It didn’t seem like a trivial conversation starter this week. We listened in awe to the wind, rain, snapping trees, popping substations, and emergency responders’ sirens from Sunday night into Monday. (Though it was amazing how many people found Dunkin Donuts open for coffee!) We heard the silence of non-electrified homes, locked schools and businesses, and silent computers on Tuesday. Driving to a rural church conference, I ducked under 4 trees still leaning on power lines, past several utility repairs in process, and around several detours. The ladies at Bartlett Memorial UMC were waiting with a warm church and homemade lunch. On Wednesday, rising irritations became evident on social media as clean laundry ran out, freezers grew warm, and people just wanted to get back to normal. Great the generosity as neighbors “with” offered help to neighbors “without.” Great the rejoicing as utility trucks from away rolled into Maine supplementing already hard working responders here. One little guy was inspired by his lineman grandfather to dress up as such a helper for Halloween.
Challenging times are nothing new in human experience. But my generation’s expectations have been set by the season of relative abundance that we grew up in. I say relative, because not everyone shared equally in economic and educational growth. We’ve grown reliant on innovations and inventions that enrich our lives and expand our capacity. When “normal” is interrupted by weather, social discord, or disruptive changes in communication, politics, economics……. (insert your observations here), our values are tested. Our trust in God and each other is tested.
In my covenant group this morning we read from 2 Corinthians 8, Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford!—pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians. This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives (2 Corinthians 8: 1-7).
Paul describes being caught off guard when a crucible of difficulty honed the essential goodness/God-ness of this young Christian community. He has only words of encouragement to add: So, here’s what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can’t. The heart regulates the hands. This isn’t so others can take it easy while you sweat it out. No, you’re shoulder to shoulder with them all the way, your surplus matching their deficit, their surplus matching your deficit. In the end, you come out even. As it is written, Nothing left over to the one with the most, Nothing lacking to the one with the least. -2 Corinthians 8:13-15 The Message (MSG)
By Wednesday morning I was able to walk my neighborhood river route. A neighbor’s meditation garden (open to the public) offered serene calm beside the roiling Androscoggin. Our confidence in Christ can offer that kind of deep breath in whatever challenge or chaos arises. It requires following through on our good intentions to become more like Christ each day. In other words, it takes practices of re-connecting with God in scripture, seeking Christ in prayer, and overcoming any reluctance to test and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in daily acts of grace.
May you know God’s grace in this week of opportunity.
Your Partner in Christ, Karen