Saturday, October 12, 2013


“New!” the carton hinted, as I perused the grocery aisles.  Easy to miss it, tucked away in the upper corner: red Nabisco logo on a sunny yellow background.  It announced “smaller stacks that make it even easier to enjoy…”.  Great!, I thought.  At last, they’re packaged the way I use them – as squares, rather than perforated rectangles that always seem to wind up in crumbles when I try to crack them apart.

At home, I open the box and a can of cream-cheese frosting.  I pull two squares out of the bag and spread one with frosting, and top it with another cracker.  (As far as I’m concerned, this is the *only right way* to eat graham crackers.)  The process seems strangely familiar, like an old ritual.  I suddenly recall that this is the way graham crackers were sold when I was young – as squares.  I bite into the frosting sandwich.  Oh, the heavenly contrast of taste and texture!

Childhood memories come flooding in and I am transported back through the years.  The crackle of the heavy, brown, waxed paper packaging as Mom deftly opened the bag.  The fresh batch of white icing she had just mixed up.  The Oneida knife to spread it (part of a set she bought piece-by-piece with S&H green stamps), the cast-iron, wood-fired cookstove, with chrome trim and attached water heater tank, the linoleum-covered countertops, nearly worn through in places, the matching floor covering, the light-green walls, the wood-pile, and the only thing new in that room – a 1950s chrome dinette table with a shiny, smooth, grey formica top (except for the blister where I’d set a hot pan once – and hoped no one would notice!).

As I finish the crackers, I reflect on the wonderful, vivid memories that are wrapped up in the foods I've loved all my life.  Times around that chrome and formica table with family and friends.  Holiday dinners when we feasted in a way we couldn't afford the rest of the year.  The sliced rainbow ice-cream or lemon meringue pie as a special dessert when company came.  Family reunion feasts at my grandparents’ house.  A few disagreeable memories, like the time I had to run vomiting from the dinner table at a friend's house.

My parents never argued at the table, and Dad always gave Mom a huge, romantic kiss before they sat down.  (I swear that sometimes her left leg would bend up behind her!)  I know that my siblings and I quibbled, but that is not what I recall.  I recall the fun times and the special times.  It was a time for six, very different people, united in one family, to catch up and bond with one another as we enjoyed a delicious meal.

The frosted crackers reunite me with my childhood and family, and, in a way, unite me with all other children and families who enjoyed the same treat, and with all who will enjoy it far into the future.

This all makes me think of times around the communion table at church.  At churches where I have served as organist, the congregants file up the center aisle to take a thin wafer, place it in their mouth (where it clings stubbornly to the tongue, resisting all efforts to swallow it), drink the wine from the common cup, then file back to their seats via the side aisle.  

It moves me, because as I accompany the hymns, I can see each person receiving communion one at a time, and think about the joy they bring to my life and about the challenges they face in their lives.  At one church, when people returned to their seats they had to pass the organ, and often shared a fond glance with me, or a hug, or a pat on the shoulder.  That was how I learned why the church celebrates communion (as opposed to oppressive silence with dirgeful music in the background).  It is a celebration of Jesus' life, work, and teachings, and of the freedom granted to us all through that.  It is a celebration in community, a reminder that not one of us is better than the other.  We all are equal at this feast, and all are welcome.

As we share the weekly feast at church, with the same ritual and the same prayers over the bread and wine, the familiarity frees us to contemplate our lives and takes us back through the years to other feasts, with other “families” we have gathered through the years.  

In my congregations I've often had to play organ for funerals, usually of older members who have become very dear to me, sometimes of someone taken far too young.  During communion, as the people proceed, I can sense the departed filing by, also, with a peaceful smile and a whisper of a hug.  I learned that the "communion of saints" meant that when we commune, we do so not solely with the people in our community, but with all who have gone before us, and with all who will come after us – the greatest feast of all.

We come to this feast as we are, honestly, with no pretense and airs.  One hopes we walk away from the feast with that same attitude.  At this table, we leave our squabbles behind.  We see beyond our present troubles, fears, and heartaches.  As we leave the table we celebrate what we have together in unity and love.  Just like a family.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


In the recent weeks, I have seen at least a dozen items in the news about businesses refusing to sell to or serve LGBT people “for religious reasons”.  What might those reasons be?  The number one reason given is that they think that homosexuality is a sin.  (Of course, they can’t very well say, “because we’re bigoted”.)

I say to these people:  If you want to believe that homosexuality is a sin, that’s your personal prerogative, but that doesn't absolve you from your Christian responsibility to "love your neighbor as yourself".  Jesus spent his time on earth among people despised by the religious establishment, and he challenged the hypocrisy of that establishment.

You refuse to serve LGBT people because you think they are sinners.  Don’t you see the hypocrisy of that?  The fact that a business is even in business is proof that they are already serving "sinners”.  The apostle Paul said, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 

There are not "degrees" of sin, with homosexuality at the top of the list.  There is just sin, the state of falling short of God's glory.  We're all in that boat.  (If you think you're not, I'd like to meet you.  I haven't met the perfect person yet.)  The good news is that just because we fall short of God’s glory does not mean we fall short of God’s grace.

So what will it be?  Will you serve ALL sinners, or just go out of business because serving sinners is “against your religion”?  Remember, we see only the outside but God looks on the inside.  Who are you to judge your fellow humans as being unworthy of God’s love and your service?  

It is time for people to stop hiding their hatred of others behind the cloak of religion.  If one’s religion reinforces one's bigotries, that is no religion.

Constructive comments welcome.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


I see in today’s news that “Winter Storm Gandolf” will blow through a broad swath of the northern and central Rockies.  Gandolf.  Come on, they can’t even spell Gandalf correctly.

I am sad that a time-honored tradition has been rubbed-out by the National Weather Service.  Do you remember the “Big Blow of ‘62” or the "Two-Week Blizzard of ’53” or the “Deluge of ‘72”?  Those names conjure vivid images for those who experienced them - not just scientific facts but also one’s own experience and feelings.  “Winter Storm John” leaves one blankly staring.  The storm has become an abstract piece of data.  (“I hear that one of this year’s Winter Storms will be named Sandy.  Ho-hum.”)

Besides, why waste a name on a storm that may not materialize?  (Remember the “No-Blow of ’95”?)

January 10, 2013

 (*with thanks to my friend the Vicar of Dibley)