As many of you who are reading from Hawaii know, last week we were put on a pretty severe Hurricane Warning / Watch, waiting for the arrival of Hurricane Lane. Lane, at it’s worst, was a Category 5 Hurricane – which, by the end of her slow movement, was downgraded to a tropical storm, and, though she left a lot of rain in her wake, and some fires on Maui, was altogether much less devastating than we feared she could be.
Now, I don’t know about you, reader, but I am NOT a patient person.
The process of waiting for Lane to arrive, as she slowed to a crawl of only 5 mph, was excruciating.
I was with my parents on the Big Island, which was expecting to get hit kind of hard. Fortunately where they are in Waimea was okay, save for some rain and some wind. As the rain would fall I would look up and ask, “is THIS it? is THIS the storm?” — there was an element of waiting for something dreadful to happen, both hoping it would hurry up so we could be done with it, and also wishing it wasn’t happening in the first place.
As I sat and thought about it, I was reminded of the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane. Waiting, for something dreadful to happen, that they didn’t really understand.
When Jesus asks his disciples to stay up and pray with him for awhile, they give in to their basic temptations and fall asleep. I have often read this verse and been critical of the disciples. “YOU GUYS!” I say in my head, “Jesus needs you! What’s the matter with you! You can’t even do this ONE THING?! Have a red bull or something, for goodness sake!” As you can see, I can be a kind of harsh judge. I fall in to the trap of presuming that if I were there, I would have done things differently.
In waiting out this Hurricane, I had to come face-to-face with some bold truth about myself: If I were there, I probably wouldn’t have done things differently. I probably couldn’t have.
One of the reasons that waiting through the hurricane was so odd for me, was that I wanted to just go back to normal. I wanted to ignore what was going on in the news, and ignore the rainfall, and just be in a routine. But, nothing was routine. Even going to Foodland felt strange – there was an air of anxiety around the store, and the empty water shelves proved the panic going around.
At one point, my sister and I got so stir crazy that we went to Longs, deciding to buy some cheap nail polish and face masks, to entertain ourselves. “You’re brave,” said the cashier, “to be out in the storm like this!”
The disciples, I think, are brave for even being in the garden of Gethsemane. I’ve never given them credit for how far they DID go with Jesus – only ever criticised them for what I saw as their lack. But before they fell short, they showed a whole lot of courage.
Waiting for something dreadful, which is beyond our understanding, can be very trying on the human spirit. While I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, I do think I walk away from Lane with some newly learned lessons.
Waiting, it turns out, can be brave.
I don’t know how many of you listen to the podcast “On Being” hosted by Krista Tippet (shout out to Bree who introduced me to the show and also highly recommend if you don’t listen already) – but one of the things she talks about a lot, and the show seeks to foster, is civic engagement and civil discourse.
These sound like really big words, but it basically actually talking to one another about the politics we hold – and remembering our manners while we have that conversation.
On Sunday, I held the second of our four-week study talking about Just Mercy, a book by Bryan Stevenson about prisoners on death row in Alabama. We have two groups – one after each service. The makeup of each group is different, and the conversations are really interesting.
On Sunday, we got into a bit of hot water. As you may imagine, talking about the death penalty, the racial injustice of our legal system, and what all of that means to our faith, can get pretty heated. Political ideologies begin to be expressed, whether we realise it or not. In my second group, there was a moment where I could feel the tension rise – there were some differing opinions, here – some strong convictions being challenged by the nature of the material.
And then, the most wonderful thing happened – the two who were beginning to get into a disagreement actually talked TO one another. They didn’t talk at one another – they didn’t fall into side conversations with the people next to them – they genuinely wanted to hear the other out, and to find common ground. Neither one dug their heels in unnecessarily, or got rude or snippy. No one else in the group jumped in to escalate, just stayed engaged with the process.
It was one of the most beautiful witnesses of Christian community I have seen. Ever. Some would argue that politics must stay out of the church – but I think part of our being, and being in this world, is political – so keeping it out of church all together is not offering a full welcome. Some would say that churches should strive towards political engagement, constantly talking about and advising members on the votes they should cast.
What I saw on Sunday was neither and both, at the same time. I think churches should be a place where we learn how to be civil to one another – where we are welcomed in the fullness of our ideologies and beliefs, challenged, and invited to grow. There isn’t an end goal – to get everyone to vote one way, but rather there is an invitation to be engaged with the process. To actually listen to a differing opinion, and to offer your own as well.
I pray for a world where we know more of this civility.
Last week, I was listening to Christian radio (which I know isn’t for everyone, but I really like sometimes), and heard a song called, “Dream Small”, by Josh Wilson. Something about it really struck me, and has been playing in my head ever since.
Chorus: Dream small, don’t buy the lie you’ve gotta do it all; just let Jesus use you where you are, one day at a time. Live well, loving God and others as yourself, find little ways that only you can help. With His great love, a tiny rock can make a giant fall – so dream small.
What I love about this song is the reminder it is to me – I can get so caught up in my own ideas of greatness. I buy into the largess of the world, thinking the only way to make a difference is in an extreme, or with intense popularity. This song reminds me that it is in the small things that lives are altered, and God works.
This weekend, the lectionary (track 2, at least), had us following the Israelites through the desert, complaining about their hunger and praying that God would grant them death rather than starving in the wilderness.
I found themes of being held in bondage because of fear of the unknown; of God’s provision; of the ways that God provides – and another theme could be added to this list – the small ways in which life is made bearable, and God is made known. Far be it from me to call any miracle small, or to proclaim it less important – but the manna that is provided also has a feeling of simplicity. God doesn’t create a banquet with flowing wine and all of the produce that the Israelites wanted – rather, God gives them manna and quails – bread and meat – which is what they need to survive.
Another theme in this story is the reluctance that we have to rely on God. The world can tell such a convincing lie, that each man must be an island, and that we must be self-sufficient, self-reliant, capable and independent. The chorus of this song reminds me that, in fact, God is a present aid and is there to help, even in what seems small.
Through God’s love, even tiny things can be used for good, and to make positive change and impact in the world.