It all started when the priest’s wife hugged me under the tall trees in my front yard and gave me her secret recipe to make Church of the Great Shepherd’s communion bread. Even though I wasn’t ordained, didn’t have a fancy robe, and didn’t own a Book of Common Prayer, I was invited to be a part of the sacrament and splendor of our young Episcopal church.
Unshowered in yesterday’s workout clothes I whisked warm milk and honey together, rolled dough on my floured kitchen table, cut circles with a biscuit cutter, and marked crosses on each round with a serrated knife.
My bed-headed twins followed me to the oven in their footie pajamas.
“Mama, is that bread?”
“Yep. Bread for Jesus. For communion. We remember Jesus loves us when we eat communion bread.”
“Mama, can we have that bread today?”
“This bread is for church tomorrow, bunnies.”
When the timer went off I held my toddlers back with one hand and opened the oven with the other. The cozy smell of warm wheat and honey enveloped us. My kids begged, “Oh, Mama, the bread smells so good! Can we have some? Pleeease, Mama!”
I shook them off, laid the trays on the cooling racks and counted. We needed at least 25 rounds for the service, 28 were preferred. I had 28. I looked at my babies’ faces.
I broke a round in two and gave them the pieces declaring:
“Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Jesus loves you, Caleb.
Jesus loves you, Zoë.”
I added butter to the next one and repeated our brand new home-communion prayer. I put butter, honey, and the prayer on the one after that. They smiled and licked their fingers. “The Jesus bread is so good, Mama.”
“Amen, kiddos. Jesus is good.”
I didn’t know if I was allowed to share the church’s bread with my kids without the liturgy that preceded it on Sunday mornings. But I couldn’t resist. We tasted and saw the Lord was good every time I made those milk and honey rounds in our sunny little kitchen.
I loved going to church even more then. It was like meeting with God under a lush, broad tree. Ancient prayers, new songs, Scripture, and truth hung like ripe fruit all around me. I loved the taste of that fruit. I plucked all I could carry, hoping it was enough for me and my family until we gathered under the tree again.
I ate it all week. I shared it with the people I loved. I found myself reciting the church’s Prayer of Confession on the treadmill, singing the Doxology when I tucked my kids in, and making little crosses on my family’s heads, chests, and hands all the time, even though I didn’t have holy water or anointing Chrism oil. After participating in a few Baptism services I silently renounced Satan, wickedness, and sinful desires during my kids’ baths. When I shampooed little Greta’s hair I told her:
“You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism
and marked as Christ’s own for ever.” (Book of Common Prayer)
The truth of Christ’s love was so sweet and bountiful in the liturgy at church. The tree was never bare. I smelled, tasted, chewed and swallowed it. Those words and practices restored my soul.
All those years of liturgical fruit planted seeds in my own yard. God grew new trees, for new fruit, to feed us in the hard times that inevitably came between church services. Like when we tried to get out the door for school.
One particularly bad day, when shoes, scarves, and punches were flying, I loudly begged, “O God! Help us!” The kids didn’t even hear me over their screeching. I grabbed an empty water pitcher off a nearby shelf and told the kids to please shut up.
I pulled them near me and tilted the water pitcher over the closest child’s head. She gasped. I pretended to pour imaginary water out of the empty pitcher and quietly prayed, running my hand down her hair,
“Lord, pour your blessings on Zoë today. She belongs to you.”
I poured blessings on Caleb and Greta. They made me pour a blessing on myself. We hugged. This became our private morning liturgy, every day, for years. We still had the chaos, but we also had this sweet fruit.
More than a decade later, I love the liturgical grove flourishing around our home, even though we live far away from that first church. Thankfully the trees are always heavy with fruit because we’ll always want it. I need the beauty, belonging, and consistency liturgy brings to my everyday life. My kids still crave and expect the sweetness God has shown us through warm bread, ancient prayers, and imaginary water.