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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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My first communion

The wafer sticks, I choke and learn in later years of the small death and resurrection every time I swallow the body of Christ

It was Passion Sunday, Palm Sunday, last year and the first communion for the congregation's new confirmands. My prayer for them was jarred by the memory of another Palm Sunday, in 1946, and my own long-forgotten first communion.

We confirmands walked, relieved, out of church — all 13 of us in our white robes. Jimmy Sommerer, my best friend, asked first: "What did you guys do about the wafer? It stuck on the top of my mouth."

Johnnie Renken, always decisive and usually practical, said, "I pulled it from the top of my mouth with my tongue. Then I chewed it and swallowed it when the wine came."

Elmer Lee Meyer, the most honest that morning, admitted, "I had to reach in and pull it down with my finger. Then I ate it, but it didn't go down easy."

My own answer was similar. "I didn't want to touch it," I told my buddies. "I was too afraid. So I kept it on my tongue until the wine came. Then I swallowed it, worrying it might stick in my throat."

We all agreed — first communion was not easy. And we felt closer now that we had shared our mutual panic: what to do with the wafer.

But after 56 years of communions, I confess that sometimes the wafer still gets stuck. I've learned about the difficulty of receiving "the body of Christ, given for you."


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