John Wesley encouraged Christians to check in with each other with the question, “How is it with your soul?” Sometimes there is a pause as people think—discerning how it is with their souls, assessing if they wish to share how it is with their souls. Often, some souls are hurting while some are rejoicing, some are weary while some are hopeful. Mid-May 2020 I am going to venture a guess many of us might have said, “My soul is like an Easter ham left in the oven just a bit too long. It is overcooked, singed a bit, and needs out of the heat, before the smoke starts curling out of the oven door.” That was when Covid-19 seemed our only big issue. Mid-June 2020, we are pressed to see and search out a solution for centuries of unhealthy racial divisions in this country; plus, the pandemic is surging now in many southern states.
Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, wrote, “There is a place in the soul where we feel God’s embrace. It is found whenever in this life we meet truth, love, gentleness, forgiveness, justice, and innocence. In the presence of these, the soul feels right.” I have a hunch your soul, like mine, longs for moments of feeling God’s embrace in the midst of all that is going on.
Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul. Be afraid of the one who can destroy both the body and soul in hell. Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet, not one of them falls to the earth without your Father knowing about it already. Even the hairs of your head are all counted. Don’t be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:28-31)
Those words are meant to invite us into God’s embrace:
1) God’s embrace for white people seeking to be their best selves, while knowing they’ve much to learn about their Black neighbors;
2) God’s embrace for Black people falling under the weight of injustice;
3) God’s embrace for the myriad of diverse people in this world trying to keep hope alive for a better day for themselves and their children and their children’s children.
Wherever we find truth, love, gentleness, forgiveness, justice, and innocence our souls find God’s embrace. Whenever we find truth, love, gentleness, forgiveness, justice, and innocence are absent, if we work for these things, hope for these things, encourage one another through these things, we also find God’s embrace, by sharing it. The embrace part is hard right now with physical distancing. Still, rest assured the God who knows when a single sparrow falls knows our struggles. Do not be afraid. When we share the ingredients of God’s embrace with others whose souls are weary, their souls and ours are restored.
Pray to feel and to help others feel God’s embrace today.
Be Well & Be Blessed,
This week’s devotion is a bit different than most. It is more of a summary of what’s on my heart with regard to recent news items. I spent much of last night trying to put my thoughts into words: for a Facebook post. During my 30 years ministry I’ve been a police chaplain for 15. Just last week I was called out around midnight to share with a death notification. Overall, I appreciate the work they do, like overall I appreciate the work of my pastoral colleagues. That said, sometimes pastor’s cross serious boundaries they should not, as do police. Because of their profession, when that happens the damage done is worse because of their professional responsibilities. So, these thoughts on Police, Racism, Covid-19, and Prayer.
Recently I read the line, “Freedom does NOT mean you get to drill a hole in the boat we are all sitting in.” As you may have guessed, the line has to do with Covid-19 precautions. This last week a store manager was physically attacked for asking a woman to wear a mask she already had hanging around her neck; a DNR/Park Ranger was pushed off the dock into the water while asking people to socially distance; a Family Dollar security guard was shot and killed after asking a woman to refrain from entering the store without a mask; a bus-driver was spit upon for asking a rider to put on a mask pre-boarding as per policy; a police officer was spit on after asking a person to put on a mask.
You are the first to see my personal, hand-held, Covid-19 protection-shield. Micro-droplets are caught before they even reach the mask. In the words of a famous song, “I will survive.” In the words of a Bugs Bunny vocal warm up cartoon, “Me, me, me, me, me, me, me.” Actually, I’m not carrying it around. It’s just an old motorcycle windshield. The real truth about Covid-19 comes from another commercial — “that’s not how this works, that’s not how any of this works.”
If anything good can be found in this Covid-19 pandemic, it’s that we are reminded surviving this pandemic is only possible if we embrace a mind-set that asks, “how can I keep from spreading this virus? How can I keep from catching this virus is NOT enough?” Our health, wellness and ability to thrive as individuals begins with us striving keeping others healthy, well and thriving.
The Covid-19 world insists we are not self-sufficient. We’re super-dependent upon an endless array of “essential-workers.” Sure, some of us nearly bald fellows can cut our own hair; as can some of you talented folk. But I cannot fill all the potholes on my daily commute, manufacture my own toilet paper, or raise my own cow. So, I need to be concerned about the health and working conditions of meat plant workers–and every essential-worker. I can’t whip up own prescriptions from scratch or create electricity to energize so much of my life. I can’t stay well, without others who are acting “as if” they have the Novel Corona virus. More importantly, others can’t stay well, unless I act “as if” I have the virus and take precautions to protect them—because we spread the virus for days before we know we have it. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers in a myriad of complex ways.
I believe Jesus’ teachings and way of life were meant for times like these. Jesus said, “All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will save them.” (Luke 9:24) Jesus’ teachings and actions reveal his mindset that the world is a safer, better place when our daily focus is on serving others rather than protecting ourselves. That is why Jesus’ taught his disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” In heaven selfishness has no place. And, that is part of Jesus’ dream for earth. The more deeply we show love to our neighbors, the better we will get through this.
I invite us to pray with a servant mindset, “God, help me be part of keeping others people safe and well everyday through my considerate actions. Amen.”
Blessings and May You Be Well,