Sunday, June 20, 2010

For the Love of Spinach

Korrina and I accompanied Kathy LeClair to gospel meeting on Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. Kathy's Sunday morning go-to-meeting buddies, Travis and Glenda picked us up for the ride. Kathy, Travis and Glenda give no name to their denomination. Their tradition is home church. The gospel meeting happened in a rented town hall in Kenmore where a cluster of home church participants gathered for hymns, prayer, scripture and interpretation. No stained glass, no church building to support. No offering. No announcements. No cookies afterward. When I told Glenda that I liked the simplicity and focus of the meeting she said "we don't have a choir or band." The hall was full of men, women, children and youth, an intergenerational mix of congregation.

Debbie Cross and Susie Perry spoke at the meeting. In Kathy's tradition, these women are called "workers." Workers have no earthly possessions. Workers sell all they have when they go into full time ministry and take no salary. Kathy calls workers homeless. "They go out two-by-two according to the way that Jesus sent disciples," Kathy explains. I looked around the hall. All the women in the room had hair like Kathy LeClair. There were no bobs, page boys or fuffs. Hair is not cut but pulled together, up and pinned in a bun. Kathy describes her hair as scriptural -- an outward sign of an inner submission. I remembered Verlen telling me that short hair on a woman is an abomination to God. He used to point out the scripture in the bible that told him so. At the gospel meeting, I kept my wool cap on. God knows I'm bald.

Debbie and Susie shared two stories of healing and gratitude. Susie spoke read and spoke from Mark 5, the healing of Legion. Legion, the strong one no one could subdue, the one who broke all chains put upon, the one who was so used to being attacked, he warned Jesus not to hurt him as Jesus came near. When Jesus had his way and the healing accomplished, the people came near and they saw the man (called Legion) who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind. - Mark 5: 15 Debbie read and spoke on Luke 7 where Jesus is anointed by a sinful woman. A Pharisee asks Jesus to dinner and then watches as a woman from the street comes in to his living room. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. -- Luke 7: 38 "The Pharisee says If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is -- that she is a sinner. -- Luke 7: 39 Jesus makes it clear; Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven -- for she loved much. -- Luke 7: 44-47

On the way out Travis asked me if there was anything we needed on the way home. At first I said no, but as he drove on, I got to thinking about his offer. He meant it. I had been wanting some spinach so I asked Travis if we could stop to buy some. After a few miles he turned the car into the parking lot of a grocery. The car turned into the parking lot and there it was -- the band! Under the overhang of the building was a brass band in uniform and step. Deep, cement moving, vibrating, full sound coming from a team of kids who had chosen life. The piped piper is a pip squeak compared to the full brass band drawing us in. I fairly lept out of the car before it came to a stop. I had tears in my eyes remembering Joe taking me to the Spartan Spectacular at Michigan State University. We would sit in a front row and feel the sound of the big horns blow our faces. The band outside QFC had more than music at work. In pouring rain, tuba players were dipping, swaying and reaching embracing heavy instruments like dance partners. The trombone section had synced and practiced their steps. The cymbal player faced the band and lifted her cymbals for the drummer to pling. Her bottom was moving in effective rhythm. How did she do it? That girl played her bottom like a percussion instrument! Everyone and every body was moving. French horns, cornets, trumpets appeared to be dancing as the students played. The conductor wore a fedora, green ascot, top coat and tennis shoes. He was a big, over-sized guy dancing on the pavement. At the conclusion of each song he would pull a small, damp piece of paper out of his pocket and name the next song. And, one, two, three.... and the brass breathed into life again. Their full blown music transported me out and away from cancer. They were authentic. I wanted to be authentic too so I took off my hat and moved to the music bald with the rain coming down my forehead. Foot stomping, toe tapping, shoulder jumping beat. I lifted my feet and marched with the band in my place. When they jumped, I tried to jump but found that I couldn't. Still, the cancer had no sway in the victory of the presence of brass blown forth. It seemed to me that the feet of Jesus and all of us were bathed and anointed with the youth full ensemble and power of horn. Like Legion in the grip of Jesus, torture was through. Evil spirits were driven away and I was in my right mind as never before with the accompaniment of the clear, teamed presence of creative passion. Solos started. Each student rifted and shown, played their given instrument while the band kept the current headed toward the big sea sound. A young black student had a sweat shirt with a hood pulled over his cap brim so that I couldn't see his face. When he blew, he bent and moved from the ground to the sky. It wasn't enough for him to blow and produce. His body and soul gave way to the wave of music coming through him. The music kept on. I wouldn't have quit but Travis came to my elbow and said "should I go in and get the spinach?" I went into the grocery and picked out my bunch since I knew I had to pay for it The doors of the grocery were open and the brass sounds invaded even the day-old bread section and the frozen food coolers. For good measure, I put watermelon and pizza into the cart. Kathy bought a lemon cake. The music extended into the building as far as the produce section. We were shopping, choosing spinach to the beat. At the check-out the clerk at the counter looked like business as usual. "Are your toes tapping under this counter?" I asked. She gave me my total but hadn't given herself over to the sound. Perhaps it was harder, sitting there by the cash register with a job to do. Like the Pharisee who had invited Jesus to dinner. His living room was taken over by Jesus and the women in tears and he was not all that comfortable by the drama. For me, brass is irrepressible. I leaned into it. "Paper or plastic?" Why would I need a bag? I just wanted to take that bunch of spinach, shake it like tambourine and wave, so the water droplets could fall from the leaves and remind me to baptism. The desire of spinach was in my heart and God led us to the band.

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