With bread and wine you can walk your road.
― Spanish Proverb
I’ve been experiencing many firsts. As my oldest gets ready to fly the coop and leave for college, I’m understanding how little influence I hold. And in my marriage as I assume greater responsibility outside the home, my role as homemaker and mother is ever-changing. And as I step into the role of pastor, the weightiness of the title and the gravity of the work humble me. Firsts of preaching and meetings and weddings send me to profuse sweating and nervous laughter, while filling me up in ways I could never have imagined.
And one of my greatest firsts happened this past weekend during our second “preview” service of this new Left Hand Church. I was the pastor to administer the sacrament of Communion.
At our church, just as in our sister, Highlands Church in Denver, our worship experience points to and culminates in the partaking together of bread and juice as the Body of Jesus. Growing up in the church, taking Communion was just what I did, it was expected and I did my best to partake with reverence and gratitude. Whether reverence and gratitude are required or not, it’s what I did. And while I have swallowed the elements hundreds of times, I have never offered them as a pastor.
In front of our new community, as I tore the soft, pungent Italian loaf into jagged halves, I broke. I choked on the prepared words, moved deep by the symbolic act of breaking the body of Jesus. I was overwhelmed. And with the backdrop of a frigid winter evening, ice coating the sidewalks, eager faces across the pews, I broke. I broke with the weight of the joy and the weight of the gratitude and the weight of the hope found in this person, this remarkable human embodiment of God.
This broken body as bread, smelling delicious of comfort and wholeness and abundance. It was a holy and altogether too big moment.
For the past few months I’ve been co-leading a conversation group with mostly white people about race and privilege at The Refuge in Broomfield, CO. This past Sunday as we collectively lamented the enormity of the task of getting our people to notice the vicious systems of racism and patriarchy, our conversation was heavy and loaded, verging on despair. The work is unrelenting, and once eyes are opened to the injustices and oppression many experience because of gender, sexuality, color, religion, documentation, ability – getting through some days without heavy burden is tricky.
Our group is comprised of local churchgoers and pastors, except for one, Sarah. As the churchgoers and pastors spiraled downward, Sarah punctuated the conversation with a definitive, “Hey, seems to me you all worship a guy named Jesus who was all about hope and disruption.”
She stopped me in my tracks. It took a moment but I eventually responded with an exhale of relief:
Oh yeah. Thank you for the reminder.
Her statement shook me, as I recalled what I once knew, but forgot.
On this Ash Wednesday, as we are reminded of the impermanence of our bodies, the shortness of our lives, the vastness of a God who loves us enough to embody our fallible humanity in the perfect Christ. May we stop firm in our tracks and surrender our despair. May we stop and surrender our self importance. May we stop and firmly place our questions, doubts, and certainty at the feet of the One who broke for us, who died for us, who rose for us.
We are not alone. Our suffering is never wasted. Our despair is never overlooked. And the gift of hope is held in Christ – in the delicious sustenance of a loaf of bread and a cup of sweet store-bought grape juice. Our ingestion of Jesus is the perfect and complete reminder that He dwells deep within, and we are recipients of grace and mercy, no matter what we do or don’t do.
As I travel down this path of firsts, with profuse sweat and nervous laughter, I pray to invite my own breaking – over and over. For in our breaking we can receive and we can know to the core of who we are that God Incarnate dwells within and among. Within our bodies, hearts, souls, and minds and, among our homes, relationships, communities, and systems.
Oh yeah. Thank you for the reminder.
On the night that Jesus was betrayed, he sat in a room among his disciples to celebrate the annual Passover feast. He took bread, and after he gave thanks for it, he broke it and gave it to his disciples saying, “This is my body, broken for you. Take and eat, and remember me.”
Later that same evening, he took the cup of wine. He held it up saying, “This wine is the blood of a new covenant — a promise for the redemption of all people. Take and drink, and remember me.”