Thursday, 29 March 2018

The Sacred Spell of Memory (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

(Meditation for Gayton Road Christian Church's Worship on March 29, 2018, Maundy Thursday)

Things That Are More Than Just Things

Our world is enchanted.  We knew this once as children.  Deep down, we still know it.

There are things in this enchanted world that are more than just things.[1]  For me, cinnamon toast will never be just cinnamon toast.  It will be my dad cheerfully making us all an evening snack that he knows we will enjoy.  Flannel will never be just flannel.  It will be my mom’s beloved ceremony: changing the bed-sheets in preparation for winter.  A wiffle ball will never be just a wiffle ball.  It will be an afternoon of homerun derby with my brother in the backyard.

Surely you know such enchanted things yourself.  Maybe they are places.  Or things you can hold in your hand.  Tastes.  Smells.

Memory puts a sacred spell on our world, filling the present with what is absent, filling our hearts with longing.

Water, Bread, and Cup

On that last night, Jesus wove a sacred spell on water, bread, and cup, making a memory that would ever haunt us and fill us with desire. 

The water would never be just water again.  It would be Christ getting on his knees and washing our feet.  The bread and the wine would never be just food and drink.  They would be Christ loving us with all that he had, body and blood.

Water, bread, cup.  They are now only memories, absences that linger over the elements.

And yet the aching absence that we feel is sometimes more real to us than the visible world.  The absence in water, bread, and cup, pulls us like an invisible force, like the longing that draws two lovers together. 

The power of this absence in water, bread, and cup is stronger than the powers of this world.  It is the one power that cannot be extinguished.  Love.  Stronger even than death, they say (cf. Song 8:6). 

A Body Long Ago That Fills Us with Longing

Water, bread, cup.  The church calls them sacraments.  Which is simply another way of saying, they are enchanted.  They remind us of a night long ago, a body long ago, a body whose loving touch still haunts us with longing today.

[1] Much of this homily finds inspiration in the theopoetic dynamite of Rubem Alves, particularly in I Believe in the Resurrection of the Body (Eugene, OR: Wipf, 2003; orig., Fortress, 1986).

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