The Sacrament of Spruce




credit: Mr. Po

My farmmates slaughtered a cow recently. I didn’t want to be there. I liked Spruce, his tawny curls, bawling voice, and thick tongue that wrapped around blades of grass like an arm of an octopus. His death was an event I would happily forgo.

I went to church instead. I love church. I love the singing. I love our pastor Anne’s sermons. I love the prayers. It all draws me to the Real. Technically we’re “low church” Baptists – thus, no robes, no candles and just two sacraments, baptism and communion. In the seven years of the church’s existence we have only performed one baptism; but what we lack in water, we make up in wine (or, in our case, grape juice). Rooted in the image of the table -- where all are welcomed and nourished -- we celebrate God’s tangible demonstration of love every Sunday. I love the remembrance integral to this ceremony. I love the earthiness of the bread which is often homemade and sometimes still warm. I love the way the servers say everyone’s name as he or she receives the elements. “John, this is the body of Christ broken for you...Danielle, the blood of Christ, shed for you.” I like to go first so that I can sit and watch others receive, which is a communion too.

Given that I had chosen sacrament over slaughter I was surprised when my farmmate Karin described Spruce’s slaughter as “sacramental”. The officiating “priest” hardly seemed a candidate for such a label. A chain-smoking man in his early thirties, he consumed three cans of Old Milwaukee beer during the 30 minute early morning procedure. When Karin asked if he would be willing to slaughter their next cow in a couple year’s time, he answered, “If I’m still alive, which I doubt.” 

But there was evidence of sacrament in the channel hand-dug from the slaughter area to the field, which still shone bright with blood when I saw it hours later. And there had certainly been reverence as expressed by Karin and our fellow farmmate Angela’s prayers of thanksgiving for Spruce’s life. True, there was no, “Behold, the cow of God that takes away the sins of the world.” But there was an encounter with the “Real” and in turn, a turning – of hearts toward the Creator in gratitude and humility at the provision of nourishment that only comes through sacrifice.
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