Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Word Made Flesh

At our weekly community worship, we frequently listen to scripture  - and talk about it, and sing about it, and act it out! – to discern what the word of God is saying to us today.  But what we discover in community is that it is just as important for us to be the word of God for one another.  At this week’s worship, I had a chance to share some of the moments in my story where God spoke to me through my brothers and sisters in L’Arche…

Last winter I was visiting at McKim House at L’Arche Saint John.  A new Starbucks had opened not too far from the house, and, being a Starbucks Gold card holder, I was more than a little excited.  With a few minutes free, I thought I’d take a trip out for a venti Caramel Macchiato.  “Okay guys”, I announced to the folks in the living room, “just tell me what you want – it’s my treat!!”  Debbie had been sitting quietly in her regular spot, an armchair in the corner, knitting.  Upon hearing of my generous offer she looked up at me and smiled.  “I’ll just have a hug,” she announced.

In May of this year, I was invited by the community of L’Arche Lethbridge to lead their annual Community Retreat.  The talks I prepared for the event drew heavily on stories of some of the most profound lessons I have learned in L’Arche, and my most important teachers.  Many of these wise folks – Mary, Janet, Angela – have passed away.  So by the time we got to the footwashing service of the retreat, I was feeling quite tender and vulnerable, thinking of my old friends, and wondering if my words had done them justice.  I sat in the circle, watching this sacred ritual of care and service, listening to the Taize chants in the background, and as much as I tried to keep them in, the tears snuck out the corners of my eyes.  As I was struggling to keep my emotions discreet, Dana got up from her chair across the circle and walked slowly towards me.  She took the chair next to me, leaned in close and said, “I want you to know that the things you said this week really touched my heart."

To be a long term member of L’Arche is to say a lot of goodbyes.  It is a necessary and painful part of our mission – to open ourselves over and over again to relationships of authenticity, transformation, and honesty.  Even after 20 years, I still struggle with anger and sadness when someone I have come to love makes the decision to leave.  Jamie was one of those people.  Jamie came to L’Arche to learn some skills so that he might be able to achieve his dream of living in his own place someday.  But community came so naturally to him – he thrived in our midst, and he helped us to thrive, too.  So after two years of sharing life with Jamie, when the news came that there was a supported apartment available for Jamie, and that he wanted to move, I was devastated.  Just before his departure date, we gathered in the Chapel for our traditional prayer of blessing for someone who is moving on.  Jamie had a chance to share a little about where he was moving, his new job, and his hopes for the future.  As he finished he acknowledged that he was sad to leave us, and that he knew we were sad, too.  “But I know that you are happy for me, because that’s what friends do.  They are happy when good things happen to people they love."

The word of God that we hear through scripture nourishes and sustains us.  But it has been my experience that, in L’Arche, this word becomes flesh and comes alive through our relationships, and through the wise teachers that are in our midst.