Distant from the Land

Sometimes I feel alienated from the land.  After being closed up inside, in  the library and in my basement study, I miss the long summer days of mowing and digging ditches that I once knew.

I was thinking about the sacraments the other day.  Where does the water come from that we use to baptise?  Out of a faucet.  Where does the wine/juice come from?  Out of a bottle from the store.  The bread?  Out of a box.  (Ours does, anyway.  It’s matzoh!)  But it hasn’t always been that way.

Once I would have known the water from the river, where I got my drinking water and washed my clothes.  I would have known the feet that crushed the grapes that had made the wine… or they would have been my own.  I might have known the hands or the mule that turned the millstone to crush the  grain for the bread.  So much of the beauty of the sacraments is the making holy of the ordinary.  God has made all of creation good, including the water I wash with.  The goodness of the sacraments is a reminder of the goodness of the mundane.

So I did a funny thing yesterday.  I rode my bike down to the Mississippi, two miles from my house.  I walked down the boat ramp to the water and watched the crane lifting scrap iron onto a barge.  I dipped my fingers in the water, splashed my forehead, and blessed myself.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. So good to see you updating your blog. I know you told me this story last night, but it makes much more sense as prose.

    I find it interesting that you blessed yourself with water from the river (and not only because of the bacteria count in the water). I’ve always thought of blessing oneself, and correct me if I’m wrong, as a very Catholic activity. Ever since I was a little kid, one of the first things I would do as soon as I walked into a church was search for one of the readily available holy water vessels and bless myself with it. The holy water is there as a reminder of our baptism, which is the first sacrament that Christians receive. I still bless myself to this day anytime I happen to stumble upon holy water, although doing that in a Protestant setting might get a lot of weird looks and questions.

    I know this is getting a little bit off-topic since this particular post is about getting back to the original source of the sacraments, but how do you feel about the Catholic tradition of holy water for the masses? (No pun intended.) I must admit that there have been times when I have used holy water to bless myself because of habit, and I haven’t focused on what it represents. I guess that’s the danger of having it available at every turn. Are there Protestant denominations that kept this tradition (I’m guessing Lutherans probably did)?

  2. Good blog. Doesn’t just waffle on about what everybody already knows, but suggests new ideas that few will have thought about.

    “So much of the beauty of the sacraments is the making holy of the ordinary.”

    Except for adding the word ‘specially’ before ordinary, I think you have put your finger on a concept that is central to the basics of OT belief.

    The wine, the growing of the wheat, the pressing of oil from olives, the rearing of lambs of which one would be selected for sacrifice, all had special significance in the ordinary day-to-day life of those involved.

    That does not happen today, as you emphasise.

    Terrific.

  3. Good post. I often feel that we’ve made the sacraments so artificial that they’re almost unrecognizable as the earthy exercise in remembrance and community that Jesus intended. I especially feel this way when I’m crunching a gum-size piece of “bread” that tastes like a baked foam peanut (with added preservatives), then chasing it with a half-gulp of grape juice (!) from a plastic minicup, which is then placed neatly in a holder, attached to the pew in front of me, designed expressly for that purpose…

    Surreal.

  4. Enelia: I’m not afraid to look like a catholic. Experienced no such ceremony during my years as a Lutheran. But our youth pastor encouraged us to remember our baptism when washing our faces in the morning. I like the idea of holy water, but not as much as the idea of all water as holy.

    Hughstan: Thank you and welcome. I’ve been trying to use this as a forum for new ideas or old ideas in new ways. “Specially” made for bad prose, however good for my Presbyterianism, so it has been stricken from the post.

    Ariel: Thank you. A pleasure as always. You should feel short-changed a bit for the half-gulp and the foam peanut, but, then again the juice is a reminder of real “juice” and real Jesus, and the wafer is a reminder of real bread and real Jesus, too.


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