Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fire Can Suck the Oxygen from a Room But Not the Life From the Church

Fire will suck the oxygen out of a room.

Hearing of a devastating fire at my former teaching parish had the same effect on me as a profound sadness settled in like the weight of all that water soaked ash.
So many thoughts flooded my mind as I imagined the faces of those I know well and of their new pastor who was just installed this past Sunday. Built in 1894, a country parish still affectionately known as "Filey's Parish" though its formal name is Christ Lutheran Church. I remember tales of when the church did not have indoor plumbing, and of the spring that runs through the basement of the house the next field over. Of generations of seminarians who have been trained there, perhaps some now part of the cloud of witnesses of the church. Of those I know who preceded me. I was the last teaching parish student.

Some years ago, the parish proudly had finished an addition of offices and class and gathering space. Sturdy. I ponder all of the records that now may be lost, and reminisce of how they patiently worked with me to teach me the right way to ring the bell, including how not to lose the rope up the belfry. What amusement I provided as I struggled to pull hard enough to ring without double ringing. The Easter Sunrise breakfast, complete with pickled tongue.

The first pulpit I ever preached in. The nervous graciousness of the altar guild lady who plied me with water when I had bronchitis so I could get through the sermon. The way you could tell the passage of time by the various styles of architecture in the sanctuary all lovingly given out of someone's vision of the promise.
I think of all of the baptisms, weddings, confirmations and funerals that filled the space where God laughed and cried and rejoiced with them. But on this day when lightning has leveled their world, how the lectionary for this coming Sunday and it's baptism of fire must sound. How the description of those who lived not fully seeing the promise, or worse, those who experienced great pain and loss and suffering must feel. How to imagine the persistence needed amidst the shock, the numbness and the dark shadows where once there was light.
And yet, in all of this, the fire cannot destroy the faith and hope of the cross, the promise made sure in Christ, and the cloud of witnesses and community in the here and now. So it is for each of us. Our lives are a series of beginnings when all seems bright and hopeful in our vision. But amidst the blessings are those times when a painful reality bursts in, in the devastating times of our lives when it feels that all is stripped away. Still there is the promise that is the reality of cross of Christ.

So tonite as I head to the prayer vigil, I am thinking of a new song I have heard by Andrew Peterson. Though the song is about marriage, the words ring true. As I reel with them in their loss, I am reminded that the building is not the church- Christ in our midst will triumph.

And we went dancin’ in the mine fields. We went sailin’ in the storms
And it was harder than we dreamed, but I believe that’s what the promise is for…
The only way to find your “life” is to lay your own “life” down and
I believe it’s an easy price for the life that we have found
We dancin’ in the minefields, and we’re sailin’ in the storms and
It’s harder than we dreamed but I believe that’s what the promise is for
Don’t give up. Don’t give up on me. Don’t give up.
So when I lose my way, find me
When I loose love’s chains, bind me
At the end of all my faith, to the end of all my days,
When I forget my name, remind me.
Cause we bear the light of the Son of Man, so there’s nothin’ left to fear.
So, I’ll walk with you in the shadow lands, ‘til the shadows disappear.
He promised not leave us and his promises are true,
So in the face of all this chaos, maybe I can dance with you.
So let’s go dancing in the minefields
Let’s go sailin’ in the storms
Let’s go dancin’ in the minefields and kickin’ down the doors. This is harder than we dreamed but I believe that’s what the promise is for.


Ivy said...

I just found out from Bill Chamberlin. How awful. Deb too, has been through so much. As great as their pain and frustration must be, God is greater. Blessings.

Stratoz said...

we watched the row homes directly across from us go up in flame as the clock turned into Palm Sunday. Only one of the five families is back and there is so much to do to bring three of them back, the other will hopefully be back soon. I hope that this community that you speak of and have so many fond memories of heals from this experience.