God’s love wins through the power of the Spirit in the resurrection of Jesus as the Christ…now what? With worries about our future, and especially our future with the Divine power that moves in and through the universe, taken care of in a promise to be loved forever…now what? In a world where love peeks through, even amidst the darkest of personal or corporate tragedy, and where human capacity for love stretches to the ends of the earth…now what? Now that we have seen this love in action even through death on a cross…now what?
How about something like this?
Early in my ministry I was walking through the tunnels that connected the various buildings and parking ramps of the University of Minnesota hospital system. It was 1994, and my world was going well. I had a wonderful wife and two lovely, growing children, and I was really getting into the routine of being a parish pastor. I had friends that I could celebrate and share with, and as the song went a “future so bright I had to wear shades.” And then I saw him…
Walking towards me down this tunnel was a very skinny man in a hospital gown flapping along with him. Even from a distance I could see he was very unkept, and his hair was sticking out all over the place. He was tugging a portable oxygen container behind him with the tubes connected to his nose, and his pace was very slow, almost as if he didn’t want to move at all. Oh, and he was smoking.
When you are in a tunnel that is 10 feet wide and 8 feet tall you do not want to see somebody who has an open oxygen container smoking a cigarette. Something about an explosion in a confined space just seemed to not be the way I want to meet my maker. And it would put an end to my great life. So I stopped to talk to him.
I introduced myself as a pastor going to visit one of the patients, and asked him how he was doing? He introduced himself as Alan, and said “not good.” Tell me about I said. Oh, and the smoke itches my nose.
“Sorry,” he muttered in a weak voice, and stubbed it out on the greenish tile floor.
Why aren’t you good Alan?
“Well, I have AIDS. They say I am going to die soon.” At this point I felt bad for making him put out his cigarette, but now I found myself in a conversation with the first person I ever met who has this disease(or at least that I knew of, as not everybody was forthcoming with that information in those days). Over the next ten minutes or so he proceeeded to relate to me how everyone in his life had abandoned him over the past few years, family, friends, even his lover was gone, although he had died of AIDS just a couple of months prior.
Now it is common for me to pray with someone at the end of our time together, and often times I will hold their hand. But as I was thinking about offering to pray I had a thought? What if I get AIDS? Now, I didn’t know much about the disease at the time except that if you got it, you were going to die, and looking at Alan it did not seem like the most dignified way to go. And–I didn’t want to die. But standing there looking at this agonized human, completely alone, I remembered God loves me. And I remembered in the cross branded on my heart that even when I die God loves me, just like God loves everybody, just like God loves Alan. So, I reached out, grabbed his hand, and asked if I could pray?
He joined me at the Amen, and left his hand in mine. He stared me down before letting go. “Thank you,” he said, “I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be touched.” He reached into the pocket of his gown for another cigarette and his lighter. As I was walking away I could smell him light it…and I was completely fine with that.
Good thing God’s love wins, yes?
May your tables be full and your conversations be true.