It took 44 hours to craft one of the sharing talks for a recent VDC. So many were touched by the content. Unfortunately all the time taken to craft the talk was also the time which is generally allotted for posting to this blog. To this end—several blog posts were not created. But, I am placing sections of that talk into this blog for any who might care to see them. I am also including the short poem made and offered to that particular retreat’s participants as this spiritual director’s closing remarks. Enjoy!
“This talk is: Grace Filled Days. And I am Pr. JDB+. I made EC#84, sat at the table of M. This a two-part talk with an intentional split in the middle. This talk explores sacraments, which is to say, that it covers a lot of ground, very holy ground. So take off your shoes, seriously, take ’em off. A voice coming from a burning bush once suggested this to Moses, let’s follow Moses’ example. Keep your shoes on if you must, otherwise, take them off.
Sacraments are vehicles of grace, bringing God’s grace to us in specific ways through specific means. Some Christians recognize seven; other Christians see only two. Baptism and Eucharist are two sacraments most Christians recognize. For our purposes let’s not get caught up in numbers and jargon, but commonly define sacraments as ‘holy ground spaces where God chooses to meet us in specific ways by specific means.’
…The staging room off the birthing suite was tense. I could feel her hand but not her pain. I hated to see Harriet in pain, had not yet learned that we cannot keep those we love from pain, that sometimes we are the source of our beloved’s pain. The contractions were so close now that we were moved into the birthing suite. Eight hours culminated in this sacramental moment where the Creator of stars and planets, sub-atomic particles and changing leaves, brought through the imperfect union of two sainted sinners a tiny boy that we’d call Sean. We were given joy to hear his “borning cry.” After eye drops were given, a warm wash given, a warm blanket given and wrapped around him, Sean was given to us, and for a moment God’s forever grace made us feel infinite as if we held the whole of creation in our arms all at once. Sometimes there just aren’t words for such things—we call such moments mysteries.
Sean was born and now we were moving into another life stage.
From the birthing suite, fast forward two weeks. The young family, sleep deprived, over-worked, thin on money and patience, prays and discerns as we prepare for our baby’s baptism.
…Harriet and I were amazed at how hard some people pushed us to baptize Sean, even within days from leaving the hospital. They saw baptism as fire insurance, wanted to keep Sean from hellfire should he die in an unbaptized state. Others said that baptizing our baby was sin and that we’d all go to hell for doing it. Time after time we’d explain that baptism was God’s one-size fits all grace gift—- a one-size fits all for all ages—and that Jesus says baptism is about making disciples; Jesus says nothing about baptism as fire insurance.
…Baptism is God’s action. Baptism is totally God’s doing. God’s promises are all-important. It’s not about us! We simply receive what God gives.
Back in the jam-packed sanctuary on Palm Sunday ‘96, my 26th birthday. We celebrated the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and the entry of the Holy Spirit into Sean. We stood at the font, holding our son, making promises. Buttery earthy scents from beeswax candles mingled with my cheap Stetson aftershave. It was the best I could afford. Harriet’s hand, tightly holding mine, was cold. She was so scared, so was I. Being a little frightened seems a faithful response when one stands amidst the holy, don’t you think?
Fr. Cross prayed,
- Deliver Sean, O Lord, from the way of sin and death.
- Open Sean’s heart to your grace and truth.
- Fill Sean with your holy and life-giving Spirit.
- Keep Sean in the faith and communion of your holy Church.
- Teach Sean to love others in the power of the Spirit.
- Send Sean into the world in witness to your love.
- Bring Sean to the fullness of your peace and glory.
With every petition Harriet and my combined voice grew louder responding, “Lord, hear our prayer.”
Fr. Cross’ caring grasp lifted Sean from our hands; as he poured, he spake, “Sean, I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son,and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The speechless awe of the holy was upon us. The sanctuary was silent for now Sean belonged.
Baptism is the sacrament of belonging.
