John 13:12 "Do you know what I have done to you?"
We chose to celebrate the 10th anniversary of 9/11 together as a community of M-4 churches. That allowed each church to have full worship in our own tradition and then gather for a totally 9/11 focussed service. 8 clergy from the 4 churches gathered in robes and processed in together, led by an ecumenical choir. One priest from the Episcopal church gave witness as a mother to a daughter who worked in the World Trade Towers. To illustrate her role as a mother, she took off her stole, robe and clerical collar. It was powerful. Then she invited us all to turn to our neighbors and talk about what we still remember.
M-4 is such a gift to me!
She came by at the worst possible time. The church fire alarms, strobe lights and clanging bells were all going off at the same time. None of had the reset buttons and nobody knew quite what to do. We called various people who all gave us good partial advice.
Then she showed up with a bright big smile, carrying a poster. A poster in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon? What was she selling? What group was she promoting? My mind went to all the wrong places
"I'm from the trailer court" she said. "You know, the ones who received all the back packs M-4 gave away. This is from the kids....they wanted to say Thank You."
The bells were still going off and the alarms still screeched. I half-heartedly took the poster back to my office. And it wasn't till the alarm guys silenced the alarms that I had the peace of mind to look at the poster. Bright colors saying "Thank U" from their area. Inside were over a dozen hand-written thank you notes, mostly in Spanish.
M-4 does make a difference.
In the recent movie “The Help”, one of the maids is charged with the care and feeding of a chubby little girl. The girl’s mother has issues with her overweight daughter and constantly belittles her. The maid wakes her in the morning, and puts her to bed and night by holding her close and saying three wonderful words that I think are: “You is kind, You is smart. You is important”. That tender scene reinforced to me the power of an inner narrative.
Not all of us have a positive inner narrative. Some of us have battled a lifetime of negative narrative: “not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not ________ enough”. When I first dug into the text for Sunday from Genesis 3:11 “Who told you that you were naked?” I was amazed at all the old voices I heard from my childhood, and not all were good. Teasing phrases friends used on me still sting. Behavior by bullies still makes me wince.
Part of getting ready for worship on Sunday would be for you to spend some time reflecting on both the positive and negative voices that shaped you. What voices still speak? How do Jesus’ words about you silence some of the old noises?
The church has so many problems. It is so messed up. I/we are so over the church. These are just a few of the comments I have heard directly or indirectly over the past weeks. A guy I know and am coming to find as a friend sat with me and said how he just couldn't take it any more, not God, but the church. So he stepped away and has no plans for ever coming back again. A couple recently told me that their faith is not about going to a building and sitting in a pew once a week.
A younger Christian told me about her circle of friends, noting one characteristic in common with a group: single, employed, and theologically very conservative. They were, as a group, serious, committed, earnest, focussed, constantly vigilant and.......desperately miserable. They were aware of all the people they needed to avoid, not be tainted by or yoked to. Their life was a spiritual police-state.