Fr. Rich greeted me at church this morning by telling me that he had a book for me.
"It's in the sachristy" he said.
"What is a sachristy?" I asked.
He laughed as he remembered that I am a newbie.
"It's where the host and wine are prepared for the Eucharist."
He walked with me to show me the room in question. At Grace it is more like a hallway, with wooden walls on one side and a counter on the other. There is a little door in the wall that contains a cubby that holds the supplies. I was disappointed that the room was cluttered with some empty boxes and other stuff. It seems to me that even if it still plain bread, the host that will become the body of Christ ought to be treated with a bit more dignity.
Todays lectionary reading is on the rules of the pharisees. Jesus gets pissed off when they question the fact that the disciples don't wash their hands before eating, thus ignoring some of the dietary laws.
This is tricky stuff. If God gave the law, why did Jesus ignore it? He systematically violates the mitzvahs, touching the unclean, constorting with sinners, hanging out with the dead. Jesus is reminding us that the law was supposed to help us grow closer to God... not be used as a club to bludgeon each other with.
I recognize in myself a tendancy to be a pharisee sometimes. The law (as it is practiced in an anglican church) is such a wonderful revelation for me that I can become fixated on it. I once got all emphatic about priests praying the daily office. Nguyen was stunned at my vehemence. It was profoundly ironic considering I don't, myself, pray the office. I get really cranky when people are chatting in the pews before church starts. Aren't we supposed to be meditating and quiet? Sometimes I even get up and move to a quiet corner. I can be intractable about 'rules'.
But sometimes those rules are the structure on which I depend when my own volition fails. The simplest rule is to get to church regularly. I go, sometimes, out of a sense of obligation. It is the least I can do, I reason, for a God who has given me so much. It is the very least I can do.
This morning, after a very bad night's sleep, I woke up late and considered skipping church. I would have to rush. I might be late. I can go on Wednesday.
I got up.
I showered and dressed and remembered that I don't eat breakfast before communion anyway, so out the door I went, with plenty of time to spare.
I love the law.
But I love God more. I pray that I remember that the law is a means to a glorious end... not the end itself.