Connecting in the Spirit
Janet Irby of Redmond, WA, USA
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. -Jeremiah 31:31, 33b
The door of the two-story townhouse opened, and the front room was filled with the Diaz family and friends. They invited me in. The women sat on the chairs and couches, the children ran up and down the staircase, and some of the men huddled on the tiny patio. After greeting my friends Jeremias, Exida, and son Rony, I moved quickly to the grieving mother, Dilma. Her daughter, Oyuky, had just died at the age of 13, and her burial was on June 27, 2006. It was nine days after her death, and in the Guatemalan tradition, Dilma and her husband had invited friends and family to a memorial party.
I hugged Dilma and expressed my condolences. She seemed serene and asked me if I would provide a prayer during the gathering. With my poor Spanish, we talked; and I realized that the family wanted me to be the “minister” for the event. At that point, I began to panic and wish our bilingual minister, Andy Shelton, was there. However, he had had a conflict and couldn’t come. So I asked if anyone in the house had a Bible. When someone came up with it, I was so nervous that I asked a relative to read Psalm 123, not 23, which was the one I wanted.
I began to collect my thoughts and asked Jeremias to translate for me. I figured I might be able to compose an impromptu prayer in Spanish, but beyond that, not a sermon or any extended comments. After people visited a bit, I was asked to invite the men in from the patio. And so I stumbled into a totally new experience, unprepared and limited by my language.
I remember welcoming the group and then asking for the reading. As the woman began to read, I realized that the Spanish was not the 23rd Psalm. But it was too late to stop her. She was reading a “confession” that did not fit the occasion-“have mercy on us, oh Lord…for we are exceedingly filled with contempt.” Boy, was I dismayed. Then when I gave my prayer I confused “damos” and “danos.” Instead of saying “give us peace,” I said, “we give peace.”
While I was honored to be the minister, I was totally embarrassed by my “performance.” Everyone acted as if what I did was fine, but I wondered what they really thought. However, I knew at some level how important this experience was, and I felt the good Spirit that was present no matter what faux pas I committed. I valued the close relationship I had with the family. And I learned humility and appreciation of Guatemalan customs.
The kingdom of God is among you (Luke 17:21).
Ordinary Time is a season for waking up to what is already here, to the kingdom of God already among us. Spend time each day breathing in the presence of God wherever you are. Notice how simple interactions, tasks, and relationships are sacred opportunities to share and receive God’s love, justice, and peace. Pay attention to the sacred quality of everyday, ordinary life. How is the kingdom of God seeking to be embodied through you each day?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.