We take turns monitoring the storm’s approach; I’ve rolled the awnings, taken laundry from the lines. Dull strips of cloud stretch from the west; Wind-prodded, trees wake from an afternoon’s listlessness.
My wife completes one last stitch from her sewing. In the lull, I read from Genesis: Yahweh. Fed and rested in the shade of a terebinth tree, Walks toward Sodom and Gomorrah, cities of the plains.
Their contempt, we can be sure, is unforgiven. We know by instinct not to meddle with such intimacy. The tornado sirens sound; all over town, citizens Descend to their basements. The temperature drops.
Wind and rain begin their agony; divine demonstrations. My wife kisses me, covered with the cinders of Lot’s hope.
When it comes to church, I’m a wanderer: I don’t have a church home so much as a village of church tents. All this wandering has made me a connoisseur of church welcomes or the lack thereof. I can tell you where I did or didn’t feel welcome—though I can’t always say why.
My grandmother died in 2005, on the eve of the feast of Saints Mary and Martha of Bethany. The next day I went to the weekday eucharist at St. James Cathedral in Chicago, and the story of Martha and her sister brought me instantly to tears. Like so many women of her generation (and not only hers), my grandmother was deeply identified with her hospitality and service. She was a lot like Martha, and I loved her for it.
I am more troubled now than I was then at the way this story is gendered in our reading.