Friday, December 23, 2016

Standing in the Portal

Sometimes the things I do seem to be mostly for me. Food for those who are hungry; clothes for those who need these. Water, lemonade, and coffee for those who are thirsty. I listen to the stories of the people. I pray with them. I cry with them. I laugh with them.

Basically, good but just a tiny bandaid that will help only for a very short while. Who does it really benefit? What good does it really do? Regardless of what I do, there is always so much more to be done.

I understand compassion fatigue. I get it. But in my head I hear, Suck it up, buttercup. But, damn.

“So, this is Christmas…The world is so wrong.” “War is over…if you want it.”

That’s the problem. Too few people want the war to be over. There is money in babies dying, children dismembered, cities destroyed, people sobbing. “The near and the dear one the old and the young” displaced, dying, dead.  

My heart hurts. My stomach is constantly in a knot.

I try to remember Isaiah.
Arise, shine, for your light has come, *
and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you. 

Called to bring light into a dark world, a world where “deep gloom” enshrouds the people. I feel that darkness. I can’t always see the light.

The world is wrong. There is so much death and pain. And these things will always be collateral damage, a necessary evil to gain more money. Sad but oh well…too many do not seem to understand or care.

So, too often it seems that the things we do are not enough and can’t possibly matter in such a world. It is difficult to remember any call to bring light to dispel the darkness.

But over us all, even as darkness overtakes the land, “the Lord will rise and his glory will appear” upon us.
Nations will stream to your light, *
and kings to the brightness of your dawning. 
Your gates will always be open; *
by day or night they will never be shut. 
They will call you, The City of the Lord, *
The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. 
Violence will no more be heard in your land, *
ruin or destruction within your borders. 
You will call your walls, Salvation, *
and all your portals, Praise. 
The sun will no more be your light by day; *
by night you will not need the brightness of the moon. 
                                                          Canticle 11, The Third Song of Isaiah

I want to remember Isaiah and this third song. I want to remember the light that will enlighten the nation. I want to feel it shining upon me.

And then I glance up from my writing and I see, pinned to my wall, Isaiah 49:1-6 and I remember, “the LORD called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” But I said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the LORD, and my reward with my God.” And now the LORD says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the LORD, and my God has become my strength – he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

I do not dare believe that this is not directed to me. I do not dare believe that it is to me alone. This is the thing – amid the horrors of war, the hate, the blood and tears, the crying and the dying – in the midst of the pain of living, we are given as a light, a way to be Christ in the world, many chances to break open the darkness with that abiding love that knows no denial. It is too little that we be concerned with the tactics of bringing change to a broken world; it is only that we be Christ in the world… that we love God with all our hearts, with all our souls and with all our minds and just as importantly, that we love one another, regardless, just as we are loved.

Standing in the portal offers a broad view of those things past and of those things ahead. It is frightening and too often we stand where we are, frozen. Sometimes we try to turn back but that is not possible.

It is difficult to move forward when all things imagined are seen only “through the glass darkly.” Yet we have been named and claimed as Christ’s own. Therefore, even with a bit of fear, we go forward into the chaos, knowing only that we are not alone and that we have a mission.

I will continue the work that I do because it does matter, even on those days when I feel like the little child with his finger in the dyke as he attempts to stop the ever-increasing damage the water is causing. Because more than the food or clothes given, there is the love offered and accepted. It is the work we have been given to do. We shine light into the darkness. It is a powerful light. It is a mighty light.

will remember the words of Isaiah:

Arise, shine, for your light has come, *
and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.

Merry Christmas. Let your light shine.

Friday, December 09, 2016

An Advent Message for All Who Participate in the Trinity Food Ministry

Reflections on Trinity Food Ministry and Advent
By Trinity Food Manager Barbi Click

Here we are, heading rapidly into the 2nd Sunday of Advent. While all the ways of Advent tell us to wait, sit, be still, rest our daily lives tell us to hurry, faster, strive for more.

I find that true with my days in this ministry. It is as though the more we give, the more there are who need. I make myself take a rest, otherwise, I would continue until I fall down. There is just so much to do; so much left undone.

I remember in the first few months that I started working at Trinity, one volunteer suggested that I was giving too much away. I asked him who we were saving it for and he said whoever comes tomorrow. I told him we would have enough as we needed it, that today is all we know.

While I believed what I said, who knew we would end up with such abundance? And it does not show any signs of stopping. We do not have merely enough – we have such an abundance that we often must coax some people into taking more. As for the volunteers thinking that we give away too much…that is no longer the case, as I understand it. In fact, there are a few who firmly believe we do not give enough.

The need is sometimes overwhelming. I wonder how I, personally, can maintain this pace. It seems that the meal part of the pantry grows each day. Sometimes the weight of it all bears down upon me so profoundly. But then God shares that Spirit and I am uplifted.

That is what the words of this 2nd Sunday of Advent’s Isaiah message (11:1-10) do for me; these offer hope. We long for the day when the wolf shall live with the lamb and the leopard will lie down with the kid. We anxiously await that little child who will lead us. The day of righteousness is before us when we will live in peace and love with one another and with our God. It is here in these words – this promise.

Thinking about the Pantry and this message of Isaiah makes me wonder if we are holding a key to the kingdom of God right here in this South Parish Hall every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. People line up to share a meal, to bring a bag of clothes, to sometimes offer a freshly baked sweet potato pie, to eat, to laugh and sometimes cry, to share stories, and a chance to get some fresh foods and canned goods to stretch their dollars to fit the need.

I greet people as they walk through the door. Often, they are in a hurry for the goods on the tables. Some rush to the kitchen opening to get the offerings of the day. Some rush to be first in line with the registrars. First come, first served at whichever part is the priority. Regardless, all are served.

There is no forced agenda that makes people stick around. It is simply the abundance of good food, laughter, and community bringing people together. Food is a key ingredient!

Like an auto-immune disease, too often, we suffer from a non-self recognition dis-ease. It builds barriers that are difficult to break down. Sharing a meal is a great way to learn to talk to those with whom we might never feel the desire or need to speak. That is why we have church potlucks! Bring food and people will show up!

Trinity Food Pantry is a little slice of the kingdom of God. People of all types can be found in this parish hall, sometimes as many as 100 in one hour’s time. It is crazy and noisy with voices raised in conversation and laughter. People who exist with much disease in their lives: Poverty, drugs, alcohol, violence, mental disorders, physical ailments, hunger in the belly and the heart, so many isms, so many issues.

Yet, in the midst of all of these things, we come together for a little while, in love and in peace. It is good to await “the root of Jesse” in our midst. And it is glorious.

Thank you all for sharing this ministry and your gifts. It is my pleasure and love to serve with you.