Last week the house across the street went up for sale. As soon as the box of flyers appeared, I made a beeline across the street and grabbed one. As I dropped my eyes to look at the price, I heard a female voice say, “How much do they want for it?” I turned around and saw a middle-aged woman who had stopped with her two labs. “$485,000! Can you believe it?!,” I answered. She shook her head. “What are our kids going to do?,” she said. “They’ll never be able to afford a house!…” “I have four kids aged 12 to 18,” she went on. “I bought my mother’s house and have lived there for twenty years, so I’m lucky….” I told her I share her concern, especially since my kids are 20, 21, and 25!
I don’t think either of us suspected that this was only the beginning of a very long and meaningful conversation about things that matter!… My neighbor began to tell me about her personal witness: For the past two years, she and her husband have been wearing custom-made t-shirts or sweatshirts with messages about money. They do this as a way of engaging others in conversation, and their hope is that this all of us begin to rethink our priorities. The sweatshirt she was wearing that day said, “Money isn’t real. I am….” I also learned that she got the two dogs so that she could walk them and get to know her neighborhood better. “Wow!,” I thought. “What a bold witness!… I don’t know whether I could deal with the constant attention wearing those shirts would provoke!…”
We went on to talk of so many things we care about: the environment, Standing Rock, and the post-election climate of division and hate, to name a few. Then I mentioned that I’m a pastor and that part of my personal commitment going forward is to be a stronger voice and presence in the public square. My neighbor seemed surprised to learn that there are progressive Christian churches that welcome all people!… Of course, this prompted a conversation about Jesus and justice, and even though my neighbor, Corellen, doesn’t belong to a church, it was clear to me that she knows the Bible and she lives out its core message of neighbor love!
As I stood there in the street with Corellen, it occurred to me, “I think God brought Corellen and me together today to teach us both something…. Corellen has been doing the work of a prophet out in the streets for the past couple of years, and I think God sent her to remind me that God is at work out there in the world and that we in the church need to get outside the boxes of our buildings and build alliances with others for the sake of this world God loves so much. And I think God put me in Corellen’s path today to show her that the church is still very much alive, carrying on the work of Christ: the work of standing with and speaking on behalf of our neighbors, especially those who are most vulnerable….” As I went back inside to get ready to go to work, I prayed silently, “Thank you, Lord, for the chance to meet a real live prophet! Amen.”