“What is the greatest joy in life?” A friend of mine from Seminary, John, asked me that question after soundly beating me during one of our annual games of racquetball. He was always very competitive, though he was not particularly athletic and might have even been considered a little “out of shape.” I am not particularly competitive, though I’ve always exercised pretty regularly. We typically played only once a year during Minister’s Week at TCU. In the meantime, I tried to play regularly enough to improve my game. Sometimes, just to rub his victory in my face, as we’d leave the Y, he’d stop and light up a cigarette.
I figured it was a trick question, so I joked, “A double cheeseburger with a plate of onion rings and a beer?”
We both laughed and then he said, “Knowing you are not alone in this world. Our lives make a difference. We are brushes and paint and colors on the canvas of each other’s lives.”
It was sometimes hard for me to remember that John was a professor of religion and philosophy in New York while I was dodging a hard rubber ball inside a 30 x 15 plaster box. Loosely quoting Thoreau in such a context would easily put a different spin on the whole experience. But he was also true to his words — he spent much of his free time with his family and fellow New Yorkers putting up houses with Habitat for Humanity. In the same way he loved keeping up his connections with friends and family, he reveled in moments of connection with strangers on the streets of New York City.
He once told me that when people get together to raise a house for someone in the community, they don’t eliminate poverty. All they’re doing, really, is helping a neighbor. But the meal together, at the end of the day, is far more satisfying than that of a billionaire celebrating his most recent acquisition.
There is certainly something about working as a community, about seeing community, which is as deeply meaningful as it is exciting. Thoreau spoke of the life we live together, painted on this wild canvas of creation, interconnected and affecting one another — whether we acknowledge or not. It is the wildwood we live in — concrete and asphalt, buildings and barns, pastures and forests . . . Creation and Creator. We are not alone. Somehow our identities and our very substance are caught up in one another, even as the Psalmist reminds us we cannot escape the presence of the Holy in our midst.
Join us this Sunday, in eleven:eleven celebration, as we explore the sacred epiphanies of life together “in the wildwood.” We’ll have special music and welcome a new guest singer from Dallas, Kate Hearn.
I hope to see you then.
And a Special Request:
As we approach our new nine:thirty-nine celebration on February 14, I hope you will give some thought to participating during that time as we try to welcome new visitors and create more opportunity for others in our community to experience the openness, curious reflection, compassion, inclusiveness, and joy that has characterized eleven:eleven celebration for years. We’ll need volunteers to be present for a month or so, to help fill seats at first. And we’ll need help with greeters, the video/camera board, and more. So I hope you will consider making a commitment to help out during the season of Lent.
Let me know if you have any questions or if you can help. Thanks!