November 25, 2012 in Uncategorized
1 Peter 3:13-22
13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.
At the end of June, a gale came from the west. In the grey swirl of its wind it called us home. A single blow from above opened the door as the tree sent a ray of light into our cell. We were free.
I dropped the ball in the lap of our Lord. My heart broke open as I poured out my hopes and dreams on Saint Ann’s quiet altar. Shrouded in darkness, my tears fell in secrecy as I asked my Father to show me the way. Take me. Take my heart, take my hope, and lead us away.
The morning we left was like a dream. In the dark, our friends lent their hands to our mission as we got ready to face the road. Three thousand miles lay ahead. My boy was strapped in his car seat, forward facing, in the seat next to mine. His eyes were poised to eat the road.
As mile after mile fell behind, the great question opened ahead. We didn’t have enough money to make it this far. We had faith, a direction, a gallon of holy water and our prayers. As the miles rose up to greet us, we also had friends.
It was the sea of hands, from in front and behind, that lifted us out of our trap. It was the conviction of our purpose and the shine in our eyes that made prejudice and judgement fall away. In towns across this country, tiny rural places, unflinching eyes shined with the love of Christ as they met my tattooed face.
The love of Christ looks past the things of the world. In the love of Christ, we tunnel straight into the heart. When we find the truth we don’t care what it is called, or even if it lacks a name. Truth knows truth; and when we find it, we celebrate our coming home.
This past Thanksgiving, a new friend Arica had reached out a hand. Only here a month longer than we, she wanted the feeling of family and community in her home. We gave our “yes” and spent two afternoons in the church kitchen getting ready for the feast.
We showed up with faces glowing with hope. Juggling whipped sweet potatoes, cornbread dressing and peace cobbler, we wobbled through the door. The thump of music and the buzz of car engines from a video game met us as inside six wee ones scrambled around six adults. Every kitchen surface relied on the lightness in our hearts to hold the bounty that Arica had spent all night preparing.
We were ready to eat. I peeked under each foil cover as my stomach digested itself. “When is dinner?” I asked her. Arica moved around us with composure and grace, touching dishes and adjusting foil covers. “I don’t know.”
A woman from Arica’s church, Miss Karla, had invited us all to eat. Her dinner was at 4:30. It was only noon. Everyone was starving and the food was within reach. Arica had been up until seven a.m. cooking it. I wanted to eat it. She asked for a vote and we all said “Eat”. Miss Karla would have to be disappointed.
Arica’s graceful,movements corralled the space. Somehow, one shower washed 10 people as we considered our dilemma. Deviled eggs appeared and disappeared, and more eggs were put on to boil. In my hand appeared a cup of the most delicious coffee as I waited for our quiet matriarch to announce our plan.The pressure was applied. We wanted to eat now.
As she listened to our grumbling, her children were groomed. Three tiny people took their turn between her knees as her purposeful hands worked over their bodies. Dabs of lotion were rubbed, rubbed, rubbed, until tiny curls bounced and faces glistened. Each child, in their turn, stood as if hypnotized as their mother tended them.
My own child within went to its knees. I longed to be one of them, to have those hands pass so brusquely and confidently through my hair, over my round and waiting limbs. On her face emotions swirled. She laid a thin veil over it, and weighed each choice.
“I can’t disappoint Miss Karla,” she announced. “My heart just won’t feel right if I let her down. I have to go to her dinner.”
In this crowd of impatient, hungry people Arica could have very well suffered for doing what was right. I was one of those pushing to eat now and forget Miss Karla. Still, Arica would not. She had a commitment, and she was going to honor it.
At Miss Karla’s, I jumped into the fray. Fourteen hungry people had walked through her door. As much as they insisted my help wasn’t needed, I began to wash dishes. Eventually, pie crust was handed to me as my experience in that area surpassed those of the others. I mixed and rolled, and I shared our story. We’d come through another door of fellowship. Around me, were the arms of my companions in Christ.
What does that even mean? What is a companion in Christ? Is it someone who says the name of Jesus the right number of times each day? No. As the Bishop reminded us in his sermon today, being a Christian means being different in the world. It means rejecting the values of the world.
Arica heard the call. It came from her heart. It required her to behave with respect, love and honor. Karla had heard it. It came from her heart when it excited her to prepare food for 14 strangers. I heard the call when I made pie crust in a stranger’s kitchen, and when I chose hunger for the sake of love instead of instant satisfaction. We hear it when we recognize the Christ in actions taken by people who will never, and need not never, utter that name.
Unity, peace, compassion, generosity, sister- and brotherhood are all the watchwords of the one we call Jesus, but Jesus is so much bigger than that. Jesus is bigger than His own name, bigger than His own ideas, big enough to reach into every part of our world if we look and share with open hearts and eyes.
Good. Fairness, real love, and real concern for others and for the world: this is what we are called to practice. Anyone who practices it by any name–or none at all– is our sister or brother. When we take down the walls created by labels and words, we make more seats at the table.
As I worked at Karla’s elbow, as I honored Arica’s word, as I stepped out in faith into an unknown world, I stretched my arms to expand our family. I am so eager to do good. I need to be a part of something eternal, something holy. On the other side of this, my babies are waiting.
Today, the Bishop talked about how we were required to be something different in the world. Forget what the world values; forget what the world expects: What did Christ ask? “Would Christ sleep outside of Wal-Mart for a flat-screened T.V.?” he essentially asked.
In other words, look again at your values. Look at the values of Christ. Who cares what you call it. Be eager to do good. Suffer for what is right. This life is a weigh-station for something much more. Think carefully about what you put on the scale.
In the days since Thanksgiving, I have thoughts of Arica. I consider her quiet poise, the massaging way her hands passed over her children, her insistence on respecting Karla’s generosity and feelings. Eager to do good, she listened to our grumbling while she following the goodness in her own heart. That hungry day, I watched her blessings multiple; and I fixed my eye on a sister who has a lot to teach.
Arica, thank you for showing me the good. I am so thankful that you join me on the path. Here’s to love, sister.