BY JEANNIE KIRKHOPE | February 15, 2018
Today’s Readings

The last time I heard today’s readings, the Ministerial Association in my little West Virginian town was sponsoring an interdenominational Lenten prayer service at the Old Regular Baptist church. The reflection was given by an elderly, plain-spoken Pentecostal preacher in a rumpled suit. I remember his low, slow drawl. “Wearin’ a sparkly gold cross ‘round yer neck doesn’t show folks yer Chris-chan. It shows ‘em ya like gold. It shows ‘em yer ‘bout the easy life…An’ that ain’t Chris-chanity.”  He boldly went on: “Wer not jus’ s’poseta take up our cross an’ follow ‘im.  If wer doin’ it right, we git r’self hung up on it, right thar next to ‘im.”    

Mountaintop removal in Appalachia [Matt Wasson/iLoveMountains.org via Flickr]

Just about every aspect of rural Appalachian culture demonstrates that this message has sunken into the very bones of the people here. The majority give of themselves completely, some would say to a fault, and no less to strangers in need. And they do so in the midst of poverty, joblessness, depression, sickness, and addiction.

If they didn’t learn it from the Gospels, they learned it from the land to which they’re inextricably connected. The mountains exemplify this radical call to discipleship, too. Their bodies are crucified daily, spines crushed, veins poisoned, by the extractive industries of timber, coal, gas and oil—all for our benefit, to feed convenience to a nation.

Along with the rivers, generations of tears have flooded these ancient hills, enough to round them off as they are. Paradoxically, that’s precisely why it’s “Almost Heaven” here. The veil between life and death is thin. One has only to look out the window to see nature taking its course. When you don’t have gold to lose, you only have your life to give, so resurrection is always just around the corner.  

4 replies
  1. Donna Becher says:

    A poignant message that is eloquently written. “Almost heaven” takes on a new meaning today. Thank you, Jeannie Kirkhope.

    Reply
  2. Marge Mattice says:

    This brought back to mind standing looking over the landscape-you could see almost to eternity-in the Painted Desert in the southwest. A glimpse of how Native American spirituality reflects this bonding with the earth. That, along with this reflection, tears a hole in the belief that Lent is this time of “navel gazing”. Lent is time par excellence to be drawn to our connectedness with each other, God and creation. Perhaps we need eighty days . . .

    Reply

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