Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Little Lower than Angels

As always, when I arrive, Comer and Evelyn were already waiting, seated on the foyer couch. They sat stock still, arms entwined, looking straight ahead with the same hopeful, expectant look. I noticed many residents of the assisted living home in the adjoining alcove, all singing while a perky lady played piano and conducted them, waving her arm in rhythm when she could break from a chord. I thought I recognized some folks from Evelyn's Alzheimer unit there as well.
"How nice," I thought, to see all those people joining together to sing. Evelyn loves to sing and I was surprised to see her mute, on Comer's arm, back ramrod straight, staring fixedly at the front door.
They recognized me then, and both smiled. I hugged them and helped Evelyn to her feet.
"Evelyn, you look lovely, as usual," I said.
"She's wearing her new outfit," said Comer.
"Oh? What's the occasion?"
"You," he said.

I remembered the frantic homeschool morning then, and how I had almost called to cancel our lunch outing. Asherel, sitting happily in the car with me still had hours of school work. I had muttered the whole drive over, "I don't have time for this."
I almost cried to think of Evelyn sitting there in her new outfit, and freshly coiffed hair, waiting for her lunch drive that almost hadn't come.

We decided on extra crispy KFC, and then found a neighborhood I had never driven them through. Most of it was rather run down, mediocre homes. They munched their extra crispy chicken and Comer told me about the nightclub he used to own that slowly lost money to a thieving manager. I had a "Romantic Songs of the 50's" tape on, and Evelyn sang along in between bites of potato wedges. Suddenly, a huge castle came into view. It was surrounded by a moat of water but we could only catch a glimpse of it. Thick stands of bamboo all along the property line occluded our view. We could see bits and pieces of the block long stone mansion, but not enough to really get a good sense of its beauty and size. Even Evelyn craned her neck, trying to peer through the small tree breaks at this enormous home, nestled so incongruously in the midst of modest, even ramshackle homes.
"I wonder who lives there," I said, "Wouldn't you love to be able to meet them?"
"I would," said Comer.
"You know, I have seen some of the rich people, and they look just like you and me."
"They do," said Comer, "In fact, some are just really down to earth. I once sat on a plane next to one of the top muckymucks at Coca Cola. We chatted the whole plane trip, and when it was over, I told him it had been a pleasure talking with him. He said the pleasure was all his. No one dared to talk to him normally, as he was so powerful, so rich, so influential. He said he was lonely."

It is startling sometimes to remember that even the rich people get lonely. And old. And feeble. Sometimes they get Alzheimers, just like the poor folk. In the end, God reminds us, death is the destiny of everyone.(Ecclesiastes 7:2). Even those people in the block long castle with the moat. They were not immune to the human condition any more than all their poor neighbors. The stand of trees might keep out intruders, might hide them from the curious onlookers, but it wouldn't hold back death.

In our recent Bible class, the instructor had made a very interesting point. Jesus had to die but more importantly, He had to rise again. Death came into creation as a consequence of sin. In paying the penalty for sin for all time, He had to overcome death, or the penalty for sin remained. At the Creation, everything was perfect. There was no death; there was no sin. When sin entered the world, so did a whole host of really terrible things, not the least of which was an ongoing slavery to fashion beginning with fig leaves to cover our shame. (One thing many of us probably don't realize is that without that bite of forbidden fruit, there would be no Chanel, Mark Jacobs, or Tory Burch. Fashion Designing would not exist were it not for the disobedience of the one rule God said Adam could not break. Remember the first thing the poor, cringing first family did when confronted with their sin was to cover their nakedness, which prior to that forbidden tasting party, they had not felt any shame over.)

But back to Jesus, and the penalty for sin. As soon as sin enters the picture, the creation is separated from the Creator. This is not hard to understand. Look at how immediately disobedience, anger, irritability or any sin you would like to name hurts and even destroys relationships. The more I see the consequence of sin, the more I understand God's disgust, and the need for extreme measures to banish it. The more I consider the Divine plan of Jesus bearing our iniquities, the more I am in awe of the whole picture. Jesus came to reverse what happened in the Garden of Eden. One man (Adam) started humanity down the perilous road of separating from God; and one man, Jesus, returned humanity to His side. Death was the penalty for sin, and all men must die. Eternal Life was the blessing offered when sin was completely atoned for, and all men could live by accepting God again on His terms. Death itself would be reversed. Jesus couldn't just die for our sins, taking the punishment in our stead. If His punishment truly were eternally atoning, as the Bible claims, then the eternal consequence of sin- separation from God, eternal death, had to be reversed as well. I suppose I had known that, but had never heard it expressed so coherently before. Our physical bodies would still perish, but our eternal bodies would rise again to be with our heavenly Father, and with my first dog, who had been such a wondrous creature.

I walked my two old friends back to the Home. I helped Evelyn brush the extra crispy crumbs from her lovely new outfit. Comer put his arm around her shoulder and they slowly shuffled back inside.
"She wore that new outfit just to go out with us," I told Asherel , as I slid back into the car, "I am so glad we came."

Hebrews 2: 9-10
9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.  10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.

4 comments:

  1. What a story! It sounds like you had a wonderful lunch with your friends even if it was a hectic day. :)

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  2. I envy you ....no, that's not fair, I could do this if I took the time. I ADMIRE you.

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  3. Lu, that is kind of you, but i have to be honest, I grumble every time I leave to go take them to lunch. and every single time, i am so glad i did it. It is to me such an illustration of an inherent sin nature that must be conquered moment by moment

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