Yesterday I went to a tea party at my friend Gracie’s. She and her sister Angie were celebrating the April and May birthdays of some of the youth group “girls” from the 1960’s and 70’s.
Not too many people have ties as far back as we do. Some of us grew up in the same church but have gone on to other churches with the changes that family life brings; some of us got to know each other at summer camp and that led into a young people’s group and a college age group that was combined from several churches. We went to conferences together and retreats and then group dates and eventually twosomes. We were at each others’ weddings and sometimes baby showers and over the years our children have gotten to know each other through summer camp and youth group events. We are now at the stage of going to the funerals of each other’s parents, and in spite of the loss at such a time there is a deep connectedness and support for each other that lessens the grief. At these funerals we remind each other of the fun we had in their homes as kids, the lively interest shown in us by their parents, and we have a deep sense of having been blessed as we say an earthly goodbye to one of our parents. What a heritage!
Yesterday I said to my neighbor at tea, “Look around this table. How rare to have a group like this who are so privileged to have what we have! Families, and a home, and friends and even the privileges of education. We are so fortunate even to be able to read compared to the majority of the women in the world!”
But we don’t just rest in the lap of luxury. In the past year we have dealt with unemployment, cancer, hip replacement, job displacement, spousal retirement, divorce, and upside down mortgages. Life has challenges for all. Our conversation was directed towards the needs of the city where we live, a diversified urban culture that is liberal and draws street people and young wanderers here (one of the slogans you hear is “Portland is a city where young people come to retire” i.e., not work.) We talked about how to meet the needs of a society that is rapidly changing and no longer accepts the presuppositions of our 1950’s upbringing. How to make the gospel accessible to people who don’t want the confines of a church, to women who can’t read and don’t speak English, to a youth culture caught up in video gaming.
As we sat at the table, a stranger went in and out of Gracie’s garage. When it was pointed out to her, she said oh yes, he lived there in a corner of their garage. He is a pan-handler up the street, able to read and write, thirty something years old, homeless. He used to hold up a sign at the freeway entrance but now he just stands and reads. Some of the neighbors aren’t too happy about his being given refuge in their garage corner, but this is their conscience towards him.
Maybe this is what our faith is all about, respecting our fellowman who is also made in the image of God , and being to him an expression of God’s love as seen in Jesus.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.