“… one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.” (Eph. 4:5-6)
One night I received a text from my assistant at work. She asked if I would come to the hospital. Her boyfriend’s grandfather was dying.
I wasn’t sure why this family didn’t call their own pastor. Maybe he was still flooded into his house from the storms of Harvey and couldn’t get out. It didn’t matter.
I put on my priest clothes and got ready to go to the hospital. I prayed that I could be supportive to this family, and that my presence wouldn’t make anyone uncomfortable. They didn’t know me. We were of different Christian traditions. We had different color skins.
I need not have had any apprehensions. This extended African American family welcomed me with great grace. As we were sitting in the waiting room, they asked me to pray for Ralph. We did, all holding hands. When more family members came in, they asked me to pray again. They shared stories about Ralph. They shared love and memories and tears.
Ralph coded. We crowded into his hospital room. I placed my prayer book and anointing oils on his chest. I started the service called Last Rites. As I prayed those ancient prayers the members of this family said their own deeply personal prayers. It was a beautiful litany.
When we finished our praying, I looked at this family. I knew I was on Holy Ground. I knew that this family had just placed Ralph into the hands of Jesus. I knew he had been received and embraced on the other side. The Last Rites in this life had become the First Rites for the next.
Standing there in that circle of love, I was so encouraged. And I want to encourage you with what I saw in that moment. We need to look for what unites us and not for what divides us. The color of our skins doesn’t matter. Our different traditions don’t matter. Our different backgrounds don’t matter. All that matters is that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.”
- Are you more of a divider or uniter? If the former, how might Jesus be calling you to change?
- When Ralph’s African American family received me with so much grace, I felt like I had been adopted into a new family. Have you ever felt like you had been adopted like this? Have you ever extended adoption grace to someone else?
- Jesus turned all dividing lines into circles of love. What is the circle of love and inclusion and connection that Jesus could be calling you to draw and share?