This morning we had our annual Good Friday Service for the community around our church. It's one of our most special Easter traditions, beginning with an always-captivating worship service and culminating in "The Marketplace," a bizaare-like setting where our neighbors can shop for a wide variety of specialty food items and other goodies. The whole event is always a lot of fun, but the most special gift I received came through an unexpected friendship.
We began the day by baptizing two gentlemen who had recently committed their lives to Christ. One of these, Mr. Zachary, was an 80 year old African-American with only a single tooth on the bottom, but he swore he didn't feel a day over 20. My job was to prep these men for baptism, so we began talking about their backgrounds and their conversion. In the course of our conversation, Mr. Zachary shared how he had grown up walking or riding a wagon a couple miles to church each week. For them, "church" was not simply an hour long service; it was an all-day event. Services were held for several hours in the morning, followed by a potluck lunch on the grounds and a time of relaxing, and concluding with several hours of evening service. He talked about how "everyone got along back then..."
I ended up staying with Mr. Zachary for the whole morning, worshipping with him after the baptism and helping him carry his bags as he shopped. Every few minutes he stopped to tell me how much he appreciated our church, my help, and everything else he could think of. When it was over, I gave him a ride back to his little house. As he got out and I unloaded his groceries from the truck, he again thanked me profusely. I shook his hand and assured him that it was truly my pleasure to meet him and to spend the morning with him.
As I drove off, I was overwhelmed by the paradox of our relationship. He was an older man from a by-gone era; certainly in his lifetime he has witnessed atrocities and pain that I will never know. He lived through the days of "Whites Only" and the struggle for Civil Rights, while I have merely read of these in history books. Though his basic needs are provided, he has certainly not known the affluence that I have been afforded. Yet, because of the work of Christ, he and I are brothers, sharing both the hope and the inheritance that became available when the tomb was emptied.
"For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility..." Ephesians 2:14