Monday, November 19, 2012

gray clouds and works in heaven made by man

I can't really say why... but I had a terrible time preaching at the funeral. As I formed each word in my thoughts (yes, here I preach extemporaneously every time --it's expected) there loomed six voices in my head out-shouting one another saying No, Fake, Not That, Don't Go There... the dissenting voices formed an angry gray cloud that pushed back at me through the entire service....

When we finally got to the hand-dug-by-his-friends grave, --led there by his friends on horse-back, and we said the prayers and placed him in the grave, two young girls, nieces I think --each about five years old, stood trembling and crying loudly at each end of the grave while the coffin-bearers filled in the grave. They cried without mercy. Unrelentingly. Unconsoled. Soiling their hair. They cried so that no one else needed to or could cry. They gave voice to the grief for all.

They cried for the entire time it takes to fill in a grave, and then some. The sun had set the prairie pink, and the dappled horses blue and red by the time we got back to church.

The angry gray cloud turned incandescent. And disappeared in to the night.

I don't know where the cloud had come from --whether it was from my own work or the work of others... but there it was. And there it went. I am usually filled with self-doubt and blame, so I claimed the gray cloud as my own.

And the dinner served was abundant. The give-away was traditional with the proper songs sung and ceremony and sage....

I went home like an empty shell --disappointed in my own gray cloud.

Sunday, the church was packed in Dupree --with two baptisms and another feast --and at the second church in Thunder Butte, I rang the bell --and the six kids from the eighteen houses that had been out playing with snowballs came running across the road --is there going to be church? --will you feed us that stuff? Gabe went to that other church last Wednesday after school and he farted in the middle of the service and we all laughed and laughed. We saw you yesterday at T's funeral --so you can do this too?

--and they all sat in a single pew, like little peas in an pod.... What good is it to read them a story about huge buildings made of big stones....? Everyone knows that two-story buildings are a folly out here....

At the third church, in Bear Creek, the crowd grew to near twenty in the little church that is about 18 feet wide and 24 feet long in a village of eighteen houses nestled up by the hill at the side of the stream --I couldn't count all the children crawling under the pews and others stacking and re-stacking the chairs in the back of the room by the small blue children's table made of 2x4s. The candles weren't bright enough to read by, so I had to do even the Eucharistic prayer extemporaneously.... and afterwards, I heard the story about how all the women in a particular generation of the family were UCC because their mother was, and the boys went with their dad to the Episcopal church --and the question, is it alright if we worship at both when we get the chance? The UCC church isn't meeting right now --they have no pastor.... And we left in the dark. Prairie dark --dark so thick that without a moon one is blindfolded --even with your eyes wide open.

--and I almost didn't make it home for the mud in the road from a patch of melting snow....

--mud in the moon light with the dancing deer and the children's faces and the church on my shoulders....

Later, I heard that someone at the funeral really liked what I said... (they obviously couldn't see the cloud as I could...) but they really, really liked what I said and how I explained everything as I did it. And, of course, the cloud spoke back to me and said --are you feeding them what they want to hear, or are you giving 'em gospel margaret....

--what is this damn cloud....

At prayer this morning (James 2:14-26)

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?

So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren?

Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God.

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.

Is that cloud my own little idol? Is self-doubt a good correction or an idol? I guess it depends... and that is why we need each other....

I listened to a version of this on the way home as I fought with the mud:



Huh. Such is our work.... oh yuck. But this is what people hear... over and over again....

{{{shudder}}} {{{{{{triple shudder}}}}}

Hey God --redeem even my preaching. Please. Because sometimes I think it's as bad as that song.

Off I go... in faith... trusting that the buildings of stone I make will be leveled and redeemed... that the suffering and wars and rumors of war are merely birth pangs --leading to new life....

--trusting that the only thing in heaven made by man was born of a woman and has a belly button and is fully human and fully God and rejected idols of every sort, including the tall buildings and even bread.... and that the resurrected Body still eats fish at a party and bears the wounds of love --not the scars of shame....

Off I go... in faith.
Amen.

8 comments:

Paul said...

If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our hearts.

1 John

You are doing good work, dear sister.

it's margaret said...

Paul!!!! --and, yes, thanks be to God! God is greater!

Thank you, dear heart.

Paul said...

I do not comment often but I read and remember you and the people you serve.

it's margaret said...

Love you too. xoxoxo --m

Kirkepiscatoid said...

My experience with those gray clouds in my head with the snarky, nasty voices is that they get louder and nastier when they sense they are being threatened. I suspect this place where you are, this person you are becoming in this place is very threatening to them, and they will lash out for a while about that. When that happens to me, I remind myself that, with God's help, I don't have to feed them.

susan s. said...

Yes, what Paul says. All of it.

JCF said...

You're becoming transparent, Margaret. I'm awed and amazed: the Light shining thru.

Paula said...

Blessings.