In Baptism God gives new identity—God makes us heirs and we belong because God makes it so. Titus 3:5-7 says,
“God saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to God’s mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit God poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
And along with new identity we get new family—one huge adoptive family. Through baptism we are made part of God’s forever family, the “communion of saints.” Adopted children enjoy all the rights of any other children, including the right to inherit all that the parents have. We are inheritors of the all the gifts God has.
In Baptism God gives a fresh start, a rebirth, a belonging in God’s kingdom. Jesus said to Nicodemus,
“Truly, truly…unless you are born of water and the Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)
Back in the silent sanctuary Fr. Cross dabs water from Sean’s wispy peach fuzz. Again Sean is in our arms as Fr. Cross prays:
Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy
Spirit you have bestowed upon Sean, your servant, the
forgiveness of sin, and have raised Sean to the new life of
grace. Sustain Sean, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give Sean
an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to
persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy
and wonder in all your works. Amen.
Did you hear the gifts given in baptism being named?
- Forgiveness of sin
- Being raised to a new life of grace
- Life in the Spirit
These are ours in baptism, our inheritance from God. And once these are given, soon we hear:
“You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever. Amen.”
Pastors sign the cross on the forehead of the baptized as a sign of ownership. We’re like cattle being branded. The cattle have no voice in the matter for branding is the province of the owner, the one to whom the cattle belong! We wear the mark of the One to whom we now belong—marked with the cross of Jesus, sealed by the Holy Spirit—done deal; all is God’s action. We simply receive God’s forgiveness and God’s promise of eternal life. Even the faith to receive is a gift from God.
Baptism assures of God’s presence throughout life, and assures that God will carry us through death into new and unending life.
The New Testament teaches Baptism as signifying death and resurrection. Our sinful self– the “old Adam” or “Old Eve”– is drowned, and God raises us again to new life free of sin. God sees us as free of sin, because we are now clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
Matthew 28:19 and 20 says,
“Go…make disciples…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Did you catch the two parts of the disciple-making process? Baptizing and teaching? Did you catch the promise attached? I-am-with-you-always!
Baptism puts us in God’s forever family, where Jesus is with us always, where at Jesus’ feet we begin to learn. Sometimes lessons are easy, other times not so much.
Baptism places us into God’s forever family but we can certainly live and behave as though we were members of another family, can’t we? Ever lived as though you were no part of God’s forever family? Ever found yourself in a place where you shelved your values? Went off to find where demons dwell? Ever been in such pain that you blamed God and went to the demons for pain relief?
…once I went gleefully to dwell with the demons for pain relief and those demons were delighted to lead me to the darkest place. But in the darkest place, the Holy Spirit took me to another place, a far brighter place—to confession. Not Lutheran, I’d never been to confession, yet found myself inside the Lutheran chapel on my college campus. Turns out the pastor accidentally left the door open. Pastor sat me down, handed me a green book, the Lutheran Book of Worship, had me turn to the Order for Individual Confession. I told him this might not work since I was Baptist. He said Jesus didn’t care about any of that. He went on to say,
“You have come to make confession before God. You are free to confess before me, a pastor in the church of Christ, sins of which you are aware and which trouble you.”
He didn’t have to tell me twice. I cried out, ranted out, raged out, and poured it all (A-L-L) all out on that poor unsuspecting pastor. He replied,
“Cling to this promise: the word of forgiveness I speak to you comes from God. John David, in obedience to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the ☩ Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Turns out God didn’t care that I wasn’t Lutheran, turns out God never left me even when I tried to leave God, turns out God was with me, loving me out where demons dwell. Turns out what I needed was God-with-a-face. Turns out God-with-a-face was an unconditionally loving, non-judgmental presence who heard me and loved me. Turns out God forgave me. Confession is being met with by ‘God-with-a-face’ for the purpose of getting real and being forgiven.
What it gives us, apart from forgiveness is peace. In fact, the last thing Pastor said to me was,
“The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.”
Not everyone practices private confession but many make a general confession before coming to Eucharist. And why do we do this? Well—for starters, we are imperfect, plus scripture tells us stuff like, 1 John 1:8-9:
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
The Holy Spirit prompts us to know when we live or walk in sin. The Holy Spirit prompts confession. We realize that we live or walk in sin because we are taught. Remember, disciple-making is two-part: baptizing and teaching. Confession is part of that being taught business.
