As I write this, our country, our community, and our congregation are reeling from the turmoil of COVID-19, economic stress, and recent protests and violence tied to racial issues. We have grief upon grief, hurt upon hurt, anxiety upon anxiety.
Each of us is responding in different ways. Some of us feel anger, and we don't know how to express it, or where to place it. Others of us feel deep despair, such that we want to just crawl into (or under) the bed and never come out again. Yet others feel sadness and helplessness.
Wherever you are with your feelings, please know it is ok. Please also know, that this is not the end. We are a people of hope, a people of resilience, and a people who look to the future. We must expect that there will be more, even as we gather up what we can to shield today.
This morning I was thinking about my paternal grandfather, Pop Pop, who died when I was very young. Though I didn't know him, I knew about him. Pop Pop spent his career as the general counsel for the A&P grocery chain, and was known to be a rather stiff, but thoughtful, organized, and intelligent man. He was deeply loyal to the company and to its owners. Even during the Great Depression, my grandfather kept an optimistic view of the future. He was optimistic, but he was also careful. Upon his death, my father reported that he went through Pop Pop's desk and found a cigar box labeled with Pop Pop's neat handwriting, "Pieces of String Too Short to Use." My own father died 20 years ago, so I have no idea if that story is true. What I do know is that it colored my thinking about what we value and what we hold onto, and how we organize ourselves for the moments we cannot anticipate.
In recent days, we have heard so many pointed and angry voices raising rhetoric and driving us further apart. We have heard blame and excuse making. What we have not heard-or not heard enough-is contrition for the sins that truly have occurred, or hope pointing towards love.
As Episcopalians, we must acknowledge that our denominational history was built on the backs of persons who were not treated fairly. We have a history of colonialism, slavery, oppression and abuse as the church spread throughout the world and required adherence to the faith. We must tread lightly now, lest we forget how we got here.
That does not mean, however, that we should stay silent. We are called as people of God to reach towards the light of truth, to advocate for those who have been marginalized, and not to wait for someone else to do it. Whether our action takes the form of active engagement, or prayer, or gentle efforts to build and rebuild relationships, we are called to this because our savior Jesus called us to this.
We never anticipated this moment. I certainly never thought that our parish-and my role as your rector-would require the sorts of things that we have had to learn and lean into these past months.
However, like my Pop Pop, I hope that somewhere inside of ourselves, we can find the little bits, even the ones we thought "too short to use" in order to knit together new hearts, new hearing, and new hope for our community.
We have everything we need - in that we have each other, our tradition, and God. God has always been with us, teaching us ways of making meaning through adversity, and ways of moving forward through pain.
Let us begin by making a choice to follow the way of love. The way that loves kindness, seeks justice and walks humbly with God. Let us turn away from those voices inciting hatred, division and violence. Those voices don't seek justice. They seek to stoke differences in order to enhance their own power. That's an evil and sinful approach and it is not love. It is not peace.
Throughout the month of June, we will read from the Book of Jeremiah. On June 28th we will read the following: "The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet." (Jeremiah 28:9)
That peace is the one that God wants us to listen for and to shepherd into being. That is the peace that even our little congregation can cultivate today.
That is the peace of God, and we stand for that peace today because, as Martin Luther said, "(we) have no other."
May God keep you safe. May God bless you, and may you be blessing for others.
Yours in Christ,