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  • John Bryant

Mark 3:13-19: A Man and His Boombox

13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot,[a] 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.


Today, as we sat around donuts and coffee at the Friday open hours we do at our church, a man with special needs in our fellowship looked at me and asked if he could go get his boombox and play Loretta Lynn.


I said to him, “Of Course.”


This is not a man who shares much, who offers much. Every now and then he will make a joke. He otherwise is content to sit there with us, and to sit there all day.


He trudged off the parking lot where we’d sat, and thirty minutes later he was back with his boom box, and under his arm, a collection of CD’s. Thumbing through, I found the Commodores, Shania Twain, Toby Keith, Earth Wind and Fire.


We spent a few minutes getting his boom box plugged up. He found his Loretta Lynn gospel album, and it played to an empty parking lot.


Before long more people were sitting with us. And there was time, it seemed like, for lots of things. But mostly there was time to sit and talk about music: the Commodores, Shania Twain, Toby Keith, Earth Wind and Fire.


Today this man called us to himself with a boom box and Loretta Lynn. He made a table for us in the wilderness. Something to think about other than ourselves. A reason to look at one another, laugh at one another. With a boom box and a CD collection, he took strangers and made a people.


Nowadays, in such strange things I can only see Christ.


I don’t know if, a year ago, I could have accepted the offer to sit at the table. If I could have understood that Christ is the head of such tables as this.

On the mountain, Jesus calls them to himself. He calls them by name, and appoints them for ministry.


It has been two years since my brain let go of me, two years since I was called out of the Realm of Ceaseless Cognition by the extraordinary fact of Christ. Two years since my life in the RCC (Realm of Ceaseless Cognition) has been replaced by the OLRW (Ordinary Life of Regular Worship). I am reminded, sometimes, in this transition, that I have swapped a small life for a big life. I have gone from big plans to regular time with ordinary folks. I’m reminded that—over the last two years—the things that made my beautiful also made my life small.


Today, at this table with this man, I’m reminded of the tender and irrevocable consolations of an ordinary life with Christ, the two things I count most precious: the ability to pay attention and to be kind.


If we can learn to stick around, to pay attention, then we will find ourselves sitting at tables in the wilderness. We will find we are able, out of nowhere, to serve those tables we find in the wilderness, and that we are called to sit with a man and his boom box, to attend to the particulars of Mercy.



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