Wino and Epiphany

homeless-jesus

1 Corinthians 3:16  Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

He was dirty and he smelled. I almost tripped over him lying on the sidewalk — drunk as a skunk and “out of it” as they say. My Methodist tradition had taught me to see Jesus in everyone. But this was a bit much. It was very hard to see any shred of revelation or glory or good news at my feet.

I didn’t even think of trying to do anything for Mark, who was clearly past any hope of transformation. But, over the months, I got to know and befriend this old wino. Beneath all his external appearances there eventually emerged a gentle soul — it was like finding a diamond in a dung heap.

As time went by, Mark joined me in some retreat times with Father Louie at the Prayer Center. He loved the forest and the small wild animals, he listened in awe to the song of the birds, and was delighted at the movements of tiny insects and bugs. Mark, the wino, made me think of St. Francis.

Walking through the woods near St. Francis’ Springs Prayer Center in Stoneville, I noticed a table leg sticking out from beneath the under-growth. It had probably been abandoned years ago and was overgrown with wild bushes and brambles. But I observed carvings on the legs of the table like grapes and vine leaves, and I knew that once it must have been quite beautiful. Mark and I pulled the table from beneath the bushes and carried it to a member’s empty building. It stood — large and painted red. But I could see the carvings on the legs…

“I’ll fix it!,” declared Mark. With a piece of broken glass he began to scrape. Beneath the red paint was green paint. And the old man scraped. Beneath the green paint was brown paint. And the old man scraped. For six weeks he scraped. Until one day, there it was — a beautiful antique oak carved table in all its original natural beauty. Mark stood by the table. And I felt God say: “The table is Mark, and Mark is the table.”

For me it was an epiphany — a revelation of something beautiful and true beneath a reality of external appearances. It was a new perception.

Dear Lord, I know in my own heart and mind that it is often very difficult to see you in others, especially those who have misused me or mistreated me. It is hard for me to see the worth they have within them. Help me to use this story of Mark to remind me that you are in us all, and therefore all of us are of great value. Help me keep scraping back the coatings of paint I have placed on those I devalue until I see you standing there with open arms, in and through Jesus. Amen.

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