I had an epiphany. If you’ll bear with me, I’d like to share it. Some of my ah ha moments occur in church, either listening to a sermon or anthem, perhaps reading the notes in the bulletin. One minute I’m sitting there just being Julia and the next I am transported to a different space and place. Lovely.
The moment of the latest transformation occurred while I was sitting in the back pew, alone, listening watching and waiting for the revelation when suddenly it comes. I found God speaking plainly there in front of me, black and white, was it really read all over? And here are those simple words, “Jesus did not write a book, He built a community.” My goodness, I thought, is it that all there is to it? Has the answer been before me all along? And as you already know, my friends and readers, it has. The mission is not please publish my book, please please please print my poems, please exhibit my paintings in your fine museum. Rather, the message is simply and in entirety to build communities. Not me me me at all but others others others. Ha! Again, I am so pleased to be best friends with the Holy Spirit as His power, common sense and humor illumine my pathway once more. The good word clearly elucidates that we are all anointed as apostles, disciples, prophets, preachers or healers. Each of us has a gift. We are commissioned to nurture our gifts, lift each other up, rehearsing and responding to the needs of our communities. This leads me to ponder, what is one of the most broken aspects of our modern lives? Lack of community. Or as a therapist friend of mine so eloquently stated, “Our affluence has bought us isolation often followed by alienation.” So sad, so true.
Remember when stores were not open 24/7? I’m giving away my age but I do remember when Momma was baking a cake on Saturday after 5pm or any time on Sunday and the stores were closed. God forgives you when you cook on Sunday if your baked beans and pound cake are for the church supper don’t you know. Momma would be in the middle of making a cake; the eggs and milk were room temperature, the flour sifted and the butter soft, when suddenly she realizes, no sugar. And we would hear her bellow from the kitchen, “Julia, run next door and borrow 2 cups of sugar from Bernice.” “Ah come on Momma, I’m playing with my Skipper dolls, can’t Jamie go? I went last time.” “Did you hear me?” was the only answer I ever got. And of course I did because I had just whined that I didn’t want to go. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to leave my Skppper, it was that I was afraid. But not as afraid as my sister and we both knew that too. So up I got, and ran next door to ask for sugar, measuring cup in hand.
Some of you know that I grew up in Robeson County. Robeson County has three races. During integration we used to say proudly that we were a third, a third, a third. What we meant was that our county was one third Indian, one third black and one third white. Incredible. I grew up traveling all over that county with my Father, going to church homecomings, revivals, funerals and baptisms. Singing gospel and country songs with folks of many colors. Having lots of fun and enjoying myself everywhere I went. Never knowing how unusual it was for a skint kneed little white girl to be in some of those churches, farm fields and tobacco barns. But anyway, there she was having the time of her life.
So if I my family was so casual and comfortable with a third, a third, a third, what was so scary about my next door neighbor’s? I’ll tell you. They were Polish Catholics. And there last name instead of being Smith, Clark or King was Malinsky. I could barely pronounce it, I was so unused to last names ending in vowels. Ridiculous I know it sounds now but not then. Back then it was exotic, unusual and pretty scary. The other thing besides the religious difference, the funny sounding last name, and the fact that they hailed from a country I had never heard of, was that once when I was borrowing milk, I opened their refrigerator and saw beer in there. Oh I thought for sure that Satan was coming down on me just for that seeing. I ran out of there and I’m not even sure I got the cup of milk Momma needed. I never saw my folks drink a drop of alcohol but I’d heard many stories about it causing lost souls. I was sure mine was gone forever.
So getting back to neighbors needing neighbors, creating community and my epiphany in church a few Sundays ago. I’ll finish with this. The Malinskys came to be best friends with my family. While we never went to church together and I didn’t even know where the Catholic church was in my home town, we built a neighborhood community. Mr. Malinsky would come over with a few of his beers discretely disguised in a cooler with his children’s soda and after my Momma’s good cooking, he would unpack his accordion and play us a mournful, joyful, wailing song. Talk about exotic, man. I had never ever heard that sound before except once in a while on Saturday nights watching the Lawrence Welk show on TV. I loved that man dearly for introducing me to that exquisite jumping sound. “Play, play please, did you bring your accordion?” we all begged together. His wife, Bernice, was a great cook also. She and Momma traded recipes and eventually formed a Canasta Club that come hell or high water was going to meet on Tuesday nights at 6pm. Don’t have a car accident on the way or break a tooth or have a child with a fever because that was NO excuse for missing a card game. Later when Bernice got leukemia, Momma became chief bottle washer, cook and nurse. We missed her terribly when she died.
Oddly, Mr. Malinsky, known then as Tony and I got a chance to reconnect through my husband. You see I married a beer drinking Irish Catholic. That was a bit for Lumberton to handle. Never having been one to listen to the likes, dislikes or prejudices of others, I really didn’t think about it until we were trying to plan the wedding. Boy then the differences get highlighted in a neon pink fashion. My in-laws had never even heard of a dry wedding. Funny now but not then. I digress though. Tony thought it was hilarious that I had married not only a Catholic but a beer drinking golfer. Most times when we went home he would coax him over for a beer if not a round of golf. Believe me my husband was happy enough to leave my house for a house with a refrigerator filled with something besides iced tea.
So my epiphany? What does this have to do with my ah ha moment in church? I was filled to the brim with the understanding that my place on this earth at this moment in this life time is not to be as a published author or exhibited painter. The expectation of my God is that I go into the community and attempt to shore up existing connections and create connections where there are none. “Jesus did not write a book, He built a community.” The epiphany I had a few Sundays ago while sitting in church was the voice of the Holy Spirit ringing loud and clear, so let us all go out and do likewise.