Right now a church that I used to consider my home- away- from -home will be celebrating the life of a beautiful man that everyone knew as “Mr. Billy”. Mr.Billy Hodges… official job title, “Sexton”. Yes, he looked after the church and the churchyard…but what he did was so much more!
I have no idea how old Billy was. He could have been 83 or 103. He always looked the same. All I saw was a smile and a hand held out to the little children to shake or high-five.
He lived in a modest little cottage across the street from the ever-growing-more -gorgeous- with each- new- addition Episcopal church in what would be considered by all a very wealthy community.
But Billy was simple. And I must say it again because there is no other way to describe him…he was beautiful.
He was crooked and wiry and bald and wrinkled. But he sparkled. He twinkled. He made me smile. He makes me smile even now as I think back on him riding around in his worn out golf cart…toting odds and ends to be thrown away or repaired…driving his little shaggy side-kick mutt around with him.
It was so sad the day that Mr. Billy’s best dog friend died. Friends do die. Or their bodies do. They move on, but eventually they meet again. Billy’s dog is a happy boy today.
Saturday night I happened to see a lady that I used to know. She told me of Mr. Billy’s passing. She said that the funeral would be “Tuesday at 2″. I planned to go back to the church where my youngest child was Baptized…where I got my first church job…where I learned from the pastors that hired me and mentored me that there is a lot about life that is a Mystery and that it is OK not to know all of the answers. We will know – Now it’s OK to let God be God. He knows everything, and since we don’t, let’s follow His lead!
I slept in that church with my family when the electricity at my house was off for a week.
I taught Sunday school every Sunday and danced and sang and taught chapel to preschoolers the other days of the week. And Mr. Billy was there…always with a smile and an old man shaky voice saying”hey!” and an old man shaky hand held out to the little ones. “Hey Mr. Billy! Hey Mr. Billy! Hey!” He would wave and grin and grin. I was a preschool and children’s teacher and minister at that church. And he was too.
I planned on going to the funeral today to show my respects…but Mr. Billy always lived alone when I knew him…and I never met any of his family…
I planned to go and sit in the sanctuary and look toward the clear windows behind the altar…behind the pulpit where my favorite preacher would officiate Mr. Billy’s ceremony. I used to thank God for the Seasons and Creation and the simplicity of that sanctuary…views of nature… and I would appreciate that there was no organ to over-power and drown out the voices lifted in praise, only a piano and a lovely and talented pianist.
I am not there…I am instead at home…thinking about and talking to Billy now. Billy might be very happy to know that he was so well loved. I didn’t feel like I needed to go back to that place for him. I wouldn’t see him there today. I see him in my mind and heart and he knows that.
Here is some irony for you…this past Sunday at my new church home where I do the same jobs that I used to do when I knew Mr. Billy, some friends and I were discussing “Beautiful Outlaw” by John Eldredge.
“How would you describe Jesus to someone?”
That was the question that our group was supposed to answer.
Beautiful. Not conventionally…not like a GQ or Abercrombie model. We are told that Jesus was plain and ordinary…nothing much to look at…
“For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” Isaiah 53:2
…Like Mr. Billy.
Those who knew Jesus thought that he was gorgeous. He was irresistible. It was his light. It was the love that people basked in when they were near to him. That is what beautiful looks like. That is what Billy looked like.
One friend admitted that she has a very hard time “evangelizing” or talking to people about Jesus. Others agreed that it is not easy.
One thoughtful fellow said that he finds it easier to talk to people about God.
Is it because God seems far away…removed…untouchable…a King on a Throne that is protected by armed guards? Not someone who would reach out and grab your hand and say, “hey!” Does God seem like a wrathful King that would as soon cut off your head or throw you in a pit of fire than ask you to sit down beside of him, hold your hand and hear your earnest plea? And if He seems unapproachable to us do we decide not to approach? Because we don’t know him or understand His ways…and we believe it is safer to fly under the radar…keep a low profile…blend in…keep our distance?
Why is it easier to talk generically about “God”…like he is that Father that is always super busy running the world and probably doesn’t think too very much about any one person because there is just so much to keep up with…that Father that put on His dress clothes and heads out too work and comes in to say a prayer with you at dinner and to tuck you in at night and when you try to talk to him he curtly says, “No” or “Yes” to your comments and requests…
Of course I put my 2 dollars worth of opinion into the conversation…and said that God the Father and Jesus are the same for me. You can’t know the Father until you know the Son…because Jesus is the perfect image of the father in a form that we can understand. Jesus wasn’t being exclusive when he said that the only way to the Father is through the son. He wasn’t being boastful and proud. He was just stating a simple fact that because they are the same, you must know both to know one. And Once you know both of them then you also get to know God’s Spirit too.
I don’t get caught up in the whole “Trinity” conundrum. I don’t mean to confuse anyone who isn’t ready for this “simple” explanation…but perhaps I can help shed some light if this is a problem that trips you up or makes your head spin or makes you throw up your hands or leaves you in the dark.
First, I will tell you how my precious friend Nan kind of rewords this explanation in lay terms. She said God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit are like Ice, water and Steam.
They are the same elementally.
They all have the same properties…they just take on different forms…the form that we need in that moment. Do we need a refuge? Do we need a ear to hear us and understand? Do we need a guide?
Obviously steam would be the Spirit…over under in and around. Surrounding us, permeating us, adapting to our movements each and every moment… Going before us so that we can know what the next step should be. Nudging. Urging. Warning. Working through us to do what we are made to do; helping us say what we are supposed to say; helping us pray when the words won’t come…
To me Ice is like the Father. Solid. Impenetrable. A fortress…Never changing. Reliable in sameness and structure. Constant and consistent. He IS. He is what he is. …”Then Moses said to God, ‘Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you.” Now they may say to me, “What is His name?”What shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.”Exodus 3:14-15
The Son is water… flowing where it needs to go. Meeting us whereever we are. Merging into us and changing us. Washing away anything that is imperfect. Refreshing us. Holding us up when the earth wants to bury us and cover us over.
God has three unique and equal ways to let us know about him… and us… and how we are supposed to relate to God and to each other.
The Father is the One with the Vision. He is NOT .3333 of ONE.
The Father is complete.
The Son is the One who can understand the Father: The Father’s wants and The Father’s ways…and the Son also COMPLETELY understand us because he has been here. He knows how hard it is…how painful life is for our heart sometimes and how painful it is for our mind…and he really knows how painful it is to live in flesh. He got hungry and thirsty and angry and sad. He got frustrated and felt abandoned. He got threatened and taunted and beaten and killed. He really was the most human of us all because he didn’t play the games of denial that we do with ourselves and others. He never wore a mask to try and hide who he was or how he felt. He, just like the Father knows exactly who he is and why he is. He is real. He is true. Nothing that he ever did was done with any selfish motivation. He showed us God’s character …He showed us that the only One that we need to care about accepting us is the one who made us! And He made us how we are for His purposes…and that is good. You and are made for good reason.
Jesus is God who we can relate to. He is not removed from us. He works with us and walks and talks with us. He cried for and with us and turned over tables for us. He bled for us and then came back to us and said, “Do you love me?” He still asks us that question.
Maybe that is why it is so hard for us to want to know him or have him know us…because it is very intimate. Do we instinctively know that if we let him in that he will actually see us…see through our walls and into the hurts in our heart? Or into our mind and the ugliness that can be there? Are we afraid that if he looks then we will have to look too and that is just too much? How could he love…even like us when we are so unlikable? So petty? So cruel? So tainted? How could God who is pure love me when I am ….not.
Our idea of God far away is far less threatening than Jesus reaching out to pull us into a heart-felt embrace. Why would Jesus want to do that? What are his motives? to make me feel guilty and ashamed? Or to let me know that everything is alright? …Or it will be.
Jesus, the Son is not 1/3 of a whole.
He is One. He is complete. He has his role to play in the work of God and that is to be our friend and brother and help us to realize that we are not alone and that we too are capable of being whole and strong and loved. We are not worthless! We are worthy of God’s love. He himself decided that we are worthy of His Life.
The Holy Spirit’s job is to convict us of these Truths when everything in the world tries to dissuade us.
The Spirit says, “You are beautiful!” The world says, “You are hideous.”
The Spirit says, “You are mine!” The world says, “You are alone.”
The Spirit says, “You are free!” The world says, ” You are nobody going nowhere.”
The Spirit says, “You are perfect!” The world says, “You will never be enough.”
The Spirit says, “I want to know you and be known by you!” The world says, “Nobody cares.”
The Spirit says, “Don’t be afraid!” The Spirit says, “I’m here all around you just look…seek me and you will find me!” The Spirit says, “You are the Greatest Creation of all and you are just not supposed to realize how much power you have…because if you realized who you are and Whose you are then you could literally change the world. For good. For God.”
Have you seen the “family stickers” on the back windshield of cars? The mom, dad, all the kids and pets…sometimes with the favorite team paraphernalia (shirts, foam hand, caps etc.)? I saw a car today that had a sticker on the back of a hockey mask and chain saw cutting the stick family “family sticker”…and it said, “No body cares about your stick family.”
That might be a little bit funny in a twisted and demented way. But that is the world and what it says to us all day everyday. And it gets to us. We play that back in our head. We believe it is probably true.
But it isn’t. You care. That is somebody. You care.
That is who we are meant to be. Caring. Loving. Changing the World…for Good.
The Spirit is One. All three together work as a perfect team. And God…the Father, the Son and the Spirit want us on their team. They have invited us and provided everything that we need. We are already the victors. We just need to claim the prize. And they need for us to let other people know.
If we aren’t good at talking about God, then follow the advice of St. Francis of Assisi “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” Live it.
Evil is selfish. Evil is conceited and self-important. What evil has it wants to keep. It hoards. It hold tight. It closes up shop with bolt locks. It closes windows and draws curtains and turns out the light.
Darkness can be scary.
Unless we know that there is no reason to fear.
There is no reason to fear.
God is so good that he wants for us to be light in that darkness. God needs our help to spread the light so that people can escape the dark places that they have found themselves in.
Mr. Billy Hodges was a light. Billy did his work that he was given to do by men and did the work that he was given to do by God.
I can hear the Angels applauding his arrival. They are smiling with gleaming, shiny eyes…and he is smiling back…and he is holding out his work-worn hand for shakes and high-fives all around.
“… the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'” Matthew 25:22,23
Well done, Billy Hodges. Enter into your well deserved joy.
You were loved.