Epiphany 4A

The past 7 days have been a whirlwind, haven’t they?  Here’s just some of what’s happened since our Annual Meeting last Sunday:

Monday evening saw a small group of folks meet up with Katie at the Coffee Lab and then head over to the Lorraine Morton Civic Center for the City Council Meeting. 

Tuesday evening: Folks gathered in the kitchen upstairs to pack lunches for Wednesday’s lunch; a couple of St. Mark’s folks went to the OPAL / NAACP forum where they met with and heard from candidates for the District 65 and District 202 school boards; and still others spent the evening at a meeting of the organ committee, here in the parlor.  Earlier in the day, I had the opportunity to preach and preside at the Eucharist at Bexley Seabury in Hyde Park and later that afternoon to celebrate the ministry of The Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, our diocese’s Director of Networking who will soon become the next bishop of the Diocese of Indianapolis - the first African American woman to ever lead a diocese in the United States.

Wednesday: An AA meeting took place in Bethlehem Chapel at 6:45 a.m. At least I assume they did - I was still in bed at that point!  At a more reasonable hour of the day, a group of dedicated volunteers served lunch to and had conversations with some of our hungry neighbors and I attended a meeting with clergy colleagues in Chicago to discuss preaching in light of current events.  That evening a group of creative writers met in Bethlehem Chapel and English Country Dancers enjoyed an evening in Cunningham Hall

On Thursday morning, St. Mark’s staff gathered in Bethlehem Chapel to do some “big picture” planning for the next 12 months, Lola was in the office preparing bills to be paid and sending out end-of-year statements.  In the early evening, Evy Skelton’s Brownie Troop met in Bethlehem Chapel and just as they were leaving, choir members were arriving for rehearsal.

On Friday, Scott and I went to visit a homebound parishioner.

And yesterday was a flurry of activity - literally - as two Tai Chi classes met and practiced in Cunningham Hall in the morning and a group of toddlers had some “soccer” practice in the same space in the afternoon.  A Buddhist meditation group and yoga class took place in the basement Spirituality Center and a meeting of Al-Anon took place in Bethlehem Chapel in the afternoon.

Of course, this doesn’t take into account all of the other things that happened — a newsletter was prepared and sent out by Katie, David practiced the piano and organ, Scott began plans for a spring break vacation bible school and I wrote a sermon.  Oh, and then there is all of you —most of you went to work, to school, to meetings, to classes, to play dates, to book groups and countless other activities that keep you busy.  Emails were exchanged as were text messages, Facebook posts, Tweets, Snapchats, and Instagram photos.

Yes, the past 7 days have been a whirlwind, haven’t they?  And you thought I was going to talk about politics, didn’t you?  I’m not and here’s why. Sometimes we ALL need to create space for normalcy in our lives.  Sometimes we ALL need to find a space where we can take just a moment to reflect on all that has not been changing before our eyes, to celebrate the beauty of a vibrant church and to appreciate the splendor and comfort of routine.

The passage from Micah this morning reminds us of all that God asks of us - “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”_  This is a text that can spur us to political action - to advocacy work, to demonstrations and rallies, to calling our elected officials, to ministering to those in need, to sending money to organizations that support just causes.  But it is also a text that reminds us to take the time to love kindness and to walk humbly.

In our current political climate, I need some hope - not the “pretend everything is fine kind of hope” - but REAL hope. Hope that the future is secure. Hope that my life and the lives of others are safe.  Hope that come what may in the days ahead, God has a long view in mind that it is beyond even our wildest imaginings.  And while all the phone calling, letter writing, demonstrating and social media posting is important work, it is also exhausting work and, truth-be-told, it can sometimes leave us feeling less hopeful because there is always so much more to do, so much more we can do, so much more we think we alone can do.  But, walking humbly with our God is a reminder that no one among us is the linchpin in this world.  The world will NOT fall apart if we take our eye off of the political ball for a moment - somedays that is harder to believe than others; but it is true. And God’s call to “walk humbly” is, in part, a recognition that we CAN take a break. 

Remember that meeting I mentioned - the one with my clergy colleagues?  Everyone of us commented on our own anxiety and our desire to “fix things,” our desire to spur our congregations on to doing more justice work and more outreach work than ever before.  We mentioned the number of people in our pews who were sharing that same anxiety, the number of people in our pews who tell us that they are calling senators, writing letters, protesting and making plans to attend future rallies.  We agreed that ALL of this is good work, important work - and it is work that God calls us to do.  And yet. . .

And yet, even God rested and sought balance: “And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.”_. And perhaps knowing our propensity to not know when to stop, when to put it down, when to recharge, God declared, “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work.”_. God rested and so must we.

What that rest looks like for each of us may differ.  In our household, we have committed to taking a media fast on Mondays.  No television (that’s the challenge for Andrea) and no social media (that’s the challenge for me).  Just a day to look around at the world around us and to appreciate all that is going right in our world - to be thankful for the vibrancy of St. Mark’s, to be thankful for the fabulous staff and volunteers I am blessed to work with, to be thankful for the loving relationship in my home, to be thankful for Brownie Troops and toddlers playing soccer, to be thankful for clergy colleagues and for creative writers, to be thankful for dancers and volunteers, for singing and for celebrating.  A day to appreciate that there remain yet 6 days for MSNBC, Facebook and Twitter to be in my life.  A day to appreciate that there are others out 11their working for justice on a day that God gives me to rest.  A day to appreciate that God does want me to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with my God. 

And this is not just God’s desire for me. It is God’s desire for each of us. Your Sabbath may look different from mine.  What stirs up anxiety and tension in your soul and your body may not be what stirs up my anxiety.  But whatever it is, lay it down for a day.  Allow God to be God on that day of rest.  And allow God to be God when you are doing justice.  And allow God to be God when you are loving kindness.  And allow God to be God when you are walking humbly beside God.  That is what Hope looks like.  And can’t we all use a bit of hope right now?