Sunday, 6 October 2013

Being Israel

For one million shekels*, answer the following question:

What does 'Israel' mean?

A.  He who believes in God
B.  He who conquers through God
C.  He who struggles with God
D.  He who is chosen by God

* Not really.

The answer is C - He who struggles with God.  Remember Jacob?  He meets God in a mysterious encounter, wrestles with him, and ends up limping off.  From then, he has this new name.  You can read it yourself in Genesis 32.

It's nice to have such a macho metaphor for life with God.  I think that will resonate with a lot of people.

Anyhoo, I think I limped off from college on Thursday.  I don't quite know what happened, but I felt suddenly overwhelmed by questions.  Big questions.  I'm not sure the answers I come too will be quite the ones I expect, or of I'm honest, hope for.  I got antsy, frustrated at hearing things I didn't want to agree with, but mainly at feeling completely unable to articulate any alternative.  

My thoughts were soupy, swirling and bitty, hard to pin anything down with a fork.  Scary.

Now, I'm not into wrestling as a sport.  But even I know, if you're wrestling with God, you will be overcome and have to surrender at some point.  And during those exhausting moments of wrestling, resisting, depleting energy, it also means we are in God's intimate embrace, his arms around us.

So I guess wrestling, struggling, is OK.  Limping off is OK.  Because it's good to be changed.  It actually feels good to go ten rounds with God and come off worse for wear, but having encountered Him.  Does that sound mental?

I actually think that's a better option than not wrestling, not struggling, never being challenged and knocked out of joint and changed.  It helps to know that it's all part of Being Israel.

So.  Back to Dublin later today for another round.  I thought a couple of years ago that I'd done my struggling and changing, emerging as some kind of post-evangelical.  Oh man ... it's starting to look like that was just a warm-up.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Communion Bread

At college, we all have roles.  Mine is sacristan (a bit like church warden), which doesn't come naturally to me as it is a practical role.  'It's mainly common sense' said the out-going sacristan as he trained me up.  It would have been very comforting, if I were endowed with common sense.

This weekend, one of my jobs is to get bread for the weekly communion service.  Wednesday nights are essentially our Sunday.  We have Holy Communion, with lectionary readings for the Sunday of that week, a wine reception (we are Anglicans you know), and an extra special meal.

Now, I am coeliac - and so is the other sacristan, Suzanne!  I really admired (and felt for) the presiding minister recently as he modelled elegant, sensitive liturgy even when tackling two chunks of dusty gluten-free bread wrapped in tin foil just at the moment of consecration.

Before I head back to college tomorrow, I need to taste-test gluten-free communion bread.  One of the lecturers says we should 'all share the one bread' as it says in the Book of Common Prayer.  He says the symbolism of one loaf is important.  I agree.  But poor co-communicants.  I won't be able to look them in the eye after they have to eat a chunk of a 'Yes You Can! No Wheat No Gluten' loaf.

Sorry in advance.  Hope you manage holy thoughts, and not just Oh My ... !

A few considerations, other than palatability:

1.  Crumb structure.  Not only should it be to Paul Hollywood's liking (some chance!), but it should be chewy and soft enough to break pieces off without small crumbs falling all over the place.  Sadly, turning to smithereens is a specialty feature of coeliac-friendly baked goods.  Not good for consecrated bread.  We all have different views of The Presence in the bread (consubstantiation, transubstantiation, spiritual presence, just a symbol ...) but whatever your churchmanship you don't want it going everywhere.  Suzanne and I would only have to go round late Wednesday night reverently consuming it off the carpet.

2.  Colour.  For communion, it should be the 'finest white bread available'.  The best (i.e. OK-ish-est) gluten-free bread is often brown.  Is it too early in my training to break the rules, choose brown and insist that the body of a Middle Eastern Jew who spent lots of time out in the wilderness most probably was not white?  Maybe.

At least the wine is easier.  It should definitely be red, and thankfully I am not intolerant to that.