“The Servant Girl at Emmaus” by Diego Velazquez hangs on my wall, a print, an icon of my ministry, as one who has almost always felt that my ministry and life was not one of center stage, but in the surrounding support systems. The culture of celebrity ministry exacerbated that feeling when I was active in church and seminary, but this season I am even farther out on the edge in my retirement and in my recovery from surgery–limited by energy, strength and position. However, The Servant Girl is here to remind me that even in a place of limitation, I can encounter the Holy One. Up in the left corner on the painting I can see Jesus and his two companions to Emmaus. They have been walking the road together, wrestling and wondering, and now sit down to eat together. She, however, is the one who recognizes first that this is the Risen Christ, the Beloved One; it is evident in her attentive pose, her listening ear, her momentary pause from her tasks.
So I can take heart. Even though my appointed rounds are more circumscribed than they used to be, I can still encounter the presence of the sacred, the incarnation of the holy in the encounters I do have. This week there has been an encounter with someone at an occasion where I was a stranger where I met another stranger who longed for connection, and in those moments we were joy and peace for one another. Although I cannot and do not want to enter the shrill and divisive political fray, earlier in the week I was able to sit with a wounded one to imagine together how we could be faithful citizens, yet still do the things that makes for peace, within us and for those around us. Although I can’t go far afield for long times, I can, with memory and social media, keep prayerful watch over the weeping ones, the sick ones, the fearful ones, the weary ones, the suffering ones, and those in despair, knowing that the Loving One is the healer, the Comforter, the Sustainer, of me and of the ones I hold to the Light.
The Servant Girl also teaches me that my connection the holy happens when I am doing the things I have been given to do. Even in my limitation I still have laundry to fold, bills to pay, errands to run, phone calls to make, appointments to keep. When I am paying attention those are venues, however surprising, in which I might hear a word, see a sign, sense a direction from the Holy One. My daily practices may need to be adapted to my present body and mind realities, but I never go anywhere in which I am outside of the circle of God’s loving care, for me and for others.
The changing world, the changing Church, the changing ecosphere, the changing social milieux all cry out for powerful activists, agents of change, makers of peace, visionaries and workers for the healing of the world. But, that is not is not the call to me right now. I think of Milton’s conclusion in his poem, “On His Blindness,” They also serve who only stand and wait. Neither is that my call. I am, like my beloved Servant Girl, asked to do daily that which is given to me, all the while paying attention to the places and ways in which the Holy One may appear, listening for the Spirit voice that says, “Go here–to the right or to the left.” Even on the margin.