You Are My Beloved

“You are my beloved, my own, with whom I am well pleased.”___God

 

  

I often think of God as looking a lot like Gertrude Ayers.

And she would deliver ponies!

 

 

 

I am that kid standing on tippie-toes in flannel pajamas on the stairs in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve, because I KNOW, I am certain down to my very bones and my blood that, buried in the big wood crate of crap in the corner, there IS a pony in there somewhere! I want to dig it out, let it breathe, let it run!

It is life, abundant and free!It is the life, joy, peace and delight that God looked at us and said, “there, for you.” It is grace. And…

I just can’t wait! I am restless, yearning, often impatient, sometimes I get in people’s face, yep, I did it again last week, as I am chomping at the bit, standing on tip-toe with Saint Paul who writes in Romans 8, that along with the whole creation I am groaning in “labor pains” with “eager longing” for the fulfilment of all of God’s loving intention for all of humanity.

That is one of my ‘spiritual gifts,’ so my Spiritual Director tells me, this eagerness and passion that burns hot and intense, and it is also one of the challenges I try to manage. (Carried away doesn’t always even begin to cover it. Especially when you are in the way of grace ‘coming through.’ I’ll push you aside. Justsayin’.)

I stand on the stairs of this human experience and I can see ‘the promised land,’ I can taste and feel and hear and even smell it – the flourishing of all the people God created and every single one of them, created in the ‘image and likeness of God,’ and of whom God says, with a loving, prolonged gaze, “You are my beloved, my own, with whom I am well pleased.” The Marade was one long miracle. 40,000 miracles. God on the march.  I can’tstop singing.

And now, in the middle of all this, seeing new opportunities to reach out and embrace and celebrate good news, now, right now…

My friend, David, is dying. You would love David. He is very funny, with that all-purpose sense of humor that everybody can enjoy: not too subtle, not too wry or snarky, not saccharine or too obvious, perfect. He just made you laugh. And smile.

I never ran into David when he didn’t have a smile for me. It might be a hot as blazes July night in Chicago, 110 degrees in the baked-oven of an ancient church sanctuary, with its enormous west-facing window allowing every lumen of sunlight to drench us in sweat and the 200 percent humidity, (we joked about not needing to put water in the baptismal font, it was already dripping in), that cavern of a room with paint peeling off the century-old walls and the portrait of Mary seeming to ooze real tears, and Kaia learning to crawl under the pews, but, hey, David would greet me with a big smile. And a hug.

And mind you, he was already dripping, wearing his alb, a white, itchy and, always too heavy, uncomfortable garment created for worship leaders in some traditions. He was often the lay assisting minister. He would smile and tell me – even before Kaia’s birth, back in the summer when I was seven months into pregnancy – that he’d be there to catch me if I fell over in the pulpit. Because, of course, I WOULD wear that alb, and then put on a heavier wool and brocade chasuble at communion time, and, no, I wouldn’t get away with shirt sleeves. We did things right. :)

David’s smile, though, often turned serious rather quickly, as he related that the organist was sick, or that another one of our community had died. In those days, a lot of the members of this community died. It was 1985, ‘86’, ’87, into the 90’s.

Too many young men, refugees to the city from families and churches and towns who had disowned them, kicked them out, shamed and humiliated them simply for being gay, were dying of AIDS. We hardly knew at first what it was. Weekly, it seemed, we grieved a death. And the prayer list ran for pages.

I learned all about “T cells” and “viral loads” “ELISA” tests, and “Seroconversion” and gave up my office regularly for a support group. We rejoiced (seriously, it was all the good news we had for what we had to deal with) when a new test would shorten the long wait between blood draw and diagnosis. Tests were done at our church, a community center, by a leading local doctor. The line stretched out the door.

And David, in a monogamous partnership, was visibly shaken, authentically overcome with sadness and grief. The throw-away kids from the hinterlands – probably not unlike some of the kids we meet at Urban Peak – were so terribly vulnerable. We ached for them. And we hugged a lot. When we passed the peace, it went on for twenty minutes.

