Tuesday, September 2, 2003 6:45 PM CDT
A Letter from OgunquitBy: Gary DeVaul
It's a cool Sunday morning with a flood of sunshine. All across Maine there are tourists packing up - getting ready to return home after a sometimes wet, but mostly wonderful sunny summer holiday. Labor Day weekend is like that, you know - it's back to school, back to work, back to another fall. As I write to you, Mark is walking some ten minutes to the Baptist church in the village. I played hooky to capture a little piece of peace, cuz if you know Mark; you know that when he's around, things are poppin'! Phones are ringing, dates are made, visitors seem non stop, and calendars are being filled. It's time for this pain killer, or that medicine, and then there's the "Hey Gary! Would you button this for me?" What a character he is. What a privilege to be part of his life these past almost thirty years. And that's why I'm writing. Mark's not with you physically, he's with me; but many of you understand that we are all one, one in the Spirit, of course, but it's even more tangible than that. We are one in the flesh as well. And you have a right to know how your brother's doing.
All across the Ogunquit shire, from the lobster pound to the village square, there are large and small churches and meeting houses. This morning as I write to you, the Host is being lifted in every village and town. The litany of words is the same everywhere, over every altar, upon countless communion tables, "This is My body, this is My blood." And when our Blessed Lord uttered those words, He too understood the physical as well as spiritual connection that unites us all - not just as persons, but as part of His Father's creation. Oh, Jesus probably didn't understand the astonishing science of DNA and the fact that the trees and grass and you and me are all made of the same carbon based stuff. Then again maybe He did? But He did know that if He was lifted up on the broad beam of the cross that we, too, were being lifted with Him. He knew that in a thousand different ways His suffering and resurrection was our suffering and resurrection. He was - and is - aware of the fact that we are as connected to one another physically as we are spiritually. "This is My body, this is My blood," is not just something that He said, or the proverbial "they" say, it is what we say, you and me as we live together.
Today as I watched Mark cross the lawn, past the garage, under the flag, down the driveway to church, I felt a pang of guilt for not accompanying him, yet I knew where he was going, what he was doing, who he would meet along the way, in a sense I was with him, and so were you, because he is part of us - and we him.
Schopenhauer once told the story of a small boy in Berlin at the turn of the century who broke from his mother and ran out into the bustling avenue in front of a carriage and four. An old man saw the boy in harm's way and instinctively jumped in front of the horses - knocking the boy to safety and losing his legs in the effort. It was and awful bloody mess and when questioned the old man said, "I didn't have time to think of the consequences, I saw the boy and I jumped." That was a physical reaction to our spiritual connectedness. That was Jesus jumping for us, for you and me, and for the boy. "This is My body, this is My blood." There is no other appropriate response. The old man lost his legs and saved the boy, and in doing so, he saved a bit of each of us that day.
Now this is not something that the proverbial "they" did, or even "he" did. This is something that a man did. A real flesh and blood man, and, of course, it's played out many times on this planet, in our world, but we forget to apply it to ourselves. When we hear, or say, the formula instituted by Jesus, "This is My body, this is My blood, do this in remembrance of Me," it has a tendency to be too familiar. The words somehow lose their meaning. It becomes like the "they" we often allude to in our conversations. "They" will take care of it, or "they" will take care of him. But there is no "they." "They" are us. We must do it. We must accept the responsibility for one of our own, and when we do, when we save them - we save a part of our selves, as well. It was Jesus who said, "I and the Father are one." And it was Jesus who referred to Himself as our "Brother". The connection was real to Him and through our daily acts of redemption for one another, the words become flesh and Jesus lives again and again.
It's important that I report that Mark is doing well, well both physically and mentally. It has been amazing to watch his body respond. Every cell knows what to do in coordination with every other cell. He's building new blood, digesting food, fighting off infection, controlling his temperature, breathing, eating, dressing, thinking, talking, laughing, and yes crying. What a miracle the human creation is! Every molecule, every subatomic particle, every neutron, every electron making up every atom knows exactly what to do in order to live and heal and respond to every other atom and to Mark's needs. God's hand is in every bit of it and it's marvelous to see. And of course we see this recovery, and we can say, "This is my body, this is my blood" because it is. The sympathy we feel for one another at a time like this is the physical response to the spiritual reality that we, too, are part of one another and that we, too, are the Body of Christ. The spiritual Body of Christ must react as do the very cells of our physical bodies.
The Body of Christ, of which you and I are a part, must engage in a coordinated response as well. The Mark Thallander Trust Fund has been established by friends for Mark's support through this difficult time. He has some physical pain, but it's not nearly what it once was; now he has to contend with the very real concerns of how to support himself when he leaves the haven of Ogunquit. How to pay the bills... He never complains, but I must say, I see it in his face. He is a hero, but heroes know the face of fear and uncertainty as we all do. "Father, must I drink of this cup?"
Some time ago Mark asked me to go to the junk yard, where the Toyota 4 Runner that he was driving during the accident was impounded, to see if I could retrieve CD recordings of the Twentieth Anniversary of the Hazel Wright Organ concert at The Crystal Cathedral. Mark wanted to give the CDs to the nurses in the hospital as a "thank you" for all they did for him. Mark's contribution to the concert, recorded on the CD was the last piece played. It was the marvelous old war horse that is used at the close of many a worship service. It is the thundering, rapturous, Widor "Toccata," and Mark played it perfectly to a standing ovation.
Well, I found the CDs lying on the back floor of the Toyota literally covered with blood and glass. Mark lost five units of blood in that car the night of the crash and I must say you can imagine the remnants of that carnage. As I lifted the CDs from the wreckage, and took them home and washed them in the sink, and thought of my best buddy, the words kept pounding through my brain, "This is my body, this is my blood," I don't think I'll ever hear the words of consecration in quite the same way again. The connection is too real and the responsibility of love too great. We must respond.
There ain't no they folks, just you, and me, and Jesus. He's coming home soon, in just a few weeks. The rubber meets the road in Pasadena and he needs your help.
Ever Your Brother in Christ,
Labor Day Weekend, Ogunquit, Maine.