So I was stuck with what to write until I attended a remarkable memorial service today for a remarkable friend: a woman by the name of Linda Slade. A truly holy woman.
Linda was not much older than me and succumbed to cancer last month. We had a close friendship many years ago while raising our children and attending the same church. Even after she, then I left the church and ventured to other houses of worship, we maintained a special bond though it was sometimes years until we spoke or saw each other again. We last saw each other and prayed together the week before she died. It was a great, fun time during which she introduced me to the nursing staff by telling me how beautiful and special each one of them was.
In Ezekiel 42:14, the priests were told to take off their sacred garments after leaving the temple lest these robes accidentally touched an unclean person and by the very touching made that person or thing clean. That's what true holiness does: it sanctifies the space it occupies so that everyone and everything it touches retains that same properties.
Linda infected everyone she came in contact with: the other educators and staff at the tough Brooklyn high school she worked with, hundreds and hundreds of teens, many of whom are now adults with children of their own. Friends from the various churches she attended over the years and family - biological and "adoptive". Everyone said that they were different, better, for having known her. That includes me as well. I always wanted to love my kids, to worship, to be a friend the way that she was. I wanted to love my husband the way she said I should. I don't think I have yet attained but Linda was the "gold standard". You never doubted you were with a friend of Jesus when you were with her.
The words "Love" "Jesus" "Laugh" and "Bargain hunt" were uttered over and over again in the public testimonials, laughter and in our private memories with each other. I even thought of her gift of thrift when I got new curtains last month! Again and again people said that they owed everything good in them to this woman who was a "Living Bible". The woman who "didn't just go to church but who was church". Her words and advice resonated with you years after they were spoken.
True Holiness - the attributes of God in human beings.
Don't think Linda Slade rode on a cloud or lived minus an enormous sense of humor. The reason my own children loved her so much was that she epitomized spontaneous fun. She invented the term "Crazy Christian" and the most uproarious things ever done in that church we attended involved her. She was a single parent who knew many, many hard times and heartbreaks but who loved Jesus like no one I ever knew. "Givin' glory to God" was the expression I heard from her most often, even while in the hospice.
Holiness is a subject much avoided among American Christians nowadays. It's such a shame because we are referred to as God's "holy people" over 20 times in the New Testament epistles, plus in scores of admonitions in the Old Testament.
The cross didn't render holiness obsolete. The cross makes holiness attainable.
Both in John 15 and in Ephesians 5, the Bible talks about our being made clean (read: made holy) by the indwelling Word of God. That there is a supernatural cleansing that takes place within us when that Word is imparted into our hearts in such a way that it is reflected in our behaviors, speech and attitudes. This is holiness: being washed inside and out by the water of the Word which becomes one with us as Christ is one with us.
I want to be like Linda and attain to be on the outside what the Word says I am on the inside. A holiness attained by saying 'yes' throughout the day, every day when I have a choice to either obey and do the God-glorifying thing or to disobey and honor my flesh or ego. I aspire towards a holiness born of choice, forged in suffering, rewarded with crowns when I finally see the object of my affections; the Jesus Linda is seeing now.
Let's bring holiness back in style. The bible says it never went out.