The Wingless Angel of Bethesda

While setting up my office at the church, I needed a hammer.  Most offices have a box of hand tools and odds and ends, so I went looking.  I found it in the cabinet right over the coffee machine, predictably labeled “Tools.”  But inside I discovered one of the secrets of Bethesda.  Somewhere on site, we have our very own broken angel.

 At first I thought the angel wing in the toolbox was there for repair.  You know, like a spare part, in case one of our volunteers comes in one day and obviously needs a little lift.  Anyone who’s worked with volunteers knows they can get that way, especially if they feel they’re being taken for granted.  When that happens, their wings get all ruffled up.  So, it’s a good idea to have a few spare wings available to get them back on flight.

 But, on closer examination, I realized the angel wing in the tool box had a jagged, broken edge.  It was not a spare, but a broken wing.  Immediately I realized the truth. Somewhere, hidden in the midst of this loving congregation is an angel whose wing has been snapped off!

My first response was to drop into “pastoral fix-it” mode.  In other words, I was thinking, “Well, we’ll just have to find this person and get this wing re-attached.”  But how will we know who it is?  Real angels hide their wings until needed.  Looking through the pictorial directory (which I’ve done a lot of lately) won’t help.

 My second response was to wonder, “What in the world happened to snap off this wing?”  Was it an insult, a trauma, rejection, a failure, perfectionism gone awry, or maybe exhaustion that led to a careless accident?  Whatever it was, you know the incident left some wounds, some hurts to carry around, hidden inside.

 So, here’s what we know so far.  The people of Bethesda appear to be normal, fine folks, but one of them is really an angel with some history.  This person, whose only desire is to serve, has a hidden hurt, and can no longer lift self or others in flight.

The challenge is obvious.  Our words and actions will have to replace the lifting power of the broken wing.  And since we don’t know which person is the hidden angel in need of a wing, we’ll have to lift up every person we encounter.  Come to think of it, that might not be so bad – if we really get the hang of it, we might even become a refuge for anyone with broken wings.


Thoughts on Packing To Move

When our children finally come

Fresh burdened with grief’s duties

To sort and pack the debris of our lives,

They will find the book, the aging book,

The tedious book of English lit.


And without us there to give it testimony

It will go to charity, or be tossed on the heap.

They will not see the young lovers we were

On a blanket, on a spring-laced hillside;

They will not hear me reading sonnets of love

Nor see you smiling with sparkling blue eyes.


Or again, they will not know those days of recovery

When your sinuses were packed with gauze and pain.

And then, how I read you verses of nature

By poets long removed from pain, and life.


They might, perhaps, pause in their purging

To open its covers and see our notations;

The way we did when packing to move,

When the book, the aging schoolbook,

Brought our flurry to a tender halt.

And again, we relished the familiar lines

Of iambic pentameter, or lilting prose.


There is much in life that cannot be kept.

Which is why we send these moments ahead,

Boxed for our eternity, our poetry of life.

Quo Vadis?

That’s the question I have been asked on a regular basis lately.  Quo vadis?  Where are you going?   It’s a question I’ve dealt with for a long time, and it’s been around a lot longer than I have.

The answer most folks are looking for has to do with the church to which I’ve now been assigned.  When I’ve answered, Bethesda UMC in Powdersville, another question follows:  “Where’s that?”  I explain that Powdersville is a community without borders that serves the crucial role of keeping Greenville, Anderson and the Easley/Clemson area from merging into one big metropolitan area.  The quizzical look on their faces seems to lock into place at that. 

So then I seize the opening and press on:  “It’s like the Kingdom of God.  It’s everywhere, but you have to know what you’re looking for.”   Finally, I relent and tell them to open Google maps and find the epicenter at the junction of SC Highways 153 and 81, go a mile west and there’s Bethesda, or, as it’s known in Hebrew, the House of Mercy.

I kinda like that too – especially the double meaning – telling people I’m headed to the House of Mercy in a community without borders.  

Quo Vadis?  Where are you going?  You’ll probably hear more about this question from me.  My encounter with it is not nearly as dramatic as the legendary encounter that Peter the Apostle had with it, but it’s still pretty important to me. 

The legend says that Peter was headed out of Rome during the persecutions when he met the risen Christ on the road, headed into Rome.  Peter asked Jesus, “Quo vadis?” and Jesus answered, “To Rome, to be crucified again.”  At that, Peter turned back to Rome to face his own martyrdom.  

It’s a risky thing for a follower of Christ to ask, “Where you headed, Lord?” 

 A few months ago, I wouldn’t have even thought of Powdersville as a place to live out my call to ministry.  But many years ago I asked my Lord, “Quo vadis?,” and this time the answer I got was,  “There’s some loving people who gather about a mile west of 153 and 81 that I like to spend time with, why don’t you join me there?”   And so an exciting new journey begins – as together we keep asking and answering the question, “Where are you going?”

Hello world!

Back to the blogging world after a couple of years away.  Every now and then you may find a post interesting, and if so, leave a comment.  The comments are encouraging, even those that take exception to what’s been written.  And often they enlarge the thought or give a new perspective, which is something we can all use.  And by the way, thanks for visiting.