My brother John died last week of liver failure related to alcohol.
While his passing wasn’t unexpected, it’s never easy for anybody. Our friends, my parents, my siblings all came back together to hang out and tell stories. Fun with each other through the bittersweet tears of grief and joy. Pictures, videos, stories.
John didn’t want a service—but we were all determined to be together anyway. Too bad, so sad, man. We had to.
Thank you for your understanding of my last-minute trips to Oklahoma these past few weeks to spend as much time with him as possible before he was gone. And then to laugh, cry, and tell a few stories with the best of them. Thank you so much!
My brother John was a piece of work! In the best sense of that, a real character. Rock & roll radio DJ, concert and community event planner and promoter, project manager. John was a “get-er-done” guy!
I used to joke that just his Rolodex—okay, a dated reference—just the contacts in his phone were worth tens of thousands on somebody’s payroll. You know that kind of person. John knew everybody.
No strangers in John’s world. He would do anything for you. Anything. He worked hard. He played harder!
He played so hard it killed him. You all—to a person—you all would have loved him.
Thank you for your prayers, for the texts, and calls. Thank you for caring for me as much as I care for you. This is who we are, and I thank you. I thank God for all of you.
If you’re struggling with drink or anything, you’ve got people. Right here, right now. We’re here for you. I’m here for you. Whatever we can do to help. I will. As John would say, “Ain’t no thing chicken wing!” It’s what we do.
When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” — From Mark 2 (NRSV)
I’m at the church early on Tuesday mornings and I am startled by a big jolt to the Community House around 7:30 today.
Boom, boom, thump, step, step, step. There is a huge ruckus on the roof! I jump up from the desk and head to the front door—blocked by a big piece of plywood. I look out the windows and other big pieces of plywood surround the building to protect the windows. Big tarps hang off the side of the building. All this in a matter of a few minutes.
There’s a whole team! The roofing guys are here! Digging through the roof.
Maybe some of them are trying to get to Jesus—and I appreciate that. Can’t help but think of this story from Mark. But I know they are digging through the roof on the Community House to replace it.
It’s all a part of the plan. The last roof replacements took place in the 90's when preparing for our 250th Anniversary in 1997. (thanks for the history, Steve!)
I’m sure some of you are aware that both roofs have been leaking at some point for years now. We’ve done some stopgap repairs in those years that made things better, but obviously we were just putting off the inevitable replacement. We even prayed to dodge a bullet with the massive rainfall over the last couple days from Hurricane Henri (if you speak French, you know and understand how to say that right.) But, dodge the bullet we did not!
They were supposed to start the roofing project yesterday and ended up calling the day a rain-out because it was expected to rain all day Monday. Didn’t turn out to be so—yet, it still rained so much all day and night Sunday, and half of yesterday. It rained enough that the waters came digging through the roof (again) all on their own before the repair work even began!
No, I do not suspect the rain water is living water digging its way through the roof to get to Jesus. That’s not even a good dad joke. And I never thought about building a boat—another bad dad joke. My kids will be mortified if they read this!
Nevertheless, I do think the contractors are digging through the roof so people can get to Jesus. A new roof ensures that the Fairmount Presbyterian Church Community House will live to get people to Jesus for the next generation. It’s part of the plan.
So be watching your inbox and mailbox for communication from session about the mini-capital campaign we’re doing to finance it. We need your help with this. Can’t do it without you. We’ve just gotta!
We’re not the first, and we won’t be the last-- Digging through the roof to get people to Jesus. Call me crazy, but it’s what we do.
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. — From Mark 6 (NRSV)
We’ve taken a little left-turn off the Gospel track of Mark this year to John Chapter 6. This Sunday is the last of the 5 weeks on the Bread of Life. It’s deep and it’s dense. It’s John’s Gospel. Very strange metaphorical images. Some really challenging things come from Jesus in this Gospel. Remember, the Gospels teach us about Jesus. And Jesus teaches us about God.
But timing-wise in summer, we miss some things from Mark’s Gospel by taking the little John detour. Mark is more direct than John.
Even Jesus knows the need for summer vacation. But, if you remember in Mark’s story, the disciples and Jesus don’t get any rest. The crowds see them going and rush and hurry to beat them to their destination. And we’re not talking about a small crowd. It’s 5000 plus the women and children. No small thing as we’ve learned in John 6.
