I am thinking of you as I wake this Sunday morning in the Mediterranean Sea. I find myself a little restless with no sermon to fine tune and a void to fill without a community that gathers eagerly for Worship. I miss you!
John and I have been traveling this month to celebrate fifty years of marriage, and on our journey I have had opportunities to reflect on many things. Our journey has taken us through five countries, and we have met many delightful people on our way. While not intentional, our path has taken us to sites with Biblical significance.
The first week we made our way to Oberammergau, Germany, with our Covenant companion, Brian Mattson, to witness the faithful telling of the events of Holy Week. This Passion Play has been performed every ten years for centuries by generations of faithful villagers who made a promise to God. John and I look forward to a time to join with Brian in sharing our impressions of this extraordinary event with you.
Our next stop was the little town of Ravenna, Italy, a brief pause on our journey before we embarked on a cruise to mark our fifty years together. I thought that Ravenna would be a pause in our journey with nothing of interest to take our time, but as we were leaving Palo Alto, I shared our itinerary with Beverly and Richard Martin and learned that the beautiful paintings found in the Covenant Breezeway and produced by Ra Black can be found in Ravenna. Of eight possible sites to visit, I only had time for one. Early in the morning I rushed to the closest church before a crowd had gathered and entered the sacred space all by myself. I gazed up at the ceiling and saw our Covenant paintings!
Next stop was Athens, and we sat at the foot of Mars Hill, where the apostle Paul once preached. At dinner that evening we sat with a lovely couple from Indiana and talked about our children, our work, and our church families. Somehow the conversation moved from Bible Study to Stewardship patterns in the time of Covid. Finally we reached Ephesus, and I thought of Paul's letter of encouragement and love written to the people there.
In Turkey we stopped at the required visit to a carpet shop, and I groaned at the interruption. This was the third such demonstration for me, and I longed to stay on the bus, but the visit was obligatory, so I joined the group and stepped dutifully into the shop. This time the experience was different. I learned that the owner trained young women from nearby towns and helped them move ahead in life with a process much like our microloans in Guatemala. I learned the names of the weavers and watched as a carpet slowly came to life before my eyes.
Finally the real purpose of our visit was addressed. Which carpet would we like to take home? The shipping would be free. Discounts would be given. My response was loud and very clear. No! I am at the age where I am giving things away. No! I am not even sure where I will be living in the days to come. No! No! No! BUT . . . one young man picked me out of the crowd. It was his first day, and he needed to make a sale. None of my excuses worked for him. Finally he said, as he followed me to the bus, "With this carpet you will at least have a place to lay your head.” And so, my friends, I am now the proud owner of a very small Turkish carpet, a fiftieth anniversary present and a guarantee that I will always have a place to lay my head.
So many learnings in such a few weeks! But most of all I learned how much our faith is woven into the fabric of our lives. Wherever I went, I encountered the stories of our faith and was given the opportunity to live out Jesus' command to greet my neighbor with hospitality and love. And everywhere I went, I was sustained by the community that has loved John and me for the last twelve years.
Thank you for all that you have taught me about faith! And thank you for sharing the Love of Christ with me and with all those you encounter. You are indeed a Blessing in my life!