As we reached across the communion table last Sunday, my husband whispered in my ear,

“The crackers are bigger today because Rita didn’t prepare them.”

We laughed initially, but then sank back a bit, remembering the reality: two of our members, an elder, and his wife, had recently announced a sudden move to a new ministry.

“Canaan-bound,” some said, and in a matter of weeks, they had left to follow the Lord’s call, selling nearly everything to pack their truck and move across the United States.

Their loss to our church was devastatingly bittersweet.

For my husband and I, it was bitter for us both personally and individually. They were key mentors and disciplers as we walked through dating, engagement, and now marriage. They shepherded us as we learned to counsel, guided us through serving the church, and exhorted us in everything from our decision-making to ministering to unbelievers in our lives.

For our church as a whole, the loss is bitter. Our “living-room-church-plant-roots” linger in the way we are intimately involved in each other’s lives. Even as our body has grown, our members have done the hard work of staying connected with each other, and this couple paved the way: lending their toolboxes, fixing probably all of our cars, hosting monthly game nights — you know the kind. Many of us don’t know our church without them. Their fingerprints are everywhere. Their example of humble, gracious service and generosity has been a gift to us in so many ways corporately.

But although we are sad, it has been such a sweet season, too.

It is such a sweet gift to witness radical obedience to God. Their willingness to hear from Him and obey, no matter how sudden, is a challenge to us all. It is good to remember that this earth is not our home, much less the state of Kansas — hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit and following the pull is so much more valuable than keeping the same zip code as your friends.

But no matter how sweet it was, and how sure we were that this was indeed the right decision, the first Sunday wasn’t quite the same, communion crackers notwithstanding.

One of our most cherished practices during our Sunday morning service is the taking of communion together. Every time we gather, we file down the carpeted aisle, then back to our seats, and we eat and drink together, taking the bread and the blood and remembering the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf so that we might be restored into God’s family.

Our church family remembers God’s family as a whole, and what God himself has done to bring us together. The first Sunday they were gone, our church felt their absence, and rightly so.

The Bible tells us that the church is a body, and each member has a different role. When members come and go, we should notice. It should be significant to us when the body changes. And boy, did we feel the loss — we had lost a listening ear, a discerning eye, and at the very least, a hand that prepared the bread for us. And yet, although the absence was there, so was the hope that always accompanies the Lord’s table.

As we eat and drink together, we don’t just take and remember with our immediate body and family, but we remember the body of Christ at large, the family that extends across state lines and cultures and peoples and nations. The taking of communion sets our hope on the bread and the blood that we will take together at the marriage supper of the lamb. What a day of rejoicing it will be as we reunite with brothers and sisters who left father and brother and mother and sister to follow the Lord’s call, forsaking all else that they might be obedient. What a gift to know these kinds of people — what an exhortation to be like them, too.

May we all put our hands to the plow and resolve to not look back, and to fix our eyes only on Jesus, the founder and finisher of our faith.

The Lord gives, the Lord takes,

Blessed be the name of the Lord.