In 2 Corinthians 5: 16-21, Paul tells the church in Corinth—and the church today—that God has entrusted the church with Christ’s ministry of reconciling human beings to God and one another. Paul begins by saying that “in Christ” a new human community has been born, “everything old has passed away.” The “everything old” is the segregated world where Jews and Gentiles, men and women, and slaves and free people don’t have the same status around the table. According to Paul, this old way has died in light of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and “everything has become new.” The new is this strange mongrel community we call church, a community that includes everyone—no exceptions—where everyone has a place at the table.
Paul believed that in Christ we have been reconciled to God, and now we have been called to help God reconcile all humanity into this new community. I saw Christ's ministry of reconciliation working through members of St. Timothy’s last Tuesday night. St. Timothy’s is currently hosting a week of the Interfaith Hospitality Network. IHN is a network of churches and other religious communities that provide shelter, food and hospitality for those who are temporarily homeless. This ministry is led by Libbie Crawford, a member of St. Timothy’s. Prior to our four weeks of hosting three to four families at the Comboni Mission across the street from St. Timothy’s, Libbie spends a month enlisting volunteers. Volunteers are needed to set up for the week; buy food; prepare and serve dinner; host evening activities to give the parents a break; and stay overnight and set out breakfast and lunches in the morning. After breakfast some of the families go to work or school. Others go to the IHN offices in Walnut Hills to work on permanent housing and job placement. All these volunteers are part of Christ’s ministry of reconciliation, being used by the risen Christ to reconnect people to resources and people in the community.
But there was one more piece to Tuesday night that was special and clearly the work of Christ’s reconciling presence. You might call it Wayne’s World. One of the members of St. Timothy’s, Wayne Luessen, is a retired elementary music teacher. Every time we host IHN, he volunteers one of the evenings to provide activities. He always brings his guitar, other instruments for the kids to play, a story to read, and music that fits the story. So, after dinner there we were in the playroom. There was one single mom who aspires to work in the film industry and her one and two-year old. The next morning, she will have to leave at 6:00am and drive 45 minutes to drop her kids off in daycare. She will then have to put in a full-day of work as a Home Care Aid before picking up her kids and driving all the way back to Anderson. There was also another single mom, who will also have to be ready by 6:30am the next morning in order to take the IHN bus to the IHN offices in Walnut Hills to continue looking for an apartment. (Fortunately, she has already found a job at a hotel.) In addition to the moms and kids, there was Wayne, a retired teacher, and me an Episcopal Priest, all of us in the playroom.
Then the magic began. Wayne invited us—moms included—to sit on the floor and color some pictures for three shut-ins at St. Timothy’s. When the kids began to get antsy, Wayne pulled out his guitar and small hand-instruments for the kids and began to play a song that highlighted each of the kids’ instruments. And before you knew it, a disconnected group of people, some facing enormous obstacles, became a joyful, connected community. The risen Christ had used Wayne to make strangers friends. Christ had used Wayne to turn burdened faces into smiling ones. “Everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
Yes, the burdens and challenges these moms face will still be there in morning. Yes, the road ahead for these women and their children won’t be easy. Yes, there will be many days that smiles will be hard to come by. But for an evening the risen Christ appeared and transformed a group of people. Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!