Thursday, October 31, 2013

Another Fruit of the Vine

A colleague of mine has allergies that fly under the radar of our current cultural popularity. Most of us know by now that lots of folks will die if their lips touch peanuts, and that shellfish make others go into anaphylaxis. But this friend gets hives from apples and grapes--the base fruits for almost every commercially sold juice on the market.

At home she can ensure that these fruits don't make it to the table. But in community--and for us, most importantly, in the church--there is no such guarantee. What's more, the tradition of the church is to use wine or grape juice for communion, with almost no exception. This means that my colleague must either go without both elements of communion or get water instead of the flavorful fruit of the vine.

Our denomination's constitution, as it lays out the guidelines for worship, uses an interesting turn of phrase to instruct us in the filling of the communion cup. It instructs us that a suitable form of "the fruit of the vine" is to be used. As I pondered my colleague's quandary, I wondered what fruit of the vine might substitute for grapes at the communion table.

Tomatoes, though technically on a vine and having the additional virtue of approximating blood, seem to my palate to lack the sweetness I have come to appreciate in the communion cup. And I cannot imagine that acorn squash would produce a tasty drink. Then I remembered the discovery I made while in New Zealand: that kiwi fruits grow on vines. 
Kiwi fruit is native to China but has been transplanted all over the world. One of its greatest market virtues is its ability to stay in room temperature storage for three months without rotting. So the kiwi fruit is available even in upstate New York in late October.
Some chopping, scooping, and straining turned five kiwi fruits into about one three-quarter cup of juice.
The rub: this colleague and I were to be part of a worship service on Saturday with communion. (Hence my production of the juice this week.) However, it turns out that those planning worship may not have included communion. And I'm not sure that fresh-pressed kiwi juice will last until the next time we're together for worship. So we'll have to take a moment on Saturday morning to raise our cups and unceremoniously toast to The King with our fruit of the vine.

~ emrys

Baching It with My Toddler

Mommy dropped off Gwendolyn at school on Wednesday, then drove on away to her work in Norwich for the day. Micah and I were left in our bachelors' paradise to whoop it up and explore the house from the point of view of a sixteen-month-old. First was about forty-five minutes spent opening, climbing into, playing in, and closing the shower:
 Micah could get the door closed and opened from the inside by himself. Once it was closed and he was outside, though, he needed me to reach the handle to open it again. So the sixth step in every iteration (the first five being enter, close, open, exit, close) was to go get me from the kitchen and ask for help please--in clear sign language. Once I opened the door for him, he didn't care what I did for the other five steps of his routine.

 The other arena of strength training, flexibility, and stamina yesterday was the booster seat. Micah wants no more to be buckled in. If he's going to sit at the table, he wants to get into the seat himself and sit unbound by seat belts that no adult uses.
 And he wants to feed himself once he's up.
And he wants to prove that he's also unbound by rules of etiquette and toddler safety.
That move was just for the record. After I got the photo, he sat down again and resumed eating.

I had forgotten how much fun it is to explore the world of adult furniture with a toddler. And I have remembered what it's like to cross an important line into an age of slightly lower maintenance: While Micah played in the shower and on the chairs, I got a load of laundry done and dishes in and out of the dishwasher.

~ emrys

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Another Part of the Story

I called her "Mom Squared." She is the mother of one of my closest friends in high school, who allowed me to come home to her house after school and open the refrigerator before I greeted anyone. She bought frozen burritos specifically for her son and I to eat as after-school and late-night-studying snacks. She bought Milky Way Ice Cream bars (since discontinued) just for me. She loved me like a son.

Sometime in my early university years, when I had fallen in love with a girl who was Christian (and I was not), I went to visit Mom Squared in the city to which she had moved: Miami, Florida. I have no idea how it came up, or whether her offer resulted from my request; my memory did not record those parts in a place I can access them. But she gave me a bible. The New Jerusalem Bible, to be specific; a Roman Catholic version printed in England and, as I recall, printed with instructions not to be sold in the United States.

This bible I read cover-to-cover, Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, over the next year and a half. This paperback brick with onion-skin pages became my daily companion, Apocrypha and all. Based on my reading of this text I decided, in early 1997, that I did not believe the stuff written in it.
 On June 7, 1997, the Author of All Stories That End Well called me to faith. I became a follower of Jesus Christ, and I began to inscribe that gifted bible with thoughts, research, prayers, and songs that made a deep impression on me.
When I went to seminary in 2002, the recommended translation of the bible was the NRSV. Sara bought me a copy of that version, which has been with me since then. The Jerusalem Bible, occasionally serving as a consultant, sat on my shelf until now. It's time to say good-bye, not to the story or the One Behind It All, but to the worn-out brick that's done its duty.

Thanks, Mom Squared, for your gift. The Lord used it well!

~ emrys

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Golden Door

As I continue to think and pray about immigration in the United States, I am haunted by Emma Lazarus' 1883 poem, cast in bronze at the foot of the Statue of Liberty, of which every American primary and secondary student learns a portion somewhere along the line:

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp," cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

My concerns about laws surrounding immigration are humbled before the recognition that our present society owes its being to the invitation of "wretched refuse" to occupy this continent. From the very generation in which Ms. Lazarus wrote, I can trace at least two ancestors of mine who were empowered to begin new lives because they had free entry to American ports and freedom to work in American society.

There may be reasons to reconsider, in 2013, the perspective lauded by The New Colossus, but I want desperately not to dispense with it.

~ emrys

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Tale of Two Seeds

Another reflection on the Church, in an attempt to fit thousands of words in a smaller space:

~ emrys