It’s a lot. It’s too much, really.
Our minds were not meant to process all the information that is now flooding our days. Our hearts seem not quite large enough to fit all the cares that cry for our attention.
Gun violence and the simultaneous weakening of gun safety regulations. The torrent of news about shootings already felt overwhelming. Then it came even closer to home when three people were killed at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, where a friend to many of us serves as rector.
The gradual chipping away of safe and careful choices for women and families over the years and in different places, and then the sudden wiping away of rights for people in already difficult circumstances to make prayerful, private decisions with the guidance of doctors and loved ones.
The daily toll and toil of living in a world that curtails and threatens the lives of people of color, and how that damages not only the targets of racism but everyone entangled in its web of suspicion, dread, and animosity.
The looming threat to members of the LGBTQ community who – having grasped a moment where loving who you love can be shown outwardly – now hear and feel the murmurings of those rights and privileges being snatched away again.
And climate change and wealth inequalities and political conniving and and and … And all of these vast issues touch our small lives, and all the while, we live our small lives full of worries about health and finances and relationships and the work that each day brings.
Thomas Aquinas (not generally my go-to-guy, but tough times call for all the saints) reminds me that despairing is one of the darker sins a Christian can commit. Despair convinces us that, as he said, “one’s own malice is worse than Divine Goodness.” Despair wants to overwhelm and bury hope. Despair wants you and me to believe that it’s too late, that we’re too far gone, that we’re alone, that nothing can save us now. Despair wrote the second sentence in this blog article, “it’s too much, really.”
This is not when I sunnily tell myself or you that God won’t give us more than we can handle. This is not a time for platitudes. Instead, this is a time when we cry out as the faithful have been calling out for millennia for help: the Israelites cried out from oppression, the psalmist flooded his bed with tears, the disciples locked themselves in a room. Despair has been lurking in the story all along. And so has hope. Hope lurks in the stories too. Hope isn’t just optimistic wishful thinking. Hope is muscular and demanding. Hope can be hard. Our calling out for help is an expression of hope. Our showing up, even when we’re tired and have more questions than answers is an expression of hope.
We need hope, and we need each other to build up our hope muscles. Gathering for prayer, for action, for weeping, for strategizing, for sustenance, for companionship. This is what God’s people have been doing since the days of the midwives in the opening chapter of Exodus; it’s what the disciples understood they needed to do when they didn’t understand anything else. It’s what freedom riders did, and it’s what networks of people who opened their homes and their hearts to those in need of safety did.
When I was sitting in the Calvary nave a few weeks ago after the Uvalde shooting, I drifted through the psalms and tried to pray. I lit a couple of candles and sat there feeling numb. And then a line of a hymn squirreled its way up from somewhere inside me …
“But the slow watches of the night no less to God belong /
and for the everlasting right, the silent stars are strong.” (Hymn 615)
I feel companionship and hope in the quiet, almost empty church; I find a friend in a hymn writer from the nineteenth century, and from contemporary and ancient poets, and in a group text; I discover a way forward over a shared meal. And I recall, thanks to an eleventh-century Italian priest, that this tumult and turmoil are happening, and somehow none of this malice is greater than the Divine Goodness of God. Turning to God, turning to one another, turning to face the challenges, we hold on to hope. Together with each other and with God, we can hold the large and swirling news of each day, we can put our minds together and grow our hearts in company with the faithful.
Are you reeling from the news? Throughout July, we will offer opportunities to find companionship in the whirlwind. Come to Calvary at any of the following times for prayer and conversation about recent news and events.
Wednesdays, July 6, 13, 20, brown bag lunch at 12:30, following the noon Healing Eucharist. You are welcome to come for the service, the gathering, or both.
Wednesday evening, July 20, small bites and beverages provided at 6:00.
More gatherings may follow, and we’ll discern together some paths forward.