Just a Little Smile

Today, Matthew and I witnessed the procession of the Stations of Cross hosted by a Catholic Church in our neighborhood.  The daughter of a friend of ours invited us and with great delight we accepted the invitation.   The experience wasimg_0399-1.jpg quintessential New York.  The children and teenagers paraded down 153rd between Broadway and Amsterdam, a street lined with aging brownstones turned into flats and the historic  Trinity Cemetery.   We joined just as the procession began with soldiers pushing Jesus forward after each stop and with a small mob of women and children dressed in New Testament era garb.  Tennis shoes, white socks, jeans, and even brightly striped leggings peaked out from under their costumes.  Some of the plumes on the soldiers’ helmets remained bright red while others had faded to pale salmon from age and use.  Sometimes we prayed in English and other times in Spanish.  Parents took pictures.  Matthew got bored.  I recited the Lord’s Prayer, every time, appreciating the reminder of the connection between our denominations.

Also in true New York style, life went on around us.  People rode by on their bicycles. Children leaned out of their windows as to fully participate in the scene unfolding just a sidewalk away.  A few adults joined as we walked aIMG_0405nd even allowed their lips to move with the prayers.  Some took pictures.  Some thought we were annoying because we interrupted the flow of their day.  Some slowed as they approached, smiled, and traveled on.

I am struck today by how much these images speak to our witness as believers.  Jesus followers try to bear witness to the cross and resurrection.  We believe Jesus is real, not “was” real or “might” have been real.  He IS real.  And we march out there in the world hoping to bear witness to the light and love and life He brings.

Some people ride right on by our witness.  Others lean out of their home space, listening, thinking, wondering if they could or should join.  Some walk along for a while, remembering the prayers they learned as a child, recalling the Jesus they knew at the time of their confession or baptism or youth camp.  “Is He still that same Jesus?” their hearts wonder.  For some, we are annoying.  We get in the way.  We are irrelevant and irritating, and perhaps we’ve earned some of those sentiments.   Another crowd, though, slows down, smiles, and moves on.

In all of this I am reminded that I cannot control how people respond to me, or respond to my faith in Jesus.  I must simply live as honestly, as transparently, as lovingly, and as courageously as I can.   I hope some will peak out of their windows, and that some will join the parade.  I’m sure I will annoy a few.  In the end, though, my singular hope is that New York City sees Jesus in the Cook Family, right here in our neighborhood, on our baseball and soccer teams, at the grocery store, and on the subway.   And I’m really happy, deeply satisfied, if I can just get the smile.

When the Body Hurts

I cannot take a moment of credit for these thoughts… but I must share them.

Today in church, our vicar proclaimed, “The power of the body of Christ is being able to bring your true self – your beautiful, wounded, fallible self and find love and acceptance.”

AH!  So that’s why it hurts so much when we our present our true self to our faith community and we are rejected, or cast aside, or our gifts are not needed.  It’s as if a member of our own family has wounded us.  It’s a deep, personal, and painful wound, like the empty ache of a daughter whose mother has rejected her, or the shame and sorrow of a son who never receives his father’s approval.  That kind of familial pain penetrates deep into our souls and can affect us for a lifetime.

I confess.  I’ve been wounded by the body of Christ.  And I know many of my dear friends have been as well.  I’ve been pondering why it hurts so much, and my pastor’s insight today made so much sense.  As Ephesians 4 says, “we share one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all and in all.”

Church, when there is division among us, when I am cast aside because someone thinks I’m not good enough, when my gifts are not welcomed in the body, it’s not a wound from a good friend.  It’s rejection from a family member of the closest kind, a blood and water relative.  And it hurts.  For years.  It hurts.

I want to write something at this point with a perfect little solution, a bandaid, to make the hurt better.  I’m old enough, and maybe finally wise enough, to know there is not a magic bandaid.  A kiss won’t make it better, won’t heal the wound, or even dry the tears.

img_2970But I believe that coming to the Table will. Coming to the table where Jesus will feed me and cleanse me, will begin the healing.  I’ll need to come back again and again.  But thank God, there is always room for one more at his Table.

Wounded Friends, Come.  Come and Dine.  Come and Feast.
Come and Rest.
Come.  Heal.

Take and eat.  The Gifts of God for the People of God.  Amen.

 

Tomorrow

     Tomorrow, two of my favorite churches celebrate significant milestones. My friends in both places anticipate a day of reunion and hugs and kisses and laughter and tears of great joy. We go to bed tonight excited about the old friends we will see and the memories we will retell.  I can hardly wait to hear former teenagers reminisce like old grandmas on the front porch, “Remember when we blew up the toilet at camp with our firecrackers?  How many times did you actually back into something in the church van, Beverly?  Remember that time we drove all they way to Angel Fire and remember us showing you where  one of us almost fell off the mountain and remember that time we got kicked out of Six Flags and then there was the time….”IMG_1882

But I’m also looking forward to this invitation,
“Bev, come meet my children.”  

My heart is so excited to meet the FUTURE.

     Tomorrow, at Houston First Church and San Diego Mission Church, we will lift our hands in praise to God for His faithfulness to us in the past.  We will bow our heads in humble thanksgiving for His constant provisions in seasons of difficulty and strife.  But above all, we will kneel at the cross, stand shoulder to shoulder, lift our voices in adoration and expectation about what God will continue to do through His Church.

 Congratulations, HFC!  Well done, Mission Church.
Your best days are in front of you.