We have just come through a brief, fairly powerful storm. Some of you may be responding: Fairly powerful! Have you seen the trees? Don’t you know how long we’ve been without power? This is a huge, big deal! And perhaps it was. And yet having picked up debris following a tornado a few short years ago, I also realize that I have not seen houses left in piles of splinters. And, to my knowledge, no one died. We can become so comfortable that a strong rain and wind storm can leave us feeling that our lives have been massively disrupted…when in reality we’ve suffered inconvenience.
When I think of major storms, I remember Hurricane Celia that blew through Corpus Christi when I was a kid. We lived there at the time. I remember mopping up water with towels that the wind was forcing under the doors and my parents doing the same as water was forced under windows. They keep my brother and me away from windows in fear that they would shatter and blow out. Trees went down along with every wood fence. I remember watching whole trees, roots included, blowing down the street with playground equipment. When the storm was over, one of the houses across the street had a fence post sticking out of the roof like some huge ‘god’ had thrown a spear. A brick wall of one of the biggest hospitals had collapsed. Houses were nothing but rubble in many areas. Some people had ridden out the worst of the hurricane in center closets with snakes who were just trying to get out of the storm. My dad drove home from work after the storm started and his car had been smashed against railings by the winds as he drove. But he made it home in one piece. And when it was over, not a single window was left in any of the downtown office buildings. There was no electricity, water or phones. The National Guard imposed curfews.
I also remember that we were among the very lucky. We lost one window when the fence went down and some trees. Like everyone else, we were without utilities. Water came back pretty quickly. The whole neighborhood celebrated when our phone rang. We were the first ones on our street. It was 3-4 weeks before electricity was restored. There were street ‘parties’ with grills set up cooking everyone’s best meats before they spoiled…open to all to eat. We had a Coleman stove that provided the heat for neighborhood baby bottles. Neighbors helped neighbors in putting back trees and anything else that didn’t get a contractor. Neighbors who had never met got to know one another. Real community developed very quickly when all of the fences were down, the a/c off leaving windows and doors open. There were some difficult, even challenging, and some downright hard moments…I missed most of those because I was sent with my brother to stay with grandparents during the worst of the aftermath.
With our ‘little’ storm last night and my memories of a ‘big’ storm, I’ve been reflecting on the storm that faces our church (especially the larger UMC). And I realize that I’m one of the very lucky ones. Yes, as a woman I have faced some folks who don’t think that I should be ordained. But I have never faced the prejudice that is a part of the day in and day out lives of both people of color and our LGBTQ siblings (it’s acceptable to just say ‘gay’ if the alphabet intimidates you). Yes, the journey to full inclusion is disruptive to those of us already fully included. But that’s really all that it is…a minor disruption, an inconvenience. But our very lives are not held in the balance. Most of us are confident that when we or our children leave home for work or school that we will all return home unharmed. The same is not true for everyone. I am aware that when I ‘fight’ or speak out for social justice that I do so as a choice. For others, their very existence requires that they either cower and hide or stand and fight. There are no other choices. They cannot choose to not be effected in a meaningful, life altering way.
So brothers, sisters, siblings, today we have survived a big rain storm that was minor compared to a tornado or a force 4/5 hurricane. We have been inconvenienced. But we are really fortunate. When we grow weary (or bored) in the fight for full inclusion and justice in our church, community and world, I pray that we will remember that we are really fortunate. I pray that we will remember the power that we hold. And while this is a fight that might be won without us, it is still a fight that needs us. Desmond Tutu said: If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. And from Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. And another favorite Bonhoeffer quote: The Church is the Church only when it exists for others . . . not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.
So together, let us hold onto one another, ever drawing our circle wider, staying the course. God calls us not to fight for ourselves but to work for and serve others, not for what makes us comfortable but for what comforts others. We are the people of God…called to share God through love and service…for the transformation of the world!