“David,” wrote his dad recently, “was always the one to hold and hug the kid,” or the man who was not so much a kid anymore, many older men, still outcast, all of them “Samaritans,” who were abandoned by family, church, town, and most of the world back then, “when there was no one else to hold them. David held them and promised them from God, ‘You are my beloved, my own.’

“David was there on countless occasions,” said his father, “as these beleaguered souls made their final journey into the loving arms of God.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiZ9xXoZ1Mk&feature=em-share_video_user

And now David is his final journey, dying of a stupid cancer, stupid stupid cancer. And his family, who never let him go, are holding him, along with many dear friends who shared his mission and passion for loving all of God’s own beloved. He will be wrapped in arms of grace even as he enters the forever-embrace of his Loving Savior.

David was my mentor as he and I (and a host of others in that time and place) shared a great passion! Not only to ‘do it right’ :) but most especially to love the ones who had been pushed out, put down, sent packing.

Our church was pretty much a community of refugees and exiles from all over America, and the sometimes world, who found in one another, the face and the spirit and the arms of the One God Sent, Jesus of Nazareth, and in whose name we said this to each other, ‘You are my beloved.’

And when one of us got weary, there was always David, or another ‘David’ beside him, to go, hold, hug, speak words of grace. We never ran out of love, of arms, of grace.

Because that is what life is all about.

Sharing grace. With all manner or ‘refugees’ and ‘exiles,’ those who look just like us, those who are nothing like us. We are all God’sbeloved, created in God’simage and likeness, and God will stop at nothing,nothing,to find us and “bring all the lost home.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FVdRGIp9uE&feature=em-share_video_user


We are living between the“TILT!” that God injected into the world at Christmas, a kind of cosmic, saving plate tectonics, a shift in the foundation of the world, as God became human (do we really get that? wrap our minds around it?It’sBIG!) –this intervention in our world, as

“God became as we are so that – “Yes, this:“we might become as God is.”

So said the earliest church teachers and disciples. Huh? How?

“TILT!”is even more than light shining, more than God-with-us.

“TILT!”is us with God! Our joining the very life of God, and becoming “in Christ” …“who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations…”(Eph3:20)

We live between this life-altering “TILT!” and the ultimate completion of God’s desires for this creation. We live deep in the realities of sin – in the place of falling and turning away from God’s grace and mercy and call to live already / as if the fullness has overwhelmed the planet completely – and we forget.

We forget to stand on tiptoe on the stairs in the middle of the night. We forget to wrap our arms of love (God’s arms, really) around the broken and betrayed, the exiled and outcasts, the poor and forlorn. I don’t think we mean to. I don’t think we’re mean.

We just forget who we are.

We are “in Christ.” We live now “in Christ.”

Sometime, take even a few minutes and page through the letters (starting with Romans) of the New Testament. Ask Pastor Dave and Vikki to give you a quarter every time you see the phrase, “in Christ.” (Then give it back to the Ready to Bless fund!) Take a few extra moments with Galatians 3:28 and Ephesians 2: 13. We’re all there.

David K., who wouldn’t need to hide his identity but I’ll just leave it at that for now, David who is dying, is still giving. He is still living for others, still alive “in Christ,” and he is still sharing God’s enveloping grace. I also think that he can already see that pony!

David is one of the saints, a magnificent human-really-being, who humbled me as he, a business executive at the time (and until retirement) took on the role of a servant and carried those too sick to walk. He is a mentor in the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, the realm of God’s intention, and now David is soon to experience the overwhelming dimensions of that “beloved community” of which Dr. King spoke, in all its fullness. I imagine the vast numbers of those he ministered to will all be there to welcome him, to point out (okay, analogies are good!) the wonders of this land where all are welcome, though Kaia no longer crawls under the pews, and (like I said, analogies are good!) the temperature is just right for wearing an alb, if you are so inclined. And Mary does not weep any tears.

Thank you, David Kieschnick, for teaching me to be, truly, “in Christ.” Who is your mentor? Who can you teach? Who can you embrace, in Jesus’ name, and say, ‘This is my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.’

Jan Erickson Pearson

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