We did the memorial service for an old friend yesterday. Gordon Barr. Yea, most of you have never heard of him before. In many ways there was nothing especially noteworthy or spectacular about Gordon. Yes, he loved music and was wonderfully skilled at the piano and bass. He had great wit, full of brilliant malapropisms. But few outside of our community ever got to hear them. He was painfully quiet, almost aloof appearing to a stranger. He could be sullen, private, withdrawn, distant, sometimes unwilling to join in. He dressed poorly, had bad looking hair, never had a tan, and never set foot in a Starbucks. The last few years he was a janitor.
But the auditorium was filled yesterday. I’m not sure I’ve felt the presence of God affirming a life more than in that service. The sharing was deep, profound, sacred. The love in that room was tangible. Gordon was truly adored, truly known, truly missed.
In truth, this world is filled with millions of Gordons: they never get known, get noticed, get loved, affirmed, valued. They live in lonely, cynical, bitterness, unknown and indifferent. Never getting loved and rarely loving. They once had dreams, and warm, tender feelings, but somehow it got bottled up, locked up. They get lost. They forget how to fit in. Crowds confuse them. And soon they just become easier to avoid. Not flashy, beautiful or noticeable, they appear to have little to offer us.
But Gordon, many years ago, stumbled into an environment of grace, created and nurtured intentionally for such just as Gordon. Actually, for such just like me. For I am nothing like Gordon. I am loud, flashy; there is nothing bottled up about me. I am like talk radio blaring in a nunnery. People like me are easier to avoid. In our embarrassing inappropriateness, we can appear to have little to offer.
But in an environment of grace, I have been allowed to give much, bless much, love and be loved much.
Yesterday, I felt it. I was in a room filled with the wealthy and the poor, the famous and the common, the old and young. And it didn’t matter. They had all only this in common: because of grace, they had learned to love, without discrimination, without notice of appearance, without value of product, without concern of maturity. And they had been loved well in the midst of their own failure and weakness and immaturity. And so the room was sweet like ripe fruit. Even though many of us had been separated for years, and had gone through hard things with each other-no grudges or unforgiveness could survive in that service.
Such is the power of a risked environment of grace. Each of us long for a chance at such a life-where I am fully known, enjoyed, valued, employed, freed, loved, delighted in and playfully mocked. You wouldn’t have thought Gordon was destined for such a life. But this is the nature of the Kingdom: such as us fully part of, fully needed, fully welcomed, fully planned for, fully enjoyed, fully embraced, fully committed to, fully belonging.
This morning a friend wrote these words to me on Facebook: “I don’t think I ever met a more genuine Christian in my entire life than Gordon.”
…Not bad praise for someone who probably shouldn’t have been invited to the party.