Join Us For Worship At:
Meadowbrook Country Club
2149 N. Green Bay Road
Racine, WI 53405

There will be no worship March 15, 22 or 29.

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A Net of Hope

In Isaiah we once again we find ourselves with the prophet in the midst of a war-torn land where lives have been lost and homes have been destroyed. Loss, grief, heartache, anger, pain, fear, despair, loneliness, joblessness, aimlessness must have been plaguing the people who once thought themselves to be the Chosen ones of God. But where now is God in the midst of such anguish?

Don’t we ask ourselves the same question at times? Perhaps during this Christmas season you're asking yourself the same question as you struggle with your own issues. We know… or at least we’ve been told … that God is everywhere. God is with us always. But sometimes it doesn't feel like it.

Isaiah says essentially “Take heart! Let your weary hands be strengthened and your trembling knees be steadied! And for those of you of faint heart, have courage and do not be afraid. Yes, you are in the wilderness, in the desert of emptiness where you thirst for life. But Yahweh will bring water even to the wilderness and streams to the desert. Life will return, you will know comfort again, and one day your sorrow and lament will have gone.

But what do we do in the meantime? What do we do in the middle of a holiday filled with holly jolly Santa Clauses and merry wishing bell ringers in every grocery store, and an expectation of happy families, cups of cheer, and gleeful present exchanges? What do we do then with all this pain, uncertainty, fear and grief?

Let me tell you a story. Elaine Pagels, theologian and author who wrote extensively about the Gnostic Gospels, published her spiritual memoir, Why Religion?, about a year ago. In it she shares some terribly traumatic events that shook her to her core.

Elaine married her husband Heinz, a physicist, when she was still a graduate student at Harvard. After four years of trying to conceive a child and failing, they turned to fertility treatments. After three years of treatments, she finally got pregnant and gave birth to their son, Mark. Unfortunately, the doctors immediately discovered that Mark had a hole in his heart and would need open heart surgery. However, they would need to wait until he was a year old when he would be a little bigger and stronger and have a better chance of surviving the surgery.

Trying to deal the anxiety and the fear that gripped her during that year, Elaine started drinking. She thought she was being surreptitious enough about it, but her husband noticed and confronted her. To her credit she agreed she was handling her fear in an unhealthy way and turned to AA for help quitting.

At a year old, Mark had successful open heart surgery. He was a very bright, happy, normal little boy, if perhaps a little bit weak and too thin.

The spring that he turned two, he had a regular check-up with the cardiologist who ordered a cardiac catheterization. What was supposed to be a one hour procedure turned into nine. They did the test over and over because they couldn’t believe the results… Mark had developed pulmonary hypertension, a condition that was invariably fatal. There was no treatment, no cure.

Mark lived to be about four years old. Shortly before his death he told his mother, “I’ll love you all my life and all my death.”

At the funeral service for Mark, friends from all parts of their lives (some they hadn’t seen in years) came to support them. Elaine said she was “amazed and grateful to see them, although I felt strange, as though we were walking naked in public, utterly defenseless, the bereaved parents touching the small plain wooden coffin, covered with a beautifully embroidered altar cloth.”  At the end of the service, they walked out to “Amazing Grace,” a song that Mark loved. They stood at the back of the church crying and hugging friends and family. Elaine wrote, “Standing there, I seemed to see the whole scene embraced by a huge net made of ropes, with enormous spaces between the knots, through which we could be swept away at any moment, out of the world. I did not want to die, but desperately wanted to be anywhere but there; the pain was unbearable. Yet in that vision, or whatever it was, I felt that the intertwined knots were the connections with the people we loved, and that nothing else could have kept us in this world.”

I envision Sacred Journeys in the same way. We are the net, the connections of love, holding one another gently and closely to this world. As a net, we unite in our vulnerability and hold space for each other to be and feel what we need to be and feel, while at the same time keeping us from getting swept away in grief and pain. Within this net there is hope, comfort, grace and peace.

Ritual can be a powerful way to express what we're feeling, give it meaning, and help healing begin. Yesterday at worship, people were invited to participate in three rituals to this end. They could light a candle to honor a loss they were feeling, tie a prayer tie onto a rope that I later hung in the wind to carry those prayers to the world, and be anointed with oil and blessed.

If you were not able to be with us, you can still create your own ritual to help honor your own feelings of loss, grief, emptiness or pain. Light a candle, look through an old photo album, visit someplace with personal meaning, write a letter to someone you miss, visit a sacred space where you can pray.Or find something different that works for you. Hopefully in honoring your feelings you will also experience a bit of healing and hope.

May you be blessed with peace this season,