Pastor’s Corner – April

Gleanings…

My, how our lives have changed. Just a month ago we were planning for Holy Week services, an Easter Egg hunt, an Easter morning sunrise service (followed by a hot breakfast!), and for some, a Spring Break mini vacation. Now, we watch the news every day to hear the latest pronouncements related to the novel coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic. And we worry. What if it gets worse? What if it affects/infects my family? How are going to survive without a regular salary? How will we meet our obligations, make our payments, and avoid bankruptcy? What are we going to do?

To be totally fair, these are not new worries. These are the same worries that affect/infect anyone who has suddenly had a significant, life-altering change in their lives. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a house fire, an automobile accident, or the sudden occurrence of a major illness has the same potential to knock us off our feet. Add to that the impact of a natural disaster: flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions (to name but a few). The difference is the scope of the disaster and how many people are affected at one time.

What can we do when we suddenly face one of these situations? My first response is to pray. I am not talking about some long, theologically correct prayer using all the right words and structure (whatever they are), but a prayer that expresses my real need: Help. Help me. Help me now. Help me now, please.

I am including a meditation of March 25, 2020 by Richard Rohr that features this excerpt from a book by Brian McLaren, noted author and retired pastor, now working with the Center for Action and Contemplation. I don’t believe that I can say it any better than Brian already has.

When we call out for help, we are bound more powerfully to God through our needs and weakness, our unfulfilled hopes and dreams, and our anxieties and problems than we ever could have been through our joys, successes, and strengths alone. . . .  [1]

Anxieties can gray the whole sky like cloud cover or descend on our whole horizon like fog. When we rename our anxieties, in a sense we distill them into requests. What covered the whole sky can now be contained in a couple of buckets. So when we’re suffering from anxiety, we can begin by simply holding the word help before God, letting that one word bring focus to the chaos of our racing thoughts. Once we feel that our mind has dropped out of the frantic zone and into a spirit of connection with God, we can let the general word help go and in its place hold more specific words that name what we need, thereby condensing the cloud of vague anxiety into a bucket of substantial request. So we might hold the word guidance before God. Or patience. Or courage. Or resilience. Or boundaries, mercy, compassion, determination, healing, calm, freedom, wisdom, or peace. . . . [2]

Along with our anxieties and hurts, we also bring our disappointments to God. If anxieties focus on what might happen, and hurts focus on what has happened, disappointments focus on what has not happened. Again, as the saying goes, revealing your feeling is the beginning of healing, so simply acknowledging or naming our disappointment to God is an important move. This is especially important because many of us, if we don’t bring our disappointment to God, will blame our disappointment on God, thus alienating ourselves from our best hope of comfort and strength. . . .

Whether we’re dealing with anxieties, wounds, disappointments, or other needs or struggles, there is enormous power in simple, strong words—the words by which we name our pain and then translate it into a request to God. Help is the door into this vital practice of petition, through which we expand beyond our own capacities and resources to God’s. . . .

Through this practice of expansion and petition, we discover something priceless: the sacred connection can grow stronger through, not in spite of, our anxieties, wounds, disappointments, struggles, and needs. The Compassionate One is our gracious friend, and we don’t have to earn anything, deserve anything, achieve anything, or merit anything to bring our needs to God. We can just come as we are. [3]

I pray that we may use this time to grow closer to God and stronger in our faith. Our God is not powerless, but the strong rock upon whom we build our lives. The world needs to see the strong witness of caring followers of Jesus Christ. May God strengthen and equip us for this service.

Call me if you need me,

Pastor Braxton ><>

[1] Brian D. McLaren, Naked Spirituality (HarperOne: 2011), 104.

[2] Ibid., 116–117.

[3] Ibid., 119–120.

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