The Trap Door of Familiarity
A very dear friend of mine has recently rattled me to a renewed consciousness. After she challenged me to start taking digital photos of my 'world' my eyes were re-opened to the diversity and wonder in it. Here's an example from the end of last week:
It takes less than a minute to come up in the elevator from the third basement of the UN parking garage to my destination, the visitors lobby of the General Assembly hall. The doors open and it was as if I had been transported to Copenhagen - a dancing troupe of men and women were twirling in the General Assembly lobby in a folk dance, resplendent in traditional costume. Walking through the massive, sculpted front doors, I stroll across the flagstone/concrete expanse between two amazing sculptures, down the marble steps, through Security, across First Avenue. Turning west onto East 47th Street there was a demonstration in the pedestrian boulevard: Rabbi Rally for Darfur was taking place. Their public address system was in fine order and one Rabbi or Cantor after another got up to the microphone to plead the cause of the oppressed in the Sudan.
Continuing forward I dodge a string of couriers on their bicycles, zipping, zapping, weaving at breakneck speed through rush hour traffic. A riot of daffodils, strong and a defiant yellow provide a contrast to the gaggle of reporters and cameramen waiting to get a soundbite from the controversial Mr. Bolton, recently appointed US Ambassador to the UN.
I work in a department with people from: Burma, Indonesia, USA, Cameroon, Senegal, the Philippines, Haiti, Russia, France, Scotland, Finland, Spain, Cuba, Ireland, India, England, Trinidad, St.Vincent and the Grenadines, China, Taiwan, Japan, Granada.
Good grief! Where had my appreciation been? My appreciation for all the unique texture of cultural, ethnic, religious diversity?
While serving at the altar as deacon on my last Sunday at St. Bartholomew's I looked out on the congregation of whom I am very fond. My eyes raised and I saw large rose window in the back of the church - over the entrance doors - and was struck by the hues, the blues. It was - it is - it had always been magnificent.
There is a trap door of familiarity. We fall through that trap door into a rut and go round and round on a very small circular track. We put ourselves into autopilot or cruise control and so much of what gives our lives shape, grain, contrast, brightness is overlooked, ignored, taken for granted.
It can happen on Sundays - or any other occasion of corporate prayer. Line up the books and the bulletin.... follow the outline, say the prayers .... there it is... it sneaks up on us... it is so easy to fall through the trap door. When did we move from praying our prayers to saying our prayers???? There is a world of difference. When, with a congregation around you, were you given more than 10 seconds before the invitation to confession and the confession itself? What became of the silence, the sacred space between one action in the next. When is the last time you got to church early, got on your knees (or other prayerful position) and prepared for the Eucharist and receiving the body of Christ? I am guilty of going into worker bee mode and neglecting these things myself..... perhaps more often than I care to divulge.
The trap door is there, make no mistake. There is one antidote --- grace. Perhaps you are shaken out of your numb by a big Dutch girl - that is grace, or the beauty of a stained glass window - that is grace, or a hint of remorse - that is grace.
How do we come through without plunging into that pitfall, through that trapdoor of familiarity? GRACE.
" 'tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home". Ask for it - then count on it.
Speaking of familiarity, it is now one year since I've had the priviledge and pleasure of writing - at Barbara's invitation - More or Less Church (or MOLC). It has become a familiar part of my prayer life and my activity. Grace gives me the strength to acknowledge what an opportunity Barbara gave - and gives me - and the hindsight to see she put a lot of faith in God that this unorthordox storyteller could slowly become a writer who would plant new seeds on the Farm for the benefit of others. Many thanks, Barbara - and all you readers and contributors out there. I'll keep doing what I do here in the hopes that there will be pieces that help you pray, think, laugh, sing, cry....... by the Grace of God! Amen and Amen.