Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Encountering the Kindom of God in Unexpected Places

Public transportation is an interesting thing, full of interesting people.

Last night, I had a life-giving experience on the train in which I was blessed by the presence of strangers who are generous, kind, and full of hope. People who are willing to go out of their way to help someone out when it is all too easy to just ignore them. To turn up the music in our headphones (as I did) rather than take them off and have a [brief] conversation (as the guy across from me did). I was reminded that in many ways, this is my own, modern version of the Good Samaritan story... and I failed. [in a re-cap of this story to a friend, the story was repeated back as she said to me, "so you saw Jesus on the train tonight and ignored him?" ugh. yes. yes I did. but I took note of doing so...]

Tonight I was on the train with two men from church on our way home from our small group. As the doors closed and the train pulled away, an older gentleman asked one of them men I was with if he wanted to hear about Jesus Christ. The conversation was simple, yet awkward. He was questioned about his faith- are you a Christian or Jew? Catholic or Protestant? What denomination? What church? The quizzing went on. When his stop came and he got off the train, the gentleman turned to me. I need to know and pray to Mary and be a part of the one and only true church- the church that listens to the Pope, who is divinely inspired. My best response was that we would have to agree to disagree. That I am thankful for our diverse beliefs and respect and see great value in honoring our different traditions.

Intrigued with a comfortable response (?) he began to ask me more questions about myself. Am I a Northwestern student? This was my way out... but I felt like I couldn't take it- especially since a parishioner was standing next to me listening! No, I told him, knowing he wouldn't like what I was about to say- I'm a student at the Methodist seminary here in town. He was distraught with the idea that I- a woman- would ever be allowed to bless the sacraments or lead a church - "women are too easily corrupted!" Again- we would have to agree to disagree on this issue. The all of the sudden the man realized he had missed his stop. He began to freak out- to swear up a storm, including using the Lord's name in vain. I stood and watched and listened, distraught in my own way that he would move from trying to evangelize to creating a disruptive ruckus with language that proved offensive to many of those riding on the train with us...

The Kingdom of God is a fascinating thing. God's people are amazing, interesting people. It is opportunities to interact with them that give us further lessons to learn, further questions to ask, further opportunities to grow. For better or worse, I am confident this will not be the last of either of these kinds of experiences- from grace and love and and a faithful trust to cynicism and doubt and hypocrisy... God's people come in all shapes, sizes and colors. I am thankful for all of them... and hope that as we continue in dialogue, we will also continue to learn from one another's mistakes and come together in an effort to bring nearer the Kingdom of God that is upon us...

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