Laura Jean Truman: Lent Devotion: Everyday Holiness
EVERYDAY HOLINESS IS BREAD AND WINE.
We’re always trying to make our daily lives more holy by making them less human. We don’t make the sacraments “more important,” though, when we divorce them from their whole, embodied, normal physicality, as if our brains are closer to God than our bodies. The holiest things are also the most “normal” ones. This can make us uncomfortable. We prefer to theologize away everyday qualities of the sacraments. We retreat to our brains when talking about “sacred things,” because our bodies feel less holy. But so many of the sacraments are so physical! Eating and drinking and bathing are mundane, delightful, physical, essential, joyful. These are physical pleasures and physical needs, and here is God in them all– calling those physical joys and necessities holy. Perhaps many of us have despised our bodies for so long, or at best, ignored them. It can be uncomfortable to think about body maintenance or desire as holy. Our shame around our bodies, though, and what our bodies want and need, can calcify into a theology of mind that denies the physicality of the sacraments for a more heady brand of spirituality, one that nods its head to the body but does not revel in it. The sacraments, especially Holy Communion, invite us to revel. They invite us to let our minds be still for just a moment, and allow our bodies to need, and to want, and to enjoy. Into our shame and dismissal of our bodies, Jesus comes to us. He comes “eating and drinking,” and inviting us to the table to eat and drink with him (Lk 7:34).
The table invites us to come and eat – not to come and think.Come – with your body. The table is set. Amen.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO TIDY UP FIRST.
I grew up in an evangelical church culture that took “don’t eat and drink judgment on yourself” very seriously. If you had “unconfessed sin” or didn’t feel “close to God” that Sunday, evangelical etiquette demanded that you skip communion. We only had communion a couple times a year at my childhood church. I’d watch folks pass the trays of tiny plastic cups and crackers down the line, passing it on without taking any for themselves. I asked my parents why people weren’t taking communion. If your heart isn’t prepared, they told me, you should skip communion.
Lord have mercy. When is my heart prepared? When do I have all my ducks in a row and my stuff entirely together and my sin rooted out and my heart earnest and kind and penitent and holy? Absolutely not one day. Not one day ever. There is not a single day that I will be worthy to take the bread and the cup. And that, friends, is the entire point of the reckless grace of this table that God has set for us. It’s here for us precisely because we are never going to wake up some Sunday and really have it all together. We’re not going to get close. We need the table. We need the radical, reckless, unbound grace of Jesus because we are never going to be able to get our stuff together and never going to be able to come properly tidied up and never going to be as good as we want to be. And to us – to us, and to our messy, ugly, spiritually and morally unkempt neighbor – God comes.
Unable to get close to our best selves or close to our perfect God, God comes to us, and sets a table, and says – just as you are, this is my body, broken for you. Take. Eat.
This is grace. It’s not what we bring to the table, but how the table is set for us: as we are, in our brokenness, in our pride, in our mess, in our inadequacy. To us – to the strays and disasters and fallen souls – God comes. God sets us a table, just for us. And God invites us home. Amen.** **
HOLY HOSPITALITY AND A FAMILY MEAL
“This is a family meal,” my pastor used to say when he presided over the table every Sunday morning. This is a family meal. There is power in a family meal. There is unique holiness in hospitality. Hospitality invites people as they are, and makes a space for them to come and release their performative self and find refuge. Nothing says you are welcome, come and rest like a very large meal. Working in the restaurant industry for the last six years, I have a front row seat to how every important moment is marked by a meal. Engagements, graduations, and baby showers happen over dinner. Funerals, divorces, heartbreaks also come with casseroles, nights out over nachos – achingly difficult moments accompanied by meals dropped on a back porch.
We need to eat, and also we need to be fed. Food is always more than just food. It’s comfort, tenderness, celebration, nourishment. It helps us run races in the morning and feeds broken hearts at night. Food carries us physically and emotionally into the hard or joyful days we are facing.
This is the gift Communion offers us.
When God wants to tell us we are welcome and we are home in God’s love – God brings us a meal. God invites us to come and eat, whether we come in dancing or heartbroken or everything in between. God invites us, exactly as we are, to come and feel the full acceptance of a home cooked meal. Amen.
