November 13th, 2013
Rev. Anna Woofenden
The Garden Church, San Pedro, CA
Scripture: Isaiah 35:3-8, Luke 17:20-21
“The hallmark of love is not loving ourselves, but loving others and being united to them through love.”Divine Love and Wisdom 47 Emanuel Swedenborg
As a church, we don’t stand with a particular political view; as people of faith, there is not one right partisan expression. What we stand behind, no matter what, is love. And being people who are anointed to love.
Love goes beyond who we voted for, or how that is expressed. Love looks out into the world to see who is suffering, who is experiencing fear and loss, who is consumed by hate. Love looks inward at parts of ourselves—at what is underneath our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Love isn’t always comfy or pretty. Often love calls us to go beyond our comfort zones.
Glennon Doyle Melton writes “Love is not warm and fuzzy or sweet and sticky. Real love is tough as nails. It is having your heart ripped out, putting it back together, and the next day offering it back to the same world that just tore it up.”
Love is fierce. Love is persistent. Love puts our bodies in between, beside, and behind bodies that are threatened. Love combats the hate and words of condemnation that come into our own heads, and stops us when we want to lash out at other people.
I think love also gently wraps a blanket around us. It encourages us to care gently, for ourselves and for each other. Love reaches out and checks in, “How are you doing?” “How can I support you today?” “How can I stand with you today?” Love calls out to that Divine love, and welcomes it into this place.
This message is nothing new friends; it’s what you hear from me most every week—love God and love each other, honor the dignity of all human beings, we belong to God, we belong to each other, we are loved and we are called to love. This is not new information, nor a new call. But today we have the opportunity to be reminded of its imperative. We have a reminder that love is not easy, but it must be our consistent commitment, for the long haul. The work of courageous love has been the work, is the work, and will continue to be the work. All the resolve we feel now—we must keep that, and continue to stay awake.
We must be awake to where there is hell and negativity that is working to divide us and twist things. We must be awake when it urges us to flare up in anger or take us to the pit of despair, and when it tells us there’s no point and to just stop.
We must stay awake to heaven and its powerful force for compassion and justice and healing in the world. Because heaven is with us and among us—urging and infilling us, anointing us to love.
And this is why we need to keep gathering together, praying and listening and acting. We need to educate ourselves in how to love more effectively and to encourage each other. We need to hold each other accountable. We need to widen our circles and expand our friendships. We need to look more deeply at things we might have assumed we know, and question narratives that have been presented as the singular truth. We need to consistently do our internal work of rejecting hell and welcoming heaven and to show up and stand with courage and compassion in the face of injustice and hate. We need to be kind to each other and gentle to each other. We need to call together on God, for the strength and comfort and resolve. We need to come around God’s table where all are welcome, and remember together that we are beloved and we are anointed to love.
3 Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees. 4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, do not fear.”
For God is here.
Rev. Anna Woofenden
Scripture: 1 Kings 19:1-15
“God’s love goes forth not only to good people, but to evil people. God loves not only those who are in heaven, but also those who choose hell, for God is everywhere and forever the same.” –Emanuel Swedenborg, True Christianity 43
When I was a child, I was very afraid of wind, and earthquakes, and fire. My fear of fire was probably primary—growing up in a house with a wood stove and attention to fire safety, it was ingrained in my psyche at a very young age that fire was something to be careful with and that if it was out of control it could be very harmful. I remember having a reoccurring nightmare that people were marching around our house with gigantic rhubarb leaves, which were on fire. Strangely it wasn’t that there were people marching around our home, or the oversized produce that scared me, it was the fire.
These fears subsided some over the years, though bits of them still remain. One can say, “Don’t be afraid” and work to not respond out of fear. But there is also some reality to these things. I learned that some of these of the fears were legitimatized, when a friend’s house burned to the ground, when the windstorm blew a tree onto a neighbor’s house, and seeing San Francisco after soon after the large earthquake in the late ‘80s. These things I was afraid of were real.
I have been struggling with feeling afraid this week, and walking with others who are afraid. Afraid for our communities, afraid for our nation, afraid of the ramifications of seemingly greater and greater divides between people and groups, afraid of guns, and violence. I’ve been feeling afraid for the children and teens I know who have come out or might. I’ve been hearing from my queer friends and people of color about their fears, and the fears that they live with day in and day out being confirmed. There are things to be afraid of.
