Sunday, September 13, 2009
Colossians 3: 12-17
It's one of my favorite movies, and one that I can count on seeing every Christmas. It's part of the list; hit Hallmark for the cool ornaments, drink at least one glass of egg nog, listen to The Waitresses' song Christmas Wrapping, and watch It's a Wonderful Life, with Jimmy Stewart.
You remember the story; a man named George Bailey is born and raised in a small town. On his way to college, he hears that his father has died. He returns to town, doesn't go to college, and inherits his fathers' little building and loan. Other folks go on to seemingly great accomplishments, after they leave town; his brother is a war hero, and a school friend becomes a millionaire. And there's old George Bailey, still running the building and loan. He marries his high school sweetheart, and moves into an old house that they refurbish to a living loving home.
He makes loans to new immigrants to the town so they can become permanent parts of the community. He slips a little help to a woman who needs to leave town to start a new life, where she doesn't have a reputation. He struggles against the towns' rich guy, who is constantly trying to take over the town so he can run it his way. When there is a rush on the banks in a financial panic, the building and loan survives because George convinces his nervous customers to withdraw just enough money to get them through till the panic is over.
One Christmas Eve (this is the only reason, I think that this is considered a Christmas movie), his uncle, who helps out at the Building and Loan, loses the day's deposit. The uncle has the bad timing to lose this deposit just as the Building and Loan is being inspected by regulators, and it begins to look like George may have been skimming funds. George is desperate, he is in despair, and he decides that his life has been wasted in Bedford Falls, and he jumps off the town bridge into the river.
An apprentice angel named Clarence, who needs his wings to become an official angel, jumps in after him and pulls him out of the river. George tells Clarence it would have been better had he never been born, and so Clarence shows him what that world would have looked like had he not lived; the woman George married would never have been married or have kids, the immigrants are discriminated against, the woman with the reputation gives up and begins to live up to her image, the town would have been taken over by the mean old millionaire, and becomes a sort of Las Vegas.
Convinced of his worth, George is returned to reality by Clarence, and runs back home to apologize to his wife and family for having snapped and yelled at them. There, the town hears of the distress George has been placed in, and turns out en masse to cover the amount of the deposit. People come into the house, on this Christmas eve, and drop off a few coins, a few dollars, but more importantly, celebrate who George has been to all of them. A wire comes from the old school friend--he can have as much as needs. The war hero brother, who George saved from drowning in an icy river when they were kids, comes back and instead of being honored by the townspeople, joins in happily honoring his older brother.
Even the bank regulators toss in some money!
I've never had cause to think about what it felt like to be George, standing there as people kept coming into his house and giving him money. I have been thinking about that, though, this weekend. I think now that while the money was important, it helps him to not go to jail, the story isn't about the money only. What the story is about is the outpouring of love and respect and regard. Donna may not remember what happened Friday night, but as her best friend Nancy says, all of that love has been deposited in there somewhere, and at some level, she is drawing on it for strength and courage.
We've lived in Pennsylvania for less than five years. Donna's worked at Wyoming Seminary the same amount of time. I've only served about two and a half years at each of the appointments I've been sent to. We were not raised here, we are not from here. In some cases, Donna's and my political choices or theological beliefs differ greatly from your own.
All of that is irrelevant; you have shown me the truth and the possibility of how people can live together, and how people can gather in time of need; the words of Colossians ring true; you have clothed yourself with compassion, kindness, and love. You have the peace of Christ ruling in your hearts, to which we indeed have been called.
And I am thankful.
I am thankful to mom for all of her little behind the scenes jobs over the past two plus months; I am thankful to Meg for all of the organization that she has put together for last Friday nights' event. I am thankful to Doug for all of the cooking and the food planning; I am thankful to Northmoreland Volunteer Fire co for the donation of the hall; I am thankful to all the guys at Franklin/Northmoreland Ambulance Co. for making the Donna delivery project a volunteer effort. I am thankful for all of the cooks and servers, the raffle organizers, the cake bakers, and of course to all of the people who came and ate and loved on Donna when she was there.
The money you have donated will come in very handy as Donna's treatments continue, and as she still needs care after radiation and chemo are done. It will be put to good use. But the greater part is the love that you have shown for us, which will sustain us through the tough times that are coming.
With gratitude in my heart, I thank you for reminding me yet again through that dinner Friday night, that the love of God does have hands, faces, and feet, and eats chicken and biscuits!