Notes from Jan

Sweatin’ It Out in Church

August 18, 2016

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,

and come.

Sweating from more than heat.

Begging for that which can’t be bought,

a touch

a word

a taste

a sip of Grace.


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  • Reply Elizabeth Payne August 18, 2016 at 5:03 am

    How perfect in a way….a simple need met, Grace really is beautiful.

  • Reply Randall K Mathews August 18, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    Jan, you are amazing! And to think that all of this was happening at the communion rail while I and Alice sat in our pew quite unaware of all the excitement up front. How wonderful that you turned this event into a beautiful illustration of God’s grace. You are loved and much appreciated by all of us at CCH.

    Randy for the Mathews

  • Reply Alice Mathews August 18, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Amen, Jan, Amen. I didn’t lose the wafer – I think the heat glued it to my fingers – but I needed the same blessing as I wrestled with the reality in which we live in this alien world. it’s easy to forget Jesus’ words to Pilate: “MY kingdom is not of this world.” That’s the long and short of it, but it wallops us with a deep reality we sometimes would prefer to ignore….

  • Reply Gail MacDonald August 18, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    Jan, you have a beautiful way of humbly showing your own “goofs” while making someone else look like the extended
    hand of Jesus! What a gift you are!

  • Reply Nancy Mering August 19, 2016 at 1:55 am

    Yes, we were all hot stuff in that chapel last Sunday, weren’t we!?! I, too, looked for the funeral home fans that filled the pew racks of the Baltimore church where David and I grew up. Can’t you still feel the handle in your hand? . . . And Jesus is the crisis made it into my sermon notes, too. Like Alice and Randy, I missed all the altar rail drama, so am glad now to learn about it and its applications of grace . . .

  • Reply Laura August 26, 2016 at 12:08 am

    Amen to Gail’s sweet comments and all the others – you are such a blessing to so many and your reflection of your day’s highs and lows bring us all joy because you are human and way more importantly, you are HIS!! xo to you, Jan!

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