Sunday, January 8, 2017
Though it is a new year with new commitments and resolutions, I find myself reconnecting with old friends and old stories these past weeks. I visited my family in South Dakota over the Christmas holiday, and I saw folks who have known me my entire life. They know the good, the bad, and the ugly. And they continue to love me, and I continue to love them. One person I reconnected with was my dad. I retold jokes and funny stories from growing up. I told him about my work at Old St. Pat’s, the ups and downs of life in my community house in North Lawndale, and just how beautiful his granddaughter Annabel was when we all visited her in Atlanta in early December. I told him how great of a father his son John is, my brother. That somehow despite John’s ridiculous antics as a kid, he turned into a loving, patient, amazing father. I shared all this with my dad as I stood above a small, simple gravestone marking where he was laid to rest in 2001. I stood with the winter wind whipping past my face, laughing at how I initially forgot where his gravestone was after all these years and crying at the beautiful details of life I spoke aloud to him. So many new things to share, and yet, it felt like old times — like coming home from school with him and telling him about my day from start to finish. Like making spaghetti for dinner, breaking the noodles in half and stirring the sauce enough so that it didn’t burn. Like playing his “Danny Boy” tape each time he took a nap.
I went to the cemetery that day to talk to my dad, to share new pieces of my life and my hopes for the new year. I also went to pay him homage, to remember the past, to honor the countless ways he sacrificed for me and for our family, to lift up his light and show gratitude for how he helped make me who I am today. I felt his love alive again, refreshed and renewed, as tender as it had always been but more palpable and present in the moment. As we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, isn’t this the blessing of Christ’s birth in the midst of the magi? The magi certainly brought gifts to honor this new life, this baby in the manger, and they also came to honor God’s continued commitment to the human family and all creation. They journeyed and followed a star, a light, a hope that had been burning for ages, leading them to this new and full incarnation of God’s love. Jesus came into this world as a part of a lineage, an ancestry, a family. Isn’t this the blessing of Christ’s birth in our midst, as a new year emerges out of darkness because of the light of all who have gone before us? With the light of our ancestors, God continues to refresh and renew us. God continues to bring love alive again and again, as God did for our parents, for their parents, and for generations upon generations. How amazing that we are here because of them, because of God’s unending and enfolding embrace.
This month, as I think about ways to honor those who came before us, whose light we walk by now, I think of the women, children, and men who fought in the civil rights movement. I think of the freedom fighters in our midst today. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ella Baker, Bayard Rustin, and so many leaders and prophets this time of year, I invite you to join Old St. Pat’s at the annual MLK Faith in Action Assembly on January 16, 2017. Gather with us, pray with us, and take action with hundreds of people of faith coming together to address racial justice in our communities. We showed up with 100 people from OSP last year, and we can certainly meet that again this year. I will be there to honor my dad and all those who have the courage to incarnate God’s love in their day, no matter the odds. I ask you to be there, too, to honor your loved ones who gifted us this year, this time, this moment. With them watching over us, we are more powerful than we know.
Rachel Lyons is the leads the Social Action Ministry at Old St. Pat’s. If you have questions or would like information on how to get involved with OSP’s social justice initiatives, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-798-2399.