Hurricane Sandy Image c/o Huffington Post

This month has been one of personal, professional, and national shifts, storms, and graces. So much so that I can think of no better way to represent this conflux than by sharing my “sermonette” from last night’s worship service in my young adult ministry program.

In the last 30 days I turned 33, I found some beautiful progress and graces in the world of my ministry work, and struggled at a distance with the pain and tragedy of my home state, New Jersey and our neighboring adjacent-hometown of New York City. I spent my life, at different points, wandering the coastline of the Jersey Shore during summer vacation, hopping through the subway and wandering around the Lower East Side when I cut school as a high schooler (oops!) to sitting in Washington Square Park in between graduate school classes at NYU. Now my middle school in Summit, NJ is a “heating station” and crisis center, the YMCA is where mass showers are being taken, and no one is hopping on the subway to anywhere.

From my personal heart to yours I share the “sermonette” I gave last night to my spiritual seekers in Delray Beach. Blessings and prayers to all who suffer and are lost–in this tragedy and in the world at large. This essay was written for all of you.

The Sermonette

As we go into today’s service and this observed day of “All Saints Day” meant to remind us of the communion of all saints, all of God’s people–those here and those passed away I find myself reflecting more deeply on the tragedies and graces found in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s carnage.

Earlier today I spoke with my sister on the phone and really began to see and hear the breadth of it’s impact in the New York Metropolitan area, my home state of New Jersey, and my hometown of Summit.

And, inside of that, I also was able to see God’s presence in the stories my sister told me which took me through the storm in her voice and through a deep understanding of the living God in this world through her actions–done with such intrinsic love only found in the purest of saint’s hearts.

I don’t say that lightly or capriciously, or with nepotism because she is my sister, but because her kindness and presence in other people’s pain has always been profound and something I have seen throughout our lives and felt it with the humility of someone who is far from as good as her. I try and I work–but she just IS God’s love.

I am not preaching tonight but I, also, did not want to leave this national (and international) tragedy and the stories she told me left unsaid. So I wanted to take a moment, as we prepare for the silent prayer and space of opening for God, to consider the blessings we have, the love of God in all things, and the owness on all of us to be better, give more, love deeper, and work towards acts of kindness–as this is the only true way to be and see God in a world full of as much pain as joy.

NYC Goes Dark image c/o cnbc.com

She told me many stories of pain and kindness, but one in particular had a parable quality that was unavoidable. In my old middle school crisis teams have set up what they are calling a “heating station” which is a place where people can find heat, internet access, warm blankets, warm beds, and warm meals. Of course, being the person she is, she was one of the first volunteers to show up at the doors and has been spending a good bit of her days there helping in whatever way she can–saying, “What else am I going to do with my time?”

She was helping people set up around heaters–people crowded around tables huddled over the small heat sources–and a woman, in clear physical pain walked up to a table behind her and asked if she could sit. Another woman snapped, “There is no room here!”

The woman in pain began to walk away and my sister stopped her and offered to help her get to another table. The woman told her she had MS and was just looking for somewhere to rest. She told my sister about her abusive husband the charity she ran for MS sufferers; she talked about the work she had done with athletes for the charity and how one particularly famous football player had threatened her ex-husband when he had begun harassing her after they separated.

And finally, she told my sister, “You were sent to me by God. I know it. Last night I was sitting alone in the dark and prayed to God to please show me that it is going to be ok, and there there was good out there in this horrible crisis.”

She said her prayers were answered in the love shown by one woman after the scorn of the other. Which I think can make us all recall the story of the Good Samaritan.

Besides this woman she has encountered all kinds of people from all stratas of life–like the CEO just looking for a hot bed to sleep in. She told me about how she found an elderly woman and hoarder sitting in a cramped space of her apartment, by the phone–in case, she said, someone called to tell her what to do or what was going on. My sister was there to bring her a meal through a geriatric care program she has been interning at for social work–she handed the woman her first meal in three days and took her phone number–calling her the next day to check in saying to me, “I knew no one else would be calling her and I just couldn’t leave her like that.”

She said the death tolls are rising because of people like this woman going without viable shelter or meals, with no one to check on them–some are just starving.

She told me about the man who had driven 40 miles from Bayonne (a city on the edge of the Hudson river facing Manhattan) who said he had been driving all night to find gas, and his tank was nearly empty.

She told me about the young man who was next to her at a power source area who told her that in a few hours he was going to be 21–he said how he felt so isolated and didn’t really have friends–he left after their conversation with a realization that he just needed to try to talk to more people and thanked her for helping him.

Battery Tunnel image c/o cnbc.com

So many faces, so many stories. And I just share these few postcard clips of what is going on to so many our fellow humans.

So, whatever is holding all of us back from giving everything we have, whatever is keeping us from loving completely, finding kindness in place of cruelty (in our minds, hearts and words), acting with caring instead of passing by chances for living in and with God in our lives and ourselves–let us try to (like Lazarus who we will hear about later in this service and in the words that I heard earlier today at the beautiful sermon of Fr Marty from St Joseph’s in Boynton Beach),“be unbound and let yourself go!”

Because this is, truly, our first step towards seeing and being in communion and communication with all the saints and the sainthood of all people, and in us–which is what this day is all about.

We don’t need to be a priest or rabbi or imam or monk or a red cross worker or a social worker to make a difference–we just have to be open to God’s presence in our lives and listen to the call to be and make kingdom rise out of this broken and painful world.

And every time we do that, we resurrect ourselves and God in this world.


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