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Loving Margaret’s lymph vessels

by davesandel on June 27th, 2021

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 27, 2021           (today’s lectionary)

Loving Margaret’s lymph vessels

We talked yesterday about the future. About flights to Evansville, or Mexico, or somewhere, and about driving less rather than more. Margaret’s “newest phobia,” as she put it, is being hit on the highway and undoing all that has just now been done, so we will take shorter road trips rather than long. We mused about the days of wine and roses, when Margaret’s swollen legs and ankles and feet would feel so much less like logs.

God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.

Because until these last days, Margaret’s legs have been slim and sleek and lovely. Swelling rarely attacked those beautiful legs. So we pray and ask God to restore the legs he gave her in the first place. And then we wait, as I rub her feet and massage her legs, and she moves them up, down and all around while she is sitting up, lying down, or walking, so that the lymphatic capillaries between her skin and muscles will be stretched, and give up some of what they otherwise seem so anxious to retain.

God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him.

But as I write, I realize that “loving” the lymph vessels is something we have not yet done. As Marie Kondo says about clothing, when we say goodbye we should be entirely grateful for what, in this case, her lymphatic capillaries have done and continue to do for her. We are not enemies, we aren’t on teams fighting each other for victory. Those precious lymph vessels are parts of Margaret that God made in the secret place. Each tiny human highway in her legs has been fearfully and wonderfully made. Thank you, thank you, thank you, small vessels of life!

But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.

And I guess that’s the thing, the “envy of the devil.” This creature takes what God made and tries to turn it wrong. We seem crazy easy persuaded to take things into our own hands, not as God made us to be (co-creators), but somehow in competition with our Source, fighting against what has been made, is being made, and will be made … by God. I think the word for that is Anti-Creator. Ugly. Wrong. Deadly, which means it results in death.

Don’t die, lymph capillaries! Live your lives well within Margaret’s body, between her skin and muscles. Resume your righteous ways, and give her strength. Whatever weakness she feels now, let it be slowly, surely gone.

Lord you brought her up from the netherworld. You preserved her from among those going down into the pit. Yes, weeping comes for a night, but rejoicing will come in the morning. O praise you Lord, for you have rescued her once again.

Margaret’s nurse rescuers have lately been Asian and African. Irene from Zambia held Margaret’s hand on Friday night, and Saturday we sang an absentee chorus of “Goodnight, Irene” for her while I played the song on my harmonica. In 1908 Leadbelly was singing that song to his infant niece in Leigh, Texas, just across the border from Louisiana, 312 miles from our home in Austin.

Margaret’s 2021 Irene came farther. It costs at least $2,306 to fly the 8,889 miles from Zambia’s capital Lusaka to Austin, Texas, where on Friday night she worked with great care to nurse Margaret for 12 hours.

When Margaret heard her name she remembered, “I know another Irene here!” And Irene laughed and said, “No, I’m that one too. You know me!”

You know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.

I wonder what Irene dreams about at night (when she isn’t working). Victoria Falls is on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Her family might well be back in Lusaka or another home town, so far away. And sometimes, perhaps, Irene gets a great notion, to … well, that particular verse of the song is kind of sad. Ken Kesey wrote a magnum opus novel with the title, but even now remembering its first few pages, I feel like weeping.

But you change my mourning into dancing, O Lord my God, and forever I will give you thanks.

Sad, sure, but also in gratitude for our own Irene. How far she has come to be God’s servant in Margaret’s life? What does she sacrifice, what does she think of as she falls asleep?

Jesus said, “This child is not dead but asleep,” but they ridiculed him. So he put them all out and took the child’s hand. Jesus said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”

What joy and what suffering has Irene been discovered by in her life? I don’t know.

God does know, oh yes. God knows.

(Wisdom 1, Psalm 30, 2 Corinthians 8, 2 Timothy 1, Mark 5)

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