Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Company You Keep

Buying time until I kind find my notes from the Boston trip . . .

My Jr. High Spanish teacher had an accent as gringa as they come, and she made us all go by Hispanic pseudonyms (I spent two or three hours every week as Luisa). She had a penchant for yelling, which I guess was understandable, since the only native Spanish speaker in the room insisted on taking long draughts of vodka from a water bottle in the back row during class, and I think as a sort of group punishment she subjected us to rote memorization via songs that were sophomoric even by our standards. One of them went something like: "The preterite, the preterite, you know you'll never forget it! Spanish 1 is so much fun, and to think, we've only just begun." Oh course, I've never forgotten. Figures.

She also drilled us in dichos, Spanish proverbs. One of them went, "Dimme con quien andas, y te dire quien eres." Tell me who you walk with, and I'll tell you who you are. So goes the conventional wisdom, regardless of your language. We would say that a man is known by the company he keeps. You hang out with the sports team. You must be a jock. You hang out with the nerds. You must be smart. I've been thinking about the company that Jesus kept. Men who smelled like fish. Men who smelled like wine and insurrection and tainted colonial money. Women fresh from walking the streets. The sick, the alien, the unclean, and even the dead. So no wonder they called him insurrectionist, drunkard, glutton, heretic. They only did as common sense told them.

And who do the church people (more to the point, who do I?) walk with? Do we walk with the sick and the poor and the prisoner, with the slave, and the man who cleaves to a hopeless hope? Or do we walk with only one another? Don't get me wrong - we need each other, for mutual support, for the sharpening of our iron, and if you walk with the wrecks, you might find yourself depleted, and if you walk with the dirt-poor, you won't stay clean, and if you walk with the victim of violence, their enemies will become yours - but to what end that sharpness, that strength, if not for them? Those with the courage to do it will find, I suspect, that they were really keeping company with the Son.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yesterday he sat alone, a black man in a sea of white faces, waiting with others who had a child in surgery. I went over and asked his son's name and age. "Justin, he is one." I asked if I could pray for Justin. I held his hand and prayed. It was but a moment with the Son.