“…If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
This is the language of continuing relationship, of continually being in the Word that brings you to know truth, and by that truth being continually made free. It is being continually in wonder of Jesus, continuing to experience life with the living Lord, the One to whom you belong, the One who chose you, the One you choose to follow. We cannot choose to be chosen.
“You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last….”
We cannot choose to be chosen or not chosen, but we can choose to follow or not to follow the One who chooses us.
Our pre-teen sons, Sean and Stephen, talked to one another above the splishy-splashy bathtub noise. Stephen said firmly, “I do not believe in God.” Sean remarked defensively, “I believe in God.” Stephen countered, “I do not believe in God.” Sean quipped, “You’re going to get in trouble because I’m going to tell Dad, Stephen!” Stephen screamed, “No. Dad will spank me, or restrict me, or worse.” Neither knew I heard them through the wall—I belly-laughed. Pretty soon Sean reported Stephen’s heresy. And Stephen fumed, looking around the corner. I called him over to me, where he stood by his grinning from ear-to-ear brother, who just knew that Stephen was going to get it. I looked Stephen in the eye and said, “Am I to understand that you do not believe it in God?” Through a mixture of shame and anger, he barked, “I do not know if I believe or don’t believe, but I am saying that I don’t believe that I believe.” I got quiet, stayed quiet, more to keep from laughing than anything else. Before I could speak Stephen asked, “Are you mad at me? Am I going to get spanked, or restricted, or worse?” I smiled at him and said, “No, son. God did not make me responsible for what you believe or do not believe. The Holy Spirit creates faith when and where it wills. I’ll leave your development of faith in the hands of God where it always has been and still remains and I’ll keep right on pointing to God.” Sean looked miserable and Stephen seemed surprised. They walked off. Down the hall echoed two voices. “Sean, I didn’t expect that,” and in response, “Well, Stephen, if I were Dad I’d have spanked you on the spot and restricted you.”
God had given both sons God’s Holy Spirit in Baptism. God had given them faithful parents. Through faithful parents and faithful godparents, God gave them moments at worship, at camp, at retreats—-both surrounded by faithful others, chosen and appointed to bear fruit.
Fruit harvest came at Spirit of Christ Lutheran Church on Pentecost Sunday ‘08. Family and friends gathered from all over. Sean and Stephen stood there at the communion rail in suits, looking less like boys and more like men, praying an ancient confirmation prayer of the Church, one that asks the Holy Spirit to come, to fill the hearts of the faithful. And I ask you now to turn to pg. 42 and pray with me:
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit instructs the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Spirit we may truly wise, and ever rejoice in his consolations. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
What a beautiful honest prayer, and so worthy of our attention.
…So—our Stephen, who’d 11 years ago declared disbelief in God, came to see his mother and me at night on November 1st. It was All Saints’ Day, how ironic. The boy came to ask his mother and me if we would support and bless his desire to take an 11-month mission trip to Rwanda through our denomination’s Young Adults in Global Mission program. Clearly the Holy Spirit has a hold on Stephen, and clearly this Spirit has a hold on us.
We now speak of confirmation. Confirmation marks the intentional choosing to follow Jesus by committing oneself to be a lifelong learner, who seeks both to know and to share Jesus.
The “Come, Holy Spirit” prayer is old, used for centuries at Pentecost, Confirmation, and in private devotion. This is the prayer of faithful people who realize that none of us can follow Jesus faithfully unless the Holy Spirit comes to:
- Make hearts faithful
- Fill faithful hearts
- Kindle in them the fire of God’s love
- For only then will we be created (made new)
- And only in that way will the face of the earth be renewed
- For God is the only source of this light bearing Spirit
- Only by that light bearing Spirit may we become wise
- Only by being made wise by that Spirit can we ever rejoice
- For only through the Spirit’s presence in our life and in our world can we find rejoicing through life’s highs and lows.
“Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” (Matthew 16:24-26)
The only way to follow Jesus is to deny self, take cross, and follow. We seek to save ourselves in every imaginable fashion, from pushing for our own way, to drugs, to sex, to excess busyness—only the Spirit creates self-denial, empowers us to take up our cross, causes us to follow Jesus beyond our compulsions, distractions, addictions, even beyond our addiction “to our own way of thinking.” (Richard Rohr quote)
Only the Spirit empowers us to give up our quest to gain the whole world. When John baptizes Jesus the Spirit descends as something like a dove. And soon, Jesus is in the wilderness facing things that amount to “gaining the whole world.” Jesus hungers for something to satisfy, evil tempts Jesus to provide for himself through self-reliance, to disregard reliance on God the Father to meet needs. Jesus is offered a chance to justify self, to show-off, to misuse power and ability to prove and validate identity, rather than trust God the Father to reveal these in God’s own time? Jesus is offered an easy way out, to establishing the Kingdom through the worship of evil, to avert establishing the Kingdom through the cross.
What hunger drives you? Aren’t there more hungers than those for food? Ever hunger to justify yourself, to prove how right you are, or smart you are, to show off your abilities or talents, rather than to trust God to show these in God’s time? Ever hunger to avoid following Jesus, hungering for some way around the pain of dying to self, hungering to avoid actually making a lasting real change? That’s what it means to be human; to fail, to know sin. Awareness of sin is a gift of the Holy Spirit; another gift of the Holy Spirit is knowledge of God’s Word. Jesus resists temptation to sin by resting in the words of Scripture.
Followers of Jesus, the same holds true for us. Jesus asks, “what will a person give in return for their life?” There’s only one faithful response: we offer our life to the One who has offered our life to us—-we subvert our will, and embrace the will of Jesus. Our daily living affirms and confirms the call to follow Jesus.
Perhaps no place shows denying self, taking up cross, and following Jesus more than the humanness of marriage.
…Marriage is the union of two sainted sinners living out God’s message of grace and forgiveness.
…Of marriage, Proverbs 5:18-19 says, “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. May her breasts satisfy you at all times; may you be intoxicated always by her love.” And before we take this to a sexual place, which most of us have already done, ‘cause that’s what we humans do, let’s consider that in the dry, arid climate in which this text was written, this text speaks of refreshment, of nourishment. Isn’t it true of a deeply loving marriage that it becomes both refreshment and nourishment in a world that often feels so arid, so dry? Marriage, grounded in Christ, where both partners seek the love of Christ ‘in, with, and through’ the other provides super-abundant refreshment and nourishment all around, not just in the bedroom; a loving superabundance that leaves you snockered. This actually may be the only place in the Bible where intoxication is lifted up as a good thing, probably because it celebrates intoxicating love found inside the imperfect union of two sainted sinners finding refreshment and nourishment in one another. A final word on marriage, if you worry that your marriage isn’t perfect, give yourself a chance to let that go, no perfect marriage exists on this planet—all marriages differ and all can be very faithful. God put you two together—live into and out of that Truth—and give yourself a break. A key to experiencing a loving effective marriage is not make things about yourself, to not drag up the past unless it takes you to God’s preferred future, to not question the relationship with remarks like, “I wish we’d never married,” or, “My life was better before I met you,” to not hit below the belt—never hitting where you know it hurts to hit—in fact, no hitting at all. In other words, even when you think you have every right to do otherwise, deny yourself…take up your cross…and follow Jesus—-and remember, it’s your cross, don’t use your cross to crucify the spouse.
…Recently I prayed with a woman facing a scary-tail health journey. She experiences huge fear around the last portion of this vow:
“I take you, to be my husband from this day forward, to join with you and share all that is to come, and I promise to be faithful to you until death parts us.”
Dear friends brought her to meet with me. These were her ministers, meeting her in the depth of pain and fear.
