You are about to find out how strong we are

You are about to find out how strong we are.

Those were words shared with the new pastor of First Congregational of Berkely, by a member of the Church as they stood watching their buildings burn to the ground

You are about to find out how strong we are.

There is nothing in the promises of God or the practice of our faith that shields us from adversity.

There is nothing in the promises of God or the practice of our faith that offers us immunity from life’s vagaries and vicissitudes.

Life unfolds for people of faith the same way that life unfolds for anyone else. Along the way there will be sorrow, suffering, tragedy, trauma, indignities, injustice, depression, doubt, fear, anxiety – you name it, whatever ails or threatens the precious joy and happiness we carve out for ourselves along the way, we will experience it at some point.

Paul once wrote: “we do not suffer as those who have no hope.” Be careful here. He did not write ” We do not suffer, comma, as those who have no hope.” We suffer. Indeed we suffer. But differently; hope being what matters.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote that these three abide: faith, hope, and love. He may have then written that the greatest of these is love – but let us not discount the enduring power of faith and hope.

Faith and hope, when resident in the heart, changes one’s perspective on and in the presence of suffering and grief.

I’ve seen and heard this so very many times.

I saw it in my spouse when we sat at the bedside of our daughter three weeks into her coma.

I heard it in voice of Alice Adams who, when dying of a painful and aggressive cancer, took me by the hand and prayed for me.

I saw it when the smile returned to Lori Riffel two weeks after she became a widow at 24.

I hear it unmistakably in the voice of that First Church member who says to Pastor Molly “you are about to find out how strong we are.”

Faith being that which believes in things yet unseen; and hope being that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words: when these two reside in the landscape of our ever changing lives then we endure. We suffer, to be sure – but not as those who have no hope.

And so it was, as Pastor Molly Phinney Baskette stood watching the flames consume buildings that were sacred to her and to many, members came by to join her, sharing stories about their memories in them. One of them said to her: “You are about to find out how strong we are.”

In whom do you place your faith?

What is the source of your hope?

Whoever it is you call Holy, and wherever it is you find your sacred, may you find strength in adversity, hope in despair, faith in doubt, and love in the presence of hatred.

And when your world begins to fall apart, as it is wont to do, may your sacred give you equilibrium, something beyond your own power that helps you discover how strong you are about to become. By whatever name you call her, may she abide with you as you make your way Into the Mystic

Categories: Column Into the Mystic

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