Backdrop

RedeemerI’ve spent a significant portion of the past two days sitting in a sanctuary at a church in Nashville which I can only describe as “warm.” It is a building which seems to stretch its arms out in welcome. The older parts of it are made of wood that holds the patina of the years. In the sanctuary itself, a newer section, a deep crimson wall, inset with a large leaded glass window and an unadorned wooden cross has formed the backdrop for words and music that have shaped me in the past two years.

It’s the place where I first heard N. D. Wilson describe the Fall as the man failing to fight the dragon and save the woman, and the Second Adam as the one who rescued His bride by sacrificing Himself in her place.

It’s the place where I saw Eric Peters as a noisy Chewbacca and Jonathan Rogers as a properly electronic R2-D2 in a Shakespearean rendition of Star Wars.

It’s where Ron Block sang the words, “Let there be beauty for beauty is free.” Where Andrew Osenga shouted, “Space!” Where Pete Peterson has wept and Andrew Peterson has geeked out over Rich Mullins.

It’s a place I heard words of healing as Andy Gullahorn sang, “The story isn’t over yet.” And I’ve heard words of challenge from Father Thomas McKenzie. I’ve heard words of encouragement in art, faith, love, community, hope.

And in the past two days it has been the backdrop for moments like Son of Laughter singing “The Meal We Could Not Make” and Jenny and Tyler singing “Skyline Hill.” It has stood behind Rebecca Reynolds talking of the Blue Flower and Russ Ramsey holding up a Vermeer print and Andrew Peterson plugging in his phone to play Marc Cohn’sWalking in Memphis.”

It is a backdrop full of memory for me—and I’ve only visited on yearly occasions. For those who come weekly, it is the backdrop for the breaking of the bread, the drinking of the wine of the new covenant, the truth of the gospel taught, of prayers covering and lifting pain and sorrow to the ear of heaven’s throne.

Rebecca Reynolds said this morning, “Any old church is a familiar friend.” Arms open, they invite us toward the altar of worship.

The Race That Knows Joseph

“They’re our kind of people,” Julie said.
It’s the sort of phrase that could be cruel. It could be unkind, exclusive, evasive. But the way she used it, it was none of those things.
“Couple on Two Benches”
George Segal
Source: Sculpture.org
She was referring to what Anne Shirley, as a child, called “Kindred Spirits.” Later, when she grew up, she adopted the term her friend Miss Cornelia used, “The race that knows Joseph.” I have no idea where L.M. Montgomery came up with that phrase. I presume she is referencing one of the biblical Josephs, but I honestly don’t know. I only know that she somehow found the perfect description for “our kind of people.”
The race that knows Joseph are actually a fairly broad and diverse lot. They like all kinds of different things. There does tend to be a bookishness about them, but they’re not limited by those books. There are scientists, athletes, English professors, historians, sea captains, and doctor’s wives…all who belong to the race that knows Joseph.
It’s a bit of an intangible descriptor. There are, after all, two biblical Josephs. I think an argument could be made for either one to be him who is referenced. The Old Testament Joseph, Jacob’s son – he of the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat – was a dreamer and an old soul. He was a gifted manager and strategic planner. Through his life he learned to see the big picture and to glimpse things from God’s perspective. I’d wager this is the Joseph that Montgomery’s Miss Cornelia is referring to, but I often wonder if maybe, just maybe, it’s the other one.
The other Joseph, the New Testament Joseph, of the house and line of David, is a quieter character than the Dream Coat Joseph. We only get a few chapters’ worth of glimpses into this Joseph – who also had a father named Jacob – but they are telling glimpses. He is a man who speaks with angels. A man who rises up and takes his pregnant fiancée into his home, marrying her despite the whispers of the people around them. He is a man who raises a Child he knows is not his own, a Child whose depth and wisdom are confounding to the carpenter. He works hard, and – it seems – he dies early, before seeing how the Boy he raised turned the world upside down.
I think both Josephs would be “our kind of people.” I think they both would find that chord of resonance with the other. But Technicolor Joseph would be up front leading the group, laying out the plan of events, and Carpenter Joseph would be working hard behind the scenes.
Whichever Joseph it is that we know, “our kind of people” all know him.

“You’re young and I’m old, but our souls are about the same age, I reckon. We both belong to the race that knows Joseph, as Cornelia Bryant would say,” said Captain Jim.

“‘The race that knows Joseph?’” puzzled Anne.

“Yes. Cornelia divides all the folks in the world into two kinds– the race that knows Joseph and the race that don’t. If a person sorter sees eye to eye with you, and has pretty much the same ideas about things, and the same taste in jokes–why, then he belongs to the race that knows Joseph.”

“Oh, I understand,” exclaimed Anne, light breaking in upon her. “It’s what I used to call–and still call in quotation marks ‘kindred spirits.’”

“Jest so–jest so,” agreed Captain Jim. “We’re it, whatever it is. When you come in to-night, Mistress Blythe, I says to myself, says I, ‘Yes, she’s of the race that knows Joseph.’ And mighty glad I was, for if it wasn’t so we couldn’t have had any real satisfaction in each other’s company. The race that knows Joseph is the salt of the airth, I reckon.”*

*Montgomery, L.M. Anne’s House of Dreams. New York: Bantam Books, 1992. p. 38. (©McClelland and Steward Limited, 1922.)