Sunday, April 15, 2018

entertaining angels unaware...

One of the joys and challenges of travel is embracing the unexpected: the good, the bad and the ugly. Earlier this week we had the pleasure of meeting the owner of Beaufort Bistro in le Petite Italie neighborhood of Montreal (https:// He prepared two excellent meals for us on two different nights - and extended to us a genuine welcome. On the second visit, we had the pleasure of meeting two of his friends, Annie and Marc. Marc plays jazz manouche - gypsy jazz - and for the past four years has attended the Django in June festival in Northampton, MA. They LOVE Massachusetts. We have exchanged numbers and hope to meet up with them for drinks before we head out of town.

This afternoon, we ate a Japanese Ramen lunch with one of Dianne's colleagues from the English Farm (her on-line teaching gig.) He once hailed from Iran, has lived all over Europe and now makes Montreal his home. When we got back to our sweet little flat, our Air BnB hosts, Monique et Stephane, had kindly invited us to stay one more night given the impending ice storm that is supposed to cripple the region tomorrow morning. Free of charge! 

These are the unplanned blessings of being open to the journey: this is what the
good looks like, yes? God knows there have been bad and even ugly times, too. The challenge when they strike is to breathe deeply, search for the angels who are always all around us, and go with the flow rather than having a fit. Last winter in Ottawa, we got stuck in a mud ditch in freezing sleet. My heart sank at first and I wanted to cry. No matter how hard Di and I pushed and rocked the rental car, it was not going to budge. In less than five minutes, however, two young men on their way home from work asked if we needed help. They found some rock salt, used their strength and expertise, and within minutes set us free to be on our way. This is not to say that I haven't given in to despair at tune. O God, I have. It just never helps. Never. 

In every culture, there is an ethical invitation to care for the stranger. In my tradition Hebrews 13:2 puts it like this: Do not forget to show hospitality to the stranger, for by so doing some have entertained angels unaware. In the Rule of Benedict, Western Christianity's go-to-book for monastic spirituality, a great deal of print is given to caring for the guests among us: Great care and concern are to be shown in receiving poor people and pilgrims, because in them more particularly Christ is received; our very awe of the rich guarantees them special respect. I also think of the implied compassion of the 23rd Psalm: Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemies, my cup overflows. There is something to be said for travelling mercies.

In my culture at this moment in time, fear rather than welcome fills the air when it comes to strangers. My government thinks nothing of spending millions upon millions of dollars to bomb Syria in a symbolic show of bravado, but has only welcomed in 11 Syrian refugees in 2018. We will use hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to redecorate a bureaucrat's office at the same time cutting Medicare and social security benefits for those with most need. And rather than find language and actions that build bridges, we talk about constructing walls and forcibly separate undocumented parents from their children who are now citizens. There is such a gap between our public profession of faith in Jesus as Lord and our words, actions and intentions. "When did we see thee, Lord?" is how St. Matthew 25 puts it: "Whenever you fed the hungry, clothed then naked, visited the lonely, cared for the sick or welcomed the stranger you did so unto me."

Travelling tenderly has taught me a lot about living by faith. And the karma of the road. So it looks like this evening we'll take it slow - maybe take a cab over to hear one of our favorite jazz artists before the storm - and then settle in for a quiet winter Monday in Montreal. And what's this? On my phone?  Our new friends from Beaufort Bistro just invited us for dinner tomorrow given our unplanned extended stay. How cool is that? Thanks be to God.

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