Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Monday, March 21, 2016


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter… ©

I was asked to give the pastoral prayer at St. Mark’s UMC yesterday, where we were wed 56 years ago. I knew people would be unfocused after a Palm Sunday parade by three dozen children, and about that many adults, led by a sousaphone, and after IU’s victory over KY in basketball the night before, so I thought I should acknowledge that it was hard to focus, and then try to get people to relax and let the Spirit take over. Too much for one prayer, I’m afraid, but here is the prayer. It was followed by a period of silent prayer and then praying the Lord’s Prayer together. You’ll be able to get the idea, even if you don’t understand the local references:

Merciful and almighty God, bless those of us assembled here, because here we are again, some assembly required, some of us with happy hearts, some with heavy hearts, some of us because we want to share the joy, some because we need help with the pain. But we’re here mostly out of habit. Or because someone else made us come. Or we just didn’t want to make breakfast ourselves.

Some of us are already dozing, because the announcements were so boring. Some of us are making grocery lists. Some of us are wondering if the Tudor Room is serving today.

But be patient. You really owe us that much. It wasn’t easy to get here, you know. Why can’t you at least make them get into the car so we can be on time?

That reminds us that we aren’t all that happy with you. Some of us are downright mad. Yes, we addressed you as almighty and merciful when we started, but that’s just out of tradition, and a little bit of fear, that you might strike us with a lightning bolt if we don’t bow and scrape. If you were really almighty and merciful, you’d do a lot better job of running this world. You’ve taken from us people we love, and it’s so hard to get along without them. And you let all sorts of bad things happen. What’s with making the world so the big animals have to eat the little ones? And a world where little children get sick? And here we are, shouting hosannas and waving palms, and we know it won’t even take half a week before that goes south.

But it’s not all bad, being here in your church, God, even if you’re not all that almighty and merciful. At least Aaron will have to watch them for an hour. That’s a relief. And we are basking in the sure knowledge that you cheer for the same specific sports team we favor. So we ask you to replace our schadenfreude at the expense of those who cheer for lesser teams with mitgeful, that ability to sympathize with those who suffer, even though we prefer to enjoy their misery. Yes, it’s okay to be here.

It’s real nice to have folks back from spring break, and have our mission trip team home safe from Guatemala. Thank you for that. The sweet bread at breakfast was good. Pam is over there at the organ. We ignore her most of the time, but she makes us think we can sing, even all those hymns nobody’s ever heard of, and that’s good. Maybe Mary Beth will tell a funny story.

And maybe you’ll keep that promise that you made in Jesus, that wherever we gather in his name, that he’ll be here, too. Even now there’s sort of a rustling, like the rush of angel wings, no, more like a kind of tapping as we relax back into our chairs, silent tapping, like Jesus is going down the rows and tapping, on the head, on the hand, in our hearts, getting our attention, you, yes, you, you’re the one. I’m glad you’re here, we’ve got work to do, together, in here, in this worship place.

And work to do together out there. Let’s go to the highways and byways right now in our hearts and tap every lost soul, and say, you, yes you, you’re the one. I’m glad you’re here. All those folks on the list in the bulletin. The old person all alone, the abused child, the homeless refugee, the slave, the prisoner, the addict. In Guatemala, in Syria, in Bloomington. Right now, tap them in your heart, the Spirit is saying, and bring them in.

Is that Jesus, or is that the Holy Spirit saying that to us? We get confused about that stuff, but we know it’s You, God, one way or another, Okay, we’ve got more answers than questions. We’re chewing more than we’ve bitten off, but we’re ready now, pretty much. Be with us, please, as we go up and down the rows of our lives and our world now in our hearts, as we walk along in the Spirit, with Jesus, in prayer, as he taps all those we know, and as he taps, and we pray, especially for all those no one knows, who have no one else to pray for them…


My youthful ambition was to be a journalist, and write a column for a newspaper. So I think of this blog as an online column. I started it several years ago, when we followed the grandchildren to the “place of winter,” Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP]. I put that in the sub-title, ”Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter, where life is defined by winter even in the summer!” [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.] We no longer live in “the place of winter.” The grandchildren grew up, so in May, 2015 we moved “home,” to Bloomington, IN, where we met and married. It’s not a “place of winter,” but we are still in winter years of the life cycle, so I continue to work at understanding what it means to be a follower of Christ in winter…

I tweet as yooper1721.

My new novel is VETS, about four homeless Iraqistan veterans accused of murdering a VA doctor, is available from your local independent book store, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BOKO, Books-A-Million, Black Opal Books, and almost any place else that sells books. $12.99 for paperback, and $3.99 for ebook. Free if you can get your library to buy one.

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