Sunday, July 25, 2010
Learning Resurrection Life
Mr. John and Mrs. Barbara pour grape juice into plastic communion cups. They wash the silver cup holders and bread plates, fill them with wafers, and they starch crisp white table linens that enshroud the meal. It's been their duty as long as I can remember. Mrs. Barbara's never let the shaky Parkinson's disease stand in the way of her aim when she shoots her 64 ounce bottle of juice at her one ounce target.
Other than a vague knowledge of their communion table preparation, I'd never given it a second thought. But this time Mrs. Barbara was spinning through chemotherapy cycles when the communion cycle spun to the top of the church calendar. I wondered if she was up to the task. And for the first time ever, I was envious of the duties. What an intimate act of service it must be to the church and Lord Jesus to prepare the communion meal. I now was longing to do this act. To prepare for death.
I remember preparing for death; I've done it before. I was bent in half in my closet swimming through the blurry salt water crowding my eyes, and the mess of shoes looking for black. Without thought, I said to Mike, "Bring a suit in case there's a funeral." The words didn't seem real in my mouth, but ricocheted hard in my ear.
The next day, another blow hit its mark hard: burial clothes, too, were needed. Mike and I volunteered to make the hour drive to Jeff's apartment to retrieve one of his suits and a tie. His white shirt needed to be ironed, a task I desperately wanted to do for my brother. When we got back to Mom's I offered to iron, but Mom said she wanted to do it.
A mother's love trumps a sister's, so I acquiesced and sat opposite her on the couch, watching the iron's heat coax wrinkles from the cotton and a shirt stand proxy for a son when a mother poured out her last loving service to her firstborn. No words are fit for this occasion, so we were left to our own thoughts. I don't remember what I was thinking then, but now I am struck by how desperate we both were to serve him, some way, with any act of kindness we could find. We needed to declare tangibly our love for him, to demonstrate it one last time. In the face of death.
In Sunday school today, we watched Paul build a logical case for the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 that would rival any defense attorney's closing arguments. It was an air-tight case, brilliantly argued. His conclusion crescendoed with an ardent plea to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.
As we took communion a short time later, thoughts of resurrection life lingered. Mrs. Barbara was beaming under her hat, holding her communion cup steady. Her duties to the Lord's table complete, she looked peaceful and well-satisfied, perhaps because of the added effort it took this time around. It's the contentment that comes with loving acts of service.
When Jesus humbled himself to become flesh, he was donning burial clothes. The flesh and blood he took upon himself to identify with us, are the same burial clothes we now put on to commune with Him. We drink and we bite down and we die. And He breaks the hold of death to live the resurrection life. It's lavish and extravagant. Jesus, too, commits a last act of service to declare his love. In the face of death. And I remember the desperation to serve my brother with a last loving service.
I feel compelled to live my resurrection life with this same desperation for my Lord. I pray it be reckless abandon in the face of death from this moment on. And lavish, like Jesus's. I offer myself a dead but living sacrifice on the alter, a spiritual service that the writer of Romans deems an act of worship. I learn that love, at its core, demonstrates itself as service, obedience. It is not obligation. It is love. Desperate and extravagant, it is love that will not be denied.
Photo Credit: my son, Adrian