When the church advocates for militarism rather than peace, for tax cuts rather than school lunches, for the political power of corporations rather than health care for the working poor, for profits rather than the environment, Jesus must look at us and say, “Have I been with you so long but still you do not know me?”
If we know Jesus at all we know that it takes all the spiritual power of one’s life to stand for those with no power, especially when doing so might harm one’s own self-interest, but what else can it mean to take up your cross and follow Jesus?
You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes. And you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Notice that Jesus said our witness of love would radiate out to include our neighbors, our region, the outcast Samaritans. It takes great power to love like that, to authentically include people you don’t know, or don’t like, or don’t agree with in your family. This passage is from the early pages of the book of Acts. If you keep reading it you will see that the limits of the disciples’ inclusion will be tested. Yours will be, too. It will take your breath away to discover whom God expects you to love and include in your family.
Miss Emma grew up in the depression, but she somehow never let a sense of scarcity infect her soul. She had been a widow half of her life, but she never locked her doors or worried about what might happen to her. She lived her life with her face open to the future and her heart open to everyone else. Almost as though she was psychic, Miss Emma showed up with a homemade pie or flowers from her garden when someone was hurting. Her only explanation was that she had known a lot of hurt in her life as well.
When the time came to pray, Miss Emma always was the first one to give thanks, though she probably had less money than anyone in the room. Still, when the offering plate came around, she always had something to give. When there was a conflict in the community it was Miss Emma who made peace, reminding the others that grace was meant for such a time as this. Gratitude, generosity, and grace were what made Miss Emma the most powerful woman in the community.
Perhaps because she didn’t have degrees or wealth or position or possessions to prove it, no one realized Miss Emma’s power until every business in town had to shut down. The schools had to close, too. After being a widow for 40 years, and teaching Sunday school for 63 years, and driving the same beat-up Buick for 28 years, it was Miss Emma who gathered everyone together. They all gathered to say goodbye to the most powerful person in town, the one person they knew who was fully awake every day of her life until the day she commended her Spirit to God.
Rev. Michael Piazza