“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it he broke it, and gave it to them.” – Matthew 26:26-27
We imagine Jesus handing that loaf down the table, disciple to disciple. But scripture doesn’t say exactly how he ‘gave it to them,’ so we don’t really know. But we do know how we give out communion—in many different ways.
We approach the server, we’re given bread, we dip it in the cup. We kneel at a rail, and the server brings bread and cup to us. We sit in pews, passing plates and rattling trays of little glasses.
We prefer some methods to others, yet still find devotional meaning in them all, attaching symbolism to going forward, kneeling, or sitting in the pews.
But we really don’t need to add meaning to our various ways of getting communion off the table and into people’s hands. They’re already meaningful just by being what they are—practicalities, efficiencies, delivery systems.
Consider this: No matter how we do it, whenever we give out communion the Spirit is training us in a vital Christian competence—the skill of distribution. We’re gradually acquiring God’s own resourcefulness for giving food to every living thing.
Next time you take canned goods to the food bank, organize meals at the shelter, set a meal on your family’s table, pass out sandwiches to the homeless in the park, or lobby for food justice in the halls of power, remember going forward to be given bread. Remember the server at the rail. Remember trays of little glasses passed in pews.
Remember that he ‘gave it to them.’ And be awed by what a holy thing it is to distribute food.
Jesus, Bread of Life, with each communion given and received, makes us more skillful at distributing you.
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.