Tornados on Wednesday morning.
The aftermath and outpouring of support.
The show of love and concern by all those who got in contact to check on me and my family.
And another round of storms today.
It has been an emotionally-charged and physically-demanding week. I have been grateful, heartbroken, exhausted, disappointed, relieved, anxious, worried, frustrated and frightened.
But today, I was moved to tears.
Having grown up in Harrisburg in rural Southern Illinois, I have lived many years with an awareness of the gulf between the sensibilities of the big city (Chicago) and the small town.
Today, the Chicago Tribune reminded me that there is nothing so powerful as standing in solidarity with another, there is no action more meaningful than standing shoulder-to-shoulder with someone to silently convey, “You are not alone.”
How much more significant is that act when offered by a brother or sister with whom you don’t always see eye to eye. The silent tears on my face are a testament to that fact.
Thank you, Illinois. You ARE Harrisburg.
I’ve noticed that most folks from Harrisburg are using social media to post pictures of the tornado damage. The images that have really moved me in the last 24 hours, though, aren’t pictures of destruction. They’re pictures of compassion …
Life Church in Marion: “I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink.”
Alltel is charging phones for those without access to power.
And lots of folks – volunteers and professionals – who just want to help.
(I don’t even know where Lemont is! How nice that they would come, though!)
As seen at locations all over town: stockpiles of water and supplies that are being donated.
Surely in the brow’s sweat we seek the good,
a jewel desired but in harm’s setting placed.
Gained at a risk, our lives on danger based,
a chasm ‘twixt what’s done and what we should;
Hurt and help are in the single circumstance
and evil taints the hope, the goal contaminates.
So Providence submits to bitter fate –
the cross; its partner in redemption’s dance.
Good comes by increments; so slow its speed!
Humanity rebuffs the pure, God’s Self!
Gives up! The good is placed back on the shelf
Two steps ahead, two back, progress indeed !
Try again! Smudge the tiny ash of grace;
God helps you make the world a better place!
This week I’m preaching on Psalm 23, and in my preparation I found an interesting juxtaposition. The NRSV reads: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” The Message reads: “God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.”
There’s a big difference between the two … and it points to something I’ve noticed. Too often, I think we find ourselves resisting the ways in which God would care for us. We find ourselves saying the words of the paraphrase: “God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.”
“God, you go on and take care of somebody who really needs you. I’m doing just fine. I don’t need a thing.”
In my interaction with folks in the area that have been affected by recent flooding, I’ve see a lot of examples of this resistance to being cared for. Too many folks resist help, resist supplies, put on a brave face and say they’re doing okay. “You give those things to someone who really needs them. I’m doing okay.” Or “we’ll be fine.”
We folks in rural areas are really good at care for others … but sometimes we’re not all that comfortable with having other people care for us.
“Oh, Pastor Meg, I don’t need to be on the prayer list. There are so many other people who need prayer more than I do.” OR
“Pastor Meg, I don’t want you to make a trip all the way down to Paducah just to see me in the hospital. You’ve got too many other things to do.”
To me, those things sound an awful lot like: God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.
Psalm 23 invites us to envision God as our shepherd: one who is with us and who is for us. But it also challenges us to give up our resistance to God’s shepherding care. Psalm 23 challenges us to let our independence slip – ever so slightly – and to give ourselves permission to receive God’s care.
A portion of my sermon for Maundy Thursday … to get us in the mood for worship tonight:
There are two very church sorts of words that get used an awful lot … and often get used incorrectly. These two words are especially important tonight, on Maundy Thursday.
The first word is liturgy. Liturgy just refers to the words we use in worship: the words we pray, the words printed in your bulletin that we say back and forth (the leader saying something and the congregation saying something), the words we use to tell the story of God.
Telling the story is important. It’s what we do as the people of God. Liturgy comes from a Latin word that means “the work of the people”. It’s what we do; it’s our job or our calling.
When God told Moses to instruct the people on how to do the Passover, God told them that the purpose of the feast was to give them the opportunity to tell the story … to pass it on to those who didn’t know the story.
We tell the story … and we do it through liturgy.
The second churchy sort of word is ritual. Usually when we use the word ritual, we mean the stuff we do at church … and especially the way we do it.
Sometimes we get to thinking that there’s only one right way to take up the offering or to pray the prayer of confession. We talk about these things as rituals. But that’s not really what ritual means.
People of faith engage in rituals ‐ in particular actions ‐ trusting that God will meet them in those actions. A ritual is an action that we do as an offering to God, trusting that God will accept it, and ‐ in some way that we don’t quite understand ‐ God will take our action and make something much more, something truly extraordinary out of it.
The Passover, the Lord’s Supper, the whole of worship … all of these are action we take, offerings of ourselves that we make, trusting that God will accept them and do something with them beyond what we, ourselves, can do.
Ritual isn’t just something that we’re so accustomed to that we take it for granted (which is often how we use the word).
Ritual is not a thoughtless action, but a thoughtful one. It is not something that we take for granted but rather, it is a way of giving of ourselves. It is an act of intimacy.
This post is short, but don’t let that fool you. My affection is sincere!
I’ve already informed my mother that she’s getting it for Mother’s Day. Ladies, look out: I’m itching for an excuse to give this one to friends!
Today in worship, our scripture is from Exodus 12 (the Passover) and Matthew 26 (the Last Supper).
These passages point to a meal – not a worship ritual, but a household meal – as a way in which God comes close to us and a way in which we practice our faith
It’s not unusual to talk about food during the season of Lent; the season of Lent is often when we give up something tasty as our Lenten sacrifice.
But what if, instead of giving something up, we were to be intentional about practicing our faith with every bite?
What if we were to see each mouthful as holy, as a way in which God comes near to us?
Would it change the way we eat? shop? cook?
What do you think? Offer your comments below.