The prophet Elijah in our scripture today was afraid. And he had good reason. After having a showdown with the prophets of Bael and winning, Queen Jezebel is not happy and is after him, and he’s on the run. He’s so afraid of being caught and killed that he runs out into the desert, prepared to die.
It was out there in the desert, in his place of utter despair, that an angel of the Lord comes to him. God meets him out there in the desert—fear and all—and provides for him. An angel brings him water and a cake baked on hot stones, and nourishes him and provides for the next leg of the journey.
And then the Lord asked, “What are you doing here Elijah?”
I kind of picture Elijah rolling his eyes and getting a little impatient, like, “Haven’t you been paying attention, Lord, to all that’s going on?”
And so Elijah answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”
He’s been through this big and difficult encounter and been faithful, and people are after him. He’s feeling desperate and afraid, and the Lord has the audacity to ask him “What are you doing?” “I’ve been very zealous!” is the prophet’s reply.Do something about this; I have been doing what you told me, but now I’m going to die. He’s afraid.
From an evolutionary perspective, the emotion of fear protected humans from predators and other threats to the survival of the species. So it is no wonder that certain dangers evoke that emotion, since fear helps protect us and is therefore adaptive, functional, and necessary. However, there is another important aspect of emotions to consider that, in the case of fear, may be important to decision making as well as survival. That is, when an emotion is triggered, it has an impact on our judgments and choices in situations.
In the wake of the Orlando shootings early last Sunday morning, and witnessing the national grief and trauma this week, I’ve felt sadness and frustration and fear. And my response is that I want to fix it. Make it all better and make sure no one ever gets hurt again.
Maybe if I could rally enough signatures on gun control, or if I could have enough conversations about the need to be inclusive of all people in religious communities, or if I could change the mind of that person in my life who’s political views terrify me, or if I could craft the perfect Facebook post, maybe, just maybe then I could escape some of the fear and heartbreak that I am feeling.
On Wednesday I was talking to a dear friend and fellow preacher and we were sharing our fears and sharing our wrestling with our response. She was my water and fresh bread in the wilderness. She reminded me that, “our trust in God and our willingness to open our heart up to the heartbreak is the only thing you have to give your people.”
We are not always safe and there are things to fear. There is pain, there is suffering, there are things that need to change—and we are not alone. God meets us in the fear, God is present with us in the pain, God is the force of love that takes the heartbreak and despair and transforms it into defiant love that does not run away from the fear, but stays with it and audaciously claims God’s love is stronger.
Yes, like Elijah I’m so tempted to run away and hide in a cave. Or busy myself with things so I don’t have to really meet the fear or listen and feel the heartbreak.
But here’s the thing—even in the cave, God shows up.
God shows up to Elijah in the cave and asks, “What are you doing here Elijah?” And when Elijah gives his long list, God invites him to the entrance to the cave, because “the Lord is going to pass by.”
And then comes all the chaos, the wind, the earthquakes, the fire. And Elijah didn’t hear God in any of it, there was too much noise. And then, then there was a sheer silence.
We talk each week at the Garden Church about the difference between quiet and silence. Quiet is devoid of any noise or chaos, set apart and separate from the world, safe from all that might interrupt it, which is never the case in our outdoor sanctuary, with the wind, and the traffic, the birds and the helicopters. Silence on the other hand is something much deeper, much more profound. Silence is about listening, silence is about intention; silence invites us, even in the middle of the noise of the city, even in the chaos of the world, even within the chatter of our own fears clattering around in our heads, to listen for God. Listen for, watch for how God is always passing by. It was after that sheer silence that God’s question came again: “What are you doing here Elijah?”
It is in these places of deep listening, of sheer silence, where we meet and face our deepest fears, where we encounter ourselves, where we can encounter God. Not through immediately trying to jump in and fix it, not by running away to hide in our own version of a cave, but through staying present, present to the heartbreak, present to the love, present to the human beings around us and listening.
