In Just Tell the Truth: A Call to Faith, Hope and Courage, Richard Lischer tells the story of a priest who was assigned to start a ministry to the Latino community in a region where many were working on farms and in chicken-processing plants.
How to begin?
A feasibility study?
An advertising blitz?
Here’s what the priest does:
He takes a card table, a hand-woven blanket, and some bread and a cruet of wine to the local laundromat and there he sets up shop. Within weeks, Pentecost happens and a congregation materializes. Soon the patrons are crossing themselves and waiting for a break in the Mass to move their laundry from the washers to the dryers. The “Laundromat Priest,” as he became known, intones the words of the liturgy during the spin cycle. A newspaper reported that the congregation “stand[s] respectfully toward the rear of the laundromat, as if occupying holy ground.”
It seems, to us anyway, that this ministry doesn’t have much promise. On the other hand, all it has is promise — and that is more than enough.
This church of ours begins in a room of confused and broken people. In the coming of the promised Spirit, they realize that Jesus lives among them in their love and care for one another. At Pentecost, the Spirit of God opens Peter and company to all kinds of possibilities for realizing the Kingdom of God that Jesus died for — and rose for. It’s the Spirit of God — invisible, difficult to define in mere words, but very real — that makes you and me and the folks gathered in that laundromat the Church of the Risen One. The Spirit is that great love that binds the Father to the Son and now binds the Father and the Son to us, the bond that makes us not just a clan or a club but a community of faith. It’s love that transcends words and laws and sentiments to embrace the heart and soul of each one of us. The Spirit of God is both a promise fulfilled and a promise yet to be realized. This Pentecost, may our community of the Risen Christ work to realize that promise of bringing to light God’s vision of a world reconciled in God’s peace and transformed in God’s compassion.