Shards and Shine

brown and white seashells on the ground

Breakage

I go down to the edge of the sea. 
How everything shines in the morning light! 
The cusp of the whelk, 
the broken cupboard of the clam, 
the opened, blue mussels, 
moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred— 
and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split, 
dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone. 
It’s like a schoolhouse 
of little words, 
thousands of words. 
First you figure out what each one means by itself, 
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop 
       full of moonlight.

Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.

+ Mary Oliver

Oh my.  We inhabit a “schoolhouse of little words”.

This world we live in these days is a veritable wonderment of shiny and shattered things.

How then shall we live?

Rather than look away from the broken, we are called to behold the things that are tattered and split.  It is deeply soul-grounded work, this willingness to see.

Being present to the brokenness is the way of Jesus.

And.

There is shine.  There is shine to lend us the courage to take the shards of the broken and hear through them the whole story of God’s vision for creation.

At our church, we are seeking to honestly name the places of brokenness in creation:  Racism, the unveiling of failed systems made stark by the pandemic, and the divisive nature of our public discourse, to name a few.

To the sharp edges of the broken we bring the power and shine of the message of Jesus.  We are called to proclaim and work for relief for all held captive by oppressive systems.  We are called to bring good news to the exhausted of spirit and those overcome by despair.

We are called to shine the light of hope.  Not because we won’t look at shatter, but because we believe that the Holy gives us the power to live the whole story Jesus came to teach.

Are you hungry to join with others to fully enter the story?

Join us.  Our small groups are leaning into “Another Way: Living and Leading Change on Purpose” by community organizer/pastors Lewis, Williams and Baker.  Join us for video worship or nightly prayer or through parking lot worship or Wednesday night learning and music nights or any way you can reach your heart to another to create strength and meaning for the living of these days.

In this pandemic reality, hearts and intentions powerfully transcend geography.

Join in the story.

in a day

This morning I was witness to holy leave taking.

A church member, vibrant of soul and young of age, breathed her last.

She was surrounded by the resonant beauty of her fine life: Her partner, mom and sister acted as resurrection midwives. She had prayed that her death might be grace filled. And so it was.

All day today the church has been alive with the sound of music.

Tomorrow we will celebrate the marriage of two amazing folk. They have collected a tribe of singers and dancers who will lead us in a full-hearted celebration of love. There is music happening in most every space available. Our day care children are in awe, as am I.

Love. It’s what life is all about.

Today as Lori let go and tomorrow as Drew and Cassie cleave it is love that moves the loosing and binding that is life.

Love.

Born in the heart of the Holy.

Savored by the wise.

Advent Day Six

“Today we remember the shepherds among us, back-breaking laborers on whom our economy stands, those we overlook or rarely see, yet rely on for our very survival, the ones who have much to teach us about watching for God in the darkness.”

 

The candle-lighting liturgy for this coming Sunday speaks of the gritty and dusty work of the shepherds.  Through the liturgy we honor them and the many in our midst who work in often non-glamorous conditions to tend essentials.

Tonight is our church staff party.  We’ll gather at my home to eat and play together.  This is good.

This is good because, like the shepherds of long ago, our staff does sometimes invisible and non-glamorous work day after day in order that “the flock” is fed and watered.

To a person they are amazing grace.

Working in the fields of this church are people who engage in ministry with people of all ages, people who polish and make ready the ministry tool that is our building, people who pray with the sick and keep our finances in such a way that empowers ministry and people who help to share the Word through clear communication and shimmering music.  There are some 50 children blessed by the ministry of our child learning center Caring For Children.  Day after day, seven days a week, Richfield UMC is tended by amazingly patient and soulful shepherds.

So tonight we’ll celebrate and give thanks for our shared ministry.

As I’ve ironed table cloths (a family sickness) and made ready my home, I have given thanks for each staff person who ministers on this stretch of field.  I feel so blessed to be in ministry with incredible colleagues.

You have such people in your life.

As you live this Advent day of heart preparation, may you too know the gift of naming those who work with you in order that tending happens.

Give thanks on this day for the co-shepherds in your life:  partners and friends and co-workers and anyone who joins their heart with your own in order that light shines in the darkness.

Give thanks and thank them;  thank them for being by your side as you go about the sometimes boring and non-glamorous work that is uniquely yours to do.

On this day and on all days, give thanks for those who help us to watch for God in the darkness.

waves

I thought I was done, except in a bittersweet way.

Preparing for a sermon this past Sunday, I was thinking a lot about heritage and the presence of the unseen guests at all of our Thanks Giving tables.  The text had to do with a faith forewoman so it gave great opportunity to consider witness and how it sounds through the ages.

I had my sermon set to go and had the perfect ending for it.  Some thirty years ago, my dad was interviewed by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  It was a column about Thanksgiving and in it he reflected upon being a pastor and the gratitude he felt about being able to love and be loved wrapped in community.

The long ago article ended with a Thanksgiving prayer.  It hangs on my refrigerator at the cabin.  I knew that Leah was there and could relay it to me.  Except that she didn’t have her phone on.  As the night dwindled and there was no word, I knew that I was not going to be able to speak words written by a heart I so miss.

And then the grief swooped.  The ache in my heart over my dad’s death was so raw.  It has been sixteen years ago but I so wanted to “hear” his voice and share it with a people I get to be in ministry with.

And the empty place of his friendship and his not knowing of my beloved and and and all those things fell into my heart and I missed my dad and mourned the huge space left by his death.  All the little and large sharing of life we don’t get to share; it hurts.

It hurts.  And, it humbles.  I barrel along my days and sometimes I am brought up short and reminded that life and love are tender precious fierce things and I am blessed to live them, I am.

So may I share his prayer with you?

Dear God it’s me.  Remember?

And it is Thanksgiving time and turkeys and football games and family gatherings and all sorts of special things are here and so am I and so are you.

I know that we must be an abomination to you.  Our existence is a continuing, helpless pollution of your world.  

We are terribly concerned with messy affluence, the insane rains of our bombs keep falling.  It’s easy to mask who we are.

We clatter with heavy shoes over the lives, the sensitivities, the joys and heartaches, the realness of our brothers and sisters.

Appearances, of color, of dress, even of hair have a strange importance to us.

We talk of love and forget to do it.

But it is Thanksgiving time.

And I would like to thank you for everything I have and everyone I know.

For family and home in now and past, for friends.  For those who touch my life with love.

For letting me love others,

For a world of maybes,

For smells and touches and eyes that meet.

For my job, my car, the little things I take for granted.

And they are all from you, and thank you God.

Can I ask a little favor?

My thanks are so special, so big, so real –

Will you arrange it so I won’t have to say a table grace right out loud?

That would be so predictable, so polite.

I would far rather babble and shout.

Rev. George Macaulay