Friday, November 1, 2013

A Great "Glory Cloud" of Witnesses

Today is one of my favorite festivals in the church year. While my fellow strong hearted Lutheran friends nurse their reformation hangovers, I woke early in the morning to meditate on this special day (I thank you Lord that I am not like those other sinners!). I had many thoughts running through my mind. Writing them out always helps me piece them together. 
First off; this day reminded me of the hope that I have (I bet you think you know where I am going with this). My hope is that one year from now I find myself at the end of a pilgrimage that finds it’s completion at the feet of a statue of Saint James (Not where you thought I was going with that?). It would be a pilgrimage to reflect on and praise God for His strong hand in my life and not to find Him, or sanctify myself. That is looking to the future with a whole year to go and many miles before I am able to know that day. 
Second; I had one of those dreams again last night. I think I blogged about that reoccurring dream once before, It was a dream about my Grandmother who died some years ago. That dream reminded me of a scene from a t.v. show I recently saw. It was a scene where a mother is weeping over the loss of her son and she talks about how every day is like waking up to a bad dream and you have to “continue being a mother even though you don’t get to have a child anymore.” Granted; the pain of loosing a child is very different from loosing a grandparent or even a parent, nonetheless there is still a pain. Having been raised as a pastors daughter, our family saw a-lot of parents grieving the loss of a child. One thing I remember my parents often saying in response to the loss was; “Parents are never supposed to burry their children, it goes against a natural order” 
Finally; the other day I attended a deaconess class within the home of one of our members. It was a a home in the inner city “barrio.” It is one of the oldest “hoods” in the city, and not in a nostalgic, endearing sort of way. We are holding classes with a woman who lives with her mother. She moved in with her this past year shortly after her sister died. We visited this family as the sister/daughter/aunt was dying. The mother; bearing the marks of age and experience having lived in this old part of the city for many years expressed anticipated grief in saying; “death has visited my house and taken one of my children before, and here it is again.”
 As I sat next to this woman during the class I studied her.  Her skin is well aged and I remember being overwhelmed at the beauty this held for me. Most days I have a difficult time looking at and appreciating my well rounded curves and here I was marveling and admiring her many tiny wrinkles. I looked at her face and studied all that she was. I remember reading somewhere that as you get older your speech becomes more simple. It is an ironic notion for me that we work hard to accomplish, build up, and achieve goals only to speak more plainly and perhaps not at all about those early strivings. So as I studied this woman, I tried to fill in the gaps of unspoken words, filling in every line of her face with some imagined story. I looked out the door at the busy street and wondered how many times she must have looked out that same door, and how much has changed since the first day she moved into her house. I wondered how much more violent the streets outside might have been fifty years ago. I wondered if she swept the floor with one arm while holding a baby on her hip with the other arm. Or, maybe she just let the kids play on the floor while she tended the fire in the kitchen. I wondered how many tears she cried and what sort of events in her life made those wrinkles.

I couldn’t fill in those lines, I could only admire them. I remember how I did the same with my grandmother. I remember looking on her face, squinting my eyes and trying to see if I could blur my vision enough to blur out the lines of her aging. I would get a glimpse and then would open my eyes all the way and would think, “this is better.” Not natural, and not normal, but better. She is closer to resting with all her lines. Take the lines away and you take away a clinging to Christ, a story of her pilgrimage of drawing near to Christ as He drew near to her. It is not within a natural order that we should burry anyone, but those lines, those tears, those pains, those nightmarish reminders of what we once were and are no longer are also beautiful reminders of what we shall become. We don’t have to look any further than the cross to fully understand that the marks of sin, the burden of the cross, the pains of the flogging bring about our redemption. Not our pilgrimage, but the pilgrimage of Christ himself. He took up the cross and although he did not have the lines of age, he endured the stripes of or sin in youth. He endured abuse, affliction and death so that we might know the promise of eternal life and redemption. The beauty of those lines, and those marks, though reflecting a life in a world of sin also remind us of a God who promises to make all things new. So on this festival day, I praise God for that promise, that even in the midst of waking and remembering that I don’t get to have my grandmother with me, I hold the promise that the One who made us both unites us in His body and blood and one day I shall wake to behold His face and not another! One day, my pilgrimage will find it’s end at the feet of my Savior, bearing the marks of his suffering for my redemption. There, he will fill my lines of age not with imagined stories but with the story of His suffering and death, and I shall be made new.   

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

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