Thursday, January 02, 2014

The Challenge Continues, Day 361: Malachi 1; Psalm 144; Luke 6

It's Not Business As Usual
When you survive a natural disaster, you learn a few things about recovery.

The first thing you learn is that recovery begins in the first few seconds after you realize that something is not right with the world. The waters are rising. The wind is increasing. The storm's intensity is tipping from "bad" to "very bad." You start to make choices about what to do, which crisis of many you will address first. You learn very quickly to place a premium on survival, and the preservation of "things" moves to a far distant back burner.

The second thing you learn is that while you might have it bad, there is always someone who has it worse than you. No one is THAT special, that their suffering might eclipse any other person of family and the row they happen to be plowing. We learn quickly that all recovery is both LOCAL and GLOBAL. There are things we have to do to make our immediate environs safe, clean and habitable; but that is only effective when we participate in helping ALL environs recover as well.

The third thing you learn? You can only do so much. You can work to the end of your strength, and no further. You might learn that you have reserves beyond what you were certain of just moments ago, but when you hit the wall there is nothing more you can do until you rest, recoup and recover.

Finally, and this is paramount...it takes time to recover. Real time, as in seasons...and there will never be a return to what was--what normal looked like. There will be a new normal. There will be a time when you look back and realize just how far you have come, how much your community has achieved, how much you all have grown...perhaps even how much you all have healed; but you can never go back. You can only go forward.

The last lesson is the hardest to absorb. When it comes to disasters, it means sometimes having to let go of much of who and what we knew about ourselves. When Irene hit my church, we lost the Sunday School. On the walls of the school were painted hand prints of people who had helped to renovate it several years before. There were the hand prints of children who had grown to adulthood, and some of members who had since died and risen to new life in Christ. Because of the flood waters' damage, we had to put up new walls. The hand prints had to come down. It wasn't easy to let those prints go, but we had to in order to recover the space for use in the here and now.

The transformations that Malachi is pointing to, the shifts in perspective required by God of the people in order to persevere in Covenant with the Holy One, are dramatic. Conversions to right practice and right worship are the least of their concerns. What matters most is a dramatic conversion of the heart. Will the people be able to achieve that...and what must be done to get to that place?

As well, Jesus is now at a crux in his own earthly ministry. The kingdom being proclaimed is starting to challenge and shake the traditions and certainties of the authorities. Paradigms of understanding and personal/cultural disciplines are being transformed. Folks are finding it hard to accept.

When change looms over us, we would assume that natural disasters present the greatest challenges. The truth? It is in the moments when we feel most secure, when forced transformation is furthest from our imaginations, that we find willing hearts for dramatic changes in practice and expectations.

Not an easy thing for us to go through...and object lesson for us as we observe the reactions of the Pharisees to Jesus' radical actions. He heals on the Sabbath, calls as followers and then sits and eats with sinners. He embraces the unclean, and proclaims a tolerance for people the were previously rejected as "appropriate."

Jesus is a storm unto himself. Are we ready to embrace the new normal that he proclaims?

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