Sometimes I like to trap myself to get something done.
Sometimes it is the only way it will get done really you know?
If you do not know what I mean let me give you a picture.
I’m in Ann Arbor at the moment, at a coffee shop, with no way of getting home until after midnight, it has become dark outside, and it is 15 degrees outside.
I have done this to myself…
Do you know what I mean now?
It’s just I can get so busy that I need to force myself to take sometime to reflect.
This last week was a special one for me.
Why you ask?
Because I have been kicked out of many Catholic places in my life but this week I was allowed in.
(One time I was literally chased out of a Catholic girls school by an elderly nun with an Irish broad. P.S. I had no idea it was a girls school and I was in the wrong building)
(I was also once kicked out of the Archdiocese of Detroit by a security guard that I guarantee you was not Catholic.)
I am not Catholic, I just like beautiful buildings.
There is a very large, very old and very beautiful Seminary behind my house that I have tried to sneak into several times to no avail.
This last week they finally let me in, but only to see the library.
Libraries are just fine.
While my friend and I were poking around through hallways of Philosophy, History and Theology, I encountered several friends I have seen around town that I knew attended the school.
This is one of my favorite things, running into people.
(I’ve blogged about it before in “Connectedness and Other Made Up Words”.)
Brother Johanne, a friend we had run into, invited me to a Mass the next morning.
I’m a pretty outgoing fellow but a Mass sounded very intimidating to me.
He went on to explain this was not just any Mass but one in which he would be honored and recognized as becoming a priest!
(If anyone knows what this is called I would really like to know, I heard words like Acolyte thrown around a lot).
It was at 7am….
My friend I was with opted out unfortunately but I felt I should attend and wanted to honor my friend Brother Johanne.
The next morning I grabbed one of my more available at that ungodly hour friends and with tired eyes…
Before the sun was even up…
We ventured back to the seminary.
As we walked up, the 100 year old building looked monolithic in the snow and early morning air.
The doors flung open and, not knowing what to expect, we were greeted and welcomed in by Brother Johanne himself in a white robe.
He said we were his honored guest as he paraded us in the front row of the most ornate chapel I have ever seen, seating us in reserved spaces near the front.
(Let me just say I am very grateful to my friend who did come and the woman seated next to me for giving me tips and pointers during this experience. And it was an experience in the best way!)
I was so proud of Brother Johanne.
After the Mass, pictures were taken with each of us and we were invited downstairs for a special breakfast where a table had been set for us and a meal prepared!
Eggs and sausage and toast and waffles and yogurts and fruits and cereal and everything you could ever want at the crack of dawn.
Looking around as we were seated, we were all honored guests.
Equals celebrating our friend.
I saw the variety of backgrounds this man we were celebrating who was raised in my neighborhood pulled from, each glimpsing different aspects of the life he lead, each bringing me to the conclusion that there was greatness present.
The kind that wasn’t above getting messy in life with others.
Later my friend and I would talk about these events having come to the conclusion that we were honored in such a way that we did not feel we could return such honor back.
Have you ever felt that way?
Like “Why am I here?”
“I don’t deserve this.”
“Do you even know me?”
“If you REALLY did you wouldn’t be treating me this way.”
In the Gospel of Luke, there is a scene in which Jesus is at a dinner party in the home of someone who was basically a pastor in that day.
(Picture the kind with two jets….)
At this meal it seems people were trying to impress Jesus for political gain and He Just blurts out at this party, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
If this isn’t shocking enough He then goes on to tell a story.
Jesus is good at stories.
C.S. Lewis talks about how stories slip past the watchful dragons of religion and dogma and are able to go straight to the heart of the hearer.
Jesus tells a story about a man preparing a great banquet (as one does).
This man invited many friends and family members but they all seemed to have excuses as to why they couldn’t come (been there..)
One man said I just bought a field and I JUST HAVE to go observe it… (This has happened to me but instead of a field it was a website)
One person said I just got some cows and want to try them out…
Another replied I have married (nuff said…)
The man throwing the party went and told his servant to just go out to the streets and invite everyone and anyone and then go further and invite more still!
Making sure to invite those who could not pay him back.
Those no one would EVER think to invite!
Those who may feel like they don’t deserve it or who maybe ACTUALLY don’t.
In many ways this is such a picture of love and to me of Jesus.
This is something no one could pay back.
I could never pay back Brother Johanne, but the thing that makes the guy throwing this party, and Brother Johanne (and in my estimation God) so similar is this: THEY WERE NOT COUNTING.
Rene’ Girard famously said when talking about how rain falls on the just and unjust alike, that “God gives without counting”.
Who we are or what we had done did not disqualify us from their great acts of love.
It’s a powerful thing.
We often think we have to sacrifice something to be in right standing with others or fulfill our obligations.
Brother Johanne, Jesus, and this guy who threw a banquette disrupt the idea that we have to sacrifice, make amends, or do anything to deserve this favor in the eyes of God.
Give without counting.
What if we treated even just one stranger we encountered that way.
What if we gave that kind of favor to someone who couldn’t owe us or pay us back?
Sounds like a film with Jim Caviezel and Haley Joel Osment from the 90’s to me (Pay it forward).
And if you say it is, well hey, even they got how life changing these sort of experiences can be.
There is something about tables.
In the example of this party, in the example of Brother Johanne, and in the example of Christ and the cross, we see we have been moved from a system where we feel we have to sacrifice to belong, to a table where all are regarded as family.
This is why I love communion so much.
At my church the table is open, to remember, to work together, to participate in and celebrate what Jesus did for us, a life broken and poured out.
The table shows that we are not distant from each other and God is not distant from us.
A dream of mine and of my church community is to buy empty lots like what will be next door to my house one day and build large community tables.
The kind where Luke 14 style blankets can be thrown.
Tables are where family is cultivated.
By the way if you need a table, my friend Brad makes some pretty nifty ones like the one in the photo above!!!
Hit him up!
You will be blown away by his work!!!