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How, Lord, do we respond?

“The evil out there will not stop because of the faith in here.” ~ Tom Berlin, Easter 2016 Sermon

IMG_4668You can’t just
on your principles.

You must
on your convictions.

What will we
that we haven’t been doing?

that we haven’t been saying?

to stop
what’s not stopping?

Renew us,
in your image.

Let your Kingdom come,
in us.

And through us,
to the world You dearly

Cradled in Community

News travels fast. At 2:24pm on Tuesday afternoon my daughter, who lives in DC, messaged me asking, “Do you know what’s happening on Point Rider Lane?” She had seen a news link, shared on Facebook by a friend from her middle school soccer team who was concerned about the helicopters flying over her house. I didn’t have an immediate answer, but soon I would. What does one do with news like this? As our Pastor put it yesterday, “the worst possible news.”

We do what people do in hard times. We gather and share the news.

Yesterday, I pulled into the church parking lot past an oddly marked vehicle. In the driver’s seat sat a man furiously typing on his laptop. I thought this odd because, as usual, I was arriving only minutes before the start of the service. Why wasn’t the man getting out and coming in? When I walked by, the ads printed on the side of his car told me why. He was from the media, probably on deadline to submit this morning’s story.

Floris UMC worship was news. And the news outlets were reporting it.

I felt a little odd, then, walking into the service. Wasn’t sure what I would find there. But I was greeted, as usual. Welcomed, as usual. Seated, as usual, although the sanctuary seemed a bit more full than usual. The sermon title had changed, but we were still welcoming new members and handing out Bibles to our 3rd graders. Just like usual.  Then we sang our opening hymn, so familiar, so fitting: I Love to Tell the Story.

It felt a bit ironic but so fitting. Today, an old, old story was breaking news.

We are a community suffering through tragedy. And so we come. To be comforted and to connect. To ask questions with no answers. We bring our grief and our sorrow. But we come. Tom Berlin’s wonderful heart for all of us was poured out in his words.

Tom brought to mind a message I heard this summer delivered by Rob Fuquay, a pastor in NC. The theme was the “I am” statements of Jesus. Rob was teaching from John 11:25-26. Jesus said to Martha whose brother Lazarus lay in the tomb, “I am the resurrection and the life…Do you believe this?” Rob asked us if we could put our trust in this. Rest in this. Because the resurrection was not just for those who have died but for the many left behind, the people who have to live with death. Who carry grief.

Tom cautioned us that “grief carried casually can easily convert to anger.” So, so true, Tom. Thank you. But grief, cradled carefully, the way our church has helped us carry it this week, can be made alive again. Life, not resuscitated, but resurrected.

As the song goes…

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.
I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
’twill be the old old, story that I have loved so long.
I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.

What a privilege we have as keepers of the whole story… of Jesus and His love.

Frederick Buechner, “The power of the Resurrection means, the worst thing is not the last thing.”

Rallying from Reply All

Our neighborhood block party was scheduled for Saturday night. But wouldn’t you know a few tornadoes would force us to re-schedule for Sunday night? Right after we were warned in worship this week to “Harness Hearsay.”

I do love the block party. It’s fun to catch up with people. Find out about the kids, the grand kids, the pets. To talk shop, jobs, ideas, accolades. (Three of our neighborhood Moms just completed the Tough Mudder Saturday!) To trade info on lawn services and painters and home improvement services. This is one of the places that community get togethers shine. At least on the surface.

But, ever since I outgrew the elementary bus stop I don’t get the regular scoop on the neighborhood goings-on. I am just not in the loop – except one day per year.  It is amazing the conversation that can emerge when neighbors get together for a block party.  Yesterday, I was on guard. Thanks very much to Tom Berlin who has us standing on guard against gossip and hearsay this week as part of our current sermon series: “Stung By the Tongue”.

Because the “reply all” video shown in worship took me back immediately to a similarly awkward moment for our neighborhood. We don’t have a Home Owners Association so some years back I gathered folks’ emails and phone numbers and kids names and ages and created a directory (Yes, hard copy) which has since been revised into an email distribution list. This is how we get the word out about various doings in the neighborhood – things like invitations to the block party.

Now, I won’t go into details because I imagine that would be considered gossip, but sometimes folks reply all to this block party invite. “I’ll be there.” “I’ll bring…” etc. But one year one of my neighbors replied to the list about a concern regarding the circumstances of another neighbors’ property, a neighbor they did not know. The wording was specific and to the point. Replies ensued. Replied all. The asking neighbor did not realize that said-neighbor was reading what was shared.

This absolutely challenged me. After all, I had provided the forum, if you will, for this transgression. I felt terribly. What I realized was that I had the peace-making tool at hand. Not my computer but my knock at their door. Which I did. And for this I am very grateful. Because when I sent out the invite for the block party email this year, this neighbor responded to me. In a kind, friendly fashion, sharing that she currently works in a location where I have recently been seeking business and hoped we could get together. She was totally gracious about getting the block party invite even though her family no longer resides in the neighborhood. 

Well, I am happy to say I did not engage in gossip at last night’s block party event, though I did wonder if everyone else heard those bells and whistles and heavenly horns blowing when the opportunity did present itself. Instead I met some relatively new neighbors who had to leave early so they could get to a local store to pick up the left-over bread and deliver it for Reston Interfaith. They do this twice a month. Who knew?

Isn’t it nice when you see folks living with such clarity? Though we may be unaware, it is most certainly true as Tom advised, “that we are the lens through which others look to see Christ.” Transparency and some good lens cleaner is all that’s necessary. Easier than it looks.

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