It was Sunday morning and our family was doing what we did every Sunday morning, attending church. I was only 6 years old at the time, but I can still remember the sanctuary in which we gathered. The room was huge. Walking in through the back doors your eyes were naturally caught up in the high vaulted ceiling. Your gaze was naturally led toward the choir loft suspended above the platform. From there, your eyes went south to the center of the platform where there stood a large wooden pulpit. Behind the pulpit was a row of chairs for the pastoral staff who would lead us in worship that morning. To the left sat a grand piano and to the right a microphone for announcements and scripture readings.
As we walked to find our normal seats near the front, the distance we covered felt like the length of a football field. All of the pews we passed were covered with deep red crushed velvet and the carpet on the floor matched.
On this particular morning, while taking in the atmosphere of the room as we headed towards our seats, I noticed something different about the platform. In front of the pulpit sat a table and on the table were stacks and stacks of silver plates. This could mean only one thing.
Today in church it was snack day!!!
With no rhyme or reason for my 6-year-old mind to comprehend, every so often, these plates would appear at the front of the church filled with piles of crackers and cups of juice. And at some point during the service, when the pastor decided, a handful of people would start passing out these snack plates to all who were in attendance. I thought this was amazing. A snack in the middle of church?! Who wouldn’t want that?!
But there was one problem. My parents wouldn’t let us partake in the snack. They had this rule. Something about understanding the reason why we have a snack in the middle of church. I remember thinking, “Well, I don’t know about you, but the reason I have snack is because I like them, and I am hungry. I don’t need any more reason than that.”
From the time I noticed the stacks of silver plates, till the moment we sat in our pew, I was trying to figure out a way to convince my parents to let me have snack in church that morning. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I should just ask my dad.
My dad began to talk with me about Jesus and how he helped people connect to God. How he died on a cross for our sins, was buried in a tomb and came back from the dead. And I was thinking, “Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. But just tell me what I gotta do.”
And then he said, “Just say this prayer.”
And I responded saying, “Wait a minute… That’s it? That’s ALL I gotta do?!”
At this point in my brief life I had grown familiar with prayer and prayed with some frequency. I prayed at meal time, with my Sunday School class, and before bed. I knew how to pray. Had I known it was just a matter of a prayer, I would have done that months ago.
So that morning, we prayed. Three rows back from the front, before the service began, my dad led me through a prayer that acknowledged my need for Jesus to clear me of my sin and to commit to following Him. Ahh-men. Done.
Throughout the entire service I couldn’t stop thinking about the crackers and juice in the plates in front of me and how glorious it would be that I was the only one of my siblings having snack that morning in church. Oh, how jealous they would be!
My eyes kept glancing towards the plate thinking about the pastor, “When is he gonna say the word?! When will it be time?!”
When it came time for the plates to be passed, you better believe I was ready. I straightened up and sat on the edge of my seat. When my dad stuck the plate of crackers in front of my nose my eyes widened and I diligently scanned the entire plate looking for the biggest piece I could find. When the juice came by I drew out the cup that was the most full. And while waiting for the pastor to give us direction to eat and drink, I held those two elements in my hands with great anticipation and delight studying their every detail. It was snack day, and I was eating.
Once the pastor said it was time, I ate my cracker and drank my juice, savoring every crumb and every last drop. I placed my tiny cup in the cup holders in the pew back in front of me with an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. I did it. I had snack in church.
In the scriptures Jesus frequently encounters people who come to Him with a wide variety of motivations and reasons. Some come to be healed. Others comes to hear him teach. And similar to me that morning, some come just to get something to eat. But what’s remarkable is that in all of these different situations, Jesus meets people wherever they are. No matter their motivation, desire, or level of understanding, Jesus extends Himself to them without condemnation or judgment. More often than not, he does what they ask regardless of how they might respond after they get what they want.
Some people encounter Jesus and it completely alters their life. After meeting Him they see all of life differently. Suddenly, they have new priorities. They change the way they spend their time and money. They develop a new understanding of themselves and their community. It’s a total overhaul of all they once knew.
But for many, that’s not the case. They come and get what they were looking for and once they’ve received it they leave without ever looking back.
After the final prayer was said and the congregation dismissed, the significance of what I had just done faded as I walked out the back doors. The solidarity with Jesus’s death expressed in that simple meal was completely lost on me. All I wanted to do now was play on the playground with my friends. I had gotten what I wanted and was on my way.
Reflecting back on that morning, it was clear that I had no idea what I was doing. I’m sure my dad knew this as well. What do you expect from a 6-year-old anyway? Why he ever let me take communion in the first place, I’ll never fully understand.
But maybe I don’t need to. Maybe that’s the whole point – that’s there’s beauty in the mystery of the way God works. Because sometimes we encounter Christ and it turns our entire world upside down and other times it’s rather routine and ordinary and mundane. Either way, that morning was the first time I encountered Christ, albeit unknowingly. And yet, that moment left an imprint in my soul that I still carry with me to this day. In that simple meal Jesus started a work in my life, and like the Apostle Paul says in Philippians, He’s working to bring it to completion.
Jesus works in ways that are unconventional and sometimes go unnoticed. But if we open ourselves to him, even in the tiniest of ways, He’ll meet us right where we are and leave a mark on our lives that we won’t be able to deny.
Where do you need to be open to Jesus today?