Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Tuesday, August 24, 2016
When Jesus noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.
The highest place
I have sat at the highest place, the place of friendship and love among people who are better than me, smarter, more talented, more gracious and certainly more exquisitely loving.
I did nothing to deserve their presence and affection. I was simply welcomed inside the circle of their warmth and joy, given a near place where I might truly know … and be known.
Little wonder, then, that today I mourn, as I think of Leon, my friend (I am proud to say) from seminary days so many years past. I called him the boy raised by wolves. He didn’t like that, but it captured his semi-socialized ways.
There was almost no filter between his mind and his mouth, but, oh, what a mind. His was the most wildly active, creative mind I ever knew and perhaps the most undisciplined. The valedictorian of Eveleth (MN) High school, he could hold forth on virtually any subject imaginable, connecting and combining insights from diverse disciplines, putting them together in enlightening, entertaining, unorthodox and often profane ways that would occur to no one else.
He was at the center of every conversation he ever entered, and each and every table where we shared coffee was warmer and more alive because he was there. You never walked away from him without knowing more, feeling more, laughing more and thinking more than when the coffee was poured in those white refectory cups. God, how we laughed.
All of us knew his flights of fancy, undisciplined ways and unfiltered tongue would not translate well to congregational life, so I was not surprised that he served as a pastor only a few years before heading off for other pursuits like teaching history and English.
His obituary says he had three sons. I wonder if they knew how extraordinary he was, or how much we loved him and loved being with him.
I wonder if he ever told them about his friends that pushed around those tables after classes to talk and congratulate ourselves on how smart we thought we were.
I wonder if he knew how much I loved him even though I was, then, under the delusion that I was superior to him because I knew how to play the game and use my moderate skills to get a couple of steps ahead.
And I wonder how we ever lost touch. I would have liked to visit him and remember those days and laugh again at our professors and recall the drama of his wedding day. I would have liked to hug him once more before cancer stole him away from a world that is less bright and alive because he is gone.
I would have liked to said, “Thank you for welcoming me into the highest place. I am better for having sat there.”
Rest in peace, blessed one, I am sure our Lord has a place for the Pastor of Zen Lutheran Church.
Pr. David L. Miller