As a straight ally, it is always, and particularly in a week like this, my most important job to listen. To listen to my LGBTQ friends share and tell me about how they are experiencing this act of violence, not to try to fix it or make it all okay, but to deeply listen to the pain and the suffering. Listen to the stories that are different than mine and hear God in silence, in the words of others. As we practice listening together, I want to share with you the words of my friend and colleague Amy Kumm-Hanson.
I came of age in the ‘90s. I knew I was queer around the same time that Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered in Laramie, Wyoming. And Wyoming is not that far, geographically or ideologically, from where I was raised in Montana. This was before widespread usage of the Internet and way before the age of social media, so this publicized case was the only example I had of being gay.
This was before “It Gets Better.” Ellen DeGeneres had come out on network television, but to a teenager in Montana, the idea that you could be accepted and even loved for who you loved, was about as realistic as living on the moon.
(Years later) I have celebrated marriage equality in the capital building of Minnesota. I have marched in pride parades. I’ve spoken publicly about what it is to be queer, a Christian, and to be human. Just one week ago, I married the love of my life in a ceremony with over 200 of our friends and family present. I have been filled with life.
And yet, just a mere seven days after I professed my love to my wife in front of my nearest and dearest, I was reminded again of death. I am not a child anymore, but that child inside of me who fears for her safety and her life is still there.
I don’t have a solution. I don’t really have words right now. I need allies to speak the truth about the events in Orlando. I need allies to attend to my safety and those of my community. I need allies to continue to create safe spaces for all youth to feel loved, but especially queer youth, because the world can be cruel.”
Friends, we all need to work together to create spaces for all youth to feel loved, but especially queer youth, because the world can be cruel. We need to create a world where people are not shot, but especially people with colored skin, because the world can be racist.
We need to create a world where all are housed and clothed and fed, but especially those that are suffering from mental illness and addiction, because the world can be apathetic. We need to work together to listen.
Hearing God in each other. Seeing God in each other. Responding to our fears by listening deeply, and as we listen deeply to see the humanity of all people.
In 1997, the Swedenborgian Church of North America, the denomination this church is a part of, ordained our first openly gay minister. But before that, in 1986, eleven years earlier, some important listening happened that led to a fundamental shift. In 1975, the first woman was ordained. Then in 1986, rather than adding another classification of people on the list that we ordain, men, now women, now gay as well as straight, there was a transformative change to the approach.
In the words of Dr. Jim Lawrence: “we don’t ordain gay people, nor straight people; we don’t ordain women, and we don’t ordain men, neither do we ordain persons of color or white folks: we ordain people who are trained and prepared to offer skilled ministry in the world.”
This change in the policy of one organization by no means has fixed all the problems or changed all our hearts and minds. But I believe it is an example of the shift that can happen when we begin to really listen, to show up, to see the humanity in everyone and see people first as people. To make this shift, over and over again, in ourselves and in our world, we have to deeply acknowledge and work on the areas where we, individually, and collectively, in our own prejudices and in our systemic systems are oppressing and marginalizing people.
In listening deeply to other people, especially those whose experiences of life and the world vary from our own, we come face to face with the ways that we are all interconnected. We realize that we need to—in the words of Lilla Watson, an Aboriginal woman from Australia—continue to work alongside each other for liberation, “because your liberation is tangled up in mine.”
We’re human first, children of God. We belong to God and we belong to each other. In the fear and the chaos we can forget that. Which is why we need to be with the silence. Even if it means coming face to face with our fears.
“What are you doing here Elijah?” God asks again.
Even after the chaos of the wind and earthquake and fire, when God asks him the same question, his answer is the same, “I am very zealous for the Lord.”
Okay, the Lord says, “Go, return on your way.”
It’s not necessarily epic or earth-shattering on the other side of silence, when God’s voice speaks to us,
“Go on your way.”
“Go on a walk.”
“Change your mind.”
“Keep showing up.”
“Hug your children.”
“Slow down enough to see others.”
“Let your heart break.”
“Let your heart be transformed.”
“Go on your way.”
Or in the words of Mary Oliver:
“It doesn’t have to be the blue iris, it could be weeds in a vacant lot,
or a few small stones; just pay attention,
then patch a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate,
this isn’t a contest, but the doorway into thanks,
and a silence in which another voice may speak.”
