A Lotta Different

Ephesians 1:11-23

By Patrick Gahan

Rodney Smith is a little different. No, Rodney Smith is a lotta different. And it all began when he asked for a sign. He just didn’t expect to catch the sign standing on the side of the road. Two years before, he had entered a dark place. Away from his family, the days became weeks, and the weeks months, and at six months he felt an inescapable loneliness.

His next action came as a surprise even to himself, for Rodney threw up his arms and asked God to “make him his vessel, and to give him a sign of what he was to do.” But the sign did not come — not that day, nor in the next year.

Yet one afternoon while driving to the university from where he was poised to graduate, he spied an older man struggling to mow his grass. Rodney abruptly stopped, jumped out of his car, and finished mowing the grass for the elderly man. Gripping the lawnmower handle, Rodney had his sign.

Rodney took up the lawnmower like Moses picked up his staff, and he has not yielded it. Like I said, Rodney is a lotta different. Repeatedly crisscrossing all 50 states, Rodney has cut over 2,000 lawns for the elderly, disabled, and single moms.

“There really is grass to mow in Alaska,” he wryly admits. His latest tour of the U.S. has been centered on men and women, military veterans, who have hit on hard times. In one case, he drove 700 miles from his home in Huntsville, Alabama, to a forlorn house in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas.

Upon arriving, he knocked on the door to hear a woman yell from inside, “Who is it?”

“Rodney,” he says. The long silence lets him know she did not think he would actually come after the careworn woman had written him on Facebook.

Rodney is different, and being different is maybe the best All Saints’ message I can share. It is one of the last messages Paul, the most prolific writer of the New Testament, left us. In the year A.D. 62, when Paul was a prisoner in Rome and he surely knew his days were surely numbered, he ventured to write a letter to the Christians in Ephesus. Paul has spent three years with the Ephesians a decade before. He loves them, and before he is executed by Nero’s minions, he cries out to God on the Ephesians’ behalf:

I pray that your minds may be opened to see his light, so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his saints, and how very great is his power at work in us who believe. This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength which God used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side. (Eph. 1:18-20)

Did you catch the gist of Paul’s intercession? “I pray that you will know the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises to his saints.” There’s our word for the day — saints, which in English comes off a little sappy, as if we are talking about becoming “goody two-shoes.” However, in the Greek the word is hagios, which means “unlike,” “other,” and “different.” Those who have called to love God and serve him are made saints — and that’s every person in this room. Once saints, we become wildly different than those around us. Enter Rodney and his lawn-cutting crusade.

Lest we think that transformation is utterly impossible, recall St. Paul’s later words: “The power working in us is the same as the mighty strength which God used when he raised Christ from death.” That message is pretty clear. If we imagine we have hit a complete roadblock in our lives, the power of Christ’s resurrection is going to break through that impasse and make something of us, make us saints, make us entirely different.

And saints share what the new life God has given them. Rodney has challenged kids all over the country to take up his challenge and mow 50 yards in order to bring unexpected grace to those who are struggling. Hundreds have taken up his challenge, including in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Australia.

Deep down, kids want to be a whole lotta different, too. Saints add seasoning, zest, spice, and hope to life. Recall Jesus’ words: “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything but is thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Matt. 5:13).

On this All Saints’ Day, let’s make a pledge to become a whole lotta different and refuse to let anything stop us. We’ll be like Rodney, who, when asked by some cynic what he does in the winter, smiles and responds, “I drive up north and shovel snow.”[1]

The Rev. Patrick Gahan is rector of Christ Episcopal Church in San Antonio.

[1] Alex Macon, Southwest, “The Man Who’s Mowing the World,” August 2019


Online Archives