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Choose community

by davesandel on May 19th, 2021

Wednesday, May 19, 2021                 (today’s lectionary)

Choose community

Tend the church of God that Jesus acquired with his own blood. I know savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock.

I haven’t met a wolf. Or a coyote, for that matter. Or a black bear. My camping life has been spent in quieter corners of Mother Nature, where campfire and tent held at bay whatever threats there were out there. But when I camped for a night in West Texas near Marfa I heard sounds I didn’t recognize, I felt the presence of beings-undefined, I couldn’t help it, I was afraid. But that’s what I get for camping alone. In my aloneness, I was weak.

“In every way, by hard work we must help the weak. It is more blessed to give than to receive.” All the leaders wept loudly as Paul knelt and prayed for them, and said goodbye. Weeping, they escorted him to the ship.

Before cell phones and interstates, most of us would stop and help a stranded fellow motorist. But now everyone has their phone, and they’ve called for help before we can stop. Or so I think. “By hard work we must help the weak.” It’s a good idea for me to stop once in awhile anyway, just to see if I can help.

In Texas we live in a complex with 160 apartments. We often say hello to the walkers, and we are getting to know our neighbors’ names. During the February power and water outage we shared resources and stories.

There is so much more that we could do.

We will chant our praise to the Lord, who rides on the heights of the ancient heavens. Over us is his majesty, and his power is in the skies.

On Sunday we spend time with Miles and Jasper while their parents teach a class at Grace Covenant Church across the street. After the class Margaret and I go to church while Andi and Aki feed them lunch. Then they go home to teach another class, virtually this time, and the rest of us take naps.

Church for us is closer than close. It’s a five minute walk. Last Sunday it rained and there were floods along the street. For just a moment, Margaret lost her shoe. She didn’t care, the water felt fine.

Over us is majesty, and his power is in the skies.

Debra, my spiritual director, listens to my dissatisfied descriptions of what I don’t do for others. She has heard this several dozen times. She often finds another way for me to see my pride, my failure, my fear. Always, there is another chance to choose community. In one way or another, she brings me back to the still small voice of my Father, when he says as he also said to Adam and Elijah, “What are you doing here, my son?”

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed. “Holy Father, keep them in your name.”

Carmelite monk and Catholic saint John of the Cross felt false too, and guilty, caught in his own brand of unquenchable sin. But then God found him, and in God’s presence John could forget all that self-disgust.

John wrote poetry about this joy. Here’s the end of his poem “Ascent of Mount Carmel”:

I lost myself. Forgot myself.

I lay my face against the Beloved’s face.

Everything fell away and I left myself behind,

Abandoning my cares

Among the lilies, forgotten.

Always, there is another chance to choose connection.

(Acts 20, Psalm 68, John 17)

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