by Cambria Avedikian (soon to be Belleci)…
My first experience with communion was when my Great Grandma Roxie passed away. We were in the old Armenian church and in a language I couldn’t understand the Armenian version of a priest prepared the sacrament. I was seven years old. When they passed the plate by me I grabbed the Styrofoam like cracker. When everyone else ate it I put it in my tiny purse. Every night I would pray to Jesus and ask him to say hi to my Great Grandma Roxie. I kept the wafer under my pillow for months holding it every time I prayed like a piece of her.
When I was ten the bread of choice changed and so did my experience with the sacrament. It was wonder bread, which was not allowed in my house and therefore exotic. It induced the wonder that it promised. Once a month, when communion was served I would go back into the choir room with a couple of my friends and scarf down the extra pieces chasing the tiny cubes with shots of grape juice. It was like spring break in that room. Complete mayhem.
At nineteen we traded the cubes in for a loaf of bread. I was now in a non-denominational Christian church where we came forward to tear a piece of the bread off and dip it in the juice. Communion became a sober remembrance of what Christ had done for me. It was private, yet corporate and carried a bit of magic. It was encompassed with the mystery of the eternal question: Why in the world would Christ choose to die for me? Quickly followed by the rhetorical question: How amazing is his love?
At twenty-two I started to work for a church. One of my first assignments was to purchase the materials for communion at our local supermarket. I’m not sure exactly where I thought communion materials came from before this task, but I sure wasn’t thinking Trader Joes. As I stood in line staring into my cart at the unfiltered grape juice and unleavened bread covered in their plastic packaging something happened; a bit of the magic disappeared. Communion had always just shown up. It was this mysterious, intimate thing and all of a sudden it was a task that needed to be completed.
My my 24th birthday our church of 300 grew to a church of 3000 and suddenly we were keenly aware that there were 3000 people touching the same bread and the same juice. Communion quickly became the bowl of mixed nuts at a bar that you’re never supposed to eat. The search began for the appropriate communion bread. Should it be a bread or cracker? It must be big enough to individually pick up and dip without ones finger going into the juice. It can’t be too salty or that’s weird and it can’t be too styrofoamy or the juice won’t take. The question begged, what should the body of Christ taste like? There were staff taste tests and votes and now communion was becoming like Of Mice and Men, a book I enjoyed reading freshman year of high school, but grew tired of because we had to dissect it so much.
I don’t know about you, but I need the magic. At twenty-five I had three years of vocational ministry under my belt and I was three months away from completely burning out. The mystery had left. I was no longer approaching God with a sense of Awe. Worship became work and it was all overly familiar. I learned that I was going to need to make my own magic with God. Friends of mine who have been married for years say that you have to find ways to make life together new. I think that if you’ve been walking with God for awhile and especially if you’re in ministry, you need to find ways to keep it fresh.
I started by finding a new sanctuary, a new place to worship. I didn’t find a new church, that wasn’t the answer. I needed a sacred place. A place that I could go to and not think about logistics or tasks or even other people, a place that was for me and the Lord. A sacred place doesn’t have to be a building, for me it was a bench at a park. It was my holy of holies.
The park happened to be a nice long walk away from my home. On a clear day I would take my iPod, or walk in silence and enjoy a nice long walk with the Lord. It became my worship.
When I got to the park I would pull out a book. That became my sermon. There in the solitude of my sanctuary I found the Awe I was looking for.
How do you maintain a sense of Awe? Where can you go to remember the mystery of God’s love for you?
Whether it’s in a quiet park, a busy coffee shop, or in your own backyard I pray that you would make your own sanctuary.
Cambria is one of the friendliest, best dressed, most connected people I have the pleasure of working with. She not only blogs on her own from time to time, but she has teamed up to showcase the best parts of Fresno with her their brainchild I Heart Fresno. Check them both out!