Friday and Saturday were two of the best days I’ve ever had working at the Inn. We worked hard, we worked well, and we had fun. Part of the reason things went as well as they did was we were appropriately staffed – finally. Part of it was Chef made some minor adjustments to the menu that streamlined things in a helpful way, allowing us to do an excellent job on the meals we made rather than feeling like we were stretched too thin and could do little more than just get something on the plate to send to the tables.
Part of it, for me, was I felt differently about being in the kitchen. I was there because I chose to be, not because I felt like I had to be. A big part of the reason I chose to be there was I really like the people I work with. I know I can’t really trust the owner to deal with me other than thinking of me as a commodity and I have to keep my guard up. I have been counseled to remember I don’t owe him any loyalty. I do, however, feel a sense of loyalty to Chef and the others in the kitchen, not because I think I owe it to them as much as I am choosing to make that commitment. The kitchen works because we trust each other, we support each other, and we all choose to be there. It matters to me that we share a relational connection beyond the work itself.
The creative tension between the owner’s stark business approach to life and the relational connection that pulls me to stay there in spite of him reminds me of Jesus’ advice to the disciples as he was sending them out: “I am sending you out like sheep with wolves all around you. Be wise like snakes and gentle like doves” (Matt. 10:16). Jesus used and as the conjunction rather than or, calling us to be both at the same time because life rarely offers us singular circumstances when it comes to dealing with one another. When the offer came to return to the Inn, I responded with what it would take to get me to come back, which they were willing to do. The call to wisdom means I am to remember that I’m choosing to live with a certain level of insecurity; the call to gentleness means I’m called to treat those around me as if I were going to be with them the rest of my life.
Ginger preached one of her best sermons ever today, using 1 Corinthians 12 and talking about what it means to be the Body of Christ. The way she contextualized and presented both the scripture and the sermon was an object lesson on its own: six of us read the biblical passage, the choir broke in intermittently (at Ginger’s prompting) to “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love,” and she also had me throw in a couple of lines from Godspell (with finger snaps): “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you.’” Her best work was when she went “off book” from her manuscript and spoke to us in the same tone I imagine Jesus delivering the words Matthew records him saying as he sent the Twelve out for the first time, which was one of loving admonition. My favorite line was, “We’ve got some of our teams (that’s what we call committees) who have some issues between them. It’s time to let that stuff go.”
After the service our Church Council met to approve the proposed budget for the coming year in preparation for our annual meeting in two weeks. The group is large – about twenty people – and is a fairly good representation of the various life perspectives in our congregation. In the two hours we were together, we painted a pretty good picture of what it means to be the Body. We worked together, we flailed about a bit, we stumbled here and there, we got frustrated, we felt a sense of accomplishment, we asked good questions, tried to give fair answers, we fussed a bit when our joints creaked, and we supported one another.
We did good work being both wise and gentle.
Church, for me, is like my job in this sense: I choose to go there. Every service I attend, every meeting I go to, every meal I help prepare I do because I choose to do so. My loyalty is not demanded; I’ve decided to be a part of this particular band of Jesus’ people. In our church covenant we say, “We welcome all, excluding none, to join us.” We did a good job incarnating those words today.
Ginger closed her sermon by telling the story of The Legend of San Lorenzo, a walled medieval city, which we learned from our friend Ken. The legend says that a group of conquerors came to the city gates of San Lorenzo and said to the inhabitants, “Bring us your riches.” The people went back inside the city walls and later returned, opening the gates and bringing out their sick and elderly, as well as those who were bruised and broken in body, mind, or spirit. They carried them lovingly and gently on their shoulders and in their arms. They said to the waiting attackers, “These are our treasures.” According to the legend, the conquerors immediately threw down their weapons and took off their armor, exclaiming, “May we come and live here? This is the city we’ve been looking for our whole lives!”
None of us knows what the days ahead may hold. This weekend, I learned again that it is both wise and gentle for me to look at those with whom I’ve chosen to spend these days and say, “These are my peeps.”
Beyond the paychecks and the institutions, that’s what matters most.