the wine we drink

I love communion. 
Everything about faith is hard for me.
But communion is easy. There is something to hold, smell, do and taste.
I love the physicality of it. Any way you do it.
Plastic thimbles of grape juice. Tasteless wafers.
Hunks of Hawaiian bread. Goblets of wine.
An open table. 
Knees pressed into the cushions at the altar.
Someone saying the words just to me.
On Saturday I waited in line at the front of the chapel.
I ripped off a chunk of bread and someone told me,  “This is my body broken for you."
They had probably said it a hundred times before it was my turn, but they said it just for me anyways.
I stepped to the side and dipped my bread into the juice.
“This is my blood poured out for you.”

Like a lot of things in my life, I can overdo anything. Apparently even communion.
I was a little overzealous with the grape juice.  As I pulled out my bread and aimed it for my mouth the juice dripped down. I tried to catch it with my hand and sweatshirt so it didn’t stain the carpet.
I had literally just spilled the blood of Christ.
And did my best to minimize the damage.
The purple stained my hand and my sweatshirt.

Earlier that week, I made it to the same chapel at some ungodly (<— yes I am aware of the irony) hour on Ash Wednesday before  going to school. He rubbed his thumb in the ashes before saying, “Remember that dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”
I lingered at the same altar. 
"Dust you are and to dust you shall return" is not exactly encouraging.
"This is my body broken"
"My blood spilled"
The theme is the same.
Death.
Brokenness.
Sin.

That isn’t exactly the gospel I like to remember or paint for others. 
I like to sit in the part with love, kindness, peace, justice, forgiveness and happy endings.
But those things all come at a price.
A cost that I often forget.
I know a lot of people don’t do Lent.  Lent isn’t happy or warm. 
It is messy and real and full of stains.

I got in the car on Wednesday and rubbed the ashes off my forehead on the back of my hand.
I’m not sure why, except that I like that moment to be private.
The ashes and oil didn’t rub off so easily and they stayed on my hand all day.
Reminding me.

Someone asked me earlier this week what Lent was all about and I stumbled through an answer.
I don't follow it as formally as some other denominations do.   Several years ago I even helped write a Lenten devotional book, but on the spot I could hardly give a decent answer on what it was and why I chose to follow even a portion of it.  I don't eat fish on Fridays. I rarely give anything up. And when I do I usually don't even tell anyone. I told her it was a time of preparation for Easter. An awareness of our sin and the sacrifice that was made. 

But maybe it is just a season of noticing the stains.
The mess.
Wednesday my hands were stained with ashes.
Saturday my hands dripped with grape juice.
Death and blood.
Sin and sacrifice.
The stains of Lent.





So I have written almost this exact same post before here and here. So either I really mean it or I am out of ideas.

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