Styrofoam Miracles

I couldn’t resist. The tennis “gods” had worked a miracle down under. The men’s final of the Australian Open would feature Rafa Nadal against Roger Federer. Out of nowhere. Perhaps the two greatest male tennis champions of all time, both had been recovering from injuries and, furthermore, hadn’t faced each other in a major final in six years. Those glory days, the tennis world supposed, were long past.

So, I just had to watch. The problem was, however, I would have to miss church to tune in. That nagged at me. I felt a literal hunger for communion. As each hour ticked away on Saturday the call became stronger and stronger. The Holy Spirit was tugging my spiritual sleeve, tapping me on the shoulder: “You need to follow me. You really do.”

I followed, driving to church in the afternoon to observe an improvised communion by myself. I chose a pew and sat down. Darn! I’d left my reading glasses in the car. But something told me not to go get them, that I would see all that I needed to see without them. I stayed put, squinting to read an Order of Worship for the Evening in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer—my favorite service.

The words “Light and peace, in Jesus Christ” always still my troubled waters. I let my soul steep in them for a few moments. Then communion began. Or, more accurately, continued. I’d been in “communion” since I followed the nudging call. After eating the bread, I began to raise the small styrofoam cup into which I had poured a communion swallow’s worth of wine.

The church’s sanctuary was unlit and my eyes were closed. So the sudden, brilliant light seemed to come from nowhere. As my lips touched the cup it was as if I’d suddenly become surrounded by incandescence. It seemed then, and still does, like a miracle.

There was, I quickly realized, a perfectly simple explanation. I had been sitting at just the right spot at just the right moment of the afternoon, drinking from just the right kind of cup. In that instant, the white styrofoam literally “cupped” the late afternoon sun—which had just peeked through the upper corner of one of the windows at the back of the church—reflecting and pouring it directly into my eyes. And my soul.

My cup had overflowed with light. A communion of light. It was the most moving observance of Holy Communion that I’d ever had. Or, I suspect, I ever shall.

The experience reminded me of this truth: There are miracles all around us. Big ones and little ones. But none of them are small. Even if they are made of styrofoam. They are waiting there for all of us. God’s Holy Spirit is tugging everyone by the sleeve, tapping us on the shoulder, saying, “Come, follow me.”

Answering, “I will” is never a response we’ll regret.

The Nadal-Federer match was, of course, a classic. Five sets. Every game began with the score love-all, but amazing points then flew all over the court. Love-all became 15-all, 30-all, 40-all, or deuce.

But sitting in a pew alone the day before had shown me—yet again—with God, the final score is always love all.

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