Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Sermons

For as long as I can remember, Sunday has been my favorite day of the week. I remember being in Sunday School at the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York, wishing that church could meet five days per week and school only two. And anybody who knows me knows that I am a serious geek. I loved going to school, but I loved being at church even more. For the most part, I still do.

What I have come to realize later in life is that what I love about Sunday, other than singing the ancient hymns of the church, is the presence of the people of the congregation. I make no judgment about anybody's motives for attending church, at least not in this forum, but rather, I express my gratitude for all the stories, the secrets, the yearnings, the hopes, the dreams, the prayers, and even for the less stellar motives that draw so many people together on Sunday mornings for worship, for teaching, and for shared community time.

When we entered "the house of the Lord" in Bayonnais last Sunday, I was happier to be in that sanctuary than I'd been in such a place in a very long time. I had seen their homes. I had watched their children walk around the village in ripped and dirty clothes. I had seen their bare feet and dusty faces for the three previous days. At 9:15 am in that bright space, there was no dirt, wrinkles, or torn clothing. Spirits were high. Songs rang out loud. And ribbons, ruffles, and shiny shoes abounded.

I was offered the opportunity to extend a few words of gratitude to the congregation on behalf of our team. I was honored to do so and grateful that God kept me from breaking down and turning into a puddle of tears and babble in front of the gathered crowd.

The High and Most Reverend Wes Barry spoke rather eloquently on the story of Jesus healing the paralytic beside the pool of Bethsaida. He challenged us to take up our own mats, our fears, anxieties, and doubts and go forth from that place rejoicing at all that God has done for us, among us, through us, and in us.

An hour or so later, he was outside the guesthouse laughing raucously about a French song he was glad he hadn't sung from the pulpit, blowing bubbles and playing with Play Doh with children, all the while cradling a recently captured scorpion in his waterbottle. Now that's a pastor I can relate to.

A few away from the steps in the photo above, Liz gave her sneakers to a very grateful young man who had led the mountain climbing expedition that day before... the same expedition that I bowed out of. Apparently this young man made the hike in rather flimsy flip flops. Notice the gathering of children watching the hand-off of the shoes. Notice the numbers of bare feet in the photo. I left my sneakers, my flip flops, and more than half of my wardrobe in Bayonnais. I hope someone is getting good use out of it. Truly, it was the least I could do. Thank you, Liz, for setting the example last Sunday afternoon. 

These two little boys came dangerously close to being kidnapped and brought back to Charlotte. Every time the boy on the right heard one of us call his name, Caliboos (I'm sure I've spelled it atrociously), he would smile so brightly and thoroughly that it looked like his entire body was involved in the joy-letting.

The young woman in the orange tee shirt, Evoline, 
was one of our interpreters and guides during our visit in Bayonnais. 

On Sunday afternoon, she led the team on a walk to her home. She introduced us to her family members, showed us their fields, their access to the river, and demonstrated the joy of grinding corn.

I use the word "joy" intentionally here - she smiled the entire time, invited us to try, and then as she sorted out the smallest bits through her basket, she laughingly shared the discarded bits with her dog.

Following our visit to Evoline's house, we went to the medical clinic in town. There is much work to be done to complete the construction of the clinic, but there is much for which to give thanks in that it has come this far.

On our way to the clinic tour, we came upon a happy, talented, and very naked little boy. 
He was a master tire roller - notice the wheel and stick.

Perhaps in repayment for Reverend Barry's fine morning sermon, the underdressed young chap endeavored to teach the Sir Barry how to roll a wheel.

Wes tried unsuccessfully to keep the wheel upright, and then in humility, returned the wheel and stick to their owner, and we all watched in awe as the little fella ran down the patio of the clinic, up the rocky path, and through the canal running alongside the road. He literally rolled the wheel through the running water. Now that is a boy with some serious talent.

On our last walk through the countryside, we were both led and accompanied by the children. This is the loving, patient smile of the little girl who withdrew to the back of the group and walked with me, making sure I didn't slip, slide, or fall into or over the canal. How sweet is her smile? How bright are her eyes?

Are words even necessary here?

Most of the best Sunday sermons are the wordless ones - the ones spoken by the clouds, the trees, the branches laid across babbling brooks, the floating of bubbles, the malleability of Play Doh, the intricacy of a scorpion's many frightening stinging parts, the crunching of the corn grinder, and the naked, the poor, the patient, and the silently ever-present little ones who are always crossing our paths.

No comments: