Beloved Community Partners,
This is the first Sunday in a month that there has not been ice or snow in the forecast. Despite not running the Micah bus over the last couple of weeks, when weather conditions have not permitted safe-travel, we have committed to being.a safe and consistent place open for our friends to gather every Sunday morning, even in the midst of a storm. It was such a joy to see more of our neighbors present yesterday than there have been in weeks. We got to welcome old and new friends with us as we started our first Sunday of lent, which coincidentally, happens to be about promises.
(image: Sue M. “Brings the Light” at the beginning of the service)
In the text this week, we took a journey back to the days of Noah; another ordinary man, chosen by God to do something extraordinary. Recognizing that some of our friends may not know the story of the flood and the arc, we introduced the Rev. Drew Colby (UMC) and his daughter who taught us an original (and catchy!) biblical song about the flood and God’s power, repentance, and mercy in the tune of a sailor’s song…
[image: Rev. Drew VanDyke Colby and his daughter (virtually) lead us in song]
While God has the power and authority to send a flood because, as Rev. Colby put it in his song, “this world had become a dud!” God changed God’s mind and regretted what was done. God then used a symbol of light to demonstrate the continued covenant with God’s people. In modern interpretation we see this symbol as the miraculous rainbow that appears in the sky after a storm. In the Hebrew, it is literally written as “bow,” like a weapon of war which is hung-up and pointed away from the earth, to never again be used against us.
God promises to never use power for harm, instead God promises to be our protector. What is unique about this covenant is that there is not a list of demands that holds this agreement in place. God simply says, “this is my promise for you.” We, as humans, have not changed; we are still a broken people in need of wholeness. Yet God continues to send rainbows in the sky for us to remember this covenant despite our short-comings. God is loyal to the disloyal.
Promises mean something on the street. Your word is your bond. If you are unreliable, it can cause damage to another person. Sometimes it can even mean life or death. Ultimately, in serving this population, I am reminded that an inability to keep a promise is a perpetuance of a shared experience of disappointment. Many relationships have fallen short in their lives and it has made it incredibly difficult to trust anyone. This is why God’s promise is invaluable.
[image: Pastor Chelsea holding an ashen cross handed out at our Ash Wednesday Service]
In this season of lent we are focusing on the ways that we are being prepared for the journey to the cross. What better place to start than to focus on the ways that God’s promises of mercy and grace have never fallen short. In fact, in this time we recognize that there is nothing we could do or say to earn those gifts, they are freely given. While we often cannot control our human impulses, God can and does practice divine-control to care for creation with compassion over dominance. We have an opportunity to make promises to God too, to offer up the things that we have tried to control and manipulate, but have ultimately held us back from living into the fullness that God has for us as we journey towards the foot of the cross. Despite our undeservedness, God’s reconciliation is given to us anyway through love, grace, and compassion; we are called to mirror those traits in the world to our neighbors.
We show up in love when we get to celebrate together with Jimmy (pictured below) and his brother who is recovering from COVID after a very hard battle with the virus. We have been praying for him for weeks now. “While he is still in the hospital,” Jimmy says, “He’s in great recovery because of such intense prayer. If you believe in prayer. You continue it and you don’t doubt that prayer.”
[image: Jimmy Joe shares a praise about his brother’s recovery]
We show compassion when one of our guests, Jerry, a first time visitor from Fredericksburg Baptist Church, offered a word of support to our neighbors as he shared about his brother and stayed to listen to our neighbor’s needs around housing.
We work towards God’s restorative grace when we offer an opportunity to think through this next season of leading our community through sheltering and housing decisions. David Hiles, a dedicated volunteer in our Micah Journey program, is pictured below leading our friends through a housing focus group. After church we took time to ask our neighbors, “what do you want to see in your housing? What is important to you?” The over-resounding theme among our friends was that they wanted to live in a place that was safe, secure and had opportunities for community; a place they could make their home.
[image: David Hiles leading our housing focus group]
We are all trying to make our way home, aren’t we? After church, I had the distinct privilege to visit with a neighbor, Matt Allen, in his ICU hospital room after suffering from cardiac arrest in one of our hotel rooms. Matt has been under the care of our Respite house for the last six months and just recently went into one of our hotels (hopefully on the road to housing). Our staff member, Amy Ridderhoff, has been working closely with Matt four times a week over the last six months and told me that he had been going to church, trying to get his life stable and where he wanted to be.
We didn’t know if Matt would make it through the weekend and something inside me told me to go to the hospital to see him right after church. When I got up to his room, I was stopped and told that I wasn’t supposed to be on the ICU floor, but I was grateful for the attendees’ grace as they let me continue my visit when he realized I was Clergy. God clearly needed me there for a reason. God brought me through the barriers that would have prevented our encounter, I knew I was on holy ground. I read the 23rd Psalm and found myself looking at Romans 8:18 “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us…” (Romans 8:18) I pray that Paul’s words gave him comfort.
Though he was unconscious, hooked on life support, I prayed out loud over him. I talked with him about how much he was loved, how much our Micah family loved and cared for him and we were praying for his healing. We promised to support him, to claim him, just as God does for us. We lean on the promise made by God to love and protect us. We believe in this hope that is everlasting, and has been passed on from the days of Noah and will be passed on to our future generations.
We believe that God will walk with us as we see this life through and whether that moment is now or ten years from now, we pray that God will welcome us with restorative and healing love, grace and compassion. My prayer for Matt in that moment was just that. I prayed that God would heal his afflictions in glory and bring him peace.
Matt died two hours later.
God does not promise that there will not be suffering or pain in our lives. God does promise to never leave us or forsake us. Paul writes in Romans 8:38, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, not things present, nor things to come, not powers, nor height, nor depth, not anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We give thanks in the hope everlasting that promises to restore, not destroy; that promises to be present, even in the silence. We give thanks for a God who sees all creatures as “beloved creation” and we give thanks that though we are not worthy, Christ died for us anyway. For you, for me, for Matt, and all of our other Micah neighbors who sit in the fold of God’s everlasting promise. Thanks be to God. Amen.
We ask that you continue to pray for us as we build a community that knows that they are deserving of this promise as well. If you would like to give and support our programs at Micah including (but not limited to) our Respite program or Street Church, you can give through micahfredericksburg.org – We are also selling Micah “Do.Love.Walk” shirts to close out our #loveyourneighbor campaign. Micah receives $10/per shirt ordered. We appreciate your continued prayers and support for all of our ministries and programs.
May peace be with you during this lenten season…