At New Dublin Presbyterian, we celebrate Holy Communion on the first Sunday of every month. As I break the bread, I recite Jesus’ words, “Do this in remembrance of me.” The bread I break is always made by the same person; in fact, this special lady has been making our Communion bread for 57 years. Think about that. 57 years! How many people can say that they have done anything on a regular basis for 57 years? I am astounded by all that she remembers, especially so many of the people who have shared that bread in our sanctuary. It is hard for me to wrap my mind around such history.
In an effort to gain some insight, I’ve been reading everything by Wendell Berry I can get my hands on. Recently in the New York Times, this author was referred to as the “soul of the real food movement.” This designation is warranted by his advocacy for the stewardship of land through sustainable agricultural methods. But his commitment has deeper roots than any political movement. In many ways, his writing is a tangible expression of the spirit of my friend who has baked Communion bread for 57 years. Mr. Berry cares for the environment because he has become a part of that place through intentional, committed, and loving acts of care.
In Berry’s novel, Remembering, Andy Catlett tragically loses his hand in a corn picker. I personally know men in our community who have suffered a similar incident, and Berry vividly describes their emotional hardship from such physical trauma. They lose more than a livelihood, although that’s part of it. It seems to me that, for a farmer, not being able to do the work is a loss of identity. The loss of one’s hand is tragic because it represents a fundamental betrayal. Candidly, one gentleman confessed to me, “This is not the way the world is supposed to work. I am supposed to be able to work.”
Andy Catlett is likewise devastated. Disillusioned and searching for answers, he leaves his farm in Kentucky to travel to San Francisco. Far away from home, Andy is lost physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is only by remembering his homeland in Kentucky that Andy finds purpose again. By remembering, he re-discovers what is valuable and his priceless role in its care–a gift that no corn picker can take away.
Could Jesus’ words, “Do this in remembrance of me” have been uttered to evoke a similar feeling? By remembering who Jesus was, what he taught, and how far he was willing to go to express his love, might we realize something about who we were meant to be? How might we come back home, wherever that may be, through the process of remembering?
These questions might be fairly easy for a pastor to bring up, but I am open to the idea that it might take about 57 years to understand faithfully.