My heart was heavy as I made my way to the fourth pew. Pre-service banter of sitting on the other side of the isle brought some levity, but the safety of my spot seemed appropriate. A pre-printed order of confession was little more than ink on a page, and pre-packaged, overused absolution carried little impact.
I wasn’t carrying any extra weight of things I’ve done or not done, just the burdensome feeling I was not quite right.
The gospel reading was about forgiving seven times, or seventy-seven times, or in some translations, seventy times seven. Scholars tell us this “seven” is more than the number between six and eight. It represents fullness or completeness as in God created everything in six days and rested on the seventh, completion. Historically, seven represented an entirety so seventy times seven is more than 490, it’s uncountable.
As the children’s message offered an amusing illustration of forgiving seven times, the pastor asked, “How many times we have hurt God’s feelings”? That child said, “way too many.” And how many times does God forgive? “Always.” The interchange sparked a replay of all my low-lights, taking me to a very dark place, invoking doubts of everything I believe.
Preparing for communion, we sang: Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us, grant us peace. Approaching the altar, the pianist played Amazing Grace. I had no voice, I was broken.
On this particular Sunday, the body and blood of Christ was received by intinction, meaning to dip the bread into the wine. Our tradition of small cups of wine warm your soul as it goes down. Today, it would be but a taste, still much more than I deserve. Yet, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Matthew 15:27
As I consumed the precious morsel, I felt a coolness run down my chest. Not immune to drips on my shirt, I knew that feeling, but this was different. God knows me well and knew I needed a little more.
… Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well.” John 13:8-9
Yes Lord, my hands, my head, all that I am.
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