For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. – 1 Corinthians 23-26 (NRSV)
A few years ago, I read Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya. One thing I loved about this book was how well Anaya tells the story of a boy, Antonio, and the good and evil he encounters. Antonio, though young, sees the world theologically. He is able to reflect on the why behind how people are and what they do, and he asks many questions of God.
There are many stories and images from the book that remain with me, but the one I’ve been thinking about is when Antonio receives the Eucharist the first time. He goes through much preparation for his First Communion, including his First Confession. Either through those who are instructing him or simply how Antonio processes his training, the Eucharist is held up as the answer to every question he has. Once he “takes God into my body”, mysteries will be revealed and life will forever be different. Not surprisingly, all of Antonio’s questions about life and faith are not answered. He doesn’t feel at all changed. Antonio concludes:
The Eucharist is a let down.
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. – 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
Last Saturday, I was ordained as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament. Two years of wrestling and questioning what God might be calling me to led to five years of seminary and another year of discerning / reflecting / waiting. This has not been a short or straight-forward journey in any way. As I wrote and prepared the ordination worship service, I thought about what would be different after Saturday.
I didn’t have any expectations that all of my questions about life and faith would be answered. I didn’t expect to really “feel” different after the service. I don’t feel any wiser (and certainly not any holier) than I did last Friday.
But I do feel loved.
Not everyone who was involved in the worship service knew one another, but we had gathered for a joyous purpose and there were introductions and laughing as we prayed and ran through the order of worship. Dave and the boys were involved in the service, just as they have been involved in the journey that brought us there. Family came from across Wisconsin and out of state, including my 92-year-old grandma. The worshipping community that has surrounded me the last 14 years, surrounded me again with prayer and song. Friends came from the many places in my life. All to share in one of the most precious and sacred moments of my life.
Three things stand out most for me from my ordination day. The first, is the weightiness of the laying on of hands and the two women who kneeled on the floor next to me to hold my hands as the prayer of ordination was spoken. Second, presiding at the table, the tearing of bread and the pouring of the cup – and the joy of which we partook. And finally, the laughing and talking of all of these people of God as they enjoyed food and fellowship at our house after the service.
The call of ordained ministry comes from the community and from God. On Saturday, the love of the community and God was so tangible I remain overwhelmed. The Sacraments are a physical representation of what the Spirit is doing. My ordination took place between the reaffirmation of my baptismal vows and the celebration of the Eucharist. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word meaning “to give thanks.” This is what Saturday was – the thanksgiving of the mighty things the Spirit has, is and will do.
The Eucharist was not a let down.
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” – Luke 1:46-49 (NRSV)