by Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
“Just bring along your elbow grease,” said my pastor.
I was preparing to meet with the pastor and other youth for our first communion instruction. For one night we would gather with our families and the pastor to talk about communion and to make the bread that would be served on our first communions.
Later I asked my parents if we had any elbow grease to bring along. They chuckled.
I can recall the taste of that bread. The smell that wafted through the church kitchen. The touch of the dough on my hands and the elbow grease used to knead the dough. I can sense the anticipation of watching it rise and bake.
Food does that – it draws us in with its smells and tastes and touch.
To this day I remember the act of baking my own communion bread along with that first taste and welcome to the table.
When I became a pastor I continued the tradition of baking bread with the students and their families. I met with families in the church kitchen, in their homes, and in my home. The families were all different, the cooking locations different, but ultimately in that act of baking communion bread we were bound to one another. Bound to the table. Bound to the fellowship of saints who meet us at the table.
During the baking of the bread we’d talk about communion – why we take it, what it means, what we’ve noticed about communion practices at churches, why bread and wine, who are the communion of saints. We’d mix the ingredients together, roll the dough, watch it bake. There’d usually be some laughter and some mishaps. Which are reminders that we come to the table not perfect or whole or without brokenness, but rather that we go to the table to be met just as we are and to be granted mercy and grace and forgiveness. We go to the table to hear the words that this bread and this wine are given for us.
Can you taste it? Can you smell it? That bread baking and the invitation to the table.
The communion of saints who gather with us whenever we break bread and offer it to our neighbors.
Once you arrive at the table, all you need are open hands.
Take and eat.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of a toddler, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. Her website is http://www.kimberlyknowlezeller.com