There's a long-haired man with a beard in her seat, and no, it's not Jesus. I fight the urge to rise, walk over to him, and politely tell him to move. 'Excuse me,' I imagine, while the pastor talks about community and I should probably stop arguing in my mind and start listening, 'You are in Nell's seat. And I need you to move.'
About three times a year my little church bonds with another little church to have joint 'Holy Week' services. This, combined with the fact I have hardly been going this year because I work nights, explains why I don't know the Jesus look-a-like who is sitting in Nell's seat.
I tune in again as the pastor concludes 'and this is how we see God, how we see him working in our community.' Huh. Guess I should have listened. I miss her. I miss that she is not sitting in the row in front of us.
How I saw God was in her warm smile. How she talked softly, so that I had to lean in, especially if we were at a loud restaurant. How she drew connections: 'oh you like that, so does so and so, you two are alike in that.' How she smiled so much, even that last day I saw her- the day we all prayed around her. The last time I saw Nell in her seat.
I wonder if Jesus had a seat. If, that Friday night when they all straggled into the upper room, if they glanced sadly at it. If one of the newer ones, who didn't know, had sat down for a moment. Until the tension cutting the air clued him in and up he rose, maybe muttering: 'Sorry, I didn't know...'
Sorry, I didn't know... Isn't that how it is for all of us? He already answered it by the way. In case you were wondering. 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'
I tell my kids, when one of them bumps the other accidentally, that they still have to say sorry. That even if they didn't mean to hurt the other, it still shows love to say sorry even so. Maybe, more of us are bumbling through this life, bumping into each other, sitting in chairs we shouldn't, and we need the grace of the accidental sorry. Maybe we need to say it to God sometimes. Perhaps just: Sorry, I didn't know... So we can taste the grace he paid so dearly for.
Grace has this way of washing over us in a healing that springs up deep. Like the water God gave the Israelites. It was water that kept on coming 'as from the deep.' I think about this as a dear friend comes up to me and asks me to let her wash my feet. I, ever like Peter, want to cry out 'no!' But, like Peter, I succumb, and resist the urge to thrust my hands in the water as well. Might as well get all of me. Like for all the world Peter had an inkling that he would screw it up, and hoped he could prewash his betrayal.
He forgives us when we bump, and he forgives us when we betray. But he does so much more than just forgives us. He washes us clean. The dirtiest parts of us even, he kneels and girds himself with a towel. Then he gets to the business of cleaning.
With water as from the deep.
And you know what we are to do? Receive. Sit there, let the water wash over, let the sacrifice he paid be our payment, and say with him: it is finished. For, truly it is. We emerge clean and new.
Oh, and one day there will be only one seat that matters and only One who can even be on it. The rightness of when we see God on the throne will fix all the wrong- past just repairing and over into renewing. For he didn't come to just fix the broken, he came to make all things new.
I wiggle my clean toes. Washed twice over by two women I love dearly and prayed with earnestly. Each time I insisted I was afflicted by 'allergies' as I wiped away tears. As the service draws to an end I close my eyes and imagine a boisterous God shouting from his throne: 'I AM MAKING ALL THINGS NEW.'