20 October 2005

Lonely People

I wonder how church marketing experts would respond to the following: one of the major cross-sections of people the Church in the West has failed are those who can legitmately be called lonely. By lonely I mean isolated, marginalized, invisible, etc.

One of my good friends (and future super theologian) recently reminded me of the lyrics from a popular artist.

Ben Folds, Fred Jones, part 2

Fred sits alone
at his desk in the dark
there's an awkward
young shadow that waits in the hall

he has cleared all his things
and he's put them in boxes
things that remind him
that life has been good

twenty-five years
he's worked at the paper
a man's here
to take him downstairs
and "I'm sorry,
Mr. Jones, it's time"

there was no party
and there were no songs
'cause today's just a day
like the day that he started

and no one is left here
that knows his first name
yeah, and life barrels on
like a runaway train

where the passengers change
they don't change anything
you get off
someone else can get on
and "I'm sorry,
Mr. Jones, it's time"

the streetlight
it shines through the shades
casting lines on the floor
and lines on his face
he reflects on the day

Fred gets his paints out
and goes to the basement
projecting some slides
onto a plain white canvas

and traces it,
fills in the spaces
he turns off the slides
and it doesn't look right

yeah, and all of these bastards
have taken his place
he's forgotten, but not yet gone
and "I'm sorry, Mr. Jones"
and "I'm sorry, Mr. Jones"
and "I'm sorry, Mr. Jones, "it's time

“The song paints a portrait of an under-appreciated, long-term employee who for too long equated what he did with who he was, and here he is on his last day struggling with feelings of insignificance in the face of the big picture of his life. Where now? What was left? Why was he even here anymore? Why didn’t anyone care? Why didn’t anyone even notice?” (N. Adam Hill).


A prayer for churches trying to resuce lonely people.

God give us your eyes. When we see the other help us to see you. When we see unimpressive help us to see your son working as a carpenter. When we see homeless help us to remember your son told us “he had no place to lay his head.” When we see poverty help us to remember that you often identified with those the world would call the least. When we encounter divorced and abused help us to bring a healing touch and soothing word. When we see the lonely help us to bring relationship and life.

11 October 2005

Making the World Better One Step at a Time

One could say there's a better more productive way to spend an afternoon. One could argue "what did you really accomplish?" One could call the time spent Sunday afternoon futile, idealistic, pie in the sky, etc.

This past Sunday, a few of us from the Rochester Church of Christ participated in Focus: Hope (Celebrating diverstiy since 1968) WALK 2005: Making a better world one step at a time, Stand up for the dignity of all people.

This event was started as a witness over and against the darkness represented on all fronts during the race riots of Detroit in the late 1960's. The riots that took place in Detroit are among the worst ever recorded in U.S. history. The walk covered an 8 mile stretch that was the epicenter of the riots. This time, black and white Christians marched in peaceful demonstration symbolzing the love, redemption, and unity that should characterize those who profess Jesus as Lord.

WALK History (see http://www.focushope.edu/news/walk.htm)

The annual walk through the streets of Detroit celebrates our rich diversity. It also raises awareness of social and economic problems that continue to haunt us. Much like the nonviolent marches led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Focus: HOPE WALK brings together people who believe in civil and human rights and who are committed to fighting poverty, racism, and injustice.

In the days since the 1967 Detroit riots, much has changed in the city. While you will see neighborhoods and business areas that have rebounded, you will also pass abandoned buildings and homes that are awaiting renewal. The Focus: HOPE complex has evolved to seven-building campus, with a landscaped boulevard and a new park, dedicated to the memory of co-founder Father William Cunningham (1930-1997). It stands as a testament to what people can accomplish when they work together.

The route passes a number of sites that are significant in the histories of Detroit and Highland Park.

The first Ford Motor Company automotive production facility. It opened in 1914 and drew workers from all over the country, seeking the $5 per day wages that were double what other companies paid at the time.

A pocket park on Clairmont and Rosa Parks Boulevard that marks the spot of the blind pig raided by police in 1967 that precipitated the Detroit riots.

*The original Motown recording studios.
*Headquarters of World Medical Relief.
*The elegant Boston-Edison neighborhood.

This route is the same one followed since 1988. Before then, the walk took on different forms. It began in 1970 with a three-day festival called Hope Happenings. Originally held on the Kern block and later moved to the Riverfront, the festival featured fireworks, food, music, amusement rides, and games. It drew crowds larger than the Michigan State Fair. The riverfront event evolved into the weekend ethnic festivals on Hart laza. In 1975, to mark Detroit’s 275th anniversary, the Happening became a walk, patterned after the marches led by Dr. King


Waste of time? Idealistic? Naive?

I wonder if some ancient folks in the Near East said the same thing about the mission and teaching of a carpenter from Nazareth?

04 October 2005

Mary's Song

Today, Kara and I will attend the funeral of one of Kara's lifelong best friends: Dr. Mary Morris. Kara has known Mary since she was a little girl growing up in the shadows of the mountains in Morgantown, WV. Mary worked and taught at Lipscomb University and had been battling colon cancer for well over a year.

When Kara and I moved from ACU back to Lipscomb to finish graduate school, we decided to move directly across the street from Mary's condo. Kara and Mary had a Wednesday night tradition of watching (and critiquing) "American Idol"--along with many evenings watching movies together.

One night, Mary's mother (Lois) called in a state of panic: "Mary's real sick. Could you take us to the ER?" Kara and I got out of bed and spent the next five hours in the Vanderbilt ER with Lois and Mary. We were watching our friend die right before our very eyes.

Seeing Mary's body yesterday was a numbing experience. There are no words in the English language to capture the overwhelming sense of confusion when one sees the body of a person they knew so well. A body that can no longer sigh, laugh, snicker, snap back...nothing.

The first blog I ever wrote (last year) was about Mary. Here's what I wrote.


I spent time yesterday evening with my friend who has stage 4 cancer. We talked about the parousia/heaven (coming of the Lord) and what eternity "will be like." I told her my struggle with the Platonic dualism that's invaded Christian thinking (body-bad, spirit-good) rendering many incapable of seeing the Genesis announcement by YHWH of Creation " made in his own image," and "very good."

We talked about heaven as a return to the Garden, the shalom (peace) in which God intended for us from the very start. We talked about God's longing to redeem all of Creation-leaving us fully in his presence and fully aware of ourselves. And we talked about how in this very moment we are only slivers of our true selves; that God sees us from every moment in the past and every moment in the future. This is who we are, our total identity.

"And then I saw a new heaven, and a new earth..." I'm grateful this morning for John's picture of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel in which Jesus' new body demonstrates our own pending ressurection (not reincartion) and the breath which brings forth new life (the Johannine Pentecost and Genesis 1 poetic description).

The Book of Isaiah declares that God will make all things new. This is hope for one whose body is ravaged with cancer and for her friend trying to make sense of the divine rumors seeping into our suffering world.

I have little time for theology which boasts "God needed another angel" (As if God is a child who doesn't have a sufficient amount of toys) or "Her soul has left her body and is now in heaven" (ignoring Jesus and Paul's witness of bodily ressurection).

Just before Mary died this week she came out of a coma and sang a few of her favorite hymns which declared the presence of God, not the provision. Mary, if only for a brief moment, came out of the tomb to declare something only she could see.
All of creation is in bondage, longing to be restored and remade.

I am anxious to watch Mary dance in New Jerusalem.