Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sheep Sunday

A Pastoral Scene
This past week was Heritage Artisans Week in New Harmony. It always surprises me how a 19th century village suddenly appears on the lawn of the Athenaeum on North Street. Artisans from all over come to show what life was like in the New Harmony of the 1800s. Rope makers, soap makers, tin workers and...yes, shepherds come to teach school kids from all over the area about a variety of "lost arts." Around 2000 school children and adults come to visit. So one day last week Katie and I went down to see the sheep. The shepherd had an "under-shepherd" named Rerun. Rerun is a border collie and she is absolutely amazing to watch. While I was there, she never took her eyes off of the sheep. The shepherd let them out of the pen to wander and graze and they didn't hesitate to wander in whatever direction the grass tasted sweetest! Rerun watched and when the shepherd gave her the command to gather them she did it quickly and efficiently.

When Jesus says "My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me" he is talking about all of us sheep and most especially those of us who tend to wander! The fact that no one can snatch us out of his hand means that Jesus never takes his eyes off of us. I don't know how God does that with so many children to watch, but I believe it just as surely as I know that Rerun had her eyes on all 4 of those sheep. Not only did she watch them but she listened for the shepherd's voice. I barely heard his muttered command to her when she rounded up the sheep but she did not miss it.

Annie Lamott in her book, Traveling Mercies, tells a story she heard from one of the ministers at her church. When this woman was about 7 her best friend got lost one day. The little girl ran up and down the streets of the big neighborhood where they lived, but she couldn't find a single landmark. She was very frightened. Finally a policeman stopped to help her. he put her in the passenger seat of his car and drove around until she finally saw her church. She told him firmly, "You could let me out now. This is my church, and I can always find my way home from here."

Lamott says that is why she has always stayed close to her church: because no matter how bad she is feeling, how lost or lonely or frightened, when she sees the faces of those people at her church, and hears their tawny voices, she knows that she can always find her way home.

It is amazing to me how much those who spend time with the Good Shepherd begin to reflect the ways of the Shepherd...and even sound like him.
The walls have gone up with a shout!
This is a picture from almost two weeks ago now of the construction of our new parish house. Not to make too many excuses but this is the reason why I haven't posted in several weeks. This week (before the rain) they got the building under roof and I am very excited about the ministry possibilities it will give us. We are still quite a way off from the finish but it is beginning to feel like a reality. More pictures to come...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Meeting Jesus

From the Jerusalem woman:

It is so hard to believe that I just met Jesus, the teacher, last night. All afternoon yesterday I tried to think of something that I could take to the Passover meal. As I started out the door, the "ruined" white fabric was there where I had left it the day before. I grabbed it thinking it would be a perfect table covering for the meal. I met Mary of Bethany at the market and helped her finish the shopping for the meal. When she saw the cloth she was delighted.

We finished our preparations just in time. Jesus and his other followers came in. Everyone was talking and excited. I felt a bit out of place - I had just met most of the people and they seemed to know each other so well. Meeting Jesus was extraordinary! He was kind to me and when it came time to serve the meal, he seemed delighted with the white cloth. We all gathered together in the room to share the meal. Jesus was like a rabbi. He taught us, he served us and he washed the feet of some of his disciples! I have never been served by a man. I felt shy and somewhat bewildered. I didn't know whether to accept the bowl of food he gave me or give it to one of the men in the room. But it was clear from his eyes that he meant it for me and he served everyone.

The meal became quite somber after a while. Jesus began to talk about betrayal, and he talked about his death. I wanted to run to him and tell him that I would protect him. Mary seemed so peaceful. She told me about her brother who had died and been brought back to life by Jesus. Lazarus seemed fine to me, and so, I thought, perhaps this is the way it will happen with Jesus. But I was wrong.

The women cleaned up after Jesus and the disciples left. We were quite tired and so we pulled down the mats for sleeping. We talked a long time and I listened to the stories the women told about Jesus. Finally my eyes would no longer stay open. The next thing I knew Mary was shaking me awake. "They have arrested Jesus! Come on, we must go and find everyone else. We need to stay together. The authorities may come for us next." I was scared but I remember thinking that it would be okay...Jesus would save us. One of the women grabbed my cloth from the table where it had been left as we ran from the room. We found the other disciples and that was the beginning of the longest day of my life.

Jesus is dead now - crucified by the Romans. The emotions of this day have been a turmoil. We thought surely Pilate would release him and when that did not happen something inside of me broke apart. How could this man, who I had just come to know, be put to death? I saw him come out with the cross over his shoulder. He had been beaten and thorns woven into a crown were stuck into his brow. The woman with my cloth ran to him and wiped the blood from his eyes with the cloth. I thought of the woman in my store who refused the cloth because a drop of my Jewish blood had contaminated it. A Roman soldier shoved her away from Jesus and she fell but we ran to help her up. Her eyes found mine in sorrow. She said, "I'm so sorry, I have ruined your cloth." I held her as I told her it was alright. Some day I will tell her the story of the cloth.

Jesus is dead. Joseph, a friend of the disciples is going to Pilate to ask for Jesus' body. The sun is getting ready to set and we must get his body down from the cross and into the tomb before sundown. I don't know where the disciples are, but I am here at the cross with the other women. Jesus' mother is here too. Why did this happen? What will we do now? I do not want to leave these friends...