Shared at the Bread For Your Journey gathering on July, 30, 2009 of By The Way an emerging community listening + exploring faith together in Nashua, NH.
O God you created us, you saved us, and you sustain us in our daily journey. Help us this evening to stop, to rest, and to be in your presence. As we pause and breathe deeply in you, we give you thanks for this day and time together. For what else do we give God thanks….? We also come burdened and tired from the busyness and distractions of our daily lives, we ask for rest and renewal this evening. For what else do we want to ask God for…? Open our hearts and ears to you O God; to the unity you call us to, to the peace you call us to, to see and use the gifts you have given each of us. Grant us humility, gentleness, and patience to bear with one another and all we encounter along the way in love. Amen.
1-3In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.
4-6You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.
7-13But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. The text for this is,
He climbed the high mountain,
He captured the enemy and seized the booty,
He handed it all out in gifts to the people.
Is it not true that the One who climbed up also climbed down, down to the valley of earth? And the One who climbed down is the One who climbed back up, up to highest heaven. He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.
14-16No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.
O God our teacher and guide along the way, you gather us as one body and one Spirit… one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism… as one God, Mother and Father of all; unite us in our diversity. Bind us together as we serve you, our neighbors and each other. Thank you for the gifts and instruction you give in your Word. Make our uniqueness and variety our strength. Amen.
I, like many people, have had my interest piqued by the brouhaha surrounding the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates. There is a ton of spin and politicking going on around and not wanting to take sides I have been watching this as a “living critique” of our culture. What this incident defines for me is not whether we are racist or not, whether police act stupidly or not, or whether arresting someone for disorderly conduct on their own property is ethical or constitutional. There is only one thing for certain in this mess, one problem that stands out above the quagmire: we don’t know who are neighbors are.
This incident did not happen at night. The police report marks the initial phone call from the lady across the street as 12:44pm. This happened in broad daylight!
Many people are justifying the right to call the police on this type of situation, but really, why were they called. Shouldn’t you be able to recognize the person who lives across the street from you?
And later, during the verbal altercation witnessed in the police report, why is there no mention of the witness who called supporting or vouching for Dr. Gates? Why didn’t Dr. Gates try to talk to her? All signs point to the fact that neither Gates nor the witness really knew each other.
Not knowing the person who lives across the street from you, that’s just sad. But that’s the state of affairs in all of America (not just the suburbs). We have become anti-neighbor. That’s just not a cultural fault. We are supposed to treat everyone as a neighbor. We as a people are failing as a culture to follow the golden rule on a daily basis in part because we are not mean, rude, belligerent, or nasty. It’s far worse. We are indifferent and apathetic. We are lukewarm neighbors, ones who cannot even stop to wave or chit chat.
I might not be an all-star neighbor, but we wave, greet, or talk to one of our neighbors almost every day. It’s only reasonable. We know them. We don’t help each other out much, but occasionally we do. We’re neighbors for Pete’s sake.
The saddest part of this whole Gates ordeal is that it all could have been avoided if Gates and this woman had simply known the face of one another. Really, think about it. If the lady had baked a batch of cookies when Gates had moved in and said hello, or if Gates had seen her checking her mail and waved and said, “it’s a nice day today,” this whole mess would have never happened. If they had been real neighbors and not incubating denizens the complete opposite would have happened. The lady wouldn’t have been calling the police, she would have been calling a locksmith, because that’s what neighbors do.
(With thanks to Mr. Fred Rogers for opening the door…)
O God our neighbor and guide along the way. It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Help us to recognize one another, reach out and ask, would you be my, could you be my neighbor? It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood, a neighborly day for a beauty. Help us to see the gifts and needs as we ask, would you be my, could you be my neighbor? Help us to engage our neighbors and neighborhoods with you. Help us to make the most of this beautiful day and see beauty, diversity and giftedness in our unity as your creation. Amen.
Miranda works the late night counter in a joint called Betty’s Diner.
Chrome and checkered tablecloths, one steamy windowpane.
She got the job that shaky fall, and after hours she’ll write til dawn.
With a nod and smile she serves them all…
Here we are all in one place the wants and wounds of the human race.
Despair and hope sit face to face when you come in from the cold.
Let her fill your cup with something kind, eggs and toast like bread and wine.
She’s heard it all so she don’t mind.
Arthur lets his Earl Grey steep since April it’s been hard to sleep.
You know they tried most everything, yet it took her in the end.
Kevin tests new saxophones but swears he’s leaving quality control for the Chicago scene, or New Orleans where they still play righteous horns…
Jack studies here after work to get past high school he’s a first.
And his large hands seem just as comfortable with a hammer or a pen.
Emma leaned and kissed his cheek and when she did his knees got weak.
Miranda smiles at Em and winks…
You never know who’ll be your witness, you never know who grants forgiveness.
Look to heaven or sit with us.
Deidre bites her lip and frowns, she works the Stop and Go downtown.
She’s pretty good at the crossword page and she paints her eyes blue black.
Tristan come along sometimes, small for his age and barely five but she loves him like a mamma lion.
Veda used to drink a lot, almost lost it all before she stopped.
Comes in at night with her friend Mike who runs the crisis line.
Michael toured Saigon and back, hair the color of smoke and ash.
Their heads are bowed and hands are clasped, one more storm has passed…
O God our comforter and guide along the way, here we are all in one place the wants and wounds of the human race. Despair and hope sit face to face when we come in from the cold world. Fill our cup with something kind, eggs and toast like bread and wine. You’ve heard it all and we know you don’t mind. Amen.
In a world where things fall apart, where do we find unity? From neighbors who fight, or just don’t know, let alone care for one another… to marriages, families, companies, and economies… things seem to fall apart all around us. For me after a week of news surrounding the Professor Gates arrest, the presidential mess that followed, and the national outcry, we were reminded and anguished over wounds we might not have realized we even had, wounds of isolated neighbors, communities and racial tension. I’ve spent the week wondering and praying about what keeps us together as one nation under God.
In the letter to the community of Ephesus, we hear about unity…
- That we are one as the body of Christ.
- That we have all been given different gifts and abilities that make up the neighborhood of God.
- That even though those gifts are different, each is equally important to the whole and to God.
The letter to the Ephesians emphasizes the oneness of God’s people, in spite of our individual diversity and different gifts and abilities. It is stated that in fact, it is in and through our diversity that we can truly serve God.
In the song Betty’s Diner, soulful Quaker singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer writes about some of the characters who frequent a place called Betty’s Diner. In the song we meet Miranda, the waitress, and some of the regulars like Arthur, who always lets his Earl Grey steep. Then there’s Kevin, who tests new saxophones, yet seems to have a dream that he’ll get out and make it big. Jack is the first in his family to get past high school and he clearly has the “hots” for Emma. These are very real people.
The chorus reminds me of a hymn as it opens with the incredible reminder that “church’ and “communion” can happen anywhere: Here we are all in one place, the wants and wounds of the human race… despair and hope sit face to face when you come in from the cold. The songwriter reminds us that: You never know who’ll be your witness. You never know who grants forgiveness… look to heaven or sit with us.
There is unity in this diner, like diners all across the country. The regular characters sit next to folks just passing through. The homeless and poor sit next to business people, construction workers, and the wealthy. Miranda, like Jesus meets them and you and me where we are. I thank God that we have books like Ephesians to guide us along the way, that we have our neighbors and each other, and we have the presence of God to walk with us and sustain us with something kind, like eggs and toast, or bread and wine.
+ + +
Please take some time for quiet reflection, conversation to lift you, books to browse and ponder, water to be refreshed by, and bread to touch, taste and see that the Lord is good.
(Attributed to Francis of Assisi)
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.