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Friday, January 10, 2014

Rest of the Story

I got to go to a movie last week, and saw Saving Mr. Banks. It was a wonderful film about the making of the movie Mary Poppins. Yesterday I explained how that movie is a model for reading the Bible, so I hope to blog on that at a future date. I recommend the film as an interesting and upbeat experience.
One reason it is interesting is it gives depth to a movie which was “a big event” of my childhood. I was eight years old then and we rarely ever went to movies. No money for such things. So when the neighborhood kids were packed up and attended that magical film it was wonderful. I was teased mercilessly for my crush on Julie Andrews. This new movie gave us insight into “the rest of the story”….
In 1964 my little sister got a Mary Poppins doll. For some reason I decided that it would look better with a goatee, so with my Bic pen I drew one. Needless to say, little sis cried because her doll was ruined. I told her I would wash it off, which I did. It turns out, however, that Bic pens are more permanent then I expected. So although the goatee was not as bright, it was still obvious. Not to be discouraged, I told her I would fix the problem. Taking a knife, I thought I could scrape off the ink and all would be good as new. Well, I was half right. In my clumsy hands the knife did a hatchet job and Mary Poppins was soon mouthless and chinless. No more ink. No more lower face. My sister did not require I be executed by my parents. I do not know why. She was that way. I repaid her kindness ten years later when she had a mishap in my car. Grace, mercy and love. Learned in a Christian family.
Today my sister is a devout Christian. She is one of those demonized conservative evangelicals who are so often paraded by secular society as the most dangerous people on the planet. I, of course, know different. She is a mom and grandma, has a delightful sense of humor, goes to church and holds traditional beliefs. She also has a heart for single moms.
Her ministry is a tireless commitment to support and raise up women who find themselves in a difficult situation. Statistically, children in such situations are at risk. The bad stuff is more likely and the good stuff is less likely. Some single moms are victims. Others have made bad choices. Most of them are a mix. Raising kids is hard, demanding and often thankless. Doing it alone and trying to work and provide for your kids is extremely hard. Stress drains precious emotional energy. Overwhelmed by the challenges, some of the women might be tempted to despair. I am proud of what my sister does. She does it with love and care. She does it in Jesus, with Jesus and for Jesus. She does it because she knows how much Jesus loves the single moms and their kids. She does it to be a sign of that love and care.
My sister also holds to a traditional sexual morality. Some condemn that sort of thing as oppressive and judgmental. I disagree. God’s plan, God’s instruction (torah) is based on what is best for us.
In my mind, people like my sister are the rest of the story. She isn’t walking up to strangers and asking them to believe. She is taking their hands and walking with them, sometimes at personal expense and sacrifice. She does it in love. She does it to make the lives of these women and their children better.
Yesterday we read The Epistle to Diognetus in our “Bible” Study. It was written around 100-150. My sister’s church would never read that kind of writing, we are different in that way. But what we read would make sense to her. The writer commends Diognetus for his interest in Christianity. He tells him that “you would like to know what God Christians believe in and what sort of cult they practice which enables them to set so little store by this world, and even to make light of death itself…about the warm fraternal affection they feel for one another.” Calling Christians a “new breed of men”, or at least people living “a novel manner of life” the author contrasts the Christian emphasis on taking care of the needy and other virtues not widely held in ancient culture. After the class at Mass we read from 1 John (a book more popular in my sister’s church!). God is love. No one has seen God. If we love one another we love God. Someone said, “Is that the wink from God you always talk about when what we study shows up in our liturgical prayer readings?”
The church is flawed, what else would flawed human beings be doing (even if a new breed in a novel way of life)? But ordinary Christians, regular folks like my sister, are each day reaching out to help others. Not exciting perhaps, certainly not the sort of thing that secularists would have you believe about the church, but just another day loving God and loving one another. Until Jesus comes back and all is made new, it is what the church does, imperfectly. And that is the rest of the story!

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