Choking on communion
Years ago, my whole church got choked up during communion.
I was the young pastor at a scenic little country church in southwest Mississippi, tucked amongst the pine trees at the edge of a national forest. One Sunday, I finished my sermon and prepared the people for the monthly celebration of the Lord’s Supper. After reading scripture about the body and blood of Christ shed for our sins, I raised the cover from the tray with the little juice glasses. The odor almost knocked out the people on the front row. But we just held our breath and started serving it. (What else could I do– stop the service and say the communion juice stinks?) A lady choked and gagged. Others downed it quickly with a grimace on their faces. We managed to finish, although for a moment I was afraid we were going to have to whistle the benediction instead of singing it, our lips were so sour.
After the service was over, a lady made a bee-line to “Bennie” (not his real name), the member who had prepared the juice. “Why was the juice so sour?” she wanted to know. He explained to her that he had reused the leftover juice from the previous month. “And where did you get the juice?” she demanded. “From Paw,” was his simple answer. “Paw,” who shall remain unidentified, was rumored to make homemade wine.
The day we got choked up in worship was funny. What is not funny is when something chokes off worship. Then the church has a problem. If you sing out with joy and somebody tells you that you sing too loud, that can choke your worship. If you shout “Amen” or feel led to raise your hands, and somebody glares at you for it, that can choke your worship. If you are judged by your appearance or clothing and not made to feel welcome, it can choke your worship.
So if you get the urge to choke in a worship service, ask God to help you swallow it. You’ll be glad you did.