Daily Devotional for Small Group Discussion: Not A Test
- What were you taught about who may receive Holy Communion? Were there any categories of people who, by rule or custom, were not allowed to receive?
- What words are used today in your congregation to invite people to the Table? Are any of them limiting?
- The church loves to eat: potlucks, Communion, small group meals… Yet eating is a fraught thing for many people. Have you ever had a conversation in your community about eating disorders, diet culture, or the shaming of fat people? Would it be a good conversation to have?
You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. – Psalm 145:16 (NIV)
I’ve heard a lot of painful stories of rejection by the church. Many are about being denied Communion. You’re the wrong denomination. You’re trans. You’re not baptized. You’re on the spectrum.
One person’s pastor informed him that his presence in the Communion line upset people—he’d been badly disfigured in a fire. Would he come after church, alone? He never returned.
A woman with an eating disorder once told me she didn’t deserve to eat. She’d eat when she got thinner and felt worthier. That day never came. She’d stopped going to Communion, too. Communion, the church had taught her, is for worthy people. She wasn’t.
Listening to her, it struck me that when a church—any church—tells someone who wants Communion, “No, not you,” its voice isn’t all that different from the voice of an eating disorder telling sufferers they can eat only when they’ve passed the test.
In an article I read years ago, the author, who was in recovery, described eating as a terror-laden battlefield of shame and secrecy, a constant judgment of unworthiness. But she’s going to Communion. She knows it’s not the same for everyone, but Communion is helping her heal.
Communion offers a different definition of food—a gift, not a test. She first sensed its graciousness when worshipping at a church with an open Table. No talk there about being deserving, just an open-handed invitation from an all-satisfying God.
Many people experience food as a stand-in for worth. Communion isn’t that kind of food. If it ever becomes that kind of food in your church, you’ll need to repent and start over. Because, as that author wrote, the church can’t be a source of healing if it behaves like an illness.
Open our hands and tables to satisfy each other’s deepest longings, as your open hand satisfies every living thing.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.