Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Punchy Priest Recaps a Long Day

I'm about to trek up to the church for an evening meeting with the Habitat board.  The day has buzzed with the usual and unusual combinations of administrative tasks, people, pastoral care, study, prayer, planning, and broken copiers.  [I have this recurring dream in which St Augustine stops St Peter's routine interrogation at the pearly gates as I approach.  Augustine calls Pete off - he wants a shot at me.  Specifically, Augustine wonders why the *heck* I needed a computer and accompanying technology for the work of the Kingdom of God.  I have no answer.  After last week, however, I can at least retort that not having a copier meant that Augustine never had to shovel raccoon poop off his.  Other duties as required...]  Anyway, that's just to say it's been a typically hectic, or quite possibly fulsome, day.  In a day or three, I'll maybe be able to tell you which.

Needless to say, I haven't come into this time and space today with preparation or premeditation, but I did stumble upon a Captain Obvious grace that I want to remember.

The moment was spurred by a sermon a couple of weeks ago, in which I observed that the Collect for the Monday of Holy Week is also the Collect for Fridays in Morning Prayer, both rites I and II.  In the sermon, that observation became a point from which to question what it means to be baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus, and also to ask how the cross can possibly be "the way of life and peace."

So I've got that reflection and that prayer in my mind this afternoon as I stumble up to the door of a dear parishioner who is recovering from hip replacement surgery.  For four weeks she's unable to leave her home.  And we talk, and she's short on time, and the physical therapist is waiting, but he's gracious and understands out of his own faith the importance of her receiving the sacrament.  I set up the makeshift altar I've set up a thousand times before - on trays still bearing their day-old, stale, hospital food, on tables, lawn chairs, bedsides, strategically placed wheelchairs - and I flip open the book to page 396: Communion under Special Circumstances.  I always think of the manger - the manger as the first home visit - and the TV trays become like unsuspecting donkeys: oblivious bystanders made holy as God makes a home in their midst.

We're praying our way through the brief liturgy when I land on another collect that, like the Collect for Fridays, also serves does double duty:

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

I have become so accustomed to the words which I pray in makeshift mangers - almost daily - that I am startled today to recognize the prayer from its other, obvious, perhaps more proper home: "the night before he suffered."  The Collect for Maundy Thursday.

And suddenly I'm awash with God's gentle beauty: this is how the Body daily washes one another's feet; tired, behind, lagging, at the end of the day, still all the way present, all holy privilege; another altar perilously constructed on the edge of daily living; another midwife moment in the stable as our Lord patiently joins our lives, our deaths, to the work of his own; and here, the strength to take up the work of the Kingdom, whatever it will be, in the words of that first, last night:

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am.  So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.


  1. No way St. Augustine would call you on the carpet for this. Thank you for sharing this beautiful reflection. I love the combination of the manger,the Last Supper, and our makeshift lives.

  2. haha Bless you, and thank you, Summer. :) Glad you enjoyed it.


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