Reflections on snow day worship and seeking justice.
Am I the only one here?
This past Sunday, Portland (Oregon) was recovering from a ridiculous snowfall that shut down the city for several days. Sunday saw the first fruits of the parking lot plowed and the sidewalks cleared with shovels, salt, and Advil.
A funny refrain started when the parishioners started showing up: they inevitably said “Am I the only one here?” When clumps of people started showing up who held each other in the walk across the parking lot, they asked: “Are we the only ones here?” It certainly felt like it, given the silent white cloud over the usually bustling parking lot.
Each arrival wondered whether they would be one of the few who made the treacherous trek across a city that isn’t equipped to deal with snowstorms. And each was overjoyed to get past the threshold and see the gathered friends who also “made it.” It ended up being a joyous “make it work” Sunday.
Are We The Only Ones?
The conversations coming in from the snow reminded me of the season of discontent that seekers of justice can often find themselves in.
When we are on the journey, the swirling snow limits our vision. We feel alone in the mist, surrounded by the cacophony of cable news repeating affront after affront to our sensibilities. We are blue dots in red rural counties, or red dots surrounded by the cacophony of the city, each person too focused on their pet issues to give time to our needs. We are in the mist.
We may pass by other sojourners, but barely lift our heads in greeting. We fail to recognize other folks working towards the same goal, also in silence. Sometimes our woundedness causes us to lash out or shortchange the other seekers when their journey is not the same as ours.
And finally, the chaos may lead us to go astray. To go too far one direction and lose our path. To lose our footing on what we thought was solid ground. To fall further behind other travelers and wonder what is slowing us down. The chaos and the powers and principalities are powerful indeed, tearing at the seams of our dedication.
Crossing the Threshold
The journey seeking justice is marked by loneliness, limited vision, and suspicion towards others, yet spurred forward by a vision beyond the flurries.
The journey changes when we cross the threshold from the storm outside to the doorway. It’s still cold here, but the feeling is different because you know you are in from the cold. That you see fellow patrons or parishioners or seekers of justice also taking off their burdens and hanging them on coatracks.
There, in the pews, in the bars, in the coffee shops, in the gatherings of the like-hearted with warm drinks, the season changes. The knowledge that you don’t have to watch your step for fear of ice, and that you recognize the uncovered faces of the others, seeps warm relief into your bones.
The conspired corners beckon you forward, towards that friend in the pew or table, to be inspired or to strategize towards the goal of God’s beloved community for us all.
Then it is time. Time that we burden ourselves again, gird our loins, and journey forward again, alone, isolated, but a bit less afraid and a bit more sure of the journey home.
I am never alone
We are never alone in this work for justice as we are in perpetual communion with the God who created us.
Chris Saade writes in his book Prayers for Peace and Justice:
When despair assails me, I feel a force arising to meet the darkness.
You imbue me with strength usually unknown to me.
A voice in my chest desires to speak loudly for a vision of peace and reconciliation.
I am awed by the presence in me that is like a continuous visitations of an insistent lover.
In this body of mine, I am never alone.
Something of an ancestral nature is dormant in me.
I am hungry to enter into the silence where communion is made with the loving whirlwind of creation.
I yearn to surrender to the pregnancy of birth that your creation seeded in me.
I behold in Your face that which calls on me, that which beckons me, always forward.
May your next storm be easier, and may the journey be marked by companions and vision that makes it shorter.