With Fear and Great Joy

With Fear and Great Joy
Easter Day; Matthew 28:1-10; Colossians 3:1-4
Come in, stranger! Be welcome among us,
though I fear you will shrink in discomfort
from uncomfortable seats and page turning,
and from songs about dying and rising
in the old-fashioned words of our hymn book.

I fear scorn as I try to imagine
how communion might seem to a stranger:
wine and bread as Christ’s blood and his body.
It’s no wonder historical gossip
talked of cannibal rites among Christians.

Though perhaps your attendance at Easter
counts with Gran as a sign of your caring,
still you hold yourself tight, at a distance,
eyes averted and crossed arms defensive,
as though fearing that faith might be catching.

Can you see in my face real thanksgiving,
though traditional words may not reach you?
I say, “Lift up your hearts!” and I’m lifted
to rejoice in his words, consecrating
bread and wine and these people for service.

Celebrating, communing, connected,
I enact once again Jesus with us.
Bread and wine are the gift of his loving,
broken body entombed and then rising
to include us in his living presence.

The communicants slowly move forward.
If you dare to look up, you might see them,
faces lit by a shared expectation.
At the altar, they swallow the wafer,
thin and dry as a circle of cardboard.

Then the people return to their places,
calm and thankful, or glowing and dreamy.
Can you sense they’ve done something with meaning?
Wafer dotted with wine seems a token,
but for us it embodies the sacred.

We commune in our grief and our sharing,
in our prayer for the world and creation.
Broken bread and wine poured in the chalice
become more than remembrance of Jesus.
Bread and wine are transformed and transforming.

We commune in the stirring of Spirit
as each Sunday affirms love is risen,
and we know that the tomb is left empty.
Here we share in his wholeness and wisdom,
his compassion and fervour for justice.

Stranger, look, let your sight turn to vision!
Stranger, listen, as words turn to singing!
Then like bread that is changed in the oven,
or like wine that matures to enliven,
this communion might feed and delight you.
	Barbara Messner 4/04/2023

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4 thoughts on “With Fear and Great Joy

  1. A wonderful post and the stanza beginning “Can you see in my face …” is the essence of my deep hope every time that I share Communion with others.


  2. Thank you. I really wrestled with this poem, throwing away my first attempt that was just going through the motions, and trying to dig deeper. There was pain in that I’m not presiding at an altar this Easter, so this was my way of “celebrating” communion. I sometimes sit weeping in a congregation through communion, if the one leading does so as if by rote, not show any authentic emotion in face or voice.


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