Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011.12.21 Every Day Salvation

Just the other day I was exiting my favorite bookstore Porter Square Books having bought my 1-millionth book, an activity tantamount to starting a fund to bring back dinosaurs, when I hear the familiar Christmas season tingle of bell.

I followed the sound and sure enough there were two old men dressed in red, looking Santa-ish and ringing little bells. They stood next to the Salvation Army kettle into which they hoped generous people would toss coins, maybe bills.

Moved by a force not quite my own I put a $20 bill into their kettle and said “The Salvation Army saved my nephew.” The old man bell ringer’s eyes filled up and so did mine.

There we stood on a crowded shopping street in the city of Cambridge MA. weeping for salvation and for my nephew Sam who had been brought back to strength and health and sobriety, not once but many times, by this gently militant crusading for Christ organization that has been “saving people in Christ’s name for over a century.

I moved on lugging my book cache and he resumed his bell ringing. Somehow it sounded different.

I told my sister of the encounter and I bet she cried too. Today is the Church’s calendar date for Thomas the apostle known by some as the one who doubted the resurrection good news. Neither my sister his mom or me his aunt have ever doubted Sam, the boy, now man, of countless life chances and countless salvations.

Tomorrow is also the Solstice, a day when the sun returns its face to give us a scintilla more daylight. Such a welcome gift as we enter the bleak of winter.

My sister told me that Sam had asked for the Bible on CD for Christmas. Too hard for him to read but not hard to listen to. At the Salvation Army shelter where Sam again is trying to chose life, he is steeped in recovery program and goes to church every day. He is Christ-soaked and Christ-doped,which is better than being alcohol-soaked or heroin-doped.

Sam had told his mom that there was some guy in the Bible, Zeph-something who told him God would give him a new heart and a new spirit.

That biblical guy was Ezekiel who, along with other prophets, delivered the divine promise: “A NEW HEART I WILL GIVE YOU, AND A NEW SPIRIT I WILL PUT WITHIN YOU; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezek. 36:26)

Sam heard words that articulated exactly what he needed, an entire full-body transplant—new heart, soul, flesh, mind body, the works. The odd irony of this connection the kind Spirit makes is that Ezekiel in his day, and to many biblical interpreters in modern day, was thought insane because of his strange images and visions.The ancients said possessed; moderns said schizophrenic or manic-depressive.

Yet Ezekiel became one of the major prophets in the Bible. You could die laughing. But that kind of thing happens often. It’s the work of the God of reversals. Sam is one of those reversals. Let it hold.

My sister and I decided to split the cost of the Bible on CD for Sam this Christmas. The rest is up to Sam, the Salvation Army, and God-in-Ezekiel.