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Gravestones along the eternal road

by davesandel on September 10th, 2021

Friday, September 10, 2021                                        (today’s lectionary)

Gravestones along the eternal road

Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

At the Austin Memorial Cemetery yesterday, I sat awhile on a dilapidated, moldy ancient wooden bench with slippery, bending, almost broken slats. The bench was hidden behind a pecan tree and faced away from the grave of James Michener and his wife Mari, longtime residents of Austin at the end of a life during which they were really Citizens of the World. It was a hot, dry day. I was aware of my mortality. The bench didn’t break, but it might have. I thought about Michener and his life.

I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy. I was once a blasphemer and an arrogant man, but God has treated me mercifully.

Like Michener, I am fascinated by Texas history. Andi married Aki, and moved with him to Austin in 2009. That July Margaret and I drove their big yellow Penske van full of furniture down through Memphis, where we visited the Dancing Pig Barbecue Parlor, through Little Rock, where we spent a day at President Clinton’s library and museum, on to Arkadelphia, Beth Moore’s home town, and finally across the border into Texas, through Texarkana, Dallas, Waco, and Austin. On that trip we did not stop at Buc-ees.

The grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

I was excited. Texas breathed hot smoke from its nostrils, especially in July, and I wanted to ride that bucking bronco wherever it would take me. James Michener’s 1,096 page Texas, historical fiction at its finest, started me down the road. The book begins in 1536 with an on-the-road walking conversation between young Garcilaco and the veteran explorer Cabezo de Vaca, who had been shipwrecked on an island he named Galveston nine years earlier. Cabezo told his young friend, “If your body becomes lost, your soul is lost, and you wither. If we had not fought to keep our calendar and our distances, we would have surrendered and died.”

You are my inheritance, O Lord. It is you who hold fast my lot. You counsel me at night; in my heart you exhort me, and I see you always at my right hand. You will show me the path to life.

Michener finishes this saga of several families in 1985, carrying us through the ensuing 450 years into most of the epic moments of Texan history. Michener’s life ended in 1997. Texas lives on … for better or for worse … in sickness and in health.

You are my inheritance, O Lord. You share the fullness of joy in your presence, and the delights of your right hand forever.

The life of Texas is a history of pride and perseverance in the desert, and many things besides. Second only in size to the Minnesota State Fair, the Texas State Fair opens in fifteen days. This year’s simple slogan, “Howdy, Partner!” quiets my curious mind and invites me to set down a spell, drink some Lone Star, and watch Willie Nelson sing all day outdoors. Maybe he’ll be at the fair this year, instead of Luckenbach. Bring your own lawn chair. Buy some chicken and some barbecue, and wait for the sun to set and the stars to shine. Like Cabezo de Vaca, Willie has been listening, and learning, all his life.

Can a blind person guide a blind person? Won’t you both fall in a pit? Get trained up and become like your teacher, neither of you any longer blind.

I guess I won’t accept the invitation, though. I’m older than that now. Dylan’s “My Back Pages” stretches across my memory and jabs me in the head.

Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth, “rip down all hate,” I screamed

Lies that life is black and white spoke from my skull, I dreamed

Romantic facts of musketeers foundationed deep, somehow

Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.

Jesus tells me, too, to STOP growing up stuck in all those fictions about people and geography, about being better or worse, worthy or unworthy. Start seeing people as my children, Jesus says. I love you all.

WHY do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye but do not notice the wooden beam in your own? It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, “Let me wash your face for you,” when your own face is distorted by contempt?

We are all one people, here in Texas too. We will all be dying soon, and then where will we be?

Resting in your arms, sweet Jesus.

(1 Timothy, Psalm 16, John 17, Luke 6)

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