I confess that I literally feel swept by the Holy Spirit in ways that continue to move me to tears of joy and to just tears. And frankly I feel very inadequate because I used to be a person who was never at a loss for words, but lots of times these days, I am. We have been blessed with 88 kids coming to our church in the city for our afterschool program. Kids who are hungry, kids who need help with homework. Kids who want to be safe. Kids who want to be...kids. None of the stories I hear are unique, and maybe that is in part why they touch me. I want them to be unique and they are not. I want to believe that the three kids who started with us who have already moved, again, are not upended one more time. Or that the girl who has said she knows she is only here until November 1 does not really live that life. I want to believe that the mom who is on welfare but getting her GED through welfare is not still, and she is STILL on a waiting list for her book to be paid for, and is already ready to take the first three parts of the test. I want to believe that when we say we will help you achieve that we mean it. As today, I gave her the money for the first three parts of the test and she promised to tell me the date she is taking it so we can pray, and then hopefully another day celebrate. As she comes each day to volunteer after class so her girls know what matters. I want to believe that the girl who I worked with to do the 100 multiplication problems and who another volunteer helped with averages really doesn't have to say that she is grateful because we are the first people who stuck with her. Or that we aren't really going to have a community meal where we cook together because one mom has no stove, and one can't pay the gas bill and one is afraid because when she turns it on, las cucharachitas come out.
I wish that the mom with the protection order was getting support so she could buy diapers as she promises me to pay back next week so someone else who needs it more than her can have money. I wish that someone's dad had not paid $10,000 to someone for an immigration visa only to end up in detention and with no hope of being here legally for at least the next five years.
I wish a lot of things.
And I wish that the public schools had not cut afterschool tutoring, and that no one joined a gang and no one sold drugs because then we would not have been in lockdown until the raid finished. I wish mandatory Sundays were not reality for people lucky enough to have jobs and that landlords paid their taxes so people would not be evicted by constables and that broken windows would be fixed before winter.
And yet, here we all are. And I have way too many ideas so I keep asking God for patience and wisdom and self-control as I marvel. This was once a neighborhood church full of kids. And now it is again. And because other saints of the church built a large building we can take it over. And we are- the whole lower level and two rooms above.
And because people give we can feed, and we can offer help out of the pit, and we can stand in the face of all of the pain and violence and injustice and proclaim that the cross is greater.
As Lutherans this Sunday is often about remembering our history with a sense of wistfulness and singing and history.
Yet where I am re-formation is what we are about. Re-forming our lives. Because Christ offers us new life and promises that even though things may seem to lie in a wreck at our feet, what God does matters most and that what is most important, just as it was for Luther, is that real people can encounter God's word in their lives as they are.
And that fortress is not just about squirreling ourselves away and holding on while the rest of life is outside. But about believing that God is present and helping us in all of our trouble and that when it all seems too much, we can speak again those words of promise and cling to them because they are true.
We may take turns being strong, but we keep coming back to the truth and re-membering to add more and more and more people as we hold on to the thing that matters- that only God can save us. A God that over and over does just that.
And it may be that we tell the story over rice and beans, or a happy dance about scores, it may be that we laugh at our children who though they try us, bless us.
Today I realized that every time I thought in English, I also thought in Spanish.
Today I was blessed to hear we can start with a small group for a bilingual womens Bible study. And I met a man who will come and teach drumming to our kids. And got the card for a fitness instructor. Today I had a man offer a piano and accordion he cannot keep as he hopes to spend time with his kids here. And today I saw again the hope of our kids as they make this place their own, and as they tell me their dreams and sometimes their prayers.
Re-forming and re-membering
There is no reason for it but that God wants it.
When I ponder it all, I cannot explain it.
And though words fail me, I know that we are all being re-formed into an entirely different critter, but as one person said recently- entirely different critters is what God is all about.