When I was attending a university in Germany, I lived alone and did research in the university library. Occasionally, I was aware of that peculiar kind of loneliness called homesickness. On those days, I found solace listening to a street performer named Terry. Terry was homeless, and he spent his afternoons on an old stone bridge near the university.
Rephibia is the kind of pet store that most other stores don’t want around. It doesn’t carry cats or dogs or anything else that is cute and cuddly. All its animals are cold-blooded, and some are quite large. The first thing you see as you walk in the door is a massive python almost 18 feet long. But there are also monitor lizards that are bigger than most dogs, frogs the size of dinner plates (they look strangely like Jabba the Hutt), and even an alligator snapping turtle that is so big you think it might be older than you are.
The other day my husband, Ken, and I splashed and swam in a pool, then ate burgers and drank iced tea at a barbecue hosted by our friends Ann Marie and Patricia. We are pleased and proud of the honorary titles “Uncle Ken” and “Auntie Rachel,” bestowed on us by this couple and the children they are raising. I’m also thankful for permission to tell their story, which has taught me much about what the apostle Paul calls “a spirit of adoption.”
Our reformer ancestors would be appalled by some of the small traditions of joy and triumph that have crept into the Christian celebration of Pentecost. We’ve added trumpet blasts to mimic the great sound of the wind of the spirit, we wave red streamers on bamboo rods, raise clouds of red and white balloons, and even nibble on birthday cakes for the church. We want to signal “Tada!” We made it!
George MacLeod, founder of the Iona Community, said that in order to form community, people must be engaged in a “demanding common task.” In his case the task was to rebuild the accommodation areas of Iona Abbey. The group that he led included people with considerable formal education, as well as people with little education. These men and women formed community out of purpose and in difficult conditions; they shared what they had and learned from each other. They built with stone and with their lives, even though they could not know what the results of their work would be.