Last week we ate some feast food, literally (lamb!) and spiritually. The Holy Week and Paschal services are intense, hard, and full of wonder. Today I got some plain cooking: pinto beans and cornbread. It was right good.
On a trip to California this week, a hardworking man asked if I was a Christian. I am and told him so. He began to share about his life and what Jesus had done for him. He was a bit older than I am, so had been following Jesus for over fifty years.
What had he learned?
First, he shifted from a high paying blue collar job that required four hours of commuting every day so he could afford a house. (San Franciscons love the working class! They love pricing them out of living in San Francisco.) Why? He felt like a good Christian would put family ahead of money.
He did not mind his service industry job, because had time during the day to pray and “read God’s Word.” “This is important,” he explained, ‘because prayer means you are getting ready.”
“For what?” I asked.
”You have to be ready for death.” He said flatly. This was not morbid and he was obviously not afraid. He was saving to build a house, so he had plans. “But,” he noted, “as the Bible says Christ can come at any time and take us home. You can’t be dumb or you will be unready.”
I asked where he went to church and he told me, basic evangelical with a touch of Pentecostalism: good folks. He asked where I went and I told him. He was glad to hear there were still Christians on Straight Street where Saint Paul got healed. He liked hearing about living faith in the Holy Lands and that reminded him (again!) of Scripture. He noted he had read the Book through, at least two and one-half times.
Prayer was immediate and God’s word worked deeper. Reading it was like prayer, but God’s word kept working down over time. There were things he wanted to do, things that would have harmed his family, that this deep reading stopped. Of course, he also had messed up (his term) and needed mercy. Mercy is freely given, but our response to mercy is to give, especially to the poor.
This hard working man returned to helping the poor, giving, several times in our conversation. Why? He wasn’t being political or telling me what to do. He was quoting Scripture. Since he was saturated in Scripture, he did not stop with the inner stuff, but got to the outer actions that almost always follow such verses. Believe and be baptized. Sell all and give to the poor.
I have no idea his political party, but I know that people around him get help when they need it.
Wonder what an Evangelical is? This working man summed up my day to day experience within the community:
An Evangelical believes in constant personal prayer.
An Evangelical loves to read the Bible and let that text work in his or her heart and mind.
An Evangelical believes in grace, but also in good works as a loving response to the grace.
An Evangelical (think the Salvation Army) knows that he or she is called to help the poor or the hurting.
I am thankful for the wise working man who gave me some wisdom.
I like a feast, but I live on plain cooking.