In response to our weakness, Christ serves us his final meal.
The last time I took the bread and the cup was on Ash Wednesday of 2020. There was already tension in the room accumulated from years of religiously-charged political activity, and we were only at the beginning of an election cycle which would overlap with a pandemic, an insurrection, and a national confrontation with white supremacy.
If you’ve attended church with any regularity over the past few years, you probably know what it feels like to swallow crackers and juice while taking mental inventory of the things you resent about life in the body of Christ. If you’ve never done this, I’m happy for you. If, like me, you’ve seen your relationships buckle under the weight of ongoing racial reckonings, the slog of pandemic life, and the acrimonies of a politically polarized culture, you may need strategies to maintain a prayerful posture until the end of a communion service.
Here’s what I often do: I look around the room and imagine I am casting a contemporary retelling of the story of Joseph in Genesis. Joseph is born into a family chosen by God, then expelled from the household and sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. When I’m in church trying to sublimate my anger, I ask myself, who here in these pews would get to play Joseph? And who would get to play his treacherous family?
Having felt wronged by large swathes of the American church, I usually envision myself as Joseph. My recent history with the family of God involves ideologically divided faith communities, attempts at racial conciliation, and an ensuing conflagration that ruined my relationships and left me streaming breakup albums at home every Sunday morning. I like to cast myself as the misunderstood protagonist in a narrative—true …