Sometimes God comes to guide us through a dear friend who becomes the presence of Jesus; a friend such as the ones who guided this particularly hurting friend to her pastor, where we might anoint her, and with laying on of hands, pray for her. We aren’t all called to wear the “God collar.” Holy Orders sets ministers apart for intensely dedicated ministry, yet we are all ministers. We are all priests since baptism, yet not all of us are set apart for intensely dedicated ministry.
St. Peter said,
“…You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 2:5).
“…You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of God who called you out of darkness into God’s marvelous light…” (1 Pet. 2:9).
When those fine daughters of the most high God brought their dear friend to meet, to cry, to rage, and to share fears, they were being the priests they’d been called to be in Baptism.
And together we anointed that sweet hurting friend whose head and heart was still ringing with the words, “until death parts us.” Anointing of the sick/Laying on of hands is God’s compassion for the hurting coming through human hands.
…Through it, Jesus continues to touch, calm, comfort, and heal. The epistle of James says, “Is anyone among you sick? That one should summon the elders of the church, and they should pray over the one and anoint them.”
Sometimes through this intimate compassionate touch, physical, emotional, psychological, or other healings occur—even miraculously so. Other times the healing is a gift of intense peace.
…Sometimes the healing is death, when with the shutting of weary eyes comes a holy rest after a hellish struggle. Jesus has reason to plead in Gethsemane for God to establish the Kingdom apart from Jesus’ death, the hellish struggle in Gethsemane is our struggle, too, for death is scary.
And it can look like this:
Arrested around midnight, brought before the religious court, is Jesus. A soldier strikes Jesus across the face for remaining too silent. Palace guards blindfold him, taunt him, ask him to identify them as they spit on him, and punch him in the face. Battered and bruised, dehydrated, exhausted from a sleepless night, Jesus, is taken across Jerusalem to the civil courts. He is sent away to another leader. Jesus suffers no physical mistreatment there and is returned to civil court. The crowd cries for a murderer’s release, cries to kill Jesus. Before crucifixion comes scourging. Stripped of clothing, hands tied to a post above his head, is Jesus. A legionnaire steps forward with a flagrum, a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with small balls of lead, bone, pottery, or glass, tied to the ends. Heavy whipping is brought down continually across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs. First heavy thongs cut the skin only, soon they cut deeper into tissues under the skin, drawing blood from capillaries and veins, and finally arterial blood spurts from vessels in underlying muscles. Deep bruises break open by continuous blows. The skin of the back is a ribbon-like bleeding tissue. Jesus nears death, the centurion sees, so beating stops. Jesus is untied, slumps on the pavement, wet with his own blood.
Soldiers tease him for claiming to be a king, throwing a robe across his shoulders, placing a stick in his hand as a scepter. A crown from flexible branches covered with long thorns is made and pressed it into his scalp…again more bleeding. They mock him, strike him across the face, take the stick from his hand, flail him across the head, driving thorns deeper into his scalp. Finally, the robe is torn from his back. Freshly closed wounds reopen causing searing pain…. and wounds begin anew to bleed.
Garments are returned. A heavy beam is tied across his shoulders. The procession begins; Jesus, two thieves, and the execution detail of soldiers, headed by a centurion, begins its slow journey. Jesus tries to walk erect, the heavy weight of the wooden beam, together with the shock from blood loss is too much. Jesus stumbles and falls. Coarse wood gouges shoulder skin and muscles. He tries to rise, but human muscles are worn beyond endurance. The centurion, anxious to crucify, selects an onlooker to carry the cross. Jesus follows, bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat of shock. The 650-yard journey from Fortress Antonia to Golgotha ends. Again Jesus is stripped naked– except for a loin cloth which is allowed for Jews. The crucifixion begins. Jesus is offered wine mixed with Myrrh, a mild sedative. He refuses to drink. The heavy beam is on the ground and Jesus is quickly thrown backward, his shoulders against the rough wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly he moves to the other side and repeats the action, careful not to pull the arms too tightly, allowing some flexion and movement. The beam is then lifted into place at the top of the vertical beam, and the plaque reading, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of The Jews,” is nailed in place. The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. Jesus is crucified. He slowly sags placing more weight on the nails in wrists, fiery pain shoots in fingers and up arms to explode in the brain—nails in wrists pressure median nerves. Jesus pushes upward to avoid this stretching torment, placing his full weight on the nail through his feet. Searing agony erupts as the nail tears nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet. The arms fatigue, waves of cramps sweep over muscles, knotting them in throbbing pain. With cramps comes inability to push self upward. Hanging by arms, chest muscles paralyze and intercostal muscles refuse to act. Air can be drawn into lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise himself to take short breaths. Carbon dioxide builds up in lungs and in blood stream, cramps partially subside. He is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen. He watches soldiers casting lots for his garments, and says, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” He speaks to the penitent thief, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” He speaks again, looks down at grief-stricken, John, saying, “Behold your mother,” and looks to Mary, his mother, “Woman, behold your son.” He cries a verse from Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
This is the dying way of Jesus, and the way of people following Jesus, too. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Luther pastor, who was hanged in a Nazi camp on April 9, 1945 says, “The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every person must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old person which is the result of that person’s encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a person, he bids that person come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old person at Christ’s call.”
