Does anyone else have election fatigue? Maybe campaign fatigue is a better phrase. I am convinced the campaign season lengthens every election cycle. I am half expecting candidates to begin declaring their status for 2020 shortly after inauguration. It’s humorous now thinking back on elections past as polarizing.As much as I want to crawl in a hole, I can’t quite find the nerve to step away from madness. Personally, I recognize I have a strong inclination toward justice and activism. There’s rarely a cause I find not worth fighting for. Fear creeps in as I think about what is at stake. I would feel confident in asserting that no matter where they land politically, most people are grappling with their fear. How do we navigate such a season as Christians?
I was struck by this question yesterday morning as my church congregation gathered for communion. We take communion by intinction, that is, we break off the bread and dip it in the cup. Specifically, my church practice is to do so while gathering around a table. As the crowd moves in lines toward three tables at the front there are shared moments. There is the recognition of faces and acknowledgment of strangers as the line shuffles along. The climax of this event is the moment when one reaches the table and circles around it with an unplanned group of people. Together the sacrament is experienced.
Communion is for hugs, handshakes, and fist-bumps. It’s for knowing knowing nods, quiet tears, and muffled giggles at the bread lost in the cup or the unsuspecting consumer of gluten-free Jesus. In those brief moments around the table, I don’t remember who said what on Facebook this week. I don’t think about the things that divide us. I see the embodiment of life’s joys and pains united in a single act of faith.
I was flooded with memories this morning of 2012. Another election year in which communion meant a great deal to me. Even on the days I had no desire to be with a community of people, I found I needed to be regularly submitting to this holy act. One particularly heated day of “discussion” (anyone remember the Chick fila debacle?) left me to limp into a Wednesday night commune service shortly before the election. I was beginning to awaken from one naivety to the next in realizing just how ingrained prejudice was/is in the fabric of our country. How little we wanted to hear from people different from our norms, be it because of race, sexual orientation, religion, what have you. I had come to an apolitical place theologically, but I could not understand the cruelty around me. As a slumped down in my chair the service moved along quickly as usual. It was time to move to the center of the circle where the table had been placed. I found myself dramatically tearing off a huge chunk of bread and dipping it into the cup as if to say, “it’s going to take a lot of Jesus to get me through today.”
I found myself in a bit of a quandary. Was it appropriate to consume the bread in more than more quick movement? Appropriate or not, I was stuck holding more bread than I could slickly chew and swallow. So, amused at myself, I sat in my chair and dined on my two-bite Jesus bread (or four or five).
It’s only on my most troubled or inspired days that I have an ounce of mysticism in me, but I’ve learned to pay attention to those inklings so bear with me for a second. I began to wonder when it was that I had determined that only a certain amount of need of “Jesus” was allowed. When did I learn that my emotional responses were to be contained in a self-determined limit? When did it become safer to hide that need from those around me, symbolized in a tiny chuck of bread and a modest touch of wine?
A couple months later, November 2012 rolled around and our church hosted multiple communion services in the parking lot for Democrats and Republicans, for Independents and Anarchists, for those who chose not to vote out of apathy or out of conviction. We huddled around the table once again, and I took another two-bite chunk of Jesus bread, much like I did this morning.
I may be no less inclined to fear these four years later, but I am inclined to acknowledge the roll fear plays in my life, my need for a community of faith, and my need to experience as much Jesus as I can handle.
Sharyl West Loeung holds a Master of Divinity degree from George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University.She currently works in the Department of Multicultural Affairs at Baylor University. A licensed minister, she enjoys supply preaching in Central Texas as well as serving in her home church. Sharyl's interests include social justice movements, cross-cultural and inter-generational community, and liturgy. Her favorite things in life include: her husband and adorable toddler, her zoo (let's not confess the number of pets here), a good Netflix binge, hammock naps, and avidly following sports and theater equally.