Good News for the Embarrassed
Picture this — my most embarrassing moment, well most embarrassing for this week, at least. I am in worship. It is holy communion. The liturgy begins and bread and wine are set before us. The Great Thanksgiving proceeds: The Lord be with you. And also with you. We respond.
The sacrament is being made ready for the congregation. Just as the Sanctus is to be spoken, “Holy, Holy, Holy…” I recall that I have not silenced my phone. Quickly I retrieve it from my pocket. Earlier that morning I had been turned into a nearby NPR radio station, listening to the news. Earphones on, I had walked my daily path. The news was about politics and the latest incendiary language from the campaign trail during this extraordinary and troubling year.
My intention on Sunday morning was to make certain the phone was silenced. By now you have guessed what happened. Somehow, instead of placing the phone on silent mode, I turned it on. Let’s just say the reception was excellent in that chapel. Loudly, across the pews and bouncing off the stained glass, one could hear the broadcaster say and “And now, we have this breaking news…”
I fumbled, I pushed every button I could find on the phone. Nothing seemed to silence it. Beside me Elaine persistently whispered, “walk out, walk out.” However, I was certain just one more button would end my terrible, awful, horrible, embarrassing moment.
Words from the newscaster about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton spilled across those who were in prayer preparing to receive the sacrament. A few nearby chuckled. Some turned around staring with considerable displeasure. Finally, after what was only a few seconds, but seeming like an hour to me, I silenced the phone. Too late. I was outed… an NPR listener! Someone too decrepit to know how to use a cell phone responsibly. At any moment I was expecting to be escorted from the chapel or to be charged with a religious felony — perhaps for disrupting the sacrament.
I hurriedly received the communion elements when our aisle went forward but I did not stay for the closing hymn or benediction. My embarrassment was too great. The holiest of moments for many that morning were disrupted by my clumsy fingers. As you might guess, I have dozens of other stories about embarrassing moments during holy communion. However, none of them are so blatantly self-inflicted — well, there was that time I downed an entire cup of wine during a Lutheran liturgy several decades back, but I digress.
Such embarrassment could not be redeemable, I was certain. And, there you have, good reader, the nugget of awareness, the first stirring of the good news I realized that day. Of course my clumsiness was redeemable. It took a few hours for me to consider it. By lunch time, I was chuckling at my plight and regretting the foolish desire to run away from the table and congregation.
I was aware of the significance of “breaking news” being layered on top of the breaking bread of the eucharist. Breaking news is precisely what needs to be addressed by the of breaking bread. We remember even as we are being re-membered. We remember as we are made whole again at the table of the Lord. As we remember we are re-membered in community with others who may differ in hundreds of other ways. We remember and are in this action again demonstrating that we are made one in Christ.
Where can we better find a way to understand and move through these troubling times than at the table of the Lord? Breaking news is best heard in the context of breaking bread. To my fellow worshipers, those who had sacred time and space interrupted by my mistake, I apologize. Not only for the interruption but more for my running away. I received only a part of the body of Christ that morning. To any of you who think I am belittling or diminishing the sacrament of Holy Communion, please know that this is NOT my intention. It remains that remarkable mystery of faith that continues to inform, guide, and yes, stand as a saving ordinance for my faith.
The embarrassment is passing — the remembrance continues. It is good news above and beyond all other breaking news.