Death is not the end of Jesus. Death is not the end of us. Death is only the path.
…Before dying Jesus gave a Meal of presence and promise, a Meal of resurrection life unfolding. It goes by many names. We will call it Eucharist, meaning “thanks.” On the other side of death is Jesus. On the other side of life is Jesus. Our Lord owns both sides of that river! Happy thought! For that alone we owe our thanks. And until all is made new, until that which is broken is fully made whole, our Lord comes to us again and again to put his own life into us. For death had no final word on Jesus. Even the huge obstacle, the stone at his tomb gave way. Jesus removes obstacles. He removes obstacles of grace that take hold in us, by getting forgiveness into us through bread and wine, to get himself in there to cleanse the Temple that is us of whatever business has set itself up in us since Baptism; since the moment when the Temple which is us was fashioned by Water and Word into his Father’s house of prayer and dedicated as God’s own forever. Jesus does this as host and Meal at the unfolding life feast. Eucharist is the Meal of presence and promise, the sacrament where Jesus comes to us again to forgive.
Some say that this Meal is symbol, memorial, or reenactment. None of those are really accurate. This Meal is where Jesus uses low-end end bread and bottom shelf wine to offer loving “champagne taste sin forgiveness” of at a “bargain basement beer budget rate”—which is to say getting the best with no cash down and none due at signing!
“While [Jesus and those with him] were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”
And with those words Jesus meets us anew in Body and Blood, honoring his promise, “I-am-with-you-always.” Eucharist is Jesus placing his bodily presence in our midst. This is why we go right along thankfully, “eucharistically,” singing our resurrection song, “This is the feast of victory for our God. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!” We taste resurrection joy, “a foretaste of the feast to come,” in the kingdom of God’s Forever Family. With those spoken words, “this is my body, this is my blood,” Jesus is with us now. And when you eat, believing his words, “This is my body, this is my blood, given and shed for you,” you receive “forgiveness of sins,” just as Jesus promised.
And this is why there is such holy unbounded joy that even exhausted and emotive, I somehow crafted in 15 minutes the following poem to celebrate what God was doing out there in “B.F.E” at Women’s #75 VDC:
It just comes down to “F.”
Just the letter “F.”
As in God’s Forever Family—
faithful, fit, freed, forgiven,
As in God’s Forever Family—
finding friends, finding self, feeling forgotten feelings,
As in God’s Forever family—
flashing fluffy tiger tails,
As in God’s Forever Family—
fighting class 5 specters here,
As in God’s Forever Family—
flipping frowns upside down, finding grace in bushels with no bounds,
As in God’s Forever Family—
fetching flaming poster trees through fuzzy minds so short on sleep,
and what of freezing lakeshore candlelight?
As in God’s Forever Family—
footsies free, with flying shoes,
with fruitcakes, falsies, floozies, too;
frolicking bells, fresh fried food,
floral cross at setting moon,
and full force prayer filling every space.
Might be about “F,”
But I’d call it GRACE!