E-Letter 166

Posted by on May 2, 2014 in Devotions | 0 comments

It started the night before, in that brief pause between night and day when the Creator ponders the possible and the probable in silence. I leaned forward in the dark to listen as a fierce wind roared through the thin woods behind my house, forcing the canopy of young trees to kiss the ground in obeisance.  I have seen these same trees willingly bend their branches to earth like a graceful gymnast trusting the ground to catch her as she flexes her back, arms, and legs like an archer’s bow. This arboreal bowing, this treeful scraping, however, was not a lithe celebration of youth, but rather a frightened response to the Creator’s angry howls filling a moonless sky with divine protest. By early morning, the bellowing wind had cut off the power in my neighborhood, and I drove to work clutching the steering wheel with two hands, trying to keep my car from skidding across the yellow line dividing the highway while skirting the tumbleweed of a stormy tantrum – broken branches, downed trees, a rain-soaked cardboard box, the black rubber curlicue remains of a blown tire spun from an 18-wheeler speeding through town. By the time I reached the leaf-strewn church parking lot, I was tense, rushed, and anxious, and not because of the storm’s dangerous possibilities, but because I had not prayerfully listened to the Creator’s voice that had echoed wordlessly in the silence of the opening between this particular night and day.

The evangelist John, exiled on the Isle of Patmos, shares a vision with the faithful facing persecution on the mainland. In that brief pause between a long-ago night and day when the Creator pondered the possible and the probable, John sat in fear for half an hour, trembling in the darkness he shared with the angels that stood before the Great I Am. (Rev. 8:1)  Ensconced in deep shadows, the evangelist strained his ears, hoping to hear the wordless wisdom to be found in divine silence. I imagine his heart pounding, his mind racing as he barrages heaven’s gates with a single question, “What is really happening?”

Years ago I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. to view the Anne Frank exhibit.  I remember being awestruck by the teenager’s plaid diary filled with pages of her reflections and observations of the storm of world events swirling around her. Meip Gies, Anne’s father’s employee and the preserver of her writings, spoke on video about the family who hid in an attic to escape the clutches of the Nazis. In the video Meip says that young Anne always wanted to know the truth about what was going on. Others in her family would believe the sugar-coated version of Meip’s stories, but Anne would follow her to the door, and in that brief pause between an arrival and a leaving, Anne would break the awkward silence with the evangelist’s single question, “What is really happening?”

The winds of the night before dwindled to a whisper as I spent the day visiting the faith-filled men and women, these “cedars of Lebanon” who will celebrate our 185 years of ministry in our community and world by sharing their memories, hopes, and aspirations for our future with us during worship. Shadows began to fill the room as Mr. Phil and I sat around his kitchen table poring over his scrapbooks examining yellowed documents that told a resurrection story of what happened in our community that changed the way we have come to understand ourselves. I rested my head in my hands as I listened to Mr. Phil talk about the stormy years of integration and his leadership and the courage of our church in responding to divine promptings to build anew the kingdom of God in our midst. His hands trembling, his eyes misting, and his voice quivering with each revelation, I witnessed the painful toll that discipleship continues to exact on those who dare to join the Creator in pondering the possible and probable. And in a brief pause between day and night, I was blessed by a saint who found strength for a new day in the steadfast and abiding love of the Great I Am – the God Who Was, Who Is, and Who Shall Be. I invite you to join us on Sunday as some of our “cedars of Lebanon”, Tom Brady, Theron Edwards, Lucy Harvey, Joanne Jordan, Phil Jordan, and Minnie Thomas, share the wisdom to be found in silence:

The righteous flourish like the palm tree,

and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

They are planted in the house of the Lord;

they flourish in the courts of our God.

In old age they still produce fruit;

they are always green and full of sap,

showing that the Lord is upright;

he is my rock,

and there is no unrighteousness in him.

   Psalm 92:12-15