Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Taste of the Kingdom Meal

Two or three times a month, I go to the nearby Baptist church.  I walk into the basement, nodding politely to the stressed-out-looking Korean ladies who bustle in and out, heels clacking, eternally late for their mid-day services.   In a small office in the basement is a delightful little octogenarian, a fiercely gracious former airline stewardess.  I talk with her for a bit, and then receive my instructions for the day.

I'm a delivery boy for Meals on Wheels.  I bring a day's worth of food to a half-dozen elderly shut-ins and the indigent disabled who are struggling to live on their own.   I do it because it's my duty as a disciple, and because I love doing it.  Honestly, I can't tell where the duty starts and the love leaves off.  

Serving those in need is a vital, vital thing.  It feeds and sustains me spiritually.

But it's not evangelism.

Some folks recoil at that word, associating it with judgmental shouty bible thumpers, weepy televangelists and predatory prosperity preachers.   "What right do I have to tell people what to believe," we say, tolerantly.  "I'm not willing to stand in judgement over another's beliefs."

We say this, and do nothing.  Though the meal we have is delightful, we don't invite others to the table.  And the light of grace in the world grows dim.  All the while, the darkness has no such compunction.  It spreads eagerly, whispering and gibbering and pouring itself into soul after soul.

I was driving back from my last dropoff of the day last week.  I'd delivered to house where an abandoned van sits in the driveway, where a gently confused woman about my age comes to the door and takes the food from my hands.  I smile, and wish her a good day.  She offers thanks, but her voice trembles with the uncertainty that comes from not speaking to others often.

As I drove away, I suddenly felt what it would be if we human beings all approached our world as Jesus would have us approach it.   What it would be if the vulnerable did not have to fear.

I mean, really.  I felt it.

It was not quite a theophany, mind you.  Just a sudden absence of darkness, as if the world were suddenly emptied of hatred.  A sudden absence of weight, as if there was no cause for anxiety.  In every car, in every home, I felt what it would mean if the compassion that is the greatest gift of the Spirit lived in every one of us.

It was as if, for a moment, I caught a glimpse of the Reign.   Those souls who are isolated and alone?  They wouldn't be.  Our stress, our anger, our discord, and our hatred?  Gone.   There'd be no reason for it.  It was as if I was in a world without war or poverty or fear, without the snarling, grasping pursuit of power.  

That blessed reverie lingered for a moment, and then I was back in traffic.

But it left a taste in my mind, a taste of the Kingdom meal.  This is what it could be like, if we made a point of inviting people to grace, and replacing fear.  This is what it would feel like, if we really did both live and speak Good News.

And Good things are worth sharing.