You will be called the Repairer of Broken Walls, a Restorer of Streets to dwell in.
“Are you a Francophile?”
The first time I was asked that question I was hesitant to answer. I wasn’t completely sure what it meant and it didn’t sound like something a fine Christian young man should be, or admit to. I asked for clarification.
Perhaps the most famous Francophile of all time was Pietro Bernadone. His wife gave birth while he was out of town. She named the child after John the Baptizer. But this cloth merchant father, upon his return, insisted on a name change – Francis. It was in honor of France. This Italian man loved France.
Pietro came from Assisi. His son, Francis, was praying there one day. In fact, he was praying on this date — Feb. 24. The year? It was 1208. That’s 810 years ago today.
The Church will describe what happened as his receiving his “vocation.” Here in the South we would say he “got his calling.” And he was called into ministry with these words – “Repair my church, Francis …”
Here is what I appreciate about Francis – he was a literalist. (I can be quite the literalist and narrowly focused.) He looked around after hearing his call. He saw the church in (physical) disrepair and so he started moving stones and repairing walls. He realized he needed some help so he sold some of his father’s bolts of material to cover the costs. (This did not play well with his father!)
Yet, the controversy, the conflict, allowed Francis to, through a testy meeting, come to realize that he had taken his calling, his “vocation,” to be too narrow in its focus. He was to, as he discovered, find that his calling was to have a greater impact. Fast forward to the present and the Franciscans are all over the world. And when we look at his willingness to embrace Clare and her emerging faith and calling, a similar order of ministry for females emerged: the Poor Clares.
The Northumbria Community, characterized by a discipline of prayer three times a day, is a collection of believers who live to be present in their community and to live and work in such a way as to make the community better. In my opinion, their key verse is Isaiah 58:12. Metaphorically (and literally) they find ruins and rebuild. Recently, they have taken an old crumbling wall and rebuilt it. The repaired exterior of the wall has become the interior wall of a small, newly constructed chapel. They have literally done what the verse from Isaiah proscribes. It is now a place for people to gather in spiritual reflection. Let’s repair some walls.
The second part of Isaiah’s verse seems an equally laudable goal: to make the streets a place of rejoicing and safety.
Another school shooting has taken place. This one in Florida. Seventeen lives cut short, senselessly. In Middle Georgia, there have been many homicides in 2018. At the present rate, if shootings continue, this community’s deceased will surpass the number in Parkland, Florida. The streets that Isaiah envisioned are at odds with the reality of the streets from Ocilla to Forsyth. Surely, Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones would rather use his time and voice to encourage youth and encourage restraint, than lament.
We need some R&R. Not rest and relaxation, but some Restorers and Rebuilders. Like Francis who heard a voice on this date, we need those to answer a call to restore and rebuild our cities. Hearts and infrastructure.
Francis’ call is not completed — our churches need repair.
Festivals and faith to replace fear and fruitlessness.
How specifically is God calling you to live out some rebuilding stone by stone, street by street, community by community? We need some R&R!
The Rev. C. Jarred Hammet is a Presbyterian pastor living in Middle Georgia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.