Monday, January 26, 2015

Esta es comunidad.

The people who do the work of the church are often rather unseen.

One of the great things about working in a church is that you see these people. You know the people who will always show up when a need arises, the people who have the time and the energy to make ministry happen day in and day out.

Today, I met two of those people at the cathedral. The first, Ana, was already at work when I came down to the storage room to help. We were making bags of groceries (rice, beans, oil, and either canned sausages or canned sardines) to distribute to the fifty some people who come to the cathedral's weekly Tuesday morning breakfast.

Ana is "un abogada," a lawyer. But this morning, she was scooping rice into bags faster than I could tie them. Working with Karen, the three of us got all fifty bags done in no time flat.

Around the time we ended, Soila showed up. She had thought we were starting at 9:30am instead of 8:30am.  After apologies for the confusion, she helped us reorganize, straighten, and clean the room out. During the conversation, she gently corrected my grammar here and there—una profesora muy buena. When we finished, we sat and talked about learning languages (she understands English but doesn't feel like she speaks it very well) and the best way to eat avocados (mix them with milk and a little sugar in a smoothie).

The sexton, Victor, then showed up to cut some avocados off the tree. He caught some right after he cut them, others fell and bounced, a few came rather close to the heads of those of watching. He gave me two of them. "Necesitan cinco días. Es mejor si se les cubre con un periódico. Entonces estarán listos para comer." "They need five days. It is best if you cover them with a newspaper. Then they will be ready to eat."

This evening, I saw another side of the cathedral. Since I had an opportunity to go to the grocery store to pick up a few things for my apartment, I mentioned to Karen how much I would like to cook for the seminarians (since they will be cooking many of the meals I will eat). We discussed some options and I decided to go with one of my wife's favorites: baked ziti.

Making it in the small kitchen in a seminary apartment reminded me of cooking in the even smaller kitchen in Bethany and my first house in Alexandria, VA. The food she could make come out of that kitchen, that she could get off of that stove with burners that could barely even boil water... it was always amazing.

I remembered how we leaved next to a family of undocumented Hondurans. I remembered how much we loved the smell of their carne asada. I remembered standing near the fence in the backyard, sharing a bit of my scotch with the father in the family as he shared some of his favorite tequila.

I remembered the pain I felt when they all left unexpectedly. The awkwardness of when the new young white couple bought the building and talked with us about how they basically felt the need to gut it because of the condition it had gotten in when twelve people lived there.

I miss my Honduran friend. Even today.

The meal itself was a delight. I've spent more than a few hours with the seminarians now and I've truly enjoyed getting to know them. It's fascinating how every seminary community has the same people.

Marcos is middle-aged, I think, and is funny but also listened to. Esteban is from Ecuador and can make me laugh harder than anyone else. Lourdes is a deacon with a family, but she has come back to seminary to study to be a priest. She carries a quiet experience and is very gentle with the other seminarians. Esteban and John, the deacons from Colombia, fit right in as John demonstrated the bit of English he has learned—much to the delight of all.

It is remarkable how quickly we can love people, isn't it?

Esta es comunidad.

This is community.

There is this idea floating around that one can be spiritual but not religious, that you can be saved on your own without engagement with the church.

Sure, I think God can save whomever God wants. In fact, I'm pretty sure that in the end God's mercy will turn even the hardest of hearts...

But I think it is a great error to think salvation happens outside of community. It doesn't have to be traditional Christian community—God's grace is, like I said, pretty powerful stuff no matter where it is discovered—but there is indeed something about Christian community that is salvific.

There is something powerful about a lawyer filling bags with beans and rice so people will have at least one meal less to worry about.

There is something powerful about a fiery old woman gently helping a young anglo priest speak better Spanish.

There is something immensely powerful about the laughter and stories and smiles around a meal of shared food. Even if we don't all share the same language, we always understand more than we thought we would.

Esta es comunidad.

This is community.

Y me alegro de que esta es la forma en que Dios me salve.

And I'm glad that this is the way God saves me.

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