Tonight: Remembering a Saint

Papa+ Matthew 23:1, 11-12 (The Message) The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them…Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant… if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

I remember hovering over a box of chocolates like it was communion with him. I remember when he would take his first bite- eyes closed, and say “very nice.”

Today is the anniversary of his death- and this is what I remember most about my grandfather.

Papa taught me how to approach a box of chocolates. “The square ones are always caramel” he would say. “The long, thin rectangles are often perfect toffee with a chocolate coating… but sometimes they are dehydrated, bland wafer crackers.”

We studied this chocolate like it was an art, we poured over our new box of chocolates each time we gathered. And if I reached for a thin rectangle for my one pre-dinner taste, hoping for sweet toffee, and I found a dry wafer instead: Papa would always let me put my half eaten failure back in the box and pick another chocolate… this is what I remember about Papa.

Growing up, he lived in Palo Alto, California. And I lived in Spokane, Washington. Door to door, we lived 906 miles from one another.

But we saw each other all the time. He would travel 906 miles to show up for my 2nd grade ballet recital, to see me graduate from 6th grade, 8th grade, and 12th grade- just so he could say “I’m routing for you. I love you.”

Papa had a PhD. He authored over 40 books as a professor at Stanford University. He traveled the world offering lectures to thousands of people about Africa, Europe, and American history.

But none of that mattered to me. What I miss about Papa are those moments over a box of chocolates, his dedication to our relationship through showing up and his love for me.

On All Saints Sunday this year, the lectionary scripture is from the gospel of Matthew where Jesus is talking about what really matters in life. He’s teaching about the importance of the humble, memorable moments we offer one another.

This is a message that means a lot to Jesus because his ministry and teaching takes place mostly outside of religious institutions.

I can vividly remember stories of Jesus healing the blind man by spitting in the soil and rubbing his eyes. I can picture the blazing hot day in the desert where Jesus restores dignity to the woman at the well.

I can remember these stories of Christ far easier than I can recall to you the words of his parables or the exact phrases from his teaching. I remember Christ out in the world, being the good news and the redemption through his hands on ministry. This is love, incarnate.

It’s less time talking, more time on your hands and knees with your grandchild sharing a communion of chocolates.

It’s less time tucked away in your office perfecting your professional efforts, and more time out on the streets, offering compassion to your neighbors.

It’s less time arguing you are right or putting down the people you love, and more time building one another up.

It’s traveling 906 miles to tell someone you love them instead of spending all your time trying to impress people you’ll never break bread with…

Deep down we all know what matters, what is remembered, what has an impact in the world because it has an impact in our lives…

Tonight, on the anniversary of my grandfather’s death, I am thinking about all of the loving, humble moments we shared… for this is the work of God.

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