September 3, 2017

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 17

Jeremiah 15:15-21, Psalm 26"1-8. Romans 12:9-21, Matthew 16:21-28



Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

You and I have seen many things over the last week-and-a-half.  Some of them were beautiful.  Some of them we wish we would not have seen.  These are some of the things that we saw.

A woman in a orange raincoat on a roof

Thousands of cots

A floating carpet of fire ants

Water, water, water

Chemical containers ablaze

Leadership in tears

A swimming cat

Two dogs floating in a beer cooler

Alligator eyes

Thousands of people soaking wet

Coast Guard copters

Boats sent from heaven

Mountains of clothing

Text messages from friends everywhere

Fresh bread from a local bakery that refused to surrender

We have suffered and lost.  Not each of us the same, but everyone together.  We have rejoiced over our good fortune and what we have been spared, and we have wept over all that has been destroyed.

Perhaps you recall your own transition from high alert to a more relaxed posture during Hurricane Harvey.  I remember the transition from constant tornado watch alerts screaming from every piece of technology in my home to a quieter time when I was back to checking email and news in print.  Several pieces of correspondence in my inbox laid out the three stages of natural disaster.  I took so much comfort from reading about them.

Phase one is rescue.  The rescue phase is focused on saving lives and securing property.  Phase two is relief.  The relief effort is about seeking and providing assistance and shelter.  Phase three is recovery.  Recovery from natural disaster has to do with restoring services, repairing houses and buildings, returning individuals to self-sufficiency and rebuilding communities.

The comfort of these categories was fleeting, as I recognized them to be a matter or operations without addressing the needs of the heart.

Trauma has a way of taking us by the nervous system and hacking and scrambling.  The knots left in our neurology are not easily undone.  Nor are the deep impressions of our sorrow.  For over this last week we said good-bye to many things.  Food on shelves.  The freedom to move about.  The privilege of work.  Our homes.  Cars.  Possessions.  Loved ones.  Standard access to medical care.  The illusion of control.  The delusion of self-sufficiency.  The ‘defendedness’ of the heart.  And the myth that we survive alone.

We have lost.  We are grieving.  We will continue to be overwhelmed.  We are likely to remain in spiritual shock for sometime, and our hearts lament.  These psalms may speak your lament, and I share them aloud as a way of letting them speak for mine.

How much longer must I endure grief

In my soul,

And sorrow in my heart by day and by

Night? (Ps. 13:2)


Take pity on me, Yahweh,

I am in trouble now.

Grief wastes away my eye,

My throat, my inmost parts.

For my life is worn out with sorrow,

My years with sighs.