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At 3:30 A.M., three glimpses into my psyche woke me: Christmas, Jane Schaberg, and ghettos. I had no recall of the dream story associated with these images, but chose to work with them.

Christmas, not in the sense of holidays with parties, gifts, and family gatherings, has always evoked rich associations with the Sacred, recognized and revered as a child. The Son-of-God-made-Man has companioned my efforts to incarnate in this existence, given my reluctance, from the womb, to do so. Gospel teachings, hidden within Twelve Step living, have opened me further to my humanness and still contributes to “the joy of living,” the result of practicing Step Twelve. When my end time comes, I will have substantive gifts to surrender to the Sacred. Today’s Christmas heartens me deeply.

My surprise in seeing Jane Schaberg (1938 – 2012) in my psyche also stirred me. I still remember her astounding insight of loving God with her whole mind, a passion that led her to advanced theological studies and worldwide attention for her biblical articles and books, all the while teaching at Detroit-Mercy University. I still hear the roar of her laughter as I write these lines. Another companion to help me along …

And ghettos, the third image that visited me in my dream—For decades, my work with home care elderly patients exposed me with ghetto living in New Orleans, Houston, and St. Louis where I had lived. From these spirits seasoned by poverty, poor health, backbreaking work, and other hardships, I leaned about acceptance, humility, and faith in God. Yet, my learning is far from finished as my impoverishment still rankles. This is working out …

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,

who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush

and gave him the law on Sinai:

Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

The second O Antiphon, December 18, 2020, addresses the promised Messiah as Adonai, influenced by Isaiah11: 4-5; 33:22.

The ancient Hebrew word Adonai means Lord or Master: it speaks to His absolute sovereignty over all life, first recorded in the Old Testament book of Genesis. Then, the Israelites experienced the harshness, the complexity of life. Early on, they learned that their survival depended upon Another, a monotheistic God, unlike the pantheon of gods worshipped by their neighbors. Through the wisdom of the first patriarch Abraham came an inchoate calling, culminating centuries later within the covenanted relationship, finalized by the prophet Moses.

It is to this prophet’s reliance upon the power of God that we turn. Like the others, he experienced Adonai’s call in the burning bush, together with the corresponding mandate of freeing the Israelites from Pharaoh’s oppression—An impossible task Moses acceded to only after pointed dialogue. The outstretched arm played a significant role in this freedom.

Because the Red Sea thwarted the Israelites’ flight from hundreds of Pharaoh’s chariots armed to kill, Adonai instructed Moses to raise his arm, causing the waters to part into dry ground for them to cross. When everyone was freed, Moses was instructed to lower his arm, causing the rushing waters to drown horses, chariots, and drivers.

Like the Israelites, we falter before obvious good; we need help, beyond our imagination. Thus the outstretched arm from the Moses story still works. The imperatives, Come and redeem signify willingness to change. On our own, such is impossible.  

 

The doorbell rings.

Behind the screen door stands my plumber Rob, the beak of his cap shielding the morning sun from his eyes. I smile, knowing I am in good hands, skillful and sinewy. For years he has kept my kitchen and bathroom in good repair. More significant than his skill, though, are his cheerful manner, his willingness to address any problem, and solutions are found within the drawers of his battered toolbox or the compartments of his van. Unlike other plumbers I have had, he also wipes up watery streaked floors with paper towels that he carries with him, then disposes them.

On a deeper level, I view Rob’s lifelong profession from a spiritual perspective. Instead of wearing a suit and tie to work, he pulls on clean jeans, a red T-shirt, canvas shoes, this morning’s attire. Instead of scrutinizing proposals in boardrooms, he studies clogged sinks, leaking faucets. Instead of lunching at gourmet restaurants, he snacks in his truck, in between customers. Instead of ordering state-of-the-art adornments, he replaces worn fixtures or makes others serviceable. Such humble work has etched Rob’s servant-character, not unlike Jesus, beautiful to behold.

On an even deeper level, I liken Rob’s knack of cleaning up stinking messes and restoring water flow with Spirit’s action in human hearts, gone amuck with disorders. The process can be complicated, costly, even exhausting, but with the restoration of the flow of grace/water, exhilarating life returns in its myriad colors.

The Spirit-Plumber is still working on me.

 

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