Magazine article The Christian Century

Three Samaritans

Magazine article The Christian Century

Three Samaritans

Article excerpt

Several years ago, when my wife and I were living in Pittsburgh for most of a year, we set out to attend worship in a church where a friend was the pastor. We had never been there before, but I knew the general direction and thought I could find it. Pittsburgh is a city built on hills at the conjunction of three rivers. Few of the streets go in a straight line for very long. And you never travel very far without running into one of the three rivers and have to go looking for a bridge.

It was a beautiful spring Sunday, and we were relishing the sight and scents of the blossoming dogwoods and redbuds, the tulips and grape hyacinth. It was also a dangerous morning. Racial riots had broken out in Los Angeles, with much killing and looting, and had then spread alarmingly to other cities across the country. Pittsburgh was ripe for a riot. But danger was not uppermost in our minds at that moment; we were on our way to church, on our way, as Wendell Berry once put it in his accurate, pungent diction, "to practice resurrection."

It happened that the Pittsburgh marathon was being run that day and many of the streets were blocked off for the safety of the runners. The streets I was familiar with weren't available. We were shunted onto detours and were soon hopelessly lost. The streets meandering through the unsymmetric hills had me totally disoriented. Then I noticed some street signs that I had heard named by a friend, Jody, who was a Young Life worker in a neighborhood of high crime and drug use. Jody had had lunch with my wife and me a few days before and told us of the two street murders that had taken place early that week. Now here we were, lost on those very streets.

We passed a few churches where people were assembling for worship. It occurred to me that I might stop and ask someone, but everyone seemed so purposeful, headed for a meeting with Jesus. …

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