The Blood of Christ in the Dialysis Center
I have a confession to make. Often the Eucharist does nothing for me.
It could simply be a case of liturgical bingeing. After all, I celebrated that sacred meal four times on Sunday. That’s enough to make anyone ask to see the menu again. Sometimes I catch myself in the middle of the Great Thanksgiving wondering, “Is this really working? When we have said this long prayer, will anyone receive God’s life blood today?”
I make this confession as a hopeless lover of the Eucharist. I’m just not convinced that the version we celebrate in church is the truest form of that sacrament.
On Monday I was to meet a friend at his home. Rob, I’ll call him, is a close colleague, not a member of my church. Last minute he texts me. “Sorry. Dialysis got changed to today because of the holiday.” We could try again next week, or I could meet him at the dialysis center.
I made a thermos of tea, grabbed two mugs, poured milk into one of my grandson’s sippy cups (for the seal), pulled four gingerbread cookies from the cupboard, reeled off a length of paper towels and dropped it all in a canvas shopping bag. If we would have had tea in Rob’s living room we would have it at the dialysis center.
Maybe forty people sat in blue, oversized chairs, clear tubes snaking from their arms, running red into machines the size of an ATM. Some slept. Some listened to music. Chairs lined the walls and ran in rows up and down the cavernous space. The attendant took me to Rob’s chair in the middle of the room. He was covered with a blanket.
After giving him a hug I sat down, opened my bag and set out the mugs and plate of cookies on the broad arm of the phlebotomist’s chair. I poured tea, splashed in milk and put out the cookies. It was funny, an odd place to set up a tea service, but we laughed and the Rooibos tasted rich and sweet. We dunked our gingerbread men head first as the blood poured freely out of his arm and came back to him again, whole. Rob wanted to know everything about my life, and I wanted to hear about his health battle. I laid my hands on his head and prayed, then packed my canvas bag and walked out of that great blood redemption center, whole.
Later that evening Rob texted. He was grateful for our tea together. Quickly my thumbs were saying, “I loved it too. A little Eucharist, it was. More Christ there than in most church liturgies.” Does that diminish the Eucharist of the altar? I hope not. I only believe that the wafer stamped with a perfect cross and served with a tincture of ecclesiastical sherry is surely the body and blood of Christ; but if that is your only “communion,” if you never come to know that every table is sacred and every meal holds a soupçon of heaven, you have not really received the sacrament.