I was saddened this morning when I read about the State of the Union last night. I was sad that the president didn’t see fit to shake the hand of the speaker of the house. I was sad that the speaker of the house chose to publicly make a display of tearing up the speech. I was sad about a lot that happened in between and around the speech and our current political situation. I could definitely speak into specific political points or actions but mostly I was sad that we have gotten to this place. I read today about a poll by Pew Research about how over 50% of Americans have people they will no longer speak to because of the political divides. While I don’t know if I have a specific person I can point to, I can say that there are times that I would prefer not to speak to some people about political issues. So, that’s where Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians spoke so much to me this morning.
Therefore since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.
We have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is behind renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary but what cannot be seen is eternal.
Then about an hour later I was on my morning walk with Scout and was listening to The Writer’s Almanac podcast where Garrison Keillor read this poem –
Blackbirds by Julie Cadwallader Staub:
I am 52 years old, and have spent
truly the better part
of my life out-of-doors
but yesterday I heard a new sound above my head
a rustling, ruffling quietness in the spring air
and when I turned my face upward
I saw a flock of blackbirds
rounding a curve I didn’t know was there
and the sound was simply all those wings,
all those feathers against air, against gravity
and such a beautiful winning:
the whole flock taking a long, wide turn
as if of one body and one mind.
How do they do that?
If we lived only in human society
what a puny existence that would be
but instead we live and move and have our being
here, in this curving and soaring world
that is not our own
so when mercy and tenderness triumph in our lives
and when, even more rarely, we unite and move together
toward a common good,
we can think to ourselves:
ah yes, this is how it’s meant to be.
BLACKBIRDS by Julie Cadwallader Staub from Wing Over Wing. Paraclete Press, © 2019.
…this is how it’s meant to be.
So that got me dreaming and hoping for what can be, not as sad about what currently is but hoping and praying and being willing to work for what can be and what is meant to be… us clay jars, fragile and yet strong that can easily despair and lose heart…that in this curving and soaring world that is now our own where we live and move and have our being…when mercy and tenderness triumph and when we unite and move together toward a common good.
I keep this little plant in my window in my office. It is a small succulent planted in a clay pot with the logo of one of my favorite organizations – Kids4Peace. This plant that keeps alive and growing even when I don’t water it as I often should and that is in one of those clay jars. It reminds me of who I am and the treasure that God has put in me to receive and to share (clay pot). It reminds me of the work that I am to do (peace, justice, beauty, hope). It reminds me of how sometimes the land will feel dry and barren yet life can still grow and be born in the power of God.