Sunday, December 11, 2011

#4 Broken Bread, Poured-Out Wine

The fourth entry in my list of Ten Things to Remember is food sitting on the four-sided, four-legged breakfast table I sit at on my three-point (“h”-shaped) chair wearing my two-legged pants that I put on after pushing the one button on my old-fashioned alarm clock.

These words, of course, find their roots in the Last Supper and echo through time and space during the celebration of the Eucharist. "Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you." and "This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me" (1 Corinthians 15:24-25, KJV) However, they come to my list of things to remember via an intermediate source – Oswald Chambers as memorialized by his wife in My Utmost for His Highest. Nine times in the 365 entries of this classic devotional, the reader is called to give his or her own life as broken bread and poured-out wine.

C. S. Lewis writes in Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer about hanging “festoons” on the familiar phrases of the Lord’s Prayer during Church of England liturgy, contemplating various aspects of each line. This is sort of what I do with broken bread and poured-out wine. Beginning with the nouns, I think about bread and see it as a solid presence. Being bread in the world is simply getting out there and being present, showing up. When I think of wine and its symbolism for blood, I see it as representing life. Wine is the sparkle of life that accompanies the simple presence of bread.

Picking up the adjectives, adds new dimensions. The idea of being broken takes a lot of pressure off my days. I tend toward perfectionism. I want to get life right, keep my promises, fulfill the expectations others have for me, meet standards of excellence. But I fall short. There are more expectations than I can possibly meet. I can’t always keep my promises, and even my best efforts often leave people disappointed and irritated. Besides, there are sad situations I can’t fix; there is needed help I can’t give. I am broken, less than perfect. I not only am unable to be all things to all people, I don’t even get out of the gate in that regard.

And so I go into the world broken yet present. Broken bread is still bread. And brokenness is the best I have to offer. Rather than drawing back from life for fear of being exposed and rejected as broken, I push myself to offer my presence to others even in my broken state. When I am knocked flat and fear I am irreparably broken, it helps to remember that I was already broken and live in a broken world where there is value simply in being a solid, dependable, nourishing presence.

Poured-out wine adds a dimension of being dissipated. Bread is a solid. It stays in one place. Wine is liquid. When poured out on the ground it flows and is gone. It’s one thing to be broken but solid. It’s another to pour out my life energy into others and watch it flow away and be irretrievably gone. When I am knocked flat and it seems life it draining out of me, it helps to see such a state as one to which I have been called. Jesus told us we find life by losing it. When I choose to live as poured-out wine, it takes the panic out of realizing that I am being drained of my life energy.

As I remember this phrase, I pray daily that God will give me to my world as broken bread (a flawed but solid presence) and poured-out wine (life freely and irretrievably given away).

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