Sunday, January 22, 2012

a band of contradictions

Here they come. Let me see if I can describe to you what I see from where I sit.

That man there has two kids. He’s white, slender and tall, with dark hair. His kids are both boys. One is thirteen; the other, eight. He is going through a divorce. The kids wonder if Mom needs a break from them.

That woman is in her fifties, single, never married. She feels she’s the only one of her kind here. She might be right.

Here’s a young refugee boy. He knows English but his Mom and Dad do not. A young married couple pick him up every week and love on him for some hours.

A man in a wheelchair now. Four people lift him up the steps. In about 90 minutes, they’ll be lifting him down again and he’ll bless them profusely, after having snored through the sermon.

That man killed someone and spent time in prison for it. Vehicular homicide, hit-and-run.

She was a drug addict. She hit rock bottom at age 34, enrolled in a program for two years and has been clean for the past three. She lives just down the street and walks here. She especially likes the snow.

She works at Wells Fargo, human resources. She's also started a church that gives her zero pay while giving the down-and-out almost everything from the church coffers.

Here’s a shop owner. He knows a lot about the neighborhood. His store used to be a jazz club. Dizzy Gillespie played there once.

Here’s a man who just turned forty. He wrestles with depression. Thank goodness he’s on some meds now and is seeing a counselor. In a few weeks, he’s looking forward to seeing an old friend, just the two of them.

Two little girls in fine dresses. They dress up every week. I love her red hair. So bright! They’re homeschooled. Nice kids.

Here’s a homeless man, coming from the shelter. Sometimes he sleeps in the park but it’s too cold for that now. He used to be in a gang but got out when all his friends were killed. He doesn’t remember his birthday.

Here’s an Asian teenager, the victim of some racial abuse last year. A bunch of kids from his school cornered him in the alley one afternoon. They kicked him and stomped on him and punched him in the face and spit on him while the others held him steady. He managed to break free after eight long minutes and ran away, sprawling, home.

Here’s a police officer. Been on the force now thirteen years. That neighborhood was his beat but he wasn’t on duty that day. He feels responsible.

A young man, home from Afghanistan. He was on the bomb squad. He had a close brush with an IED and inventoried the second largest cache of weapons recovered last year.

Here’s a black woman in her fifties, a consultant for executive teams. She travels a lot.

Here’s a man in his forties, wishing he had trained himself for something other than ministry. He wonders if he didn’t make a mistake.

(Sorry this is so long, but you really do need to know who these folks are. Trust me.)

Here’s a dear, old saint whose husband died just a year ago. She prays just about every hour, starting early in the morning. She eats dinner at 4:30 and twitches her nose like a rabbit when she knits. She makes the best oatmeal raisin cookies. Her vice is Cap’n Crunch cereal.

Here’s a teenage girl who was raped. Her friends won’t believe her. She doesn’t know if she wants to see a counselor or not.

Now here’s an interesting dude. A renaissance man. He has a pilot’s license he never uses, has acted with Nick Nolte, is a lawyer who has sued churches before, joined a knitting group (not St. Cap’n Crunch’s, though), runs marathons and studied Hebrew in Jerusalem. He should be on Jeopardy.

This guy here likes his new snowblower a lot. His father once built a tractor from scratch that was powered by steam.

Here’s a gal who wears a Bears uniform whenever it’s game day. She’s never been to Soldier Field, though.

A boy with a speech impediment. Big-hearted guy. Studies karate and cries when he forgets the routine.

Here’s a girl in her twenties who just had a tattoo removed. A painful memory.

A guy whose humor is drier than the Sahara. A woman who describes herself as possessing "the gift of sarcasm." She lost her mom when she was still in college.

Here’s a teenager. He gets straight A’s and smokes dope. His parents don’t know. Yet.

Here’s a man who wonders how he’ll tell his friends and family he’s gay.

A musician. Man, can she play and sing! I have her CD. Talented gal.

He just had a knee operation and that boy has leukemia. Lost his hair some months ago. Met the Cubs in their locker room and spent the game in their dugout for his Make-A-Wish.