It might be tempting to say that Jesus and the disciples aren’t very good at enforcing their boundaries, but that’s a modern construct. Just like we can’t pick up the Bible stories and drop them in our current times applying them literally. That’s problematic. We also can’t take our modern values and impose them on the stories in Jesus’ time, either.
But it’s still clear that Jesus often tries to find moments of peace to pray, think, listen, and be still. We can find many instances in all the Gospels. That’s an important example to follow. We do need moments of peace to find clarity of thought and purpose, especially now. Otherwise the white noise and clutter of our world distracts us.
If you’re anything like me, it takes days in a row to really unplug, right? Like it’s my experience that if I’m taking a week off, it takes until at least the third day before my shoulders completely droop in relaxation. I hope it’s less time for you! After that, it’s easy to chill especially if I’m in one of the places where I feel closest to God—beach or mountains, thank you very much! This year, my vacation is coming way late—the last two weeks in September. I’m praying hard that travel restrictions don’t come back.
Going on vacation feels to me like it did when I was still in school with the whole summer ahead. Remember what that is like? That’s what freedom feels like, I guess. I don’t know how else I would explain that, but I know this: it’s amazing!
So I continue to wonder if we can capture that feeling year round in moments of peace and tranquility with God. Can we find space in the calendar and a literal space to be in our world where we can grab a piece of the peace? Even for a little bit?
Maybe it’s at lunchtime. Get out of the house—get away from Zoom. Find the shade of a big tree for a few minutes in the car. I see people doing this all the time. Cops, mail carriers, electricians, UPS drivers. You get the idea. I can’t be sure they’re spending their time listening for God, but at least they seem to be at peace. An old friend of mine calls these “little vacations.” The Spirit will move on its own, no doubt.
“Holy God, open our lens to see you and be with you even in small time bites. We’ll take all the little vacations we can get! Let our souls and spirits fly into your mystic.* Let your Spirit come. Amen!”
You may know by now that I read Richard Rohr every day. I’ll spell out the links at the bottom for those of you who get this on paper via snail mail. Father Richard is just part of my routine. Every. Day. I love the guy.
He always loops key partners into the conversation. People like Jacqui Lewis, my lead mentor in my doctoral program at Drew. Thomas Merton. He pulls in staff members from his Center for Action and Contemplation. It’s always great.
So, Saturday’s Richard is always a re-cap of the previous week. A couple-three lines from each day Monday through Friday and then—he usually focuses on a practice. A couple Saturdays ago, the practice was Stillness.
Stillness is something I really have to work at. I’m sure you can imagine. I have to focus.
Anyway, this practice is simple.
Pull out the Bible and look up Psalm 46:10:
“Be still and know that I am God.”
One of the things they do at the CAC is a little prayer gathering every day and they meditate on this verse by going through it several times. Each time, they remove a word or two. They take away with each repetition until there is nothing left but stillness.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know that.
Be still and know.
Be still. Be.
Grace & Peace, Scott
Richard’s Daily Devotional: https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/ Saturday, July 31: https://cac.org/crisis-contemplation-weekly-summary-2021-07-31/
This Delta variant is causing our numbers to go back up, even here in New Jersey where most adults are vaccinated. There are break-through cases even here. There is no data that says vaccinated people can’t transmit the virus (Delta especially) and no kids have the vaccine yet so--
CDC guidance recommends masking again in public places. Highlands Presbytery guidance has never recommended doing away with the masks although they know most of our congregations relaxed the masking requirement weeks ago. I went to ShopRite out where I live yesterday and didn’t see anyone without a mask. People are paying attention. People are caring for each other.
We should too. I know that nobody wants to be the cause of an outbreak. Not even one person!
So, out of care for each other here in Fairmount world—let’s return to masking in church. Please.
We’re still going to be on Facebook Live, we’ll still be Zooming for the Bible study, we’ll still offer Zoom for session, too.
Just trying to do our part to stay vigilant. I’m just as tired of it as you are. Maybe more. I’m a hugger. COVID is killing me!
Pandemic fatigue be damned, we’ve gotta do this. We take care of each other. It’s what we do. Fairmount is a kind, caring, compassionate community. You are.