There is a marvelous group of ladies at my church, St. Stephen Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, Texas, who meet each week to knit prayer shawls for people in and related to our congregation. They take them to those who are bereaved, ill, or just basically in need of love and concern. I always thought that what they were doing was sweet, but maybe just a bit silly.
Last August, my partner passed away suddenly of a massive stroke. Both of us were very active in our church and St. Stephen was a great part of our lives. The day after Vern died, the Director of Christian Education delivered a prayer shawl to my home. I looked at it and then put it back into the bag, wondering what I was going to do with this somewhat small shawl. After all, I am a man, and a fairly big guy at that. The shawl stayed in the bag in a corner of our bedroom throughout the remainder of the summer and the fall.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’… ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ “…Matthew 25:31-40
Several months ago, a handwritten letter arrived addressed to St. Stephen asking for a pen pal for a Texas State Prisoner in Gatesville. Most questionable mail goes in the trash, but for some unknown reason, I decided to write this prisoner and see what would happen.
Wednesday, March 9, was Ash Wednesday, and it was amazing.
It started with our “First-ever Ash Wednesday Service for Children and Families.” This was held in the sanctuary at 5:15 and was built around Jesus’ teaching: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Fifty-one participants of all ages trooped down the aisle carrying sheep puppets. Mark Scott led us in singing the Taize song “Jesus the Good Shepherd.” Two teen crucifers “protected” the sheep from some very vicious wolf marionettes.
It all started as a joke–a joke of which my husband did not approve. David and I were Christmas shopping in the hill country town of Fredericksburg the weekend after Thanksgiving. It was in a little novelty/toy shop that I spotted the Pink Velvet Jesus. He stood about a foot high, and his purpose was to give anybody who shook him up and then turned him upside down the answer to any question. I was charmed. I recalled the old “eight ball” fortune telling toy of my childhood. I shook the ball, turned it over, and there was the answer as to whether I was going to pass my geometry test, or if the boy who sat next to me in geometry liked me. The eight ball knew all.