Hot! Not the first time, I’ve broken out in a summertime sweat in church. This is New England, where most houses and churches aren’t air conditioned. We endure long cold winters, so look forward to summertime warmth, but this summer’s sizzled like burgers on a grill.
Growing up in the South in the late 40s and 50s, we lived without AC at home, church and most every other place I knew. Fans of fans, we were. Tucked into every pew rack in our church, paper fans from the local funeral parlor, thin reminders of matters of life and death.
Well, last Sunday was steamin’ hot in the 90s. Too hot to even move the church bulletin back and forth for a little air. Patrick didn’t help, preaching a hellfire and brimstone kind of sermon from Luke 12. Words from the Bible like,”I came to bring fire to the earth…Do not think I’ve come to bring peace to the earth?”
Patrick reminded us that once we’re identified as Christ followers, baptized believers, ” The last thing we want is for our faith, our baptism, to show us what kind of God we’re dealing with, to learn the way things really are versus the way they really should be. The cross is the reality of God. Jesus brings a crisis into the world. Jesus is the crisis…forcing us to decide.”
Well, that alone was enough to make me sweat. Tough talking truth.
Still mulling over the sermon, when I knelt at the alter to receive communion. Held the wafer, awaiting the cup, when Patrick swished past and next thing I knew, the blessed bread flew out of my fingers and landed beyond my reach.
What to dip in the cup? Wait for seconds?
Lord, have mercy.
Stay at the altar.
Watch and pray and sweat it out. Some watching me remain stuck in place, must’ve wondered if it was a case of “She knelt but she can’t get up.”
The woman, assisting with communion, caught my fearful eye and trembling finger pointed at the wayward wafer, several feet away on her side of the railing. She smiled, walked backwards with the Chalice, bent to retrieve the Host that flew, then walked towards me. I panicked, thinking I’d have to put it in my mouth, germaphobe that I’ve become, until I watched her calmly slip it into her pocket. She made it look holy, Grace-full.
Patrick never blinked as he handed me a second chance. When I dipped it into the cup, the server leaned in and said, “Jesus is smiling.”
A Cup of kindness.
Which is at the heart of why I came,
Sweating from more than heat.
Begging for that which can’t be bought,
a sip of Grace.
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