There are a lot of things I could preach about today. Father’s Day. Summer Solstice. We go through what’s called the Revised Common Lectionary for our scripture texts, a series that walks through the Bible, along with churches all over the world. And today we have David and Goliath, the story of the young boy who faces and defeats the enormous giant; we have Jesus calming the storm. And some of these things would be more fun to preach about than what God has on my heart to preach about today.
A wise preacher is often quoted, “preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” We might say now, “Preach with the Bible in one hand and the Facebook feed and the newsfeed and the Twitter feed in the other hand.”So if I’m going to preach with these in my hands this week, we have to talk about racism and we have to talk about violence. And that’s not fun—I quake and pray, and others have been praying about how we can best have these conversations. Because it’s hard and messy and painful. But I believe that if we can’t have these conversations in church, with the infusion of God’s love and wisdom amongst us, well then I don’t know why we have church.
So friends, I invite you to enter into a hard topic today. And to try to find, where is the gospel in it? Because I do believe that God is present, and that Jesus shows us that there always is gospel—good news. Sometimes to find that gospel we have to be willing to engage the hard and the painful, and the things that we’d rather just gloss over.
Thursday morning, I woke up to a news feed filled with articles and shock and grief. The night before, a young white man who has since been identified as Dylan Storm Roof walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church where a Bible study was taking place. He sat around the tables with the community for over an hour and then, as they were wrapping up, pulled out a gun and shot nine people.
I read and I watched and I sat down and I wrote.
A person, Killed another person. And my heart aches.
A white person, Killed another black person. And my lungs contract.
A young white man person, Killed nine black women and men, people. And my back stiffens. My heart pounds. My fingers tighten. My feet press into the ground.
All the words scroll by, “Enough is enough”…“Lord, have mercy”…“When will this end?”…“Stop racism”…“When will we have peace?”
Scrolling, scrolling, images flush, other faces, Trayvon and Michael, Eric, young girls and old men, the marches, the media, this gaping wound of racism, violence, pain, and hate.
I keep scrolling. Someone urges us not to “jump to conclusions” and then black clergy colleague asks, “Will you be silent when it’s me?”
My hands go to my forehead. Again.
To keep feeling, to keep being present, every time there is another giant public witness to racism and white supremacy in our nation. I want to ignore, to numb.
Not to be silent because I don’t care, but because it’s so much work to stay present with the suffering. And name that there are giants in our land. There are giant gaping wounds of racism and inequality, hunger and violence. There are systems and ideologies, structures and places within me that continue to benefit from the oppression of others. And I know, that I, as a white woman, am mostly on the benefiting end. And I worry about this beautiful big-hearted little boy that I know, who I’ve known since he was an itty-bitty infant, who has beautiful beautiful black skin and I know that he is in more and more risk with each inch that he grows. And that, my friends, is so painful to sit with. It’s too much. It’s giant.
We heard today the story of a giant—Goliath—a big, huge, intimidating enemy. When we hear this story, this story of a giant that is so gigantic, so overpowering, the giant who has all the armor and weapons and a reputation to go with it, a story of impossibility. Maybe we can relate. The stories we read in the Word can mix and layer with the stories of our lives. We see ourselves in these stories as we let them come alive, and we see ourselves and the world in the text.
There are giants that we face. Racism. Violence. The insurmountable. The very large that seems so dangerous and impossible to even begin to approach.
There were giants in the land. Send someone else. There are giants in our land. I want to run away, to hide, to make it be someone else’s problem, to explain away why this is none of my business or could never affect me.
But then there’s David, this young shepherd boy, innocent, strong, wise, dedicated and trusting in the Lord’s work in the world and in his life. And he steps forward. He says, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”
David, and so many courageous people, before and after, who step up and say, “yes, there’s a giant, but there’s also the Lord, and step out in faith and trust and with the courage to face what we all want to hide from.”
Rather than hiding, avoiding, glossing over, I need to show up. Be present to it. I need to continue to listen. I need to particularly listen to my colleagues and friends of color and know and honor that they have wisdom from their lived experience, that I do not, and that I have privilege merely by the skin that I’m born in. I need to listen.
