Archive for ‘Lent’


More body of Christ

Body of Christ

Body of Christ

It’s one of my favorite stories from my daughter’s toddler years. Our family was attending our first Episcopal church. Our daughter had been baptized there, and Emma’s dad Chuck was in the process of becoming a priest. We were learning the traditions of a church much different than those of our childhoods.

I did not leave the Nazarene church due to any deep seeded angst. I did sometimes feel like a square peg in a round hole while I was growing up in the church, but much of that could be explained by being a preacher’s kid and a theatre geek. I left simply for love—love of a new tradition of worship and love of my then husband, Chuck.

I felt if each of us went to different churches our house would be a house divided. So though Chuck studied at Nazarene Theological Seminary, he soon felt a call to be an Episcopal priest. And through my own personal prayer and discernment, it seemed the very right thing to do was to support him and join this new church steeped in liturgy and ancient worship such as I had not experienced before.

One of the traditions that I fell in love with is the celebration of Christ’s sacrifice through communion every Sunday. I simply love how that is the center, the climax really, of most weekly services. No matter the priest, the sermon, or the season, we all come together at the table to acknowledge that Christ died and rose again to save us.

I don’t remember the exact time of year, but our church was meeting in our fellowship hall due to some renovations in the main sanctuary. The space was seemingly less sacred as we used it as a place for lunches after service, weekly meetings, and the annual pancake supper. To accommodate all of the weekly worshippers, chairs were now crowded in row upon row. We sat near the back. With a squirmy toddler on my lap, I didn’t know when an exit would be necessary.

And so it was that on that Sunday in the bottom level multipurpose room of our church, the time for communion came. We went forward to receive the body and blood, Emma in my arms. The customary words, “Body of Christ,” “Blood of Christ,” were issued as I received the bread and then the cup. Then Emma received a wafer. She chewed the remaining bits as I turned us back up the aisle and began navigating the narrow path to our seats.

She finished the bread and then without warning yelled out, “More body of Christ!” Everything seemed to stop as all eyes landed on Emma and I. Then throughout the hall laughter from our friendly congregation erupted, and smiles were exchanged as communion continued, believers celebrating Christ’s sacrifice together that day amidst linoleum floors, fluorescent lighting, and folding chairs.

As Lent draws to a close, I know I am not the only one eagerly anticipating the celebration of Easter. I pray that even with it’s reverence and awe, as we honor days such as Good Friday with the solemn and rightful digesting of the price that was paid for our sins, that we will feel a true rush of joy at Easter. And like the words expressed by my little girl many years ago now, I hope we feel that Easter once again marks a day where we encounter a desire for more of Jesus.

When we celebrate with our families and friends whether over creamy deviled eggs, ham, and carrot cake or fried fish, hushpuppies, and homemade cobbler, may we enter into the season of Easter—which goes beyond that one Sunday—to a place where we cry out, “More body of Christ!” And may we share our enthusiasm for the One who has saved us with the people we love and everyone around us. Amen.


Purple Haze

I think that the season of Lent is wearing on me.  I guess it is supposed to.  A couple of weeks ago, Ash Wednesday launched me perfectly into the spirit of things.  Not one to consistently overbook myself, many “to dos” landed on that day all culminating in an exhaustive mish mash of running and doing.

From start to finish, the busyness of the day completely wore on me.  The first few hours looked like:  up early, get ready, get kid ready, kid to school, off to work, work for several hours, leave work to help a student in a voice class.  The drive to the university where the class was held took an hour and a half because of construction and sheer distance. I thought it was a 45-minute drive.  No.  Not so much.

As I got closer to my destination, I was afraid I was going to run out of gas, so I stopped.  Fittingly, there were problems at the pump at the first gas station, so I had to go to another gas place to put just enough fuel in to get me going again.

By now, I am late.  And I feel that weight of late.  Late is not good.  Late is really bad in my world.  I have to back myself off of the ledge a bit.  “Late is not good, but late is not the end of the world,” I say to me.

I finally arrive at the class.  I know that I am not in a proper place mentally.  I put on the good face.  My friend wants me to show her class the vocal exercises she and I have been working on, and there I am, all tense.  It is not good for vocalists to be tense.

The time she needs me in class is 10 minutes, maybe less.  I do my thing.  It is not horrible, but it is not great.  I leave; now I have another hour and a half drive back across town to pick up my daughter at school.

The last few hours of the day look like this:  make the drive to school, grab daughter, drive quickly towards church, make bank deposit, get snacks for choir, get dinner and scarf it, arrive at church, warm-up for Ash Wednesday service, sing in service, lay out snacks, try to ignore critical comment from fellow choir member about my food set-up, rehearse concert pieces with the choir.  It is now 9ish.  Scoop up daughter and drive home; collapse in a heap.

That was my day on Ash Wednesday. Yet it was so much more than the list of these tasks. That day, everything had an extra measure of difficult attached to it. You know those days when you have to work really hard at even the easy stuff?  It was like that. For whatever reason, nothing was uncomplicated that day, and much of it was just plain hard.

Early on, I tried to fight it.  I didn’t want that kind of day that day.  I wasn’t in the mood to be in a bad mood.  Before I left the house in the morning, I prayed, read my Bible, and planned for a good day.  But it all slowly unraveled on me though the small, medium and large bumps I encountered, until I was acutely aware of my dry and ashy spirit.

A purple haze descended on me that day…just in time for Lent.  And that penitential purple had a message for me.  I did not move through that day with grace and poise like I should have.  It was a frustrating day, and though my heart wanted to be in a better place, I succumbed to other forces and voices with grumbles and stress.

At home that night, in the silence and weariness, in the dark reflection over the day, I thought back to the service that evening.  I thought of how with the choir I sang:

Wash me throughly from my wickedness, and forgive me all my sin.

For I acknowledge my faults and my sin is ever before me. (S.S. Wesley)

“My sin is ever before me.”  I won’t ever get everything all right.  I love Jesus deeply, but even so, I think it’s just plain pompous to believe that I don’t have the capability of really messing things up.

Recently, I hurt a dear friend in a conversation.  It wasn’t out of malice, but what I said still made my friend feel bad.  Later that night, right in the middle of choir, I inconveniently flashed back to the scene earlier that day.  The emotion of the song  we were singing got muddled with my memory of hearing the hurt in my friend’s voice.  It was hard to keep it together in that moment, and the somber music of the season was definitely not helping me move past what I had done.

And so it goes.  On our journey, we don’t get it all right.  And sometimes a purple haze covers days, months, or even years of our life.  We want to fight the haze; we want it to evaporate thinking that when it’s gone we will once again see more clearly.

But purple haze has a purpose.  How often do we not see past all the junk going on around us and in us, and all the while Jesus is right there in the midst of the fog?

This Lent I’m standing, peering through that smoggy craze and wondering why my expectations of people are sometimes way out of range.  I’m wondering why I can’t stop striving for a bunch of “happier” feelings and give God all the life-control He’s due anyway.  And as new, inevitable problems and pain crop up, I’m struggling with forgiving myself and moving on from a painful past.

I’m praying for my timely fog to help me grow into a better person who is more fully reliant on Jesus.  I don’t need the low beams to make my way out.  All I need is Him.

Thanks be to God.