Sunday, November 9, 2008

Keeping Watch

"Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour." Matthew 25:13

When I was in seminary, I spent a summer working in the cardiac care wing of University Hospital in Boston. It was a requirement that we do an intensive, three-month course in Clinical Pