Sunday, April 09, 2006

Fervency. Absence. Sacrament.

I saw Carlos at church today, and he evidently read yesterday's posting before I cleaned it up. He noted a correlation between the fervency of my blog entries and the absence of the lovely Carol, and I think he's right. She's away at a conference for another couple of days, and the kids are in Mexico on a short-term mission project. So Duke and I are holding down the fort.

I learned a new word...

...from this morning's sermon. Well, maybe it's not a new word (I have heard it before) but I don't think I'd heard the definition. A sacrament is when Jesus somehow comes through to us in ordinary things. In the sacrament of Communion, we believe that the bread stays bread, and the grape juice stays grape juice, but through those ordinary things, somehow Jesus comes through.

That's the word I was looking for to describe last weekend's activities. In case you weren't there, we had a big event where members of our church assembled 7500 kits for AIDS caregivers. Each kit was enclosed in a plastic "sweater box", maybe 15x30x40cm, and consisted of very ordinary items like notebooks, latex gloves, cotton balls, antifungal cream, petroleum jelly. And each kit had a 3x5" card with a message for the caregiver -- "Thank you for all you do" or "May the Lord give you strength as you serve him by helping those in need" or "You're the best! God bless you!" -- something like that. Most of the supplies came from World Vision (who also specified the kits' contents). The kits were taped shut, stacked on pallets, and shrinkwrapped, 96 per pallet. About 7500 of them were thus loaded onto two trucks, which arrived in Denver on Tuesday. In a few weeks they'll be on ships bound for eight African countries.

I didn't assemble a single kit, but I stood behind the tables handing out notebooks and pens Saturday morning; on Sunday morning I helped keep other supplies flowing smoothly. All this was what you might call "mindless" work, and didn't feel very special or spiritual. But when I walked outside and saw them stacked on pallets, and thought about the impact each kit might have, and the messages of encouragement on the cards, and the prayers ascending to heaven... well, that was a moving experience. I thought about ordinary mechanical "mindless" work done by ordinary people with ordinary things (I mean, notebooks and cotton balls -- how much more ordinary can you get?) -- and yet somehow through these acts of service, we were all part of something holy.

In other words, we participated in a sacrament. And I didn't know what to call it 'til today.
...whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name... verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward - Mark 9.41

And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward. - Matthew 10.42
Ordinary people, ordinary things -- even just a cup of cold water -- can be a sacrament. I guess that's what I'd like my life to be, is a sacrament.

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