|Copyright © Edward Riojas|
Copyright © Edward Riojas
It’s no surprise that I have mouths on my mind. My mother was recently diagnosed with stage 3 or 4 cancer of the tongue. Also recently, one of the lectionary readings was from Isaiah 6, which describes a burning coal touching the prophet’s mouth after he had declared in verse 5, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
This passage was the basis for one of several proposed drawings for Higher Things. That was before the theme was massaged a bit, rendering the image unusable. In the drawing, a cross, stylized crossed keys, and a burning coal are fused together. It’s a strange image that, to my knowledge, has rarely – if ever – been done, and this time it only got as far as a rough drawing.
Isaiah’s account, although strange, prophetically points to something more familiar – Holy Communion. One can see the parallel between taking the burning coal from the altar and touching the prophet’s mouth, and taking the Body and Blood of Christ from the altar and placing it in the communicant’s mouth. We also echo Isaiah’s words, “...my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!,” when we repeat Simeon's “...for my eyes have seen Thy Salvation...”
During the pandemic stay-at-home order, my mother languished in her home, as medical appointment after medical appointment was postponed. The oral surgeon would have to wait. She also was not able for two and a half months to go to church. The cancer did not care.
Finally, she was able to see an oral surgeon, and finally she was able to receive Holy Communion, which drives me to a different part of Scripture. In Mark 2:9, the event of Jesus healing the paralytic comes to a head when the Savior asks, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?” Pondering my mother’s condition, I want the cure for her bodily suffering. We are told to bring everything to the Lord, including petitions for those in need, so I ask the Lord as a beggar would.
Yet there is more at stake than these inherited, rotting bodies. For that reason, there is great joy knowing that my Mom finally received forgiveness at the Lord’s Table. What is more, she received that forgiveness, of all places, on her tongue.