TO MAKE SPACE FOR A GOD WHO MAKES SPACE FOR US.
When we think of the table, we think about the hospitality that God offers to us. There is a way, though, that taking communion is also offering hospitality to God. God sets the table for us and welcomes us, and then we offer that welcome back to God, housing God in our bodies as we eat and drink. It’s a strange relationship in this moment, when we dance as equals with the creator of the universe. This is a mysterious and beautiful side of human freedom. Because we are so free, we can consent to the grace of God - and in our consent, we can offer hospitality back to God in the exact moment that God offers it to us.
God as Christ incarnate becomes vulnerable. Like the three Trinitarian strangers visiting Abraham or Jesus coming to the home of Martha and Mary Jesus becomes vulnerable enough to need a place to rest, to sit down and be at peace. Similar to poor stressed Martha who thought she had to make everything perfect, we can think we need to do more or be more or hide the parts of ourselves we’re ashamed of in order to welcome the Divine. Jesus, though, is just so glad to be here - not only giving to us but also, in the wildest mystery of the incarnation, accepting from us, too. Jesus doesn’t just take delight in giving hospitality. Jesus is delighted to be welcomed, too.
This is also love – not only to recklessly give, but also recklessly receive.The vulnerability of God is a great mystery of the incarnation. Every week, when we take communion, we encounter that mystery again. We are welcomed by God when we put out our hands for the body of Christ. We also, in a miracle of the vulnerability of the Divine, welcome God, too. Amen.
It’s just whiskey and the heel of supermarket whole wheat bread, and I am not sure of a theology of Long Distance Communion, but I know I need Jesus and I know it is a pandemic and I know that online church is all I have – so bless my heart, this is going to be what it is going to be.
Sprawled out on my living room floor in my 600sq ft apartment, the computer precariously balanced on the coffee table, and my makeshift communion lined up on the wood floor next to my coffee cup, I don’t feel particular holy. This does not feel like “church.” I do feel a lot less lonely than I did last night, though. The little chat bubble starts popping up, and everyone is saying hello as the announcements start, and then when the sermon starts people pop in with a joke or a quote or a heart emoji. I don’t feel quite so alone, for this half heartbeat of a Sunday morning.
The pandemic has been a very alone time. It has made me anxious and tightly wound, fragile, jumpy about picking fights, less gentle with others and myself. I’m more of an extrovert than I thought. I learned that I meet God most in rubbing shoulders with my neighbor, in joyful, awkward, thoughtful conversations.
I miss those conversations.
I didn’t think I’d be able to be as close to God, or to my neighbor, if all we had were screens. I didn’t think makeshift Zoom community could be as tender. I thought, too, that every week I’d bake real communion bread with my seminary recipe, and pick up red wine at Kroger. Pandemic me is always scattered and behind, though, so all I have this morning is the end of the whiskey bottle and this heel of bread. I’m not sure if it’s holy or if it’s enough, but it’s what I have, on this hardwood floor in this pandemic time.
Like the little boy walking up the mountain with a bag lunch, asking Jesus if it will be enough, I wander into online church with my makeshift communion and anxious heart and ask – am I enough? Is this enough? Is this holy? Is this church? And there, on the floor, with what I have – God comes. Jesus multiplies this “not enough” into comfort, and community, and holiness, and presence, even in this most unexpected place. Like Jesus has always done. Like Jesus will always do.
There is no place that the reckless hospitality of the Divine will not break into our lonely, broken, messy, sinful, heartbroken, scattered lives. “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence,” Abraham Kuyper says, “over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
Even this hardwood floor. Even this online church. Even this whiskey and wheat bread. Even this lonely pandemic. In every strange and sacred and scattered moment – we are Christ’s, and Christ is ours.
Laura Jean Truman is a queer writer, preacher, and former chaplain living in Atlanta, GA. Originally from New England, she has a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of New Hampshire and an M.Div. from Emory University Candler School of Theology, with emphases in monasticism and mysticism. She supports her itinerant chaplaining and writing by slinging drinks at a historic tavern in downtown Atlanta.
Facebook | facebook.com/laurajeantrumanwriterInstagram | @laurajeantruman
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