on Sacramental vulnerability

Quakers don’t do much with grape juice and crackers.  Or sprinkles on the forehead or dunkings in the river.  I’ve known why since my adolescence: it puts the focus on the material elements rather than the grace that makes them and the experience meaningful.  The trappings aren’t what brings us closer to God.  Our faith and His response to it are sufficient and necessary.

Quakers have explained that real sacraments–in Spirit and in Truth–are to be treasured and sought after.  But I never have stood under that, really.  What might these real sacraments feel like?  What would they mean?  How would I find them?

So I was sitting in meeting this morning and this image comes into my head.  I probably stole it from Minga years ago.  A heart in front of a chest, still attached with arteries and veins, held in a hand, beating and oozing a bit of blood.

I came to understand the image as related to communion–real communion.  Communion, sharing with a community of people, asks for sacrifice from each of us.  Jesus’s flesh and blood and proxies for them didn’t seem to be important in the image this morning.  Mine was.  My heart.  My hand.  An opening in my chest.  My blood.

One of my first reactions was, “Eeeewww!  Gross!”  And it is.

A next reaction was, “Yikes!  I can’t be that open and vulnerable.  I hardly know these people.”

I continued to work through my revulsion and my anxiety during silent worship.  I see simulated hearts on the two doctor TV shows I watch, so I’m somewhat used to that.  The image didn’t make me sick to my stomach, just a bit uneasy.

I considered how vulnerable I could be to Christ.  Holding my heart out to Him (whatever that means practically) seemed like something I can do and probably have done.  I felt easy enough to do that with my wife, too.  I can be that trusting with her.

But to my meeting?  Can I trust them with my inmost organs and Life Center?  That’s what the image seemed to ask of me and I sensed that the image came from God.

I didn’t rule out a positive response, but I’m not sure I’m ready.  I’m not sure the Meeting is, either.

The answer I came back to was what I said a week ago to a few Friends.  We get closer and grow together by muddling through.  We try an offer.  We try an invitation.  We try an exchange.  We ask for small helps.  We ask for and offer more as we build love and trust.  We grow together.  In retrospect, that’s how my relationship with the Light is growing.  My marriage, too.  They’ve come a long way in a lifetime and half of one.

But maybe that’s too insipid an attitude.  Maybe I should seek to copy Peter, rather than cautious Thomas.

I tried phrasing some ministry.  Toward the end of meeting, I gained an inkling that I shouldn’t speak of the image, perhaps to avoid grossing anybody out or giving anyone else the anxieties I was feeling.   I did refer to the subject in twilight meeting.  I gave voice to the first two paragraphs above.  I said that I might write about it and asked for insights on sacraments from others, but that I sensed that I wasn’t to say much more.

Gwenn sees sacraments as threshold experiences–passages of life.  Barbara told me about her Bible-believing sister, who wonders if she’s saved.  I told her about my life quest to find meaning in Christian myths and symbols, such as salvation, sin and sacrament.  Meaning that holds up for this contemporary Friend.  Brigid, who was raised Catholic, knows communion in a way I never hope or expect to.  I told her about the groady heart image.

I’ll probably share this essay with her, too.  Maybe with others.  Maybe I need to start blogging.  It might help develop my reflections.  It might help others with their inklings and speculations.