Last week we talked about how we can make evil fall, how we can not only change the world but how we are called to do so. I thought about the seventy who were sent out, sent away, told they would be as sheep among wolves and given specific directives for how to act when received; or when rejected. Of how scared I would be to be sent, with seventy others, to preach a new and strange gospel, to leave my entire life because I believed so strongly in a message.
(And I’m just going to pause here and tell you that the machine is a little rusty. Because my joy is a little buried right now and I can’t write the way that I used to. And when I’m rusty I can tell you that the best bits are at the end. And I hope you bear with me.)
I loved how it almost sounded like Jesus was trying to make it not their fault, they would be rejected in his name, because of who sent him – like, its not you buddy, your hair is a mess and your tunic is stained, but no, really, its all because of me they won’t let you in.
And I had this vision of our lovely church on a hill, all 150 years of her, as a smoldering ruin. Of our proud banner on the sidewalk covered in ash and stepped on over and again, the way the organ pipes looked covered in soot and dirty water. In this vision a small knot of us stood and watched what we thought was church burn to ash, we wept and held hands as the bell tower came crashing down. But the other side of the coin was this realization that this is not church, not this building with its gorgeous brass and delicate needlework, not the kitchen with the iffy freezers or the office that has a couch mysteriously covered in dog hair. The realization was that the small knot of crying people are church. We aren’t a building, and our banners and our flags can be trampled in the ash and dirty water of fire fighting, but who we are wouldn’t change, what we are called to do would not change.
This week we will talk about the Good Samaritan, the man who was other, who was outside. So often we focus on the poor man laying on the road, a road we talked about in school last year as one of our teachers had been on the road herself. A desolate place, especially to be beaten and left for dead.
So often we focus on the priest who didn’t stop and all the reasons why, on the Levite who walked on by. We focus on the Samaritan too, but I wonder what would happen it we realized that we are the ones who are called to be good neighbors?
The Samaritan did more than bring a casserole to someone he knew, he did more than add his comments to a Facebook page devoted to prayers for those we know in need, more than to pass the peace or bring the Eucharist to a shut in. The Samaritan made himself a neighbor when the person he was helping would not have seen him as one. He stepped over the threshold that separates our neighborhoods and our cities, the one that makes being a black male child so very different from a white little girl, he walked into the shelter and he went right to the janitor’s closet and filled the bucket and mopped the floor in a three piece suit and $400 shoes.
He walked past the staring eyes and the open mouths, the people who couldn’t believe that someone would dare to wear a turban after the unrest and terrorism in the Middle East. He was walking past and he saw another human being laying beaten in the road, and the bonds of our society and his, these velvet ropes that are so hard to break, he broke them. And he cared for a man who wouldn’t have spoken to him in other circumstances, he demanded treatment for a suffering person, he spoke up.
And the man he helped, the man who chose to travel the treacherous road alone, he was saved, succored, by the most unlikely person; by a person who chose to be his neighbor. I wonder what the nature of his errand was, what was so pressing that he would choose to travel a dangerous road alone. I imagine it was love, because we do strange things for love, with love, to each other when love is involved.
And I’ve been that man on the road, and I bet you have too.
Today I was saved again.
Today I was granted a reprieve.
Today a prayer was answered in a way that was not my normal God encounter. Usually God is violent. Violent in the old testament, angry when I did something wrong, savage in shouting a call in my face, fierce in the answer to prayers I’d prayed for a long time.
Today God looked like my brother with his wild hair in a collar playing a guitar and offering me coffee. Today God looked like a beloved friend in her smart Nikes walking at just the right pace past an open door. Today God looked like a new friend and sunlight and one shovel full of dirt off the grave that I am living in, I swear to you I felt a trickle of earth fall on my face, that I saw just the smallest ray of light.
Resurrection. Seems. Possible.
Because first comes death, and then we rise.
And gravity is defied. And the laws of nature are reversed. And a wild eyed man who calls us only to LOVE goes down to hell and overthrows it because they do not understand.
I can’t tell you everything. I can’t spell it out for you, but that grave in the forest? The forest that is full of graves, full of the little deaths that we must die to keep on going? Today I didn’t have to die. Today God said, you can keep this for a little while. For a little longer this can be yours, because you’ve given so much and because I see that. Today God said, in the form of an email, come over and let me teach you a new song, and I knew that it wasn’t over yet, that there was more to learn.
Today God was my neighbor. And I took the balm of the oil, allowed myself to be touched, to hold a hand. I allowed myself to be carried off the road and to a place that is safe even though my dealings with this neighbor have not been overly gentle or transcendent.
Sometimes friends, laying in our little graves with our little lives and our little regrets in the big dark forest, sometimes someone comes trudging through in work boots and with a flannel shirt and a shovel.
Sometimes, friends, we realize that we are the man on the road and that we are in desperate need of rescue. And then God sends the person with the shovel, and the place we thought we would have to stay forever becomes a little more light as the heavy load of all that we have laying on our souls is lifted just a tiny bit.
And sometimes we can be that neighbor. The person no one wants to have rescue them, the one that doesn’t come to mind when we think of who to call when we need help. That person has a shovel though, and a will to work through the hot sun of an afternoon. A will to unbury what was lost, to make it live again.
I am so grateful.
And I love you still.
And I will make you proud.
I swear that I will.
I will not waste this chance.
I am back in the basement. The IV has been started again after I yanked it out of my arm and took off running. I am receiving still the drip of my call. The drip of who I am and who I tell myself I am supposed to be – which is not the same at all.
Stay with me.
Walk by and touch my face with your cool fingers. Take my hand and sing to me. Tell me I will be ok.
I promise to wake soon.
But I may not be what you expected.
I may not be the person you thought would rise from that table. Full of God, full of spirit, full of fight.
But I will still be me.
Something has changed within me. Something is not the same. I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game. Too late for second guessing. Too late to go back to sleep. Its time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap..I’d sooner try defying gravity, kiss me goodbye, I’m defying gravity…