Once a month I take communion to Christians at a local retirement village who can’t make it to our Sunday church services. Last Sunday, I read from the Gospel of Luke. I looked up from my reading of the crucifixion account and saw Marge with her head tilted toward the heavens, eyes closed. Next to her is Floy, and she also is intent, but only because she struggles to hear as she cups her hand to her ear coaxing the words of Luke from my lips to her 93-year-old ear. Marge is 94 years old and I ask, “Can you see well enough to read the Bible?” She said, “No, and I can’t really make out your face, but I can see that your shirt is checkered.” I lied and told her I was handsome and she replied graciously, “I can tell by your voice.”
Marge always asks about my parents and tells me that she once lived across the street from them on Meadowlark Lane and I tell her that was the home into which I was born. She can’t always remember my name or what happened yesterday, but she can tell me details about the house from 1959. I tell her that Paul Stumpff, a fellow congregant, helped my Dad roof that house on Meadowlark Lane. Marge said, “I remember Paul on the roof of that house helping put up a television antenna and he got quite a shock and they drove him to the hospital and the doc told him, ‘You’ll be ok. If you had really touched heavy voltage, you’d be dead by now.'”
I don’t take these folks communion with the idea of taking up a collection for the saints. However, I hear Floy asking her husband, Morgan, if he brought the checkbook and he mumbles something under his breath and pulls out a check already prepared and filled out and I pray while remembering the Bible lesson that morning about the Rich Young Ruler who built more barns to store his riches. I pray for happiness found through giving, that giving will be a discipline we seek, like beggars pleading in a great reversal to give away our only two copper coins to a passerby on a crazy city street corner, while we sneak a providential smile, and as I say, “Amen,” and I realize there is no collection plate, so I reach out my hand and take a folded check and a crisp Lincoln bill from Marge and I put it away with the used cups and wafers.
I leave them and walk outside as wind-blown leaves somersault across the parking lot like fleeting beauty. Behind the eyes of the faithful, behind eyes that barely see, there is loveliness in simple memory. And there is music in simple scripture heard by brittle ears still stirred by the faith of their youthful soul, that resounds like a tower of bells.
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.” John Keats