Because when I listen, I hear voices such as Rev. Emma Akapan, a black woman who wrote yesterday, “To my white Christian brethren, I don’t need for you to tell me how angry you are. I need you to tell your white family members, friends, and congregants. I need you to talk about your anger at racism and white supremacy from the pulpit. I need you to urge your congregants to address racism in their own family. White folks know who their racist family members and friends are—now is not the time sit idly by and ignore it. We must face those who we love, and challenge their prejudice. White folks must say, “no more” to racism, especially when it’s a system that they benefit from.”
And so here we are. I could have tried to get away with preaching a nice sermon on Father’s Day today, but I hope not, I hope that this community demands from each other and from your preacher that this is a place where we take our theology of the table, that all are welcome, we take our commitment to look into the eyes of each other and see the face of God, the humanity of all people, we take our charge seriously, to be a place that’s more like heaven, in and amongst the messiness of earth. Which means, to me, that we are willing to stop and wrestle deeply with what the gospel—the “good news”—is for our country still dealing with the festering wound of racism, violence, and division.
I believe hat the gospel calls us to have the courage to have these conversations, knowing that we’re not going to get it all right. I will say some things that offend some, and other things that offend others, I will likely make myself and others uncomfortable that I am preaching about racism from the pulpit, I may even say things that later I’ll have to go back and say, “I’ve learned more since then.” But I will not be silent. Because we need to speak our truth about these giants in the land.
The good news—the gospel—is in Jesus, as we watch him as he walked on earth, calling to repentance, a changing of our minds and heart, as he reached out across barriers and lines, calling us to pray for our enemies, to forgive the impossible, to knock over the tables of injustice, to stand with and walk with the oppressed and speak truth about oppressors.
Remember, Jesus came from a time when there were giants in the land, the Roman empire was crushing those who were not them, slavery and racism and classism were rampant. And Jesus called for a different way. Jesus didn’t put on the armor of Saul. He didn’t go to the palace and try to play with the power struggle of violence and aggression. He didn’t take up the sword and shield.
Like David before him, who when Saul offered him his bronze helmet and coat of mail and David tried to walk in them, and then said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. David took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.
David didn’t use Saul’s armor. He went forward with what was more vulnerable, but true to him. He went out as his own vulnerable self. With the tools and skills he knew well.
Jesus, the all powerful God of Heaven and earth, didn’t come into the world protected by chain mail and with a sword. He came to earth as a vulnerable baby, grew and walked with the people. An itinerant preacher, sleeping here and there, going across the lake in boats, being with the people. Valuing, touching, feeding everyone he met. He didn’t hide behind the religious rule or the protection of Roman guards. He put on his own clothing,—vulnerable skin—and from that place engaged the giants.
Jesus wasn’t afraid of the hard conversations, of stirring things up, Or if he was afraid, he did it anyway, even when it resulted in his own death at the hands of Roman rulers.
And here’s where we reach out for and claim the gospel, where we repent and invite God to keep working to change our minds, to take off the ill-fitting armor of the stories we tell ourselves and put down our weapons of defense that come from fear and hate. Calling us to lament and repent. And then to tell the truth.
In the language of metaphor, stones remind us of truth, and if you think about stones as truth, these stones are smooth, and rounded from the water flowing over them, they’re well used, known, lived truths.
And its just one of these stones—one truth—that slays the giant in this story. Now I’m not suggesting that if we just land on just the right truth that we’ll end these major problems in our world. And I’m not suggesting that we use truth as a weapon. And though I’d really like to be able to wrap up our story as nicely as is the story of David and Goliath, I cannot. Because being human and living in the world today is just so much messier than than this story.
We can’t fix it all overnight. We can’t do one thing and make it all better. We can ignore it for so long, but then it will come back in our faces and in our hearts. Maybe we can start by telling the truth. By speaking the truth, we let the light in. We let God in. Tell the truth about the history of slavery that this country is built on. Tell the truth about the vastly un-equal incarceration rate of black men vs. white men who committed the same crime. Tell the truth about racially charged violence. Tell the truth about how economic and social systems benefit white people. Tell the truth about ourselves and how we are part of these systems. Be willing to engage and stand in hard conversations about race, and be honest and vulnerable and to cry out to God in and amongst it.
I wish I had some more uplifting gospel to give you. But maybe the gospel is just this: Embodying our liturgy and our faith. Speaking our prayers of confession and repentance. Being church side-by-side with people that are different than us. Coming around the table where all are welcome. And meaning it. Even when it’s messy. Even when we disagree. Even when we have to be honest and have hard conversations. That we come around God’s table and be the human family together.
Crying out—telling the truth in the midst of it all. Being willing to put on our own clothing, our vulnerability, voice our confusion and doubts, engage in the hard conversations and cry out to God and to each other.
The disciples out on the boat are in the great storm and afraid. And Jesus was asleep in the stern. The disciples are freaking out and say, “Jesus, Jesus, don’t you care that we are perishing?” And he woke up, and said, “Peace, be still” and the waves stopped. He then said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Let us keep crying out, “Jesus, don’t you care that we are perishing?” Crying out in lament for sisters and brothers, crying out as we repent, crying out for healing and reconciliation. And Jesus, just for that moment, calms the storm. Peace. Be still.
Excerpts from the prayer service at the Garden Church today for those who were killed Wednesday evening in the Emanuel AME Church, in Charleston, South Carolina
O Holy One, We gather to mourn and lament, to cry out, to shake in the wake of another act of violence, another slew of images of death and brutality, another story of black people and white people, hatred and violence, racism and the cries for a just world.
We gather to lament Lord,
Though part of us wants to move on, run away, brush it off,
We stop and lament.
We come to you and to each other and we lament the nine lives that were violently ended Wednesday evening as they gathered to worship and pray.
We come to you and to each other and we lament acts and systems that further racism and violence, valuing the lives of some more than others.
We come to you and to each other and we lament places where violence and division tear apart families, communities, relationships and places inside each one of us.
We come to you and to each other and we lament the ways we have turned from you and from each other and we confess our need for healing and compassion, renewal and peace.
We come together to remember.
And to plant in remembrance of those who died and for those who keep living.
As each plant is being planted, we sing together. O Lord hear our prayer, o Lord hear our prayer, as I call come to me, o Lord hear our prayer, o Lord hear our prayer, come and listen to me.
We remember and mourn for:
Cynthia Hurd, 54, a manager with the Charleston County Public Library system.• Ethel Lance, 70, a retiree who recently worked as a church janitor. • Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, a South Carolina state senator and pastor at the church. • Susie Jackson, 87, a longtime member of the church. • Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49, former Charleston County community development director. • Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, age unknown, a church pastor, speech therapist and a high school girls’ track coach. • Myra Thompson, 59, a pastor at the church.• Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., 74, another pastor at the church.
• Tywanza Sanders, 26, a 2014 graduate of Allen University.
And we plant sage for wisdom. For honesty. For the willingness to repent of the ways that we participate in violence and division.
We come before you and we offer our prayer of confession and receive your assurance.
Before God, with the people of God, We confess to our brokenness; To the ways we wound our lives, The lives of others, And the life of the world.
God who forgives us and urges us to forgive others, We claim Your unending love, Your continuing call to renewal and change, And your constant presence with us on the journey.
You are loved. You are forgiven. You are never separated from the expansive love of God.
O Lord hear our prayer, O Lord hear our prayer, when I call, answer me, O Lord hear our prayer, O Lord hear our prayer, come and listen to me.
And now, may the One God of Heaven and earth, God of Compassion, God of Justice, God who created and loves all, the God who calls us to move forward in making a more just and compassionate world be with us all. Amen.
–Rev. Anna Woofenden, the Garden Church in San Pedro, CA 6/19/15
Today a woman was excommunicated by/from the Mormon church because of her advocation for the ordination of women.
This week the clergy of the church that I loved and worked for for many years, and finally chose to leave in order to pursue my calling to ordained ministry, meets and is discussing ordination and gender roles.
At the end of next week I will be ordained into the clergy of the Swedenborgian Church of North America.
These three events are connecting in my thoughts and feelings today and lead me to say:
May women be honored as the whole and created-by-God humans that we are–everywhere, and particularly in our churches and communities of faith.
For the runners,
Finish-line in sight, We pray.
For all who felt,
The ground shake,
Who heard the blast,
And blast again, We pray.
For the emergency personnel,
Who sprung into action,
Coupling training and courage
To respond, We pray.
For the loved ones,
Near and far,
Eyes glued to the screen,
Waiting to hear the familiar text tone,
Longing for the message of
“I’m alright,” We pray.
For unknown persons,
For faces not yet reveled,
For motives not known
And causes yet detected, We pray.
For the many who pause,
As news of a tragedy appears
On our newsfeed.
Just close enough to feel it,
Just far away enough to
Wonder how to respond.
We invite Compassion
Healing and Peace And we pray.
Last Friday the Earham Community was rocked by the news that three students were hit by a train, one died on impact and the other two in critical condition. The following is an offering to grapple with the impact on the community as some of us experienced it that day.
We feel the familiar heart-catch when we see the headline,
But this one we can’t brush aside,
And merely send up a prayer for
unknown faces in some other city.
Someone’s loved one, yes,
but by luck, or grace, not our own.
Today the news has invaded our boundary,
of being exempt from the tragedies that make headlines.
the news starts with “Earlham Community in mourning after…”
And that is you and me.
Reporters down by the giant Nutcracker in the corner of the furniture gallery that you walked by last week to get to Roscoe’s.
Faces of the injured on CNN.
Faces you’re used to seeing at the gym,
and walking by
on campus paths.
This news is not to pray and send good thoughts from afar.
This news is news to walk in and with.
People die every day,
63 train deaths in Indiana so far this year.
We can’t stop the world for each.
We know these faces.
We share campus paths,
and library books.
We can’t stop the world at every tragedy.
We stop our campus today.
Our prayers are lifted up as we gather.
I light four candles.
One for Therese, or Tracy, as her friends call her,
One for Lenore
One for Graham
Flowers by each candle.
Yellow: Hope and healing, for two.
Purple: Lament and remembrance, the third.
We walk, prayer in each step.
only broken by the crunch of leaves
beneath our mourning feet.
Our hands join those gathered in–
with hearts beating and breaking
for heart stopped
and hearts struggling to be strong.
Barriers broken down.
I am present,
Aware to the aliveness around us,
Brought clear by the loss of life.
Tears move down my cheeks with those who weep.
Side by side in silence.
Through the pine blossoms falling from the sky,
Even the trees are crying.
As are we
as we lift up the parents with our words
and imagine the phone ringing at 1:00 am.
Becoming the night they will never forget.
A quick tight squeeze, her arm around my waist,
the world needs to slow,
when one breath stops.
I call one of my younger brothers,
the one at college thousands of miles from home,
To hear his voice and know that for him it is just another day.
God of continuity, God with us in disruption. We come to you claiming your Name as a Being of Love, not a being of destruction.
We call to you as the force of Good, Redemption, Hope, and Life.
We call to you as the God who is present in loss, confusion, shattering and disruption.
We recognize Your presence in the rays of Light, As neighbors connect to neighbors, As help and relief come together and are offered, As four-year-old’s learn what it is to be without electricity, As front loaders roll through rivered streets,
picking up grandmothers off of porches, As we watch the news on our laptops, from our cozy homes in Indiana, Colorado, California and Montana and we pause,
and connect to those we know and do not know, As priorities are examined, And we hold those we love close, As we slow and bow in awe and humility at the force that Nature is, As we wonder, the parts we play in the interconnected world we live in, As we are interrupted, Disrupted.
Disrupted. 1. to cause disorder 2. to destroy the normal continuance or unity; interrupt. 3. Break apart 4. Broken apart
When we are disrupted,
Shine Your Light into our hearts and lives,
Show us Your Way as you bring healing in the cracks and crevices, May we notice, pause, and be present to, the precious,
When disruption comes, May we use it,
to Breakthrough our apathy, Crack our stagnancy, Shatter our certainty, Crumble our consumerism, and slice through our isolation.
May we be present
alongside our fellow sojourners on this planet, present to the interconnectedness of all, conscious in our actions and thoughts, purposeful in our choices and intentions, awake to life.