January 29, 2017 - Holly Northcraft Spann

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    SunJan292017 ByHolly Northcraft SpannTaggedNo tags
    When Susi asked if I’d be willing to do the faith witness she said the theme for this week is “the sacramental rite of holy orders”.
    My response… “Holy smokes, Susi!  I don’t even know that is!”
    So, after a gentle lesson in catechism from Susi…here I am.

    Oswald Chambers  writes:
    The process of being made broken bread and poured-out wine means that you have to be the nourishment for other people’s souls until they learn to feed on God. Until others learn to draw on the life of the Lord Jesus directly, they will have to draw on His life through you. You must literally be their source of supply, until they learn to take their nourishment from God. 

    If I were to summarize my understanding of what Christ called us to do and to be until he returns, this would be it. 

    We are called to be broken bread and poured out wine for others until they are strong enough or broken enough or weary enough or at peace enough to get their strength from Him.

    Having come from a background of “we are saved by faith, not by works, but if you’re not in church four days a week, your chances of making it to heaven are pretty slim” I had always struggled with believing that my church attendance record was going to make or break my place at the holy gates. 

    And then almost 20 years ago I read this passage from Chambers and thought, “Yes!  THIS makes sense.”  The visual, sensory and relational connection of this example stuck to my spiritual ribs like a hearty meal for which I had been longing.

    Of course there are many examples in scripture where Jesus refers to himself in this way.
    I am the bread of Life.

    Take, eat this bread in remembrance of me.

    So, it should make perfect sense that I gravitated to using this metaphor in my daily life as I owned my own call to be Christ in the world.

    The metaphor is simple—broken bread, poured out wine.  And let’s face it, sometimes scriptural metaphors can be horrific and hard to explain…. the marriage of the Lamb.  Poured out like blood. ---these aren’t exactly advertising soundbites.

    For me this one works.  Bread is simple and I’m, well, I’m a wine snob.

    A few years ago I stumbled across a really simple bread recipe….four ingredients.  No kneading, no fancy equipment.  Four ingredients, stir.  Rest.  Bake.  And the best part?  It looks like I’ve labored long and hard to make a really fancy loaf of bread.  This recipe has quickly become a staple in my hosting repertoire.  It’s fun to have with guests because it looks beautiful and everyone loves it.  In fact, there are several loaves downstairs to be shared during the mid-hour today.  Four ingredients, very little work, with amazing results!
    Sometimes our call to be Christ in the world is easy.  It’s celebrating with others an accomplishment at work.  It’s sending a note of thanks to express gratitude and care.  It’s being kind to the person behind the counter who’s barely making ends meet and has a sick kid at home.  It’s the mantra of my father-in-law when he’s tipping a service person: “always be generous”.  Like my simple bread recipe….sometimes I don’t have to work very hard to be Christ in the world and it’s still amazing!

    Yet, it’s not always easy.

    Oswald Chambers goes on to write, If ever we are going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed; you can’t drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.

    Nine years ago this week, my 57 year old father passed away very unexpectedly.  My family was in shock and I was in deep sorrow.  My first service back at my home church was the first Sunday of Lent.  The church had decided to use a hymn as the theme for Lent, titled “Nothing is Lost on the Breath of God.”  

    No impulse of love, no office of care, no moment of life in its fullness.  No beginning too late, no ending too soon, but is gathered and known in its goodness.  NOTHING is lost on the breath of God.

    Those lyrics were a balm to my wounded heart.  How grateful I was for those who had done the planning, months before, for the careful, prayerful selection of this hymn.  Their service to the church in Lenten planning was the poured out wine I needed because I couldn’t seem to get past my own grief and find the source myself.  Looking back, I was a grape in the crushing.

    Over the last nine years I have shared this hymn and story with many others who have lost loved ones unexpectedly or were grieving a loss of some kind.  I have presided over two funerals of family members and just last week, a friend of mine asked if I would read at the funeral service for his 16 year old son. I know without a doubt, my compassion and care, while still present, would have been different were it not for my own crushing.

    .  Often times, we know right in the very moment when we are feeding others as broken bread. Other times, we are able to quench someone’s spiritual thirst because days or even months earlier, we were faithful to the work before us as poured out wine.  Broken bread and poured out wine.  For me, this is how I see our call to be Christ in the world.  These are our holy orders.

    Let us Pray

    Gracious God, we are thankful for your loving care and your willingness to send your son to us.  
    May we be the broken bread and poured out wine to others in this hungry world.  In our crushing we humble ourselves to you and are grateful for your grace.  Father, in a world that seems so tenuous, grant us stillness to recognize how we may serve. When others are rejected by the world, give us courage to share your love and mercy.  For the marginalized and those living in the shadows, steady us to walk to the margins and journey in the shadows that we may bring your light.  And for those sitting to our right and our left, we offer thanks to be able to worship together today.  May we also be broken bread and poured out wine to each of them even when we disagree.

    And help us to recognize the hunger in ourselves that we may find strength to come back to you to be filled.  
    God, be with us and among us, we pray.  Amen.
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