Author Topic: Thou Shalt Fear No Weevil: A Lenten Meditation  (Read 2169 times)

Richard Johnson

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Thou Shalt Fear No Weevil: A Lenten Meditation
« on: January 25, 2007, 11:24:16 AM »
Thou shalt fear no weevil . . .
by Russell E Saltzman, editor
Copyright 2007 American Lutheran Publicity Bureau. All rights reserved.

It was 1990 and I was getting ready to go on communion calls. I filled the wine container for my communion kit, then turned my attention to the communion hosts, those little wafers of alleged bread. I didn’t have enough, so I opened a new package of wafers, all carefully packed and wrapped away in a protective cellophane casing, the kind where you have to use your teeth to get it open because — no matter what the directions might say — it won’t open any other way.

Brand new wafers, they were.

Then I noticed these little snaky lines running through the wafers, meandering all around, little tunnels all in and through the wafers.

What’s this stuff, I wondered?

I thought, first, the batch hadn’t been baked properly and these were really odd bubbles. But, holding one up to the light, following the tunnel through the wafer I was led right to a weevil — a whole lot of weevils.

I looked through the communion kit and even there, to my utter horror, the reserved wafers too had snaky lines left by weevils.

I had a horrible thought. Had I actually communed anybody with these things?

And if I did, my second horrible thought, what does our Lutheran theology and doctrine say about consecrated weevils in the Lord’s Supper? (It’s a question that haunts me still.)

I told my neighboring pastors about the weevils. They were less than helpful.

“Wouldn’t worry about it,” one said. “Remember the psalm: ‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no weevil.”

Uh huh.

Another one, Richard Donoughue was his name, asked if I had kept at least two of the weevils. I knew I was walking into something but I couldn’t think what, so I ventured a cautious “Why?” 

“Well, if you had two of them,” he drawled, “you could rent them out and  you’d be known as a pastor who was the lessor of two weevils.”

As pastoral reputations go, I guess I could do worse.

You would think that if anything in this world could be protected from the decay of creation it would be communion hosts wrapped in cellophane. Sadly, even cellophane is no guard against the onslaughts of this life, not for communion wafers, not for us. As Martin Luther frequently reminds us in the Small Catechism, we are each of us hostage to “sin, death, and the devil.”

Change and decay, the old hymn says, around is all I see. There is no escape. The ravages of toil and time take us all, and cellophane barriers are no help.

Why should it be otherwise? Even the Lord God Almighty made himself vulnerable to the things of this life, vulnerable even to death, and it is by the things of this earth — water, bread, wine — that we recall his death.

Ash Wednesday coming is a shocking reminder of our mortality, as if weevils in the wafers isn't enough. The Ash Wednesday liturgy is called Imposition of Ashes, and the emphasis is on the word imposition. Our death imposes itself upon us intrusively, as the sign of the cross is traced in dust and oil upon our forehead: 

“Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

You bet, and don’t forget it.

But remember this too. The annual Lenten trek leads us from the tomb to the Light of Lights.

Resurrection coming.

The guy was right.

I shall fear no weevil.
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS


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Re: Thou Shalt Fear No Weevil: A Lenten Meditation
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2007, 11:54:35 AM »
I wrote a sophomoric poem on such an instance of bugs within the hosts... mine was in a rural parish where I am sure there were more critters in the walls and closets than one could even imagine... and the conclusion to the silly verse were lines that went something like:  but there were more / regularly / in the good box of hosts...  and must have been a outlet ventilating my reactions to sporatic communion reception in those days of less than weekly Eucharists....  Somehow it is more natural to have bread sullied by the animal kingdom than to have the presence of Christ ignored or dishonored...     Harvey Mozolak
Harvey S. Mozolak
my poetry blog is listed below:


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Re: Thou Shalt Fear No Weevil: A Lenten Meditation
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2007, 06:09:18 AM »
The story told reminds me tangentially of my childhood in pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism.  I distinctly remember being transfixed by the "Eucharistic miracle" stories so popular in Polish Roman Catholicism.  One that I remember as if it was just told to me was one about a church behind the Bamboo Curtain where the priests had been killed or sentenced to long sentences in "re-education" camps and no one had opened the tabernacle for many years, though the nuns had hidden the key away to keep it from the nasty ones.

Years later, a priest mysteriously appeared, the key was removed from hiding, Mass was celebrated and the hosts in the tabernacle were glowing in a supernatural way.  A miracle, indeed!

I was nourished on the Maryknoll medical missionary films in my parish school basement in Milwaukee, and I still marvel on how those movies of the sacrifice, persecution and dedication to both the preached/sacramental message and works of mercy molded me then and to this very day.  When I ponder how and why I spent 20 years in medicine as a military medic, civillian paramedic, professor and now Pastor, those movies are the one thread that ties of all of those roles and vocations together.

Thanks for the weevil story today!