Friday, March 30, 2007


What makes people happy?

He hath shown thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:8

The people who go to Country View Chapel are strange looking to people who don’t know them. The gestures they make: grown men rubbing their rough cheeks together in a Holy Kiss. The man with the scraggly beard who starts the songs sharps them a half step every verse. The
wrinkled widows, clutch their Bibles, squint through their cataracts, and scribble notes-to-self on how to make the teachings of Jesus practicable in their lives. The ministers start off their ramblings with comments on the weather. Warmth and light reminds one of heaven; budding plants reminds the other of new life. The deacon says: people say if only I could posses something different: a wife, a car, a house, a salary, a body, an authority. Covetousness is the unlawful desire for what we don’t need. The man who covets is always poor.

Life isn’t contained by our possessions says the deacon. Neither is it indicated by the pursuit of self interest alone. Rather it is in becoming one with God/with each other. It’s not the pleasure principle exactly, but by making obedience not grievous: helping, loving those in need. This is the Mennonite way. It seems attractive. Small children reciting verses of scripture, squirming out loud; mothers and mothers-in-training sit on the left on hard wood benches. Fathers, bread-winners, sit on the right. No one knows why.

We don’t have any control over the time God allows us to have, the deacon says. Only faith, trust and honesty, as the cover of the church service bulletin says, will last. That is to say: visiting the sick, caring for the widows, and otherwise loving each other – this will go on. This social organization of men in black coats and white shirts, women in hand sewn pastels and white mesh “coverings” clasping their children and Sunday school “quarterlies” from Christian Light Publications, backing their cars into gravel parking spaces in front of the chicken wire enclosed cemetery, conscious and unconscious in their solidarity – this will go on. It you don’t enjoy life with what you have, you won’t enjoy life with more: that’s just a fact, the deacon says. Having food and raiment let us therefore be content. Preparing and participating in the eternal moment this is the concern. This is the Life that counts.

After church, small boys, miniature versions of their fathers in black and white, play basketball on a concrete slab behind the church. One of them is my brother.


Anonymous terri said...

very nice. sometimes it would be nice to be able to see our lives from a distance. hope you two are well...

12:19 PM  

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