Dance, Cling, Fight

The floors are creaky.  The old wooden kind of floors that you can feel as you walk across them.  You cannot buy that type of wood flooring.  It comes with decades of use, decades of stomp, crawl, pace, plod, clomp, stride. 

Cindy leads us through the old house towards where the soup will be served.  The thick scent of steamy chicken broth floats through the kitchen door.  Beth and Ruby are seated outside of the dining room waiting for the soup to be served.  Beth extends her left hand towards me and pinches out a smile. I grab her cold hand and introduce myself.  Ruby introduces Cliff and thanks Sonja and I for coming to talk to them about our ministry.  We listen to their chatter about the past week and wait for the soup to be served.  We are here to tell them about Beautiful Response, Patrick, Liz, Carlos, the mice and the needs, and the worship every night. 

Cindy comes out of the kitchen and Father Jerry thanks God that He sustains the earth and we get in line to fill our bowls with the thick steamy chicken broth.

The New Testament,
Who wrote it and why and how and when?  I recently heard a lecture about the New Testament.  It explained two different models of perhaps how the New Testament was authored. 

The ‘Preservation’ model suggests that there was this understood Gospel, and the authors were communicating it to people who hadn’t heard yet.  Paul and Mark and the other writers got the Gospel and were passing along the message.

This model assumes a certain clarity-it assumes that the authors all held this same idea and they all communicated and were intending on communicating the same thing. 
The Gospel was understood uniformly as the truth delivered once for all, and the authors got it and so they wanted to explain everything they knew to others.  That is how the New Testament was written-according to the 'Preservation' model.

It’s an interesting idea-even compelling-maybe even true.

The room is dim, lit by soft yellow light bulbs and cracks of light coming in through the window.  There is a huge fireplace tucked behind two red armchairs.  I set my bowl of chicken noodle down next to Sonja and Father Jerry, across from Bob.  We listen to the stories being told around the table-about a parishioner, about Bob’s business, about Cindy’s family. 

The group gets going on old confessional stories.  When Beth was a little girl, she would make up sins to confess.  She wanted to confess appropriately, so she decided she needed more serious sins to confess.  She would lie and make up these huge sins. When she was seven she decided that the sin for the week would be gluttony.  We all chuckle at cute little Beth being a glutton. 

Bob tells us about how he would go to confessional and be really honest about all of the sins he had committed.  Then Bob pauses, looks around at us, and drops the punch line, “Yea, I was honest about what sins I had committed, I just wasn’t honest about who it was that was confessing!” He bends over the table laughing.  We are all laughing.  Bob’s pretty funny.

After a while, Father Jerry stands up and introduces Sonja and I, and we begin to talk about the road that led us to Uganda, to the orphanage, to the sponsors, the non-profit, and to this group of people in the old creaky house. 

The other New Testament model talked about in the lecture is called the ‘Development’ model.  The basic idea behind the development model is that the writers: Luke, Paul, whoever else, were scrambling to find words, ideas, phrases to somehow explain the unexplainable.  They found themselves living in the reality of a resurrection that left them without categories or rhetoric.  So they wrote and they lived, they preached and they served.  And as they did these things, some language began to be used, and some ideas took shape, and some new realities grabbed them, like Jesus’ divinity, and the purity of God’s grace. 
They were trying, with their words, to do justice to an experience that words couldn’t do justice to. 

Beth’s eyes are thin slits of concentration.  She is looking directly at me as I finish talking about how we are trying to come up with the funds to regularly pay for food at the orphanage.  Her intent focus makes me aware of how clumsily I am explaining the sponsorships.  Trimesters, school fees, food, now, 115, send check, blah, blah, blah.  I shut up and turn to Sonja.  Sonja looks towards Beth, says one line and Beth nods in understanding.  She leans back in her chair and repeats what Sonja just said to the woman sitting next to her, who also leans back in the new clarity. 

I look at Sonja and laugh at myself. 

I grab a stack of photos that we have brought and hand them to one of the ladies at the table.  I see the one with the kids worshipping at night, and so I try to explain how every night, the kids worship and dance and pray out loud.  I try to use words to explain the beauty and the simplicity, the trust.

But my words, they don’t dance-not like Rita. 
I see a picture of Daniel, and I start to tell them about how Daniel clings to anyone who will love him. 

But my words, they don’t cling-not like Daniel. 

I see Herman, and I say that Herman is fighting AIDS. 

But my words, they don’t fight.   

Beth smiles at me.  She picks up a picture and looks at it over the top of her glasses. 

I sit back down in my chair and my mind wanders as Sonja explains how education in Uganda works.  It wanders to the New Testament, to the lecture, to the development model.  My mind sits for a moment on the idea that our language and words do not do some things justice. I think about Paul writing to the Philippians being certain that his words wouldn’t rejoice like he wanted them to.  Like my words won’t dance, won’t cling, won’t fight.

Won't dance, won't cling, won't fight

Sonja finishes explaining education, and Father Jerry thanks us for sharing with the group.  Chairs begin to get put away and the remaining soup bowls are swept off to the kitchen.  I stand up and collect the pictures from the end of one of the tables.  Beth comes over to me.  She is little and she is holding a picture and one of our business cards in her left hand.  She grabs my arm tightly with her right and draws in close. 

She looks up into my eyes. Right into my eyes.
Not confused thin slits anymore-wide open now. 

So open-and I can see the blue and the black and the whites of her eyes.

And in her eyes, I can see it

The dance
The cling
The fight

It is there,
Somehow, it is there.

‘You’ll be hearing from us,’ Beth says.  She smiles up at me, then turns, walks across the creaky wood and out the door.