Wearily working for the good

This is my sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C, preached on July 3, 2022. The lectionary is here.

In October of 2020, seven months of living in a deadly global pandemic in a year that also saw an escalation of deadly racial violence and an intensification of truly frightening political maneuvering around such issues as how to care for infants and children caught up in the debate about immigration, I was weary.  I was so weary that I wrote a newsletter message about being weary.  Although it may be the height of hubris to quote one’s own writing, I share that message with you now:

“Beloved Community,

Are you as weary as I am?  Weary of the constant influx of news that reminds you of how broken the world is?  With the seemingly never ending tide of news about war, about conflict? About an almost unimaginable array of ways we fail to love one another as Jesus calls us to do?  About our apparent creative genius in finding new ways to ignore the call to respect the dignity and worth of every human being and the world? 

Even in the midst of a life that is full and rich and good, on this journey deeper into the heart of God with all of you in this amazing community, this week I have been feeling weary.  I have found myself wondering why it is I think I can make any difference at all to address problems that are far beyond my resources and capacity.

And then, as she so often does, the Holy Spirit (“wild and free” as my former bishop says) reminded me that the call to me simply is to be a faithful disciple, to live my life in such a way that whatever I do, small or not, is done with love for God’s people and creation.  It is not up to me to solve the problems, but it is up to me to be a part of the solution.  And that shifted my thinking, lifting the burden of weariness, at least for now.

I hope this message, from the Talmud, speaks to you as it does to me:

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.

“Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now.”

You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

Peace & Blessings,

Paula+”

You may be wondering why this journey into the newsletter archives. Or perhaps you get it without explanation.  The world seems even more broken today than it did then.  I find myself just as weary, though now often without an awareness of the energy or resources to do the work that needs to be done, even as I understand that work as a call on my discipleship just as strongly as I ever have.

As I’ve rallied for sensible gun laws on the national mall, listened to a man yell, “I’ve got a gun!” and witnessed hundreds of terrified people stampede to escape the threat, I’ve grown weary.

As I’ve watched the January 6th hearings and read the news from the Supreme Court, with decisions that strip the rights of women to control their own bodies; Miranda rights, gun safety laws, and climate change regulations diluted, I’ve grown wearier.

As I’ve talked to my young adult daughter about how scared and despairing she is about the future ahead of her, it’s impossible to believe but I’ve grown even wearier. 

And when I’ve thought about how many times we’ve fought these same fights over the years, I’ve wondered if it is even remotely possible to make the kind of difference that needs to be made. 

I’ve been angry. I’ve been afraid. And I have been wearier, more exhausted than I ever remember being.  There are days I feel as if I am looking up at the bottom of my hope, trying to see a glimmer of light to motivate me to do the work that I’ve been doing since I developed a social consciousness, some 50 years ago, all over again as if for the first time.

And then I read today’s lectionary.  That wily Holy Spirit got me again. This line from Galatians seemed to jump off the page:

So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

It was as if the Holy Spirit was speaking directly to the weariness of my heart, reminding me of what I know to be true:  the call to people of faith is to persevere.  Working for the good of all whenever we have the opportunity is an essential element of Christian discipleship.    

It doesn’t matter that the work that needs doing now is work that has already been done.  We work for the good of all.

It doesn’t matter that the resources of a seemingly unstoppable minority of privileged, powerful people can wreak havoc on the lives of a majority of the rest of us.  We work for the good of all.

We advocate for the rights of women and children, immigrants and the poor, people of color and all whose voice is not heard and whose basic humanity is often denied, and for God’s creation.  We grab onto our hope, even if our grasp feels tenuous, less full of hope than it has in the past. 

We do not let the enormity of the world’s grief or our own weariness overtake our faith in the promises that God has made to us and to all people.  Those promises are faithful and true. We follow Jesus, no matter what the rest of the world seems to be doing or not doing. We invite the Holy Spirit to work in and through us, reflecting God’s love and God’s light in all that we are and all that we do. We do this because it is the work we have been given to do. We live our faith.  We persevere. We show God’s love for all people all of the time. Full stop. 

Copyright 2022 The Rev. Paula J. Toland

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