Quincy wheeled up as we were waiting outside of the Dairy Queen on a side street in Detroit.
It was one of the old-style ice cream shops, where you walk up to the window and order. At 10:30 p.m., we weren’t sure it would still be open. But we all optimistically lumbered out of the rental van like some sort of clown-car circus act. We stood staring into the neon lights at four workers in paper hats who were probably doing final cleaning duties in the hopes that they’d be leaving soon.
They would not.
Ten youth and four adults from Chicago now in Detroit for the ELCA Youth Gathering had descended upon the Dairy Queen.
I was up by the ordering window, making sure everyone who wanted something stepped up and ordered quickly. I saw him out of the corner of my eye. He wheeled up next to Noah and asked him to order some ice cream for him. Immediately my internal parent/pastor alarm went off. What did his presence mean?
We had just spent the day sitting in the hot sun, waiting for a bus to arrive to take us to our work site. And once there, we spent the next few hours working in the hot sun cleaning up debris from vacant lots, reclaiming them for the neighborhood, planting flowers, and chatting with other youth from around the country. That evening we heard the Motown All Stars sing, said “amen” to some powerful sermons, and were brought to tears by a closing song that tore at the heart. The theme was “Rise Up Together,” and we were empowered to do so, invited to do so, encouraged to do so.
And I thought we were doing so.
But nothing prepared me for what I saw when Quincy showed up. This whole day I thought that our youth were doing justice – and we were. This whole day I had seen them open up exhibiting patience, determination and awe.
But when Quincy joined our group, I saw them take it to the next level. As the adults grew slightly tense wondering what his presence might mean, I saw the youth talk to him about his life, learn his name and his story, and offer of their own money to buy him ice cream so that he could join us in celebrating the cool sweetness that brings relief after a hot day.
I was tense, wondering what his presence might mean. They knew what his presence meant: that they had the opportunity to entertain an angel for a moment. And they did not waste it.
Luke Powery, dean of Duke Divinity Chapel, had challenged the crowd at the Gathering opening worship, using the phrase “threatened with resurrection.” I hear him suggesting that resurrection threatens us because it threatens our sensibilities, our status quo, and even our sense of security. Nothing is safer than staying behind the locked door, the closed tomb, the predictable system.
But Jesus threatens us with resurrection.
And when we met Quincy, when we heard that he wanted to join us for a late-night snack, when we learned that his legs had been frostbitten and amputated because he slept one too many nights out in the cold, when he learned our names and blessed us each individually, well, when that happened I saw these youth engage the threat of resurrection, leave the locked doors of the van, and rise, leading the adults to transformation.
We didn’t share ice cream that night. We shared our stories and ourselves. We all practiced resurrection for that brief hour.
“And a young child shall lead them.” Amen.