Our pastor always starts our church service with announcements. So when he asked on Sunday whether anyone had an announcement, I shot my hand in the air. Pastor called on me, and I rose to my feet. I had something exciting to share.
I may or may not have looked a little bit like Elaine:
Or maybe like this happy little minion:
I did, in fact gush to my fellow parishoners: “It’s my birthday!!! Well, actually birth WEEK. I like to drag it out. And I brought a cake for you all!!! And …”
I talked with my hands. I used my high-pitched, happy-clappy voice.
I have no shame.
I’ve always loved my birthday, and have never been reluctant to tell anyone my age. (If you’re wondering, I turned 42 on Sunday). My favorite age has always been the one I am. Now, I’m not telling you that, to make you think I’m the poster child for contentedness. I’m not. But I have discovered that humans truly are most content when we become fully present in our nows — to not wish away today. Sure, we can learn from our pasts, and we can make plans for our futures. But the only place to really live is now.
And because my birthday fell on a Sunday, I wanted to celebrate with some of my favorite people under our country steeple. They tolerate my happy-clappy gush-y-ness.
My cake was shaped like a book, with the words of my favorite hymn: “I love to tell the story. ‘Twill be my theme in glory.”
I love stories. I love your stories. And I love the stories of the people under my steeple. I know their stories, because we’ve walked them some of them together. I know the tears of the widow, and the soothing voice of the cabinet maker. I’ve memorized the wobbly laugh of the grandma. I know the sound of their grief, and the taste of their potluck casseroles. I know how this one friend, she wants us to make sure the funeral director puts shoes on her feet in the casket and to make sure we use the real plates at her funeral, not paper.
I know who says Ahhh-men, and who says, A-men.
I know their stories, and they know mine. And we’re all just sort of helping each other along, as we make our way Home. I hope you have people like that, people you will help you have your birthday cake and eat it, too. People who tolerate you, even love you, in the middle of all of your you-ness.
The furnace wasn’t working properly in church on Sunday, so we couldn’t have the service in the sanctuary. We had to gather in a room on the other side of the church kitchen, and we sat in chairs with our elbows on long tables. It felt warmer like that, and it wasn’t just because the heat was working in there.
Pastor Rich delivered his sermon. The ushers passed the plate. And it was time for communion. I am this month’s communion assistant, so after Pastor Rich offered the words of institution, he handed me the brass plate with communion wafers.
The widows and the cabinet maker and the grandmas and woman who wants her shoes on in the casket … they all came up front. And I picked up wafers, one by one, and pressed them into their palms — all faced up toward heaven.
“The body of Christ, given for you.”
“The body of Christ, given for you.”
It didn’t take long for that familiar feeling to rise up from deep within me. It felt like my heart was in my throat, and then the tears started.
Here I was, the 42-year-old birthday girl hand-delivering the gift that Someone else paid for. I pressed wafers into palms, and it was the very best gift a birthday girl could ask for. It was the gift that changed everything, and it’s the gift that is still changing everything.
Jesus Christ. Grace.
The body … given.
A birth-day gift … for you,
for you who were born,