Sighing Leads to Service

One Minister’s Musing

7/26/11

Sighing Leads to Service

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”   (Matthew 13: 31-33)

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   (Romans 8: 38-39)

Deep, wordless sighing. I found myself sighing often these past few days. Sighing, unable to find words to express myself about the tragedy of chaotic violence exploding yet again.

I have watched our politicians push and pull at each other about budget issues of the US while the most vulnerable of our society – the single mothers, poor, homeless, elderly – have become lost in the battle by the members of Congress in their partisan games. Jim Wallis in Sojourners magazine suggests that the middle class has the Democratic Party defend entitlement programs.  The upper class has the Republican Party defend tax breaks. Who is speaking for the poor?  Religious leaders in the US including the Bishop of the ELCA are calling for our government leaders to listen to the spiritual and moral challenge to defend the poor. More than 2000 verses in the Bible call for the care of the poor. This is not happening as the political parties are paralyzed in their own polemic and principles rather than seeking the common good. I sighed in the midst of the continued break down in negotiations.

And then, the tragic killing in Norway. Not only the bombing of a government building, but the unbelievable killing of young people gathered on an island for leadership development.  And the killing was done at the hands of a Christian. Someone who saw himself as a follower of Jesus  – choosing to judge, choosing to take the reign of God into his own hands to condemn and kill others. Has this religion gone mad? What is happening? How do I call myself Christian in the midst of this extreme hatred done in the name of the God of Love? The sighs grew deeper.

Yet, I truly believe that the Holy Spirit of God sighs too. Paul writes in Romans, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought.” Paul writes that that very Spirit of God intercedes with signs too deep for words.”  Into this – into death, into disease, into selfish greed, into gaming powers, into unimaginable violence and killing and terror, into narrow religious paradigms, into all this, the very Spirit of God sighs with deep love and compassion. The very Spirit of God sighs, too.

God longs for the fullness of God’s reign. God’s will. God’s domain is not a world gone mad. God’s reign is like a mustard seed that grows into a giant tree. God’s reign is the place of safety and shade. It’s the place of support and care and compassion, starting small yet can loom large when it grows within the ditches of fields of hatred and hollows of the greedy. God’s reign is this shrub of compassion that begins as a seed of hope.

The power of God’s sighs, the impact of God’s compassion is huge when it flourishes, but we experience it bits and pieces on this side of heaven. For this reign of God begins as seeds and sighs of sadness in the midst of great pain. God’s reign is known in promised presence.

This love does not leave when those we love die, when disease and dis-ease overtakes our bodies and our governments. This love holds fast to those who face terror and are horrified by killing.  This love holds fast when we have no words, even when hope seems far away. It is a promise. It is a commitment of God to us. And because of this we dare to commit ourselves to each other, for each other and with each other for the sake of the world. We dare to act, to stand for justice for the poor, and to love and comfort each other. Sighing turns to service.

Gently,

Pr. E