Here’s a teenage girl with a gift for art. You name it, drawing, painting, photography. She’s got quite an eye.

This guy is part of the American Legion. Knows a lot about the Civil War and collects books.

Here’s another guy that works with male prostitutes. His wife is a trainer of nurses.

Here’s a gal, middle-aged, who does sign-language translation for live theater.

Here’s a mechanic who will repair your brakes for free even though he’d rather not.

Here’s a lady who’s always late.

This guy just got demoted. That woman just got promoted.

She was just fired from her job of eight years. He was just hired as a cashier at Walgreen's.

Here’s a lady who doesn’t look like a grandma, but she is already. She has thirteen kids. Her husband fell from a roof last year and should have died. He likes to hunt with his boys and the girls grew up playing hockey.

Here’s a girl, sixteen. She just had an abortion last month. That’s her boyfriend; he’s on Student Council.

That lady there speaks five languages. She rescues abused dogs.

Here’s someone who used to major in piano performance, then changed her major to Spanish. She was told she would never be able to have children, then—SURPRISE!—“You’re pregnant.” She’s expecting her second now.

That boy has cystic fibrosis. He’s always smiling. That man has AIDS. He smiles a lot, too.

Those folks got evicted last year.

She has received more than twenty-two rejection letters from publishers. He has published more than two hundred magazine articles.

That guy there doubts his own value. His son loves Lego.

That man has ice cream every night. His daughter likes The Andy Griffith Show.

Here’s a family that just moved here. They’re having a hard time making friends. And there’s an old couple that have lived here sixty-three years. They can tell you all about how much this neighborhood has changed over the years.

Here’s a woman, thirty-four. She wonders whether there is a God. Here’s another woman, fifty-six. She’s a new convert, still aglow with that first love.

Here’s a lawyer who got broadsided while driving in a foreign country. The car ended up topside down, totaled.

That young man is an Eagle Scout. His youngest brother, a Cub Scout. Good, through and through, the both of ‘em.

All of them, varied: rich, poor, and middle class; black, white, Asian, Native American, South American. Blue collar and white collar. Young and old. Students and retirees. Married and single. Some of them are news junkies, others love sitcoms. Some of them political, others indifferent.

They are envious, stressed, greedy, charitable, cynical, outspoken, rash, risky, cautious, gossips, lonely, funny, lustful, bland, fearful, proud, self-doubting, skeptical, angry, naive, gregarious, trusting and fiercely opinionated. One of them has not cried in decades, another has cried every day for the past sixteen months. He wonders when he’ll stop missing her. There are adulterers, kidney donors, television addicts. They are both grateful and entitled, deceivers and deceived, paralyzed and paralyzing. Some of them can't carry a tune to save their life; others should be famous. They hope, pray, nap, feast and fast. There are insomniacs among them. They sometimes advocate for the helpless while other times they exploit the powerless. They are flawed, obsessive, generous and thoughtful. They are a band of contradictions.

And they are one. Like it or not, they are the body of Jesus. How the Perfect Man incorporates imperfect people into His plan I will never know but I do know that He has each one play a part, somehow.

You are in there and so am I.

We come together because of one world-changing story about a certain man who lived for others, a man who forgave and forgives, a man who conquered death. He redeems every impossible situation; He befriends every lonely person. He grieves with the bereaved and challenges the complacent. He humbles the proud and exalts the humiliated. He is never impatient, harsh, or apathetic. He welcomes the newcomer and abides with the long-termer. He has been an advisor to presidents and a healer of the sick. He scandalized the religious and legitimized the marginalized. He knows when we lie. He knows when we hide. And He loves us anyway.

See, that's the thing about Him. He knows. He knows.

He knows each one by name. He knows each story. And He cares.

This is what He sees from where He sits. He sees us all, can describe each one in detail. And He loves and calls.

So we all come together this one day each week to worship this Perfect Human, the Second Adam, the initiator of history’s greatest Do-Over. Let us learn to follow Him the other six days. God help us, God heal us.

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