A Note from Jim: January 20th, 2023
“New every morning,” the writer of Lamentations tells us, “...is the steadfast love of God.” I can’t think of a single affirmation in all of our scripture and tradition that is more fundamental to our faith and the well-being of our community than that one sentence. From the time we are birthed into human time until the moment we leave it, we are surrounded by God’s love for us.
My partner, Louis, and I may be the only people in our little part of East Mount Airy/Germantown (depending on who you ask…) who go out to our front walk every morning and bring into our house a print copy of The New York Times. Every morning, we open the paper to be presented, usually above the fold (does anyone younger than 50 know what that phrase even means, I wonder as I write…), a startling image of a recent horror somewhere on our planet. These days, we’re often presented with pictures of the horrors of the war in Ukraine. Sometimes there’s a picture of people trying to navigate the ravages of famine and disaster, themselves consequences most often of climate change, somewhere in Asia or Africa. Always, these images convey into my soul a bewildering mix of empathy, grief, anger, and something near despair for the whole human community, for the human project itself, if there can be said to be such a thing.
I’ll look at a picture of a starving young mother holding her starving young child, she holding onto new life even as life ebbs away, and wonder how to be a decent human being--priest, partner, companion, friend, advocate--in the face of those desperate faces. I don’t think you, who are the community of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, are much different from me in this way. We live in very dense and densely tragic and anxious times. And in these times and on this planet, most of us--I who write this note and you who read it--are incredibly fortunate.
In that way, St. Martin’s is a haven, a place that aims to be loving, safe, and caring. Indeed, it can be all that. We all want this community to be most of all a place where God’s faithful love for us is evident, carried out of our fortunate lives into the lives of others, so that when tragedy strikes near to us we can count on our community to envelop us in care and with compassion. That too can be and is often the case. But a compassionate community doesn’t just happen. It requires practicing love, and compassion. In that practice, our anxiety and gloom can be overtaken by the joy and wonder of being alive and connected to one another as children of God.
My own most fundamental certainty about what it means to be called as disciples of Christ is that we are called out of ourselves and into the life of community, bound up with the lives of others. Jesus, I am certain, could not possibly have understood himself apart from the community into which he was born and in which, throughout his life and through his death, he was enmeshed with others. Even in the torture of the cross, Jesus is not alone. For him, and for us, the “I” is always servant to the “we.” That servant’s whole job is to bear God’s Love into the world--the world near at hand and the world halfway around the globe.
I am always eager to sit with you in your anxiety and pain, as well as to share in your joy and to marvel with you in God’s works. But this week I realized, as I was sitting with one of you, that I had forgotten to begin our conversation with prayer. I was slightly dismayed!
Though I believe that all our conversations are sacred, I also know that beginning with some silence and some gathering prayer to remind ourselves that the steadfast Love of God surrounds us and to invite ourselves back into that awareness is perhaps essential if we are to be the people we want to be. I ask that you, in all your doings at St. Martin’s, begin with prayer. I hope that I, and St. Martin’s, can first of all be a praying community, full of care for one another, knit together in God’s Love and so so grateful for our great good fortune.
It’s not an accident that the great affirmation, “New every morning is the steadfast Love of God…” comes to us from the writer of a book of Lament. How else can we live?
Tags: Clergy & Staff