Blessings of Community
By Christian Skoorsmith of Seattle, WA, USA
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; -Isaiah 11:1-4a
My father-in-law had died suddenly and tragically just a few days before. We were gathered in a capacity crowd of more than 700 for his memorial service-a slide show of images, tearful and touching remarks, a few stories, and some of his favorite hymns. My family was reeling, my wife was crying, and I allowed myself a moment of dwelling with my own loss and pain. But when the time came to sing the songs, I still heard his voice in the songs of our hearts that day-songs of hope and confidence and distant joy. I couldn’t pronounce the words. I was mute. Choked up by grief, some part of me couldn’t sing the words I hoped were true. I don’t know. I couldn’t sing, and my loss felt all the greater for it.
Then like a wave of love and hope and shared grief, the sound of the congregation washed over me. Their voices in song embraced me, buoyed me up. They sang the song I could not sing and allowed me to truly grieve, abandon all hope, give in to my deepest, worst, most frightening feelings, because I knew that I was held in their arms, hearts, minds, and singing.
They sang the song I could not sing, and allowed me to feel my loss, unvarnished, but also not alone. They sang the song I could not sing and lifted me up when my own strength could not. They allowed my heart to break right there, because it was the best, safest place for it. I didn’t have to pretend I was okay, or strong, or that I could sing in spite of how I felt. They sang for me. Thank God.
That congregation gave me a gift that sustained me for that service and sustains me still. When I think of the Blessings of Community, not having to pretend I’m not hurting is first among them. Through it all-my life before and since-my church community has known the best and worst of me and has sung me through the times when I could not do it myself.
And I, in my time, will sing for you. We are not alone.
“Awake, my soul!” (Psalm 57:8 NRSV)
The Prayer of the Heart
Early Christian disciples desired to take seriously the scripture mandate to pray “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). The prayer of the heart invites us to pray “continuously” by repeating and returning to a prayer phrase planted for intentional reflection and deepening. Choose a word or phrase (from scripture, hymnody, or personal reflection) that has meaning for you. The Jesus Prayer is one form of the prayer of the heart: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” (Luke 18:35-43). Invite this simple phrase to repeat in your heart throughout the day, awakening your soul to God’s presence.
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.