Thursday, November 25, 2010

Into the Night

I have a tendency to keep good company. I'm privileged to serve as the pastor of remarkable people who tend to often make more of me. I'm constantly amazed by the ways in which these individuals live out their faith - practicing radical hospitality, embodying forgiveness, and living lives of constant generosity and grace. While it might not be wise for me to admit it, there are many times when the people who belong to our church are more like Jesus than their pastor. I'm privileged to be the pastor of so many amazing disciples.

Craig and I chose not to go home this year for Thanksgiving. Influenced by high airfare and Craig's work schedule, we opted to stay home this year. We were tempted often by the idea of feasting on a turkey breast by ourselves - perhaps even coming to the meal in our pajamas. But, we instead were led to accept an invitation to share Thanksgiving with several church members.

We arrived at their home a few minutes after the appointed time to find eight people waiting for us. All but one are church members. They are all twenty and thirty somethings who have come to Mount Vernon Place in the last three years. They are individuals in whom I have seen the face and felt the hands of Christ often. They are people who live their discipleship in real and abundant ways. The other individual who had gathered at the house is someone I have met a couple of times. I met him first on a Tuesday morning when I decided to join the already mentioned saints of the church at our shower ministry. We shook hands that day. He then joined us for Wednesday night dinner last week, and he was at the house today. He had been at the church earlier today to take a shower and then enjoy a Thanksgiving breakfast prepared by other saints of the church. While waiting for a shower or enjoying breakfast he, along with several others who were waiting to take a shower, were invited to the same home where we feasted today. He is the only one to accept the invitation. I sat next to him at the dinner table. We talked about everything from scripture to purgatory to jobs to politics. We laughed. We filled our plates with second helpings of turkey and stuffing. We took delight in pecan pie and milk. When it came time for each person at the table to make a dish of leftovers, he asked for plastic silverware. When it came time to go, Craig and I offered him a ride home.

We dropped another member off first, leaving her on a sidewalk outside a quaint row house on Capitol Hill. I then inquired where this individual wanted to be dropped off. "At Mount Vernon" he said. We then drove towards the church and he asked that we leave him outside an old Carnegie Library - the same place where our congregation worshipped when our building was under construction. We pulled over to an empty building without a single light burning. We let him out onto the sidewalk and watched as he got out of our car and hoisted his backpack upon his shoulders. I then watched as he walked into the night and we returned to the warmth of our home.

If the truth were told, I suppose I should admit that there are many thoughts going through my mind. I realize that I have never taken the time to invite any of our unhoused neighbors to my home for a feast. I realize that I am often pissed at the homeless around the church who piss all over the church more than I am led to show the emotion of empathy. I realize that I cannot in a million years figure out why this person is unhoused - why this twenty-something person who could talk about anything under the sun today and then sit down and play the piano does not have a place to call home. And, I realize that I'm sad tonight. I don't like watching someone walk into the night.

I believe with all my heart that the table fellowship I shared today was a sign of God's inbreaking kingdom on earth. When I sat and ate with people who have so much and people who have so little, I realized that this is the way it is supposed to be - that Christ calls us to be one body - Christ calls us to get rid of our divisions or our 'us vs. them' mentality. But, I also believe that the ending of the day is a sign of why we desperately need God to come again. We need Christ to come again and make all things right.

We're on the cusp of Advent - this season of waiting and watching for the coming of Christ. We think of him being born as a humble babe in a barn. And, this image is perhaps more comforting than us thinking of him coming again. We don't always want to think about him coming again because we don't want to think about being judged. But, I need him to come again. I need him to come again and push through the fullness of his kingdom - that place where all of God's children have a place to call home, that place where the poor have good news given to them, where the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the blind receive their sight, and all is made well. I need to know that a different reality will one day take over and cause my heart not to ache as it does tonight but to instead celebrate because all is finally right - all is finally aligned with God's ways.

I'm grateful for this day. I'm filled with deep and profound thanksgiving for so many things. I rejoice for my church family and the people who show me how to live a life centered upon Christ. But I am especially grateful for Christ - for his presence in our lives and for that day when he unrolled the scroll and said, "The kingdom is at hand."

Come, Lord Jesus. O come, O come Emmanuel. I need you, Lord. We need you, Lord. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

1 comment:

Christy said...

So powerful, Donna. I am so proud to call you a friend. You are goodness personified.