Something Extra

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This is one of my favorite stories. It does my heart good.
In the town of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, there is a church named Lagniappe (“lan-yap”). It is an old Creole word that means “something extra.” Pastor Jean Larroux explains, “Down here if you go into a seafood shop and order a pound of shrimp and they put in an extra handful, that’s the lagniappe. It’s something you can’t pay for. Something for nothing. Something for free.

In an area devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Jean began this church, in his words, with people “primed for grace.”   Accustomed to teaching church people how to celebrate, Jean was surprised to find himself in a community of people who already knew. Even in the middle of their hardship.

Here’s the good part. This celebration–from lagniappe–is not predicated on life as we expect it.
The party doesn’t start when our fear is gone.
The party doesn’t start when our beliefs are unadulterated.
The party doesn’t start when our circumstances make it feasible.
Most likely, if we wait for all that, we miss the resurrection every time.

Just like the twosome on the Road to Emmaus. Looking for “answers,” they missed the resurrected Jesus. “But were not our hearts burning within us?” they said.

I’ve written about Lagniappe a couple of times in Sabbath Moment over the years. Truth be told, I can’t get enough… Because Lagniappe is what Easter is all about. When I was a kid Easter was about believing the right things (even when I wasn’t sure), and saying the right things (it helped to speak loudly) and pointing fingers at those who didn’t see it the way I did. And then after church we hunted eggs and ate enough chocolate to make even our Baptist parents pray for Happy Hour.

Did you know that the Greek translation of the Gospel of Mark (the first gospel written) stops in the middle of a sentence? It’s not so neat and tidy as we want to make it, and ends oddly, like a great House of Cards season-finale, leaving us wanting more. But maybe that’s good. We get hung up on our need for control and a future we can predict.   I appreciate Rev. Brian Hiortdahl’s take. He says, “It’s scary to think that God is alive and able to do things so far beyond our prediction and beyond our control. The future is wide open. We can participate in it, but we’re not in charge, and we are a people who like to be in charge of stuff. We like to predict. We like to figure out when the economy is going to get better and plan for it. Resurrection just blows all of that away.

Robert Capon is unequivocal, “(The religious man) deals God a king and an ace and God pushes the cards away and says, ‘Look, I don’t want to take your money. You can’t play with me. The odds are always on the house here and besides, no matter how full you think your deck is, you haven’t got a full deck and you can never win playing this game of cards with me. So why don’t you just be like that fellow over there who is looking at his shoes and the two of you go over and have a free drink and enjoy yourselves because you can be home free here if you will only stop this nonsense of trying to sell me, trying to win over me, trying to get an arm up on me, to do something to me to prove that you are okay. I don’t care that you are not okay. I will raise you from the death of your lack of okayness. I will raise you up. Just trust me. That fellow over there, all he said was he was no good. He threw himself in trust on me. He’s home free because all the dead are home free in my working of the universe, in my reconciliation of the world. All you have to do is recognize that death is the key to your salvation.'”

Lagniappe.
Primed for grace.
It means that the party has been staged on our behalf. While Christians celebrate Easter, our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate Passover and the Seder meal. (Typically. Although this year, because of Leap Year and the difference between a Lunar and a Gregorian calendar, they are one month apart. Passover on April 22.) What is assuredly true is that both stories remind us that nothing–absolutely nothing–can separate us from God’s relentless pursuit to set us free.

Remember this day, on which you went free from Egypt, the house of bondage, how Adonai freed you from it with a mighty hand.
Book of Exodus     

So. The party is on. Regardless. 
And here’s the deal: There’s only one requirement–bring who you are.
This is not about who you are supposed to be.
Or who you should be.
This is not about the denial of pain and suffering.
Or the denial of grief and loss and hardship.
Or even the denial of death.
It is about what the people of Bay Saint Louis knew. If there’s a party, jump in with both feet. Jean says, “they take every drop of juice out of the lemon that they can get, and they love it.”

Why is this so difficult to believe? Let me re-phrase… why is this so difficult (for me) to embrace, and be embraced by?

Lagniappe.
Today the sun stays with us, as ominous storm clouds skirt to the east. It is shirtsleeve weather, which is another way of saying, especially in Seattle, “This is too good to be true. And we’re going to pay for this down the road.”  Lord have mercy. The hoops we jump through to convince ourselves that we are undeserving of any drop of grace. So. I jumped into the day with both feet. My first task to uncover (or free) plants in beds that have gone untended for two years. Beneath in the bramble and mess, lilac, black current, and forsythia. What has been buried is now alive. Garden work is always good for whatever ails me. But I need to sit a spell. Toward the patio, I walk by the new blooms on the white bleeding heart (Dicentra), unflawed in beauty, grace mainlined to my spirit.

Note: Jean Larroux story from Sin Boldly, Cathleen Falsani


POEMS AND PRAYERS

With our given economy, we must be reminded of the Resurrection that says:
‘Go forth and do for your neighbor.’
Resurrection didn’t end the day Jesus rose from the dead.
It ended when he said: ‘All right, go and do this.’
Rev. Dayna Winke (Resurrection Lutheran)  

Don’t Hesitate 

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
Mary Oliver 

Lord of life 
We pray for all who bring your word of life
As a light to those in darkness
For those who bring your word of peace
To those enslaved by fear
For those who bring your word of love
To those in need of comfort
Lord of love and
Lord of peace
Lord of resurrection life
Be known
Through our lives and through your power
Christ the Lord is risen to-day
ALL: Alleluia! 

On the third day 
we eat brunch
wear bright dresses
munch on jelly beans
and marshmallow bunnies
On the third day
we sing hymns
and go to church
if we can find a parking spot.
And on the third day
this God of ours
recovers from death
in a way that changes everything.
Tim Chown  


 

 

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