I was in the pits last week. It felt like rip currents of painful news that just kept coming, and I got caught in the undertow. Do you know that feeling?
One healthy decision was to withdraw from the frantic social media. Another was to be with good friends instead of slouching around the house, tripping over my lower lip. But most important: I couldn’t wait for Sunday church.
And praise be, God sure delivered. The 9:15 service featured the Rite 13 ceremony, and we celebrated our young people as they mature in body, mind and spirit. Dudley Winthrop’s “children’s story” reading went right to my elder heart. The youth picked the hymns, and singing “Balm in Gilead” reminded me that “sometimes I feel discouraged, … but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.”
Scripture readings felt like prescriptions. From Micah’s “What does the Lord require of us but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God,” through the Gospel lesson’s Beatitudes – “Blessed are …” – we received our marching orders. And indeed we marched out to the triumphant “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
I’ve been pondering the Micah verse for the last couple days. It is an old favorite, beautiful to read but not easy to live. In my discouraged funk of last week, justice and kindness arm-wrestled; anger does that when we are so sure we’re right. I don’t think I’m the only parishioner with such struggles. That’s when I have to listen to the wise essayist Anne Lamott: “You can either practice being right or practice being kind.”
It wasn’t just the service that helped. Earlier in the week, our mini-retreat on Epiphany healing provided both uncomfortable moments and fertile ground for insight, such as this right-on poem:
The Place Where We Are Right
by Yehuda Amichai
From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the Spring.
The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.
But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plough.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
where the ruined
house once stood.
How blessed we are, here at St. Alban’s, to have such rich and joyful worship as well as opportunities for spiritual growth and renewal. Especially in these times of turmoil and collective angst, church matters. It is not enough just to believe we are spiritual beings, we need a community, our church. We all need each other; we need to show up. Church is a tangible reminder that God is with us, is not finished with us yet, and expects us to keep digging so the whisper can be heard.