Sometimes when it rains it shines
While I don’t recommend a lack of planning, it’s nice when, having been caught unprepared, something unexpected happens to both save and make our day.
A few weeks ago I left home for the 15-minute walk to Eastwood station to catch the train to work. There was some blue sky on the horizon so I ignored the low, grey clouds and the impulse to go back into the house for my umbrella. Five minutes into the walk it started raining, and I eventually had to seek shelter under a tree.
Other commuters, properly attired and equipped, hurried past on the way to catch the train I’d hoped to be boarding. Eventually, a young woman stopped and asked me if I was heading for the station. When I said “Yes”, she offered to share her not overly large umbrella with me.
My first impulse was to thank her and decline, but then thought it would seem churlish to refuse such kindness, so I accepted. It was a somewhat awkward walk, trying to give a semblance of personal space to a stranger under those circumstances and still stay dry. But she seemed unfazed and chatted all the way. When we parted at the station and I thanked her for her kindness, she simply said that it was fine; that other people did kind things for her too.
That experience made my day. As I reflected on the unlikely scenario, biblical comparisons flooded in. The Good Samaritan was the obvious one, followed by the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. I thought about how Jesus accepted hospitality and friendship from people so different from himself. In my case, the differences were clear: age, gender and culture made us, for a short time, unlikely sharers of a confined space.
For people like me, who have lived almost all of their lives as part of a dominant and well-resourced culture, it can be hard to entrust ourselves to the kindness and mercy of others. We like to be in control of situations. Yet to be in a more vulnerable space offers the opportunity to grow in appreciation of the goodness of others.
These learnings also enlighten me in terms of how we as a Church relate to the communities in which we live. One of the insights of ‘Fresh expressions of mission’ is that we are called into our communities not as hosts but as guests; not to set the agenda for others, but to listen and reflect on what it is most appropriate to share from the riches of Christ’s inclusive love. And sometimes, it is not we who do the sharing, but others who share with us.
Like last night, when Helen and I, along with two Jewish guests, were given the hospitality of an Islamic home for their Iftar dinner. As we shared their food at the breaking of their daily Ramadan fast, and exchanged insights into the riches of our Abrahamic heritage, we were drawn closer together — not just in understanding, but also in our common humanity.
These experiences shed light for me on what the prayer of Jesus “That they may be one” might mean, especially in these challenging days when generosity and respect can do so much to infuse the hope for a united and peaceful humanity.
Rev. Dr Brian Brown, Moderator