Sunday, June 05, 2011

Blest Be the Ties that Bind

You never want to have a reason to have a sign like this outside your church BUT if there is a reason (like the tornado that hit our town) then your church is exactly where you want the sign.

This morning in worship, the congregation broke into applause when I told them what I told the director of emergency services earlier this week. I pointed out that the church was established before the incorporation of Brimfield because it was necessary to have a Meeting House at the center of the community. Now, nearly 275 years later, this same church called me as pastor in part because they wanted someone who would help them go out the doors and serve the community. In the nearly nine years we have ministered together, the church and I have worked to open wide those doors and use what we have to serve the community. Because of this, I was able to say that if the church had done nothing else all these years, it was at least preparing to be present at this moment.

When the decision was made to open the church to serve food and become a hub for coordinating volunteer efforts, I had no doubt that the community would respond. I've seen the divine spark fanned into a powerful fire of the human spirit plenty of times before. I knew that God was present in the people of our church and beyond, so I knew that all we had to do was open the door. The massive flow of donations and volunteers quickly confirmed my faith in the people and the God they serve.

There have been huge stories and small wonders through all of this. The strength of the covenant between people of faith has been been demonstrated in the numerous clergy who have contacted me offering help. Again, to me it is no surprise. But there have also been tales of the miraculous that are jaw-dropping, like the fact that Becky was able to celebrate her birthday today by worshiping with us before helping a family pick through the rubble of what used to be their house. I made it clear in a public proclamation that God has plans for Becky. How could I be so sure? The house that is nothing but debris today was on top of Becky's car on Wednesday. She was rushing to get home when the tornado hit dropping every tree in the area along with ripping this house off its foundation. Photographs after the fact show that the only section of roof on Becky's car not crushed down to the seats is the place where she sat behind the wheel!

The remarkable bond of community shows in the words of the woman who was in that house's basement with her family and spoke to me yesterday when I went up to offer comfort. Ellen pointed out that she does not attend our church, but appreciated what we were doing. How many times do those moments arise when you later think of the perfect response? This was one of those times for me. Fortunately, I was able to rectify that situation when Kim took the prayer shawl that we blessed in our worship today to give to Ellen. I told Kim to tell her that just because she doesn't go to our church doesn't mean that she isn't part of our church.

As important as the church's physical presence is in our community today, I have been recently considering the prospect of how to create a church without walls. One way the wall-less church was visible today was when I headed out to find Jacob. This wise young man had chosen to refrain from receiving Holy Communion until he completed confirmation, even though we welcome children to partake at Christ's table in our church. Only two weeks ago he completed confirmation, becoming a member of our church and thus giving himself permission to receive the Eucharist. Today he chose to worship Christ by finding him where he surely was; in the brokenness of the destruction at the property of one of our church members. I knew that it would not do for Jacob to forgo his opportunity for a first Communion on this particular day. So after the service, I headed out with bread and juice to find him. Along the way I got a call from my wife telling me that a reporter was at the church wanting to talk to me. I was able to say something that any pastor would be proud to say, "Tell her that she will have to wait, serving Communion is more important." When I reached Jacob I was able to know with full confidence that this kid understood the meaning of the Eucharist and joyfully shared with him one of the most memorable sacraments of my ministry.

Finally, the part of the day that brought me the most satisfying emotion was being a Skype guest at Darkwood Brew, being able to receive the very real, nearly palpable virtual embrace of the prayers and concern of people in Omaha and around the world via the Internet. Tears filled my eyes when the people of Countryside Community Church UCC said "We are praying for you, Brimfield." That prayer and the combined strength of the human spirit on display all around me are so much stronger than the EF 3 winds that rained destruction on my town. Thanks be to God.

1 comment:

Willie said...

What a moving account, Ian! You and the Saints of Brimfield are truly walking in the way! Many blessings to you as you continue this ministry.