September 16, 2016
Sometimes on Sundays during communion we at St. Michael’s offer anointing and prayers for healing. Last Sunday was one of those Sundays. Every time I watch from the pew or participate in those prayers I’m struck by how the world of hurt and the world of hope meet here in this place and in our daily lives as well.
You and I, we live in a world full of hurt. There’s no denying it. There’s really no avoiding it. Not when 100+ mile per hour winds and drenching rain saturate the Carolinas washing away trees and bridges and homes and lives. Not when tales of hurricanes past and the toll of indifference is paid in thousands of lives lost. Not when unprecedented fires swallow up trees and homes and lives and even interstate highways. Not when discourse and conversations turn into monologues and tirades with people talking not with each other but at each other. Not when hate speech becomes common fare and crosses burn and meanness stalks our land. Not when families are broken up at our borders. Not when over a thousand children are being held in detention camps here in the United States. Not when the bestseller of the week—both here and in Europe—is Bob Woodward’s latest book entitled Fear.
Our own lives, too, are marked by lines of pain and hurt and sadness. We yearn for healing and we yearn for hope—for ourselves and for the world in which we live. We are so hungry for hope.
Last Sunday, I left here with a heavy heart—the hurt of the world and the hurt of those who share this part of the world with me all crashed in on me. I so much wanted just to crawl into bed, pull up the covers, and block out the world.
But I was not done with my day. I had grocery shopping to do. Not much just a little fill-in for lunch and dinner—not even enough to fill a basket. I stopped at Lowes on twelfth and Lomas. It’s my last-stop shop. I grabbed my stuff and stood in line. There were two men ahead of me. One cashing out and the other just putting his groceries on the belt. The young man bagged his own groceries, got the bill, and opened his wallet. He counted out a few bills and said to the check-out person, “Keep the change.” Her face broke into a smile. It glowed—it really glowed with joy. She said to the young man, “I keep a stash of change here. There’s a homeless man who often comes at the end of the day. He never has enough to pay his whole bill. This will help tonight.” Then I saw that young man reach back into his wallet. He took out two more fives and handed them to the woman at the counter.
But that’s not the end of the story. What happened next is even more remarkable. The next person in line—a much older man—got his bill, paid in cash—two twenties I think—and when the check-out person, reached out with change, that man said, “Put it in your stash.” Imagine—goodness, upon goodness, upon goodness.
You and I, we live in a world not unlike the world of those who blocked their ears and covered their eyes when Lady Wisdom cried out to them. And yet that is not the end of the story. Or even the only story on the table today. Remember the words of the psalmist:
The heavens declare the glory of God,
And the firmament shows his handiwork.
One day tells its tale to another,
And one night imparts knowledge to another.
Although they have no words or language,
And their voices are not heard,
Their sound has gone out into all the lands,
And their message to the ends of the world.
Creation itself blessing the Creator whose teachings revive the soul and whose commandments rejoice the heart—the Holy One who is our strength and our redeemer.
The scriptures we hear today are punctuated with the notion of choice. We can choose to block our ears or we can choose to listen to Lady Wisdom. We can choose to join the psalmist in praise of our creator and redeemer or we can choose to still our voices and harden our hearts. We can choose to use our tongue to bless or we can choose to use our tongue for evil. We can choose to follow Jesus or we can choose to turn back.
I’m reminded of the words of Moses as he stood with his people poised to enter the promised land. Knowing he would not be going with them, Moses said, “I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life….” Choose life; choose hope for that is the way of the cross.