Summary: Christine and I sat in the window. Directly across from us was a young women. She wore a greasy T-shirt. Her skin was pale, gray. She sat next to the garbage can. She seemed to blend into the concrete, part of the gray buildings, gray sky. Her grea
Loving and Wonderful God, you have called us to be your family. We stand in a moment in time, upheld by the great cloud of witnesses. O God, open our eyes. Open our ears. Open our whole selves to the movement of your spirit through these words and our meditations. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
Many things happened when Christine and I went to California. We spent some good times together, got to see my folks, my brother. We went to LA in far south to see our good buddies and their new baby. We cruised through San Francisco to join up with my folks and my brother Josh. Then, we blasted North to the dry pines, clear lakes, and beautiful mountains of Mount Shasta. We went there to celebrate and officiate at the wedding of my excellent cousin Beth Doolittle to her handsome buck Greg Norby. There are stories to tell of great museums, an invasion of sea lions, a mystical appearance of a deer. I want to share them with you all until you are bored to tears. But, I want to share one impression that left an impact in my heart.
Christine and I were in the Starbuck’s Coffee Shop on Market Street San Francisco. I had just jumped into an Internet Café to check my email, and caught up with Christine. Market Street, San Francisco is like 5th Avenue in New York - lots of fancy shops, movie theatres, museums. Pretty fancy place. A fun place too. To be lost in the bustle and grind of a big city.
When we go away, we see the new places with our old eyes. But when we see the new place, somehow we always come away taking a closer look at ourselves. I went to Market Street, San Francisco; I examined myself.
Christine and I sat in the window. Directly across from us was a young women. She wore a greasy T-shirt. Her skin was pale, gray. She sat next to the garbage can. She seemed to blend into the concrete, part of the gray buildings, gray sky. Her greasy hair covered her face. You could not see her eyes. The busy folks of a big city were just hurrying by here. The did not even know that she existed.
It was no accident that she was in from of Starbuck’s - the icon of a new materialism and overpriced coffee. In front of her rumpled rags, she had a cardboard sign in front of her and a small paper cup. Her cardboard sign said, “Please help me. Every day is a struggle.”
“Please help me. Every day is a struggle.” She was asking people for money. But her sign was a prayer. “Please help me. Every day is a struggle.”
Her sign was a prayer. The money we placed in her cup was not enough to answer her prayer, but would help carry her through. But Christine and I remembered her when we talked about the scripture today:
“(Very important giants of the faith) . . .through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, ministered justice. . . .shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of war, put foreign armies to flight. (But there were other people who did not have good things happen to them) . . . . Others were tortured. . . .suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword . . . .destitute, persecuted, tormented.”
“Please help me. Every day is a struggle.”
“Please help me. Every day is a struggle.”
Her prayer is our prayer. Her day is our day. Her struggle is our struggle. Because she is in the dirt, we have work to do. “Please help me. Every day is a struggle.”
Her body was gray and ragged. My soul has been known to get gray and ragged. Maybe your soul too, your heart, your emotions have gone gray. Maybe you are able to get to your job, get along with your life, but maybe you feel thrown out next to the garbage can, where that woman was sitting.
This book of Hebrews is meant to be an explanation of the Christian faith to the Hebrews - the Jews. The people who read this book knew all about the 10 commandments, who Moses was, what the laws were, what the Sabbath was. They knew all about being Jewish. What the readers of this book did not know much about was this new bunch of people called Christians. They did not know who Jesus was.
They did not know why these people, who believed that Jesus was the Messiah, would endure so much, and yet still be happy. These new Christians were getting beaten and tortured and disgraced. Yet they were joyful. Their faith grew stronger. The more they were persecuted, the more their numbers increased. That was not supposed to happen.