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Wednesday, May 02, 2007


I don't think I can imitate the sound of it exactly, but I can hear it clearly in my head.

It's the sound my Grandmother made when she came into the house. It was supposed to be "Hello!" but it was meant more as a call to her grandchildren.

Combine that intent with her Portuguese accent and well, what you got was something that sounded like:


When we heard that sound, it meant that VaVoa - Portuguese for Grandmother - had a treat for us. Now, for kids today, that usually means food - candy, pastry, like that. Not so for my VaVoa.

Sometimes, it meant that she had just pulled up some fresh beets from the garden. We would gather round her at the kitchen sink while she washed them off. Then, she'd take a sharp knife and cut a thin slice which she would present to us ON THE KNIFE as we giggled wickedly, knowing that our mothers would be horrified at the dangerous scene of one of our little fingers being that close to something that sharp.

Other times, it meant that it was finally time to eat the new potatoes which she had just dug up and placed in a large metal sieve. She'd wash off the small globes of yellow gold in her kitchen sink, place them in a pan of water and put them on the stove. I do believe that the taste I had in my mouth when I bit into that hot, cooked, small new potato, smothered in butter and liberally seasoned with salt and pepper was as close as I'll ever get on this side of Eden to having a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.

At yet another time, VaVoa could also have brought in a handful of "peepers" in her apron pocket - those tiny little frogs that begin to appear on warm early Spring evenings and peep long into the night - to have us ooh and aaah over them and ask TONS of questions before she returned them to her garden.

Or, she could have brought in a stray cat - a frequent occurrence in our neighborhood and with our grandmother - for us to name. My brother always wanted to name the cats "Mookie," after his favorite baseball player, but she insisted that we name them after one of the apostles or saints. I suspect we had more cats named "Mark" or "Barnabas" or "Perpetua" or "Dymphna" than any other place in all of Western Christendom.

No matter. When we heard, "Haalloooooh!" we came running, like little lambs to their shepherd.

Last Sunday was "Good Shepherd Sunday." One of my seminarians was preaching her "debut" sermon, so I didn't engage in my usual lectionary meditation on the gospel (John 10:22 -30). One of the things she said was that we, like Jesus are both sheep and the shepherd.)

When I heard the passage of John's gospel read by my deacon from the midst of the congregation, these words of Jesus jumped out at me: "My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish."

I was suddenly awash in these memories of my grandmother, and I heard these words of Jesus in a new way.

Jesus teaches us that those who are his sheep will hear his voice in this life, and follow him into life eternal.

If I ever had an ounce of anxiety about finding my way back to Eden, they were washed away last Sunday. I'll just listen for the sound of one of his sheep who was also a shepherd. And, she will be saying,


1 comment:

Bill said...

Elizabeth writes: “Jesus teaches us that those who are his sheep will hear his voice in this life, and follow him into life eternal.”

I understand what Elizabeth is saying and I agree.

I would just add, that we should make sure that the voice we hear is truly the voice of Jesus. We need to be wary of imposters. All those poor people who followed James Warren "Jim" Jones to suicide by poison in 1978 thought they were doing the right thing. History is rife with charismatic people who can sway a crowd with a well turned phrase. The world is full of people who claim to speak for Jesus. If you listen to them they will try to convince you that women have no place in Christ’s Church. They will attempt to prove to you that homosexuality is a sin and that you should be denied the sacraments. It’s all written in the Bible they will say. In some parts of the world, leaders of the Episcopal Church will not only tell you that homosexuality is a sin, but that the criminalization of it by the government is the right thing to do. The world is not a safe place; there are wolves out there in sheep’s clothing. There are also wolves in shepherd’s clothing.

If something doesn’t sound quite right to you, go to the source. Pick up the New Testament and see if what they are trying to tell you, is really what Christ said. Jesus spoke to his audience. He used the simple words and phrases, that fishermen and farmers would understand. He spoke to and confided in women. This is historic fact. He never condemned a homosexual. He told stories to get his message across. He was never deliberately obscure. His target audience was the common people. And yet, there are those who would tell you that only the church hierarchy, the learned men of God can interpret the words of Christ and tell you their true meaning. As my friend MP would say, “Hogwash”. The words of Jesus were written down for you. When you read them, they will have meaning for you. Don’t be so quick to have others think for you. Think for yourself!