One of my favorite story telling modes is science fiction, and a frequently-used plot device is time travel. The current Star Trek movie, the upcoming Terminator movie, and the television show Lost all use this device. I think I experienced it today – but in a way that moves from fiction to reality.
My day started off by hearing from one of our church members, who is recently back from Afghanistan. He brought in prayer rugs, ceremonial knives, and even dressed in Afghan garb. But what really made it futuristic was how, with pictures and videos, he showed us what his work was like over there. The pictures alone could never have told the story like he did, but with them, he was able to tell us the story in a way that even ten years ago would have been impossible.
Next, I headed down to First Presbyterian in New Orleans. I was baptized as an infant in this church. My parents were active there in the 1950s & 60s. Its sanctuary has always seemed tremendous to me. It is still gorgeous but looks different to my adult eyes. The reason why I was there was to observe their homeless ministry, which our congregation supports. About seven Presbyterians welcomed about sixty homeless people in for worship, food, clothes, and a ticket that pays for sleeping quarters at the Salvation Army. I felt that despite the difference in function between the church folks and the visitors (some there to give and some to receive), everyone talked with each other as equals. For a moment, I caught a glimpse of a future scene that hopefully will become more of a reality in Christ’s larger Church.
For lunch, it was a jump back into the past because I was able to eat at a restaurant that my father used to take me to as a child – Pascale Manales. When I shared with the waitress that it had been some thirty years since I had been there last, she said, “Well the family that owns the restaurant prides itself in not changing. The meal you had then should be replicated today.” And it was – from the Chicken Parmesan to the fresh french bread, it was just as I remembered it.
Dinner and my evening class brought me back to the present, as about ten folks gathered to dig into the Scripture passages for Sunday. The passages in this Easter season have lots to do with the Holy Spirit, and we reflected together on the Trinity, issues facing the church, the city, and our congregation, and what God may be saying to us. Hurricanes, crime, hope, friendships, and diversity peppered the discussion. There were some great observations, including how stress is a common issue facing us all and how God’s love is frequently shown in community.
The past is always bitter-sweet. There are moments in time we will always treasure. There are others we’d like to forget but still inform who we are. The future is a mix of hopes, dreams, and fears. But the time machines in our heads, hopefully, always land us back in the present where God has placed us with a purpose.
What do you see our purpose as today? Why has God given you the experiences that you have had? How can they help us all have a better future?
Questions to ponder and enough for tonight.
All the best & in Christ,