As Pentecost draws near, our imaginations are primed by the signs and wonders that sparked those first followers of the Way.
Last week a miracle occurred in Lexington. The miracle involved two men - broken, addicted, lonely, and seemingly without hope. It came in the shape of two men receiving the divine gift of dignity. They moved from their tiny one-room dwellings in pitiful, income-based housing (picture a prison cell) into a real house. One of the two described it as “a real nice shotgun” with “nice thick carpet” and a backyard that will be “just right for grillin’ out.” As we drove the 5 blocks to their new place these men dreamed dreams about having people over (an impossibility in their old places), sleeping through the night without being woken by fighting over drug-deals gone bad, and sitting out on their porch on nice days. It was a small glimpse of holy anticipation and, for just an hour or two, these men without hope for their future, were caught up in privilege and self-worth.
Now, lest this picture seem unreal and sugar-coated, let me say some other things.
These guys are friends of ours. They bring candy (lollies/sweets) and cakes for Isaac and they keep us up to date with their lives. We visit them and they visit us. We share food and coffee and tea. One of them even lived with us for over 9 months. We know them well. It is clear that these men still drink too much. They both have serious mental disabilities and learning difficulties. It is likely that they will never work any ‘important jobs’ or contribute to the ‘greater good’ of the city of Lexington through taxes or civic service. They collect their checks each month (disability and armed services veteran) and quickly spend them on alcohol and chewing tobacco…and more alcohol. And perhaps, if they are really conscientious, some cans of beans. Yet they are beloved ones of the Maker of the Universe. If God came in the flesh in this city, this week, we imagine he would celebrate their new place and spend time sitting on their dilapidated porch listening to their stories of misfortune (impoverished childhoods, wrecked marriages, violence, estranged children, mental breakdowns and other illnesses). As they tipped back their heads for another hit of cheap vodka, they would admit much of the misfortune was self-inflicted. And Jesus might nod knowingly, biting his tongue so that this moment of quiet dignity could carry on a few more minutes.
As we carry on this work of church-in-mission we are regularly confronted with moments like these and they feel far off from the earth-shattering majesty of Pentecost. Yet we are discovering that peace and grace and justice sneak up on us at times like this and, like blades of tender grass that shatter concrete, can be easily missed or underestimated. We keep looking in the thin places of your lives for Pentecost signs and wonders that remind us of divine workings in this God-loved world.