at Plymouth Congregational Church, UCC, in Syracuse, New York, and co-editor, with Curtis J. Preston, of the Unofficial Handbook of the United Church of Christ, published by The Pilgrim Press.