Early warning system

Last week, I worked at Welcome Table, a twice-monthly free dinner at my church, open to the public. Early in the evening, I went from table to table with a pitcher of lemonade, offering drinks to guests waiting for dinner to be served. At a table in the back, I spoke to no one in particular as I asked, “How are you tonight?”

As I poured lemonade into a plastic cup, the man to my left said, “Much better now!”

“Good!” I smiled. By the way the other men at the table laughed, I knew that he wasn’t talking about the lemonade, but I pretended he was.  I filled the glasses and moved along to the next table.

Later, I circled the room to help those who’d finished their meals, scanning for spills to clean up or for dishes to clear from those who’d finished their meals. Each time I approached that table in the back, there was more laughter. Probably just enjoying each other’s company, I hear an inner voice say.  The man called me over, even though I’d already bussed that table.

“Can I help you with something?”

“You already did, honey.” More laughter. Keep smiling. Keep working.

Continue reading “Early warning system”

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The prayers of the people

img_0412.jpgI wrote this for church this morning, where I led the portion of the service called “prayers of the people.” Happy Easter!

So I interrupt your regularly scheduled joyous Easter program to bring you: the prayers of the people. Seriously—as I prepared these prayers, I worried about being huge downer. There’s a section of the prayers of the people where you’re meant to pray for the world, and nations, and leaders—and it was hard to edit down that list to a manageable size.

It wasn’t yet Easter—I was writing and praying during Holy Week: on Thursday, when Jesus was betrayed and arrested. On Friday, when he was crucified. And mostly on Saturday, when his followers scattered in disbelief and grief and hopelessness. On Thursday and Friday and Saturday, so many things in our world seem so far from what we thought God was going to be like. There is so much suffering.

But I remembered: part of the beautiful mystery of the cross and the empty tomb is that suffering is not evidence of the absence of God but that God is present— even and maybe especially—in our pain. The love of God is stronger and more certain than it maybe appears to be on Saturday— I remembered that as followers of Jesus, we must bear the good news to people living in a Saturday world that Sunday is coming!—in fact, Sunday is here! Christ is risen!

And so we can bring our suffering to God with confidence, and hope, and even some inexplicable joy. Continue reading “The prayers of the people”