Country Communion

By Daniel Schantz

 

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you” (John 14:27, New King James Version).

You arrive late at the little country church that is surrounded by lime green sycamore trees. Late, because you had a tiff with your wife at breakfast.

6communion7_JNThe pianist is playing “The Old Rugged Cross” on a piano that is slightly out of tune, just like you. Just as you and your wife take a seat, several farmers stand up and make their way to the back of the auditorium. Their faces are red from sun labors, except for their foreheads that are white where their hats covered them. They wear short-sleeve shirts and have arms that are strong, solid, furry. Slowly they march down the center aisle, their leather boots making a pleasant, squeaking sound, and the wooden floor rising and falling to their cadence.

The men stop in front of a massive, wooden Communion table that probably was carved by Michelangelo himself from an olive tree that grew in the Garden of Gethsemane. The words, “This Do in Remembrance of Me” stand out in relief. The table is covered with a crocheted ivory cloth, made long ago by an elder’s wife. The bronze Communion trays were salvaged from the old building that was destroyed by fire 50 years ago.

The oldest farmer opens his heavy, worn Bible, adjusts his thick glasses, and reads the text in a deep, rich voice, then closes his Bible and offers a simple, honest prayer, the same one he has prayed for the past 42 years, and you are comforted by its familiarity.

Weathered, calloused hands distribute the trays, row-by-row, then old men and women shade their eyes with their hands to meditate. Young couples hold hands. You can almost see the prayers rising like incense from the pews—prayers of confession and regret, prayers for children and grandchildren, anxious prayers for rain and good crops.

The air has a fruity fragrance, and the clicking of little glass cups in the bronze trays is soothing. The two of you serve each other the Communion, and your eyes meet for just a moment, as you check each other for anger, but the anger is gone. Your wife places her hand on top of yours, and you can feel your eyes beginning to overflow. You squeeze her hand in response.

The farmers carry the trays back to the table, and the pianist begins to play a sprightly tune, in preparation for the offering.

You glance at your watch and note that the Communion service lasted only seven minutes, but it was long enough to bring you deep peace.

“Thank you, Lord,” you pray, “for holding us all together.”

Daniel D. Schantz is professor emeritus with Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly, Missouri.

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