I recently visited a friend of mine to catch up on life. We shared dinner and conversation for nearly three hours. At one point in the conversation, he remarked how nice it was to actually sit with someone and have a conversation rather than simply have a series of email exchanges or electronic messages. While texting and email dominate the way we stay in touch these days, there is no substitute for face to face, one on one conversation.
On the same trip, earlier in the day I had great plans to visit an art museum in Washington DC. As it happened, the weather was spectacular. The sun emerged and the day was beautiful. Blue sky, sunshine, and warmth conspired to derail my plans. So, instead of visiting the museum, I walked around a bit and eventually took a seat on a park bench. While sitting on the bench, I had the opportunity to meet Mark. He has extended family that live in Harrisburg. He grew up in the Southeast quadrant of DC. He said it's a rough place to live anymore. So, as it turns out, he lives in this park in the Northwest quadrant of the city. It's a relative haven from the chaos of his home neighborhood. He doesn't have a cellphone. Nor does he have what most of us would consider necessities.
For the next couple hours, Mark and I and some of his friends sat there on that park bench enjoying not only the beautiful weather, but also the blessing of conversation and community. Mark told me about the time he was stabbed in the stomach while trying to break up a fight on the Metro. He lifted up his shirt and showed me the scare. He said he lost a lot of blood, but was grateful that he could get to the hospital in time for the necessary care.
Mark also told me about a friend of his that has been in jail for nearly two years for stealing a slice of pizza from a street vendor. While he admitted that stealing the pizza was the wrong thing to do, he was frustrated over such a punishment. As it turns out, the fine that was set as his initial punishment was beyond his ability to pay. So, he was locked up. While he was locked up, he lost his job. And because he lost his job, he lost the ability to pay the fine on time. The result of all this is that he has been in prison ever since.
I experienced what I can refer to as emotional whiplash. This one-on-one conversation with Mark on the park bench reminded me how much I take for granted. Not only did it open my eyes to see the fallout of racial prejudice and systematic stereotyping, it also was a pointed reminder of the blessings that are available when we take the time to encounter our neighbor where they are. At the end of our visit, Mark asked me to pray for him. I asked him to pray for me as well. Then he gave me a hug and a handshake and invited me to visit again. (He apologized for not smiling for the picture, but he was self-conscious because he is missing most of his front upper teeth.)
This Sunday (tomorrow!) as we gather for worship, the Church celebrates the Holy Trinity. This is a reminder that God has been revealed as a community. The unity that is God is revealed as Trinity. There is much room here for acknowledging the mystery. And we appropriately consider our own invitation to participate in the dance of the Trinity.
Weather its a lofty doctrine or the ordinariness of a park-bench conversation, God shows up. Have you had any God-sightings this week? Have you allowed your own plans to be derailed long enough to recognize the ways in which The Triune God is still a God of incarnation? Blessings abound when we take the time to attend to the Christ in our midst.
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Tomorrow is a busy day. We will also be observing Celebration Sunday. Our 2020 Vision campaign has lead us to the point where we will all be asked to consider what type of commitment we will make in support the mission before us. I'm looking forward to our time together tomorrow. Rain or shine, may our fellowship be one that is graced with the Holy Trinity as we remember our identity as baptized children of God who have every reason to grow in boldness and hope!