Sunday, August 31, 2008

Love, Lectionary, and the Call of Others

On Sundays, I like to meditate on the weekly lectionary. Today, I am reading at my Spokane Valley church, Holy Trinity Church, so I have read the passages before actually hearing them at church.

The theme in all of the reading is about the nature of Love. Love, Romans 12:9-21 says, comes from how we relate to others. By answering our engagement with others with love, we proclaim love. Now, this seems to be at the heart of the Gospel, God's Love. It also shows how strong of a Christian I am. Through the passages is, to quote the Beatles, all you need is love. Love your friends, love your family, love your neighbors, love people of lower socioeconomic status, love your enemies and think other better than yourself. Here the Gospel reveals itself as counter-culture. We are taught to love ourselves first and think of ourselves as the ground to love others. For Christians, the ground is God's love, of our love.

If I am honest with myself, then I understand the weakness of my love. I love until I am hurt, judge, or ignore the other. The Gospel reminds me of this and makes me give up my hurt, judgment, or unawareness and love those that I would reject.

Faith meets real life when I am forced to do something I would normally not do. Most of the time, we construe faith as propositions to say yes to. Yet, Faith that is only agreement, reduces to simple opinion. When I work at homeless shelter, and I see someone who stinks from being on the street, who has made choices that landed him without a home, my natural inclination is to shake me head for a distance. God calls me to give him my presences, and engage him with my whole being in the moment. I remember hearing his story and sharing with him the story about the woman at the well in John 4. Sharing my own experiences as a Christian and he sharing bond us under God. I understood faith as pushing myself beyond my own pettiness
.

Todays poem is about my own faith journey:


I stop within the dangers of memory not to find God, but
for my times as a boy at the old cathedral of Juarez. I find memories of little
boys—not me—belonging to another congregation—living a life not
mine. The candlelight highlights the brown skin against their white garments.
I remember the Christmases and Easters when I went to church
on the high holy days companying my Uncle Chacho. I recall the strange
feeling of seeing those alter boys and having no part to play—coming to church
after seeing my stepfather angry with alcohol—hearing my stepfather ridicule
God who abandoned the little boy he was in Nazi oppressed Poland.

I sought a home among those boys who spoke in Spanish, my first language
Which I have trouble speaking Yet, they seemed not to notice my eyes, (one blind and cross-
eyed, the other weak) or my life. The Christ figurine hung naked on the cross
remains in my imagination—carved in the dark hard wood, his head down
and the red paint. Its shadow tangoed in the sepia lights.
I remember being tried being up late in the night.
My Uncle had shaken me awake earlier, as not to be late for the mid-
night mass. The weight of my clumsiness feared the evil of my being, and my eyes.
The eyes of the boys in white averted not to see my deformity,
which made my sight look fractious and ugly. The Church’s low light beauty filled
my head, as did the smells, those tasteless wafers, and the knelling bells.
With no place to understand the service, I followed my Uncle when he rose,
when he sat, and when he knelt. The liturgy without a context left me
isolated. Sermon, wine, music, bells would greet the new day. We return home to sleep.

Later in the morning, as we would eat brunch, or open gifts, I was uneasy.
Playing with loud beeping plastic of freshly open presents, I, and the other
children of my family created a soundtrack to the beer, the glasses of wine,
and the shots of tequila—Chacho’s home becoming a place of faith I did not have
a map for. The geography of God was uncharted and as strange
as those group prayers aping across my ears, as strange as stepping
over my stepfather’s drunk body plopped in another epoch across the threshold
of Uncle’s library. Books, books, books I left unread. Grace tricks
my memory. Today, I cannot fully trace back from the wood-carvings of Christ hanging
on the cathedral’s walls to my classes at Fuller Seminary. I now belong
but with a history Ashamed of crimes not mine, God finds me
in a Lutheran Church. My crimes incorporate into another time
of Easter, into the eternal birth of Christmas. Nothing simple—finding the crosses
of my current church empty, I find I still need,
at times, those other filled wood crosses of the little boy I was
in another age. The lights of Sunday morning worship are now bright,. I unearth
the beauty in the dusk-like lighting of that old cathedral in Juarez, Mexico.
I remember those times with my Uncle as a child—the dower bells,
and those wooden pieces showing the suffering of Jesus, the God
incarnate—fleshing out my future. The brickless place of worship becoming
my rock support propping up a enigmatic atlas of life. After a Sunday service, I breathe
n the air and feed my skin. The constant wind blows around me as it did in childhood.
Leafs make noise. It blows over the waters of my memories. The peace
That comes from finding God sweals within me.

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