Can it be that summer is more than half over already?
Here I am, this night, pulling a 12 pound dog salmon longer than my arm. I plunge my arms back in the ocean for the next salmon, then pull the net closer. It's heavy with fish, with the tide, with the weight of the net itself. My back strains, my hands cramp, my legs balance in the rolling waves that lift and drop us every few seconds.. This is our fourth net to pick and my 16 year old nephew and I have two more nets to go tonight.
What will be the price of this work tomorrow, I think, as I lean into the water, balanced on my stomach, reaching full-armed to yank a steel-taut line. What am I doing out here? I’m a middle-aged woman half the size of the bulky college boys we hire. But a few hours earlier, Duncan had yelled from the skiff, "Leslie! I need you and Caleb to go and pick the nets. We're running out of time!"
I didn't want to go. My pastor and friends were here. We were in the middle of a Retreat with Scot McKnight, renowned New Testament scholar. We were singing and praying and studying each day. (O how spiritual it was!)
Now I have to go out on the open ocean in a little skiff and break my back to pick fish all night? And those fish----they were mostly pink salmon, which we’re getting only 19 cents a pound for this year. I’m going to crack my back and miss an evening of theology and holy discussion for a few measly dollars? O sorry mammon!
I wanted to say no. I would have. I nearly did. But I couldn’t.
Because of Communion.
We had just celebrated the Eucharist the day before. We sat in a circle, passing a plate of homemade brown bread and a long-stem glass of wine. “The body and blood of Christ, given for you,” each one spoke as she held the plate before the person beside her. One at a time, we each ate, drank, then shared a personal reflection. Scot passed the plate to me. The body and blood of Christ, given for you.
The wine was sharp on my tongue, the bread crumbly. I chewed slowly. I thought of Christ’s body on that cross, his real hammer-swinging, strong muscular body hanging on the cross. Christ gave his life, which is to say Christ gave his ankles, hands, back, clavicle, knees, wrists, neck, forehead. He gave his hunger, his thirst, his cramping legs, his aching lungs. Christ gave his breath, his spit, his skin, his blood.
This is the trouble with Communion. I am reminded----I have to give my body too.
We have to give our bodies, too.
I thought of it when Duncan called. I could not say no. I went out, then, on the ocean for 7 hours, until 11 pm, giving my back, my hands, my arms, my shoulders, my muscles, my breath----for the sake of my husband, my sons, the crew, the fish, which is to say, for the sake of Christ.
Don’t you do it too, every day?
*You, with child, full and pregnant with milk and babies, yes, don’t you live this, the cruciform life in your daily outstretched bodies?
*You who get up early to run on the treadmill and then bring coffee and muffins to your sick neighbor;
*You who cut wood through the summer to heat your family’s house for the coming winter;
*You who weed the garden on muddy knees, carrying baskets of cucumbers and tomatoes into church to share after the service;
*You who get up at 4:30 to commute to work in the city to support your wife and children;
*You who wipe the spittle from your ailing father’s chin and then walk with your mother every night;
*You who learn to fly helicopters and fly into storms to rescue fishermen from sinking boats;
*You who change 12 diapers a day with a baby and toddler, falling exhausted into bed each night;
*You who nurse bodies every day with your own, fingers on pulse, hands tapping stomachs, ears listening to hearts;
Are not you all living the cruciform life in your daily outstretched bodies?
Christ's body was given and broken for us.
Now, this is our body, given and broken for others.
There may be blood and spit (and more fifty cent fish than anyone wants),
But somewhere in the midst of it, soon or late,
there will be joy.
You will see.
If you'd like to read more on our body/Christ's body, I heartily recommend Tara Owen's book
Dear friends, how are you giving your body to others this week?