Today’s Word from Pastor Tom…
So, try to picture the scene. It is a beautiful Seattle summer evening and I have accepted an invitation from my younger sibling to join her and her friends at some young adult drinking hole. What can I say? I had no social life. I was only in town for a couple of days, having taken a break from my summer job of driving truck cross country.
It was a perfect evening for having the top down on my beautifully painted, perfectly polished, ’67 muscle machine. Off we went navigating the tight Seattle streets enjoying the beautiful evening. That is, until some character in his pseudo-cool car (Hey! I have standards!) turns onto our street heading for us as if he has a statement to make. He slides to a stop, barely one paintbrush of enamel between our cars. His face is literally 18 inches from mine. He begins to berate me with that kind of puffed-up, insecure masculinity that has a shelf life of about 20 seconds. At which point, now from about 15 inches, I verbally reached down his throat and threatened to rip his heart out. His retreat was quick. As he drove off, my sister offered something about my being bad.
I did not sleep that night. Not a wink. Such is the consequence of guilt. I had verbally assaulted this young man (maybe 2 years younger than me) in front of what I assumed was his girlfriend. I had done nothing wrong in creating the moment, yet nonetheless, I felt awful. Not much of a Christian witness. But that wasn’t the worst mistake. Nope, not by a long shot. I prayed the prayer the flawed part of us really hopes the Lord has been too busy, preoccupied on the other side of the universe dealing with important stuff, to hear.
I prayed for the opportunity to make amends.
The next day was Seafair Sunday. Three hundred thousand patrons on the Lake Washington shoreline whooping it up for the hydro race – Miss Bardahl, Hawaii Kai, Miss Thriftway, Thriftway Too… 12-cylinder Allison or Rolls Royce engines… but I digress. Who do I see walking at me? Yup, in the flesh. Ugh!
He had backed up when I reminded him of our previous encounter, but when I asked him to accept my apology he smiled and received my handshake. I didn’t realize how big he was. Whew! One small step in my journey towards altering the course of history towards eternity.
Brenda and I have been speaking of “journey” a lot lately. A cancer diagnosis with a predicted poor outcome will do that for you. “This is our journey,” we say to one another. To be perfectly honest, I am tired of trying to be poetic about journey, about our station in life. There is little that feels iambic pentameter about a doctor giving you news (however empathically) that certain life events you had assumed will, in all probability, not happen. Nonetheless we have, together, stepped off the side of the ship. This is our journey… sigh. There is just no way of skipping the stuff in the middle.
Holy Week has regularly led me to consider Jesus’ experience with regard to “journey.” Tomorrow is Good Friday, today is Maundy Thursday. Tonight, we are reminded how Jesus celebrated the Passover Feast with his beloved disciples, including his betrayer. Tomorrow we will try to wrap our imaginations around his horrid torture and crucifixion. In between, Jesus prayed, “Father, Abba, is there any way this cup can pass from my hands?” Dad… is there a plan B? But there is no way to go from Maundy Thursday to Easter without going through Good Friday. You can’t skip the stuff in the middle, and so Jesus concludes, “Not my will but yours.”
Brenda and I find solace in the confession that Jesus promises to not just meet us on the other side, but will accompany us through the middle. That helps. To be perfectly honest, I sometimes think Jesus’ presence is best experienced in you. You are the life and breath of the Savior through the many expressions of love you share with one another. With the world. With us. Thank you.
A blessed Holy Week to you. I will see you in the middle.