We sometimes forget that Jesus was born in a barn, not a church, and that the God of the Incarnation is as much about kitchen tables as ecclesial altars. God is as much domestic as monastic. This is important to keep in mind as we try to understand the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the body of Christ, a continuation of the Incarnation, and, like Jesus’ birth, is meant to bring the divine into concrete, everyday life. Hence, among its other attributes, the Eucharist is meant simply to be a family meal, a community celebration, a place, like our kitchen tables and living rooms, where we come together to be with each other, to share ordinary life, to celebrate special events with each other, to console and cry with each other when life is full of heartaches, and to be together simply for the sake of being together. ~Ronald Rolheiser
At the beginning of each service at Church of the Cross, the tiny church with a huge heart that Brad and I call home, Father Paul says, “You are welcome here, and you can’t mess this up.”
Those words are like potato soup and cornbread and a crackling fire on a chilly winter’s evening. They are comforting, nurturing, encouraging. And he’s right. Outside of not knowing the exact melody of a song, I’ve never felt like an outsider. There’s a rhythm to the service that carries everyone along, from responsive readings to spoken (and unspoken) prayers.
Communion is a central act of worship at our church. It’s an every week “without fail” thing, like the thoughtful sermons and everyone holding hands while we say the Lord’s Prayer and the tray of candles to be lit by those who long and hope and pray. It carries its own liturgy of forgiveness and confession, of vulnerability as we drink from the chalice and feel the bread in our hands. It moves us to a common place. All are welcome at Church of the Cross. All are welcome at the communion table.
Father Paul lifts high the bread and the cup. “Let us keep the feast. The gifts of God for the people of God.”
We gather. We yield. We receive.
At CasaRock, communion is more than Sunday mornings. On Sunday nights, we gather, we yield, we receive at the table with good food and drink. It’s not a church service we’re having. It’s family dinner. But honestly, it may look more like the first communion than anything I know. And it keeps us in a common place. All are welcome at the table.
He picks up the poor from out of the dirt,
rescues the wretched who’ve been thrown out with the trash,
Seats them among the honored guests,
a place of honor among the brightest and best. (Passover reading from Psalm 113)
The communion that Jesus shared with his disciples wasn’t part of a church service. It wasn’t formal, and it wasn’t preceded by a sermon or followed by a hymn. The bread He used wasn’t baked for the purpose of being memorialized, and the wine they drank was wine that would have been enjoyed anyway. They were celebrating Passover together with a feast that marked liberty and life. They had been through much together, strangers made God-crafted family. They are sharing stories when the One at the center of it all picks up a piece of bread and says it represents Him. Created for purpose, thrashed, milled, sifted, shaped, refined by fire, transformed into a gift of life. The bread is broken by hands made in the image and likeness of a meaningful God, a God who delights at the table. They eat the bread, each one pondering the depth of the words, “Let’s do this together to remember why we exist.”
The feast continues, the conversations return, sacred writings are read aloud. Liberty and life are celebrated again. When the last morsel has been eaten and the last psalm read, Jesus raises a cup. “I’d like to make a toast.” They all smile and raise their cups. Four glasses of wine during the dinner – that’s the tradition. Four glasses all symbolizing freedom. This is the last cup. It has meaning. It represents the freedom that will come with Messiah, a promise of restoration by God Himself. They are ready to recite words, say a prayer, and toast to a future of peace. But Jesus lifts His cup and toasts to a new promise – of a life bigger than life and a Kingdom that can’t be destroyed and a peace that won’t be shattered or explained away. He says they’ll celebrate again. And He toasts to His own life, a life poured out to give life. The wine takes on new meaning. Created with promise, crushed to be given greater purpose. Quietly, they drink, every day of ministry and every word He’s spoken in the time they’ve known Him quick-stepping now through their minds. “Everything I do, you’ll do too. And more. We are in this together.”
At the table were doubters, questioners, lovers, haters. At the table were loyalists and skeptics. At the table were those who did it all right and those who did everything wrong. All were welcomed by the One who washed feet and opened blind eyes. And there, they were kept in a common place.
Each Sunday morning, when I hear Father Paul say, “You can’t mess this up,” I see Jesus at the table. He’s fixed a meal and poured the wine, and He’s inviting us to sit at the feast. “Come and see,” He says. “My promises are true. I’m here. I’ve got you, and you can’t mess this up. Remember, we’re in this together.”
Each Sunday night, as the meal is served, I see His invitation too.
We gather. We yield. We receive. And we are kept in a common place.
Yes, we are in this together. You know the rest…
Sunday nights are #kitchentherapy for me. And while I’m not sure if anyone else would count this as communion, rosé wine with strawberries and lemon most certainly is worth a toast. My sister-chef-friend Crystal and I blended up the perfect Frosé as we celebrated our journey together watching a Florida sunset. The storms raged around us, but our stories kept us safe. We lacked fancy tools, and still the drink was delightful. Of all the recipes out there, I promise you – this is the one you want.
1 bottle dry and crisp Rosé wine (it doesn’t have to be pricy to work)
1 cup fresh strawberries, chopped and macerated in a little sugar
Juice of one lemon
1/2 to 3/4 cup simple syrup (it’s easy to make – 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar stirred together and placed in a saucepan, then simmered at medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, will do it. Be sure to cool it completely before using).
Pour bottle of wine into freezer-friendly bowl or container, and place in freezer until solid (two to three hours). While wine is freezing, prepare the strawberries. By the time the wine is ready, the strawberries will be ready too. Make your simple syrup and cool it as well.
Using a fork, scrape the frozen wine into a pitcher. Take that same fork and mash your sweetened strawberries before adding them to the wine. Add the juice of the lemon and your simple syrup and stir. Be sure to begin with only 1/2 cup simple syrup. Depending upon the sweetness of the prepared strawberries, you may not need any more.
Pour Freckled Frosé into glasses, and garnish with a strawberry if desired. Make a toast with your friend to all the journeys you’ve enjoyed and all the journeys to come.