Wednesday, August 20, 2008
While I was in Newport, I went to Sunday services with my friend. A beautiful little church (little only by St. Bart's standards) was in the midst of summer chaos: a priest in charge, a retiring organist, lots of parishioners on vacation... yet the Spirit still moved through the aisles, in the Nave, and spilled out into the coffee hour afterwards. Spirit always seems to move in chaos. I forget that when I'm stuck in the eye of the storm.
The preacher/priest-in-charge did not forget, though. Her job is to hold the boat together and to help her parish navigate through difficult waters ahead. Her texts were pertinent to that: The angel of the Lord speaking to Elijah, who had run away to the cave in the mountain, "What are you doing here?" And Elijah giving his blow-by-blow response, "I've done my best. Nobody listens. They broke all your furniture. All the other prophets are dead, and now they're trying to kill me."
She outlined the usual things such a prophet might feel: the sense of despair at being all alone in the work for God, discouragement, fearfulness, dog-tiredness... standing at the edge of the abyss. Two choices then: hide in the cave or step out into the chaos.
She spoke of the concept of chaos, from very real physical tumult to the simple busyness of each day's activities; how easy it is to get caught up in our obligations and cares, to feel physically battered like tropical storms batter the coastline. She returned to the reading from 1st Kings. God was not in the wind, or the earthquake or the fire. God was in the still. small. voice. "What are you doing here Elijah?"
So... we are called back out. Into the chaos. She noted that in the hymn: Jesus calls us o're the tumult, it never said Jesus calls us out of the tumult. Life, she said, is not a fairy tale, and (contrary to what some believe) the Gospel does not call us to live happily ever after.
Yet the tumult wearies us. When I am weary, I am more easily prone to fear.
Fear... we each respond to fear in different ways. Some snap at everyone around them, some are paralyzed and cannot function. Others become obsessed with controlling what can be controlled. None of it is pretty. Yet necessary. To find the stillpoint which is God, is to know after all, that God is with us. The cave may seem like safety, but that is also illusion. Risk is the key.
I thought about their little church, struggling to make it through another storm. But the words were meant for me as well. Some of you know I draw cartoons. I do it for the fun of it, but I also do it for deeper, less understood reasons. I've been in the safety-cave around this activity since the last series. (Mainly because the next step gets a whole lot stickier, and I am afraid of being glued to some place I don't want to be.) Yet, like Elijah, I keep hearing the question "What are you doing here?" Stalling, God. That's what I'm doing here.