Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"If you are being run out of town . . ."

An Early Morning Meditation on Mark 6:1-13

July 12, 2006 – 7 AM Healing Eucharist
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham, NJ
The Rev’d Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor

Well, there being no saints on the calendar today, we deal one last time with Sunday's propers and find that we are faced once again with this call to prophetic ministry in Mark’s gospel.

I’ve always heard these words of instruction from Jesus to his apostles in terms of the urgency of his mission. “No bread, no bag, no money in your belt . . .” But, this morning I hear them a little differently.

If you are expecting to get run out of town, it is to your distinct advantage to travel light, isn't it? Makes it ever so much easier to beat feat and get the heck out of Dodge.

I've also been thinking about prophets I've known and loved. Recently, I’ve been introduced to a character in cyberspace. She has become for me a prophet of sorts in that she calls me to a very uncomfortable place in my comfort zone about religion. Her name is Betty Butterfield

And she is an absolute hoot. She recalls for me every place I’ve ever worked where there are homeless people – or people who live right on the very fringes of society where the fabric is frayed and tattered. There's always someone there like Betty who not only lives on the fringes, she dances there.

Betty, poor darlin’, just “wants to know the Lawd” (except to hear her say it, that last word really has three syllables). Her reports of her visits to various churches and temples is caught on tape. The camera is “this close” to her face which is hideously made up with way too much rouge and lipstick and hair so “big” it can’t be caught in the tight frame of her features.

What she says, however, is only funny because it has a ring of truth. So, you laugh, but some of it isn’t so funny because it makes you uncomfortable – because you know she’s right.

Take, for example, her visit to the Episcopal Church.

“Lawd,” she says, “They give you 18 things to hold, a book of this, a hymn book, and papers . . .I said, “Lawd, am I gonna have to take all this stuff home?”

Later, she says, “Talkin’ bout ‘thee’ and ‘thy’ . ..(she is now breathless with tears) . .. it’s like Shakespeare . .’s like talking in tongues . .(which she does for a while and then, pleading, through breathless tears) I just want someone to explain it to me, is all.”

And, you know what? She’s right. She’s absolutely, painfully right. We forget, we who love our liturgy and the beautiful words of our Book of Common Prayer, that most people who come into the church just want an experience of God. They want comfort and solace. They want healing and peace.

They come in with their pain and their questions and their wonderings and they’d like someone to explain it to them, is all. And, do we do that?

More often than not, I think we fail miserably.

We may not be the ones run out of town, but I wonder how many people who come to church seeking God find themselves on that road paved with our good intentions – and we all know where that road leads, don’t we?

One last thought about prophets. On my ordination day, my bishop, Fred Wolf, sat me down and gave me this advice. He said that, if I did my job right, I would make some people very angry with me. Indeed, he said, some people would be so angry with me, that they would try to run me out of town.

If that happens, he said, here’s what you do (I’ve never forgotten his advice and I pass it along to you, that you may not fear the call to a prophetic work of ministry):

“If you are being run out of town, get in front of the crowd and make it look like a parade.”

And let the church say, 'Amen'.


curtis said...

Amen AND Alleluia! I have been deeply touched by this article. I spent 17 years in youth ministry and was 'run out of town' by panicking people when a 17 year old boy said he saw something he didn't see. I, like so many of my brothers and sisters in ministry, fell as a victim. The church community in which I served and lived and breathed and shared a common table - locked the doors, hardened their hearts, and narrowed their minds. My wounds run deep and your article has lifted me higher than I have been in several years. From a heart that loves Christ to another - I thank you and pray continued blessings on your ministry.

wmj said...

You have just made an exceedingly stressful, questioning day end in a kind of peace that I haven't felt in a very long time. Thanks for this post.