She is foggy, struggling to find the old gifts of conversation. But she knows me, I think. I tell her all of the reassuring things that pastors say in such a setting. "The Creator who has watched over you all of the days of your life is now holding you in those sacred hands." She smiles and struggles to respond with words I barely understand.
Life of Faith
Benin. Some rights reserved by Ferdinand Reus.
For the healing we need, we cannot do better than to rely on the ancient assurances of Zechariah's hymn. Written in a time of occupation and economic disarray that eclipses our own in its uncertainty, the hymn proclaims that we are indeed free, whatever our brokenness, to worship God without fear.
Second Thessalonians is concerned with encouraging a struggling congregation to stand firm, endure and persevere. Wendell Berry refers to the "art of the commonplace," a phrase that for pastors brings to mind the art, craft and skills by which we cultivate the common everyday life our people are called to live and share--and which will enable them to stand firm. It is about the mundane and about community.
One of the problems with moving forward is that there are times that require looking back--and not with nostalgia. I was recently visiting with a friend who is a Vietnam veteran, describing "then" and "now." He described it like this: "When I came home, I sort of put all that stuff in a package. You know, when I was in country, we always said "When I get back to the world, I'm gonna...etc. etc." It was sort of like Vietnam was "another world."