"Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." - John 14:27
I've heard and read a number of comments about 2020 and what an awful year it has been. Some have even joked that it should be used as a curse word in the future. I'm not sure about that, but I am sure about one thing. God is with us in the storms of life.
Remember back to January when we all wondered what those folks around the world were doing to spread a virus so quickly? Remember the uncertainty that led up to Sunday, March 15th? That was the last date for in-person worship services as usual. I distinctly recall the urgency to figure out how to live stream a worship service in less than a week. I can look back at the last 5+ months and see so many places, so many ways that I have been blessed, that Lord of Life has been blessed. So I thought I'd share a few of these here as a way for us to understand that God is, indeed, with us in the storms we face
First, from a personal perspective, though I came into my ministry here with a higher than average set of skills for technology, it was through the network of friends I had established over years that I was able to learn, struggle, and implement the technology needed to meet the demands of a new digital ministry at Lord of Life. Had God not blessed me with these friendships, this effort would have been far more difficult.
Let's talk about how Lord of Life has remained outwardly focused during the pandemic, and more recently in response to a literal storm.
Through my work with the Almost Home Advisory Board, in your behalf, I have been blessed to see the amazing work being done on behalf of the homeless. Almost Home has helped homeless men find safety, hope, and a path forward to return to work and health. It's truly incredible ministry that we have supported with dollars and presence.
Partnered with Almost Home is The Open Closet. Lord of Life members continue to support the Closet through the donation of clothing and supplies. A recent drive for clothing for teenagers, held through social media and email, yielded amazing results and the Closet was able to help get teens clothing to start the new school year without being ashamed for lacking decent clothes to wear. There's more. Lord of Life members have been the tops for donating blankets and quilts to this ministry. In the past month, the Closet has given out more than 60 blankets, many stitched and prayed over by Lord of Life members!
Storm cleanup is ongoing in Cedar Rapids and surrounding communities, and Lord of Life has been there to help. As of the writing of this article for the newsletter, crews have visited Cedar Rapids for two consecutive weekends to aid with tree removal and cleanup. Here's what one of the recipients of our efforts had to say.
"It's difficult to put into words. I've never been in a situation where so may people have reached out to help my family. At the end of day 6 with not power and one large pine tree still resting on my rood, I find myself overwhelmed with trying to process what happened this week, yet overflowing with gratitude. Friends and strangers alike came together today to help us clear our backyard fro the aftermath of Monday's Derecho storm. Together we accomplished, in just a few hours, what would have taken us weeks to do ourselves. Thank you!" - Julie B., Cedar Rapids
Exhausted, we pushed on to help more families. At the second location, nearly done and even more tired, we heard about an elderly gentleman and one volunteer with a handsaw helping. I told our crew about the need and Mark Oehlert's response gave me chills. "That won't do. We need to go." The second weekend was much the same, more helping and caring for community and loving neighbor.
We are feeding hungry people. Our Little Food Pantry continues to see regular use and our volunteers are tending to the need by showing up every morning to restock the pantry. In recent weeks we also hosted a drive through mobile food pantry, and we will continue to offer these mobile pantries in the weeks to come.
These are a few of the ways that Lord of Life is blessed to be a blessing in the storms of life. Will you join me in giving thanks to God for these blessings and for the
assurance that, even in the storms of life, God goes with us? Do not be afraid. God is here and God is at work through God's people.
Thanks be to God.
Kyr·i·e. noun. A brief responsive prayer used as the first item in the liturgy of the Evangelical Lutheran Worship Book, traditionally beginning with the Greek words Kyrie eleison (“Lord, have mercy”). Often set to music and sung by the assembly.
Each time watch the news or read the news online I am stunned by the headlines so often included. Updates on the numbers of new cases of COVID-19, the number of deaths, whether there will be enough hospital beds and will there be a vaccine sooner than later. For many of us, add to those headlines the experiences of our lives. What will happen with jobs, income, will we, should we, send out children back to school?
It is in these times of lament, times when our hearts ache and the tensions rise over what is in front of us, that we may rightly cry out, "Kyrie Eleison!"
I don't know how to respond in the midst of the loss of in-person community. Kyrie eleison!
I miss my friends and the fun we have together. Kyrie eleison!
I miss Holy Communion and worship, together, in our sanctuary. Kyrie eleison!
I wish our government would get its act together. Kyrie eleison!
My family is driving me crazy. Kyrie eleison!
What would you add to the list? What do you want to lay before God? To cry out to God for mercy, for? Kyrie eleison! It's not a cop out, it's what God invites us to do! It's a reminder that God is God and we are not. It's an anchor in the midst of the chaos of our lives. Kyrie (Lord) eleison (have mercy) is our very real, very raw, very authentic cry for a need for grace. It's not a quick fix, but rather an approach to dealing with what life is handing us, and acknowledging that God has named and claimed us and loves us, no matter what. It's a gift from God that gives us hope, that no matter what else is happening, God cares, and though an answer may not be immediately evident, an answer will come.
I don't know about you, but I could learn something about myself by invoking God's mercy more often, instead of just grumbling about things and giving up on finding a solution.
May God's mercy enfold you as you read this article, and throughout the days of your life.
Kyrie eleison. Lord, have mercy.
Blogging and believing. Some notes about a life of faith, answers to questions you ask, and musings about leadership in the church.