Sunday, May 29, 2022
By: David May, Rector
A few years ago I was sitting in the conference room of Macedonia Baptist Church on the Northern Neck waiting for a board meeting to begin. It was an excellent board with really lovely, inspiring people; people whom I thought of as my friends as much as anything else. The work we did together helped create programs through a community development organization that was making lives better in real ways. And it was also the only board I sat on that had Black people and white people sitting around the table making decisions together for our community. So it was a deeply gratifying and joyous group to be a part of.
But in the chit chat and checking in conversations going on before the meeting started, I felt sort of disconnected and not so joyous. My mind was working on some things that it had been working on for weeks but just couldn’t seem to figure out. It was like…well…have you ever tried to untangle a wad of tangled fishing line where the harder you try the worse it gets? I think that is sort of where I was with these things my mind has been working on: just ruminating and ruminating and getting nowhere. I was mostly the poster child for proverbial cat chasing its tail, truth be told.
Then a member of the board swept into the room full of enthusiasm and energy. “Someone get me something to eat before I perish!” she said. Her name was Carolyn Hines and she has since gone to glory. Caroline was a Black woman, a Ph.D., and a consultant who travelled up and down the east coast doing strategic planning for corporations and universities. But mostly what she was was a daughter of the Kingdom of God, a disciple of Jesus, who acted that way with every breath.
She came to the seat next to me to sit but first hugged my neck and said, “I love that you’re here and I love you!” I whispered, “I love you too.” She said, “well, of course you do!”
The chair called us to order and got the agenda going. We passed around papers and got ourselves squared away and on track. I was trying to get myself focused but behind the scenes my mind was still bearing down on these things it’d been working on but that I just couldn’t get figured out. What had me in such a tangle, I’ll tell you, was trying to understand what was going on in the world right then and what we were supposed to do about that. Sort of like right now.
Caroline, leaned in to me and looked over her glasses with this most remarkable, mischievous expression and whispered, “I’ve been praying for you, you know!” I said, “thank you” because, well, what else does one say? She whispered, “don’t thank me. The Spirit told me to pray for you.” I went back to my paper trying to get focused on our work. But I couldn’t. I looked back at her and discovered that she was still looking at me. She said, “Remember, I’ve been praying for you.” I said, “about what?”. She said, “never mind that.”
And I found as the meeting went along that all those knotted thoughts had eased away. No problem had been solved. I still hadn’t figured anything out. But I had stopped struggling.
Why was that? Well, in part, it’s just the utterly surprising, happy thought that someone had thought of you and remembered you in their prayers. That’s so important to know for all of us. It matters so much, though I can’t tell you exactly why. Maybe it’s simply that someone has thought to do something for you. And that what they had thought to do for you was pray for you is a powerful reminder that we aren’t on own to figure all of this out. My cat stopped chasing its tail, and curled up on a sunny window seat in my soul and fell asleep. There is some work that is God’s work to do for you.
I know, I know, you may say, God will move the mountain for us but we had better bring our shovels. Well, alright, I know. I get that. The amazing celebration of the ministry of our parish when we said our good goodbye to Eleanor last Sunday or the astounding Sunday when the bishop came a few weeks ago certainly would not have happened without a whole lot of hard work by a whole lot of people. But I think it’s not the ‘bringing our shovels’ part of the equation that we need to work on. I think remembering that God, right now, is carrying out the work God needs to do for you and for us is the part that we can easily lose track of.
Is that because we think, “oh God has bigger things to worry about than me.”? Or, “there are people a whole lot worse off than me in this world that God needs to take care of before me.” Or, is it simply too hard to think about God thinking about me? You?
Maybe it’s just a little overwhelming, even scary to think that God’s eye is on you, on me, and that you too are the apple of God’s eye. Maybe it’s hard to think and know and feel that God’s love for you is a personal love. Oh good heavens, can Episcopalians really talk about God’s personal love?
But aren’t those Jesus words for us in the Gospel today? What he is saying comes from the very last night he shared with his friends. After washing their feet, and breaking bread together, and after he talks about what their lives together mean and what it will mean in the days to come, just before they are to go out into the night, he prays for them and for us too. He says, I am praying not only for these but also for those who will believe in me through their words. And that in believing we will live surrounded by the love that Father has for the Son. And isn’t that a love that makes you the apple of God’s eye?
There is some work that is God’s work to do for you. For example, think about this. Do you know that the air pressure at sea level is 14.7 pounds per square inch? You might, but do you know what that means? It means that God does the breathing for us. It means that we don’t actually breath for ourselves. We don’t have to figure that out. The pressure of the air as we live and breath literally rushes into our lungs and gives us life. Again and again and again.
Jesus prays for us too promising that the love he shares with God will rush into us and give us life and living.
Of course I never asked what my friend was praying for, for me, and she never said. But whatever that prayer was it did its work, God’s work.
Someone is praying for you – to paraphrase an old hymn: the Lord Jesus himself. We live now, in this very moment, in the holy communion of the Father’s love for the Son like the air we breathe, to rush in and give you life. Amen.