Never did I expect that my entrance upon any scene ever warranted an off-stage playing of the William Tell Overture.

It may have happened, though, when I was sitting knee-to-knee with a 64-year-old woman in her Boston apartment. She had courageously confessed her life-long bout with alcoholism, and had elected to face that demon down with God’s help — and whatever other help she could obtain.

She asked me, her pastor, to be party to this promise-making.

After prayer and before parting, she wanted permission to kiss me on the forehead as a sign of her commitment. The pledge was made.

It was an I-Thou moment and it took many years for me to process the intimacy of that memory. Thinking back, it is possible I may have heard faintly that morning hour some music playing in the background — but very far away.

All in all, however, I observe that I, along with most folk, am quite willing to forgo the music. We prefer more ordinary doings. Intimacy is not easy to come by.


Nevertheless, if by courtesy and forbearance you and I can put aside our pride, our self-love, our egotism and will, to make ourselves available to the other, then it is possible that our coming together can in some sense become a kind of blessed offering to God.

To speak and act in ways appropriate for whatever the occasion is no guarantee that there will be a genuine meeting of persons.

Still, should we make an offering of whatever “ordinary” is at our disposal-a kiss given and received — then it is possible that God may just take a word spoken, a gift given, a hand extended, an effort expended, and give it a life and power far beyond the intention and expectation that prompted it.

When we take seriously the preciousness of each person’s humanity and our part in the ongoing lives of other folk, it is as if we were offering up to God this life we have together.

Acknowledging that we are avenues of God’s grace for each other preserves us from holding other people’s lives in careless and callous hands.

In part our wholeness is dependent upon our having wholesome relationships with those persons nearest to us. The nearness of the other is, in turn, a matter of spirit and heart availability. That means that if we are to be truly available to the others in our lives, then it is going to be a “knee-to-knee” sort of thing.


Let us then make an offering to God of this silk of what goes well and even the burlap of what may have gone awry in this ongoing life we have in community.

It is quite possible that in our honoring the other, while keeping true to what honors the self, life may even turn extra-ordinary. Listening, we may even hear some music — albeit faint and far away. 

The Rev. Merle G. Steva is minister of visitation at First Parish Church in Saco.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.