I waited patiently upon the LORD; *
he stooped to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay; *
he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God; *
many shall see, and stand in awe,
and put their trust in the LORD. – Psalm 40
I hope that you are well in the midst of the unmaking of the world as we have known it.
A little phrase that I recall from a man whom I came to deeply respect and love in the Mississippi Delta came up one day when we were visiting about all of the vicissitudes encountered as we live our lives, as we love our families, as we sometimes do work that is difficult and unrewarding, as we are visited with challenge, struggle and brokenness; it comes to mind on this lovely summer afternoon – “You know Alston . . . you know . . . I have never met the person who is living the life that they thought they would live.” He looked at me smiling through his own tears; his face shrouded in a wisdom that is only born of hope that walks through suffering. His message was essentially, “Although we cannot often choose our struggles, God has chosen for us our hopefulness.” If you are feeling displaced, anxious, confused, and fatigued – remember you are not alone – either on earth, or within the eyes of heaven. Remember that everyone you meet in these days is living through the deeper confirmation of my friend’s wisdom – in some ways, during these days, we may all be feeling a bit like strangers in the world.
A few weeks ago many watched the death of George Floyd on the streets of an American city; a tragedy by any measure, and something that rightfully should cause us as Christians and citizens to look deeply into our lives for a way forward that might keep something like this from occurring again. The summary of my feelings about this tragedy, and the myriad circumstances that lead to it, leave me with the simple and profound sense that God would show us a better way; the Christian Gospel, its message, is that in God’s eyes we are greater than our sinfulness, and the broken places that divide us; both individually and collectively.
In light of George Floyd’s death, as well as the others which have preceded it, every Christian is invited to have a conversation with God about those places in our lives where we would judge another human being before considering how that person is cherished in God’s own eyes. In the days ahead each of us might ask God to show us how we might both grieve what we have been in “thought, word, and deed” as participants in racial divisiveness; “those things done and left undone” that tell the truth of our own prejudices. We might admit that racial assumptions are sometimes a place of struggle in our lives, and we might ask God to help us and forgive us. There is a way forward, and there is Gospel medicine that will heal the damage – the damage such prejudice has done to others’ lives, as well as the damage it has done within our own hearts. There are steps that each of us can take to move forward, learning from Jesus in Matthew Chapter 7, “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.”
The virus and the quarantine have taken so much from so many, and there continues to be concern for the future we all share. During our evening Compline services we have been praying for the doctors, nurses, staff, and hospital administrators who have been thrown into a situation that previously only existed in the imaginations of a few. We pray that God might be with them, as they must make decisions and walk with the sick through great difficulty. Many have died without the presence of their friends and family, and we have prayed that they may not die without the presence of our loving friend and savior. We are the people who gather at the tomb on Easter morning and share a message, a truth, that when Jesus Christ is near, the tombs of this world actually become doorways into another place in time and space. God bestows the most complete healing upon our bodies and souls when they leave things temporal and are embraced by that which is eternal – namely, His love for us. We are asking that God would do unto them what we pray God will do unto us in our own death.
Although much of the world is being unmade before our very eyes, it has always been so through the ages of mankind. We turn to the Bible, to our prayers, to one another and our neighbors, with the assurance that we are not forsaken; rather, we might draw strength from the knowledge that those who call upon the Lord are not alone. Those who call upon the Lord are gathered with the cloud of witnesses who have called out in their own days and times of the world’s unmaking. And like us, none of them, none of them barring the One, spent their days living the lives that they thought they would live; all of them were given days in which to call upon the Lord for help.
My hope and prayer for you and yours, and for our country, is that we might find the humility to call in such a way now so that our “footing may be sure, and He may put a new song in our mouths.”
Many Blessings and Godspeed,
Dean – St Marks