Because of residual COVID restrictions the little pieces and bread and the plastic thimbles of grape juice are no longer dispensed from the front of the church by volunteers. Instead they are pre-packaged in small plastic units which can be picked up at the back of the sanctuary. The official name for this product is the “pre-filled communion cup with wafer”. The units have a shelf-life of one year. To keep the cost low the items have not been consecrated by an ordained pastor. They are not approved by the FDA, and they come in a package which states that “the items in this container are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition.”

Except, that’s not entirely true, is it? I look at all the people around me and wonder about their hidden sins.

I slowly peel back the foil. I sniff at the wafer. The pastor says, Jesus took bread. He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’” I put the wafer on my tongue and hear tiny crunchings throughout the sanctuary as everyone chews. I squeeze my eyes together. It’s so hard to concentrate, but I try to summon Jesus’ face in my thoughts. I think he’s smiling at me. I hope so.

By now the pastor has moved on to the next part. He says, And he took a cup saying, ‘Drink, all of you, for this is my blood, the forgiveness of sins.’” I’m more careful with this foil. I once spilled the grape juice and felt guilty. The congregation all tip back their heads and a hundred plastic thimbles go up together as we drink. I can hear plastic crinkles as the cups are tucked away into pockets and purses. I shut my eyes again. I wonder, when he hung on the cross did he know I’d be sitting here at the First Baptist on Main Street today? Did he see forward in time at my measly sins and agree to lump them in among the bigger ones that needed forgiving…you know, the ones like genocide and urban sprawl and influencer culture?

I toss my empty plastic cup in the trash as I head for the exit, already making up a reason why I am going to not take them up on their offer to join them for Sunday lunch after church. I feel guilty because it’s wrong to lie. Did he die for that one too?