The Pink Bunny

 The Pink Bunny                                                    22 October 2019

 Charleston, S. C., is one my favorite places. I had read about it for years, but I had not visited it. The more I read about it the more I wanted to visit.

  Some years ago, I was sent to Ft. Benning, Georgia, for some military training. I was given a weekend off.  A Second Lieutenant’s expertise with a map is legendary. So I looked at a map and noticed the distance between Columbus, GA, and Charleston, S. C. was not that great – maybe an inch or so.  So off I went.

I never regretted it.  Since that first visit I’ve visited there many times. One of the things I like about Charleston is its Anglican heritage and its many churches. On one of those trips a friend and I stayed at a Bed and Breakfast down the street from St. Michael’s church. We went to a service there one morning. At the door I noticed a lady standing there.  She seemed sort of hesitant about going in. She had “tourist” written all over her. I cannot tell a lie – especially in front of you this morning.  It was sort of a warm, pleasant day and she was in a pink sweat suit.  There are pinks and there are pinks – she was in a really pink sweat suit. Also, I have no room to talk but she could really stand to lose a few pounds.  No, to tell you the truth again, maybe more than a few.

Sometimes when you are a tourist where people don’t know you, you’re less hesitant to get into a conversation. We started talking and she said she would really like to go into St. Michael’s for the service but she didn’t feel like she should. It was an early morning service and it seemed like most of the people who would be attending would be tourists like ourselves – and we all seemed to be dressed pretty casually.

I encouraged her to go in.

She did.  As we all were coming out after the service, I saw her again and she commented to me again, “I shouldn’t have gone in.”

 

Jesus told this story to some who trusted in themselves that they were the right sort of people and regarded others with contempt. One who was one of the right sort of people was praying: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector over there.  I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.”

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

 

One who is given the responsibility to preach God’s word – and the privilege to preach – would want to speak of what needs to be said to a particular people and congregation.

I cannot envisage in my wildest imagination if the lady in pink showed up at our front door that she would not be welcomed warmly and be made to feel genuinely and warmly welcome. Because she would be welcome.

As it happened last week, we had a guest at one of our services.  I learned after our service he had been invited by one of our members.  He told his friend who had invited him, ‘I want to sit by myself and just sort of observe,’ which he did. I noticed that during the service a couple of our members went up to him, greeted him.  Had I been him I would have felt welcomed and that this is a warm church who welcome the stranger.

Yet we live in a time in our country of seeming unhappiness and controversy when people say anything about and to other people with whom they might disagree politically or otherwise. Personally, I keep up with what is going on  – generally through the newspaper or other written media – but avoid much of television.  I did catch something the other day where an older couple – probably about my age – happened to catch a political figure having lunch in a restaurant and then took it on themselves to cuss him out. This was caught on video although without the sound.  One can pretty easily figure out the word the woman is calling the man even without the sound.  I don’t know if this is just a Southern thing but she was using a word where I was brought up ladies didn’t use. 

I don’t particularly care for the person that was being harassed yet as I watched the video clip as she was cussing out the man I think one of the things she was really saying even if not out loud was, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people, especially you,” as she directed a particularly pungent cuss words him the man.

Hate looks awfully ugly on people’s faces.  Maybe because it is.

Yet here we are in this beautiful country – overflowing with blessings and beautiful people and there is all this hate, controversy, and contention.

So, what do we do?

We pray.  We invite.

Maybe we avoid those who would knowingly or unknowingly fan the winds of hate and discord – sometimes even those with whom we might agree.

Maybe we avoid conversations with those of our friends and acquaintances whose definition of a thoughtful conversations about politics consist of “Shut up,” he explained. 

Maybe these unhappy times are a sign to us as the body of Christ, a sign to all churches that would be the churches of Christ that we should be a refuge of peace and love.

Maybe this is God’s calling for St. Luke’s in these times.

Last week as we blessed our new sign in the front of the church Fr. Carey commented on all who passed our church as they make their way to wherever they were going.  Maybe in their number there are those who also are seeking the peace of God that passeth understanding and that this is a place where they can find such peace – and be with people who will love them as Christ loves them regardless.

We can do as one of members did last week and invite a friend.

Or maybe we invite a friend or a neighbor who would enjoy one of our Festival of the Senses concerts.  We come and enjoy it with them letting them know that this is an outreach of love to our community and that they can be part of that community.

Maybe we invite them to one of our Evensong services. Maybe we share with them that this is a service that is unique to the Anglican/Episcopal tradition.  That it derives from a love of music that is as old as the times of King David the psalmist along with study of the Scriptures that we believe is as much a responsibility and joy of lay people as clergy.

Maybe we invite a friend or a neighbor to one of our monthly Saturday morning men’s breakfast where we can enjoy one of the thoughtful programs arranged by Jerry Hodges. We do this because we love this community.

 

So, what do we do?

We pray.  We invite.  We love.

Maybe we have a thoughtful friend who is at sort of at lost ends.  Maybe they’ve been hurt by experiences in a church in which they felt offended their intelligence and good sense – maybe was overly harsh in its judgments of people – maybe even a church that was thankful it “was not like other people…”

Maybe we invite them to participate in one of our two study groups both of which study a thoughtful book which explores our faith – and how we live out our faith in our lives.  If you yourself are not in such a group maybe you might consider becoming a part of such a group.

 

We all have sinned and come short.  Admit it.  Haven’t you when you noticed that the readings include “one of the hard sayings” sort of chuckling to yourself and saying’ I wonder how the preacher is going to handle this one!’

And I suspect one of the hardest of His sayings to explain – and especially to live out is – “forgive your enemy” and “love your enemy.”

I suspect the observant have particularly noticed this of me.  I think I am reasonably intelligent.  I keep up with what is going on.  I’ve been blessed with a good education – I graduated from Texarkana, Arkansas, High School. Indeed, friends have commented that I seem to have been educated beyond my intelligence. I try to be respectful and open to opinions with which I do not agree.  I think my opinions are reasonable   - and right.

 

Which, of course, if I think my opinions are right and yours differ……I think your opinions are…wrong.

So how do we square that?

We love God.

And in that love, we love others.

We respect others.

We respect their opinions.

Even if we don’t agree with them.

I personally think we are going through some especially troubling times in our country – even in a time when the economy is good, employment is increasing – any number of good things are going on – yet there is such a spirit of discord, dissention, hate even – that it does not bode well for the longer term.

This is something that should be on our hearts and in our prayers.

 

But in the meantime, our challenge – each one of us – is to live as Christ would want us to live – to be the neighbor and friend He would want us to be to others.

And for St. Luke’s to be a light, His light, in troubled times:

 

An oasis of welcome in a hostile world…

A place of unity in a divided nation,,,,

A house of love in a desert of hate.

Amen.+

 

-      Richard Robertson

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