I got a phone call from the hospital yesterday, telling about a parish member who has begun receiving hospice visits. "She would like you to come and visit her," was the gist of the message. So I called her and made an appointment to visit with her today.
When I reached her on the telephone, she greeted me, "I've been waiting for your call. I would like to see you so much." I felt an over-the-phone warm hospitality. When I mentioned this woman to another member of our staff, we searched around for the right word to describe her. Suddenly, it occurred to us. She was a saint.
Today, when I sat down at her table, she grasped my hand and told me of her diagnosis. "The thing is," she said, "I am not afraid. I am not afraid. I have been walking with Jesus my whole life. Lately, I've been thinking, 'Soon and very soon, I am going to see the King.'"
She smiled. We talked some more. I asked her about the years she spent in Nigeria, with an agricultural mission there. She was an Anglican there, she told me, because there were no Lutheran churches, and the Baptists told her she could not take communion until she was baptized again. She described the large lizards (they were beautiful, she said) and how they came into the church. She spoke with pride about her nieces and nephews. We shared communion.
This evening my husband and I went to a neighboring church to hear Father Greg Boyle speak about his work with gangs in Los Angeles. I read his book last Thanksgiving time. The stories shared reminded me about the depth and breadth and width of God's love.
The word tonight was "Kinship." The truth is that we belong to one another, but, most of the time, we do not know it. Most of the time we think there is a difference between those who have tattoos and those who don't, those who have jobs and those who don't, those who are 'good' and those who are 'bad,' those who are worthy and those who are worthless. We think that there is a 'them' and an 'us.' But there is only us. Father Greg told us that our real work is "to create a community of kinship such that God would recognize it." And he told us of moments when he caught a glimpse of such kinship: between enemies who suddenly realized that they were friends, when gang members told their stories, when "the soul felt its worth." He told us that the line from the Christmas Hymn "O Holy Night, "When he appeared and the soul felt its worth" is really a job description for all of us. How do we help other people know how much they are worth to God?
Saint Audrey and Father Greg
both of you are practicing kinship, both of you are preaching the gospel, on the streets, at your kitchen table. You have been walking with Jesus your whole lives. You have let us catch a glimpse of him.