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Saturday after Lent IV–March 28, 2009

  • Posted on Mar 28, 2009

Crossing Over Part Two

And leaving the crowd behind, the disciples took Jesus with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still not faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4: 36-41

In my sermon at the Lenten ecumenical series at Union Baptist on Wednesday, my sermon theme was “crossing over.” Now we all cross over thresholds in all through our lives. We learn to walk and walk across the room into our parent’s waiting arms. We learn to cross the street. As adults, we cross from one neighborhood to another as we go to work and back home again. Sometimes I wonder to myself how many times I’ve crossed North Avenue off of 1-83 as I make my way to school and home and church. Crossing over is part of the repetition that brings God’s love to us in our ordinary routines.

But then there is a crossing over such as the disciples find with Jesus in Mark’s gospel. There is that time when we are called to step into the boat, go out into the wind and waves, and cross over into a place that we fear and dread. Sometimes that’s the only way for us truly to trust God. To get in the boat when we least want to get in the boat. A surgery. A death. Leaving a relationship. Confronting the other. Embracing the other.

On Wednesday, I told a story about my time in South Africa and a time that I had to get into the boat, ride the wind and the waves, and cross over into a new way of living. Near St Francis Church in Walkerville, there is an elderly group home called Abbeyfield. During my time, eight proper British ladies lived there. At the back of the property was a one-room shack. In that one-room shack lived Delores–Abbeyfield’s maid. I would see Delores when I came to celebrate a monthly Eucharist with the ladies. She would often come in for communion from the kitchen. Then, I didn’t see her for a good long time. One day, I received a call from one of the ladies. Would I come and visit Delores–she was back and very ill.

The day I arrived to visit Delores, the ladies were waiting for me. They explained that she had gone home to the Orange Free State (about a day’s journey) because she was ill. However, she had come back. Her family had asked her to leave. They had disowned her. Delores had AIDS. As I crossed the yard to visit her, I had to ask Jesus to be with me. AIDS was making its way across South Africa from Durban to Johannesberg slowly. This was my first AIDS visit in Africa. What would the visit bring? I entered the shack. It was dark. I couldn’t see a thing. Gradually, I saw a figured huddled under several blankets on a simple cot. As I came closer, it was Delores. Horribly thin, shaking with fever. She asked for communion. As she took the Body and Blood of Jesus, I noticed her face and mouth were covered in sores. I sat with her and held her hand. There wasn’t much to say except pray. Pray for Jesus to ride with her through this storm. After I visited Delores, she died a few days later.

I will always think of Delores as the face of AIDS in Africa. In her suffering, there were many crossing overs. The English ladies of Abbeyfield were asked by Jesus to get in the boat and care for a black woman. They crossed over into a new life and became her only family at the end. Delores had to cross over and come to Abbeyfield to find a home where she could die with dignity and peace. That’s what mission is all about –crossing over into a new land. Stepping in the boat when we are full of faith and when we are fearful. Knowing that Jesus is with us with every waves. Where has God asked you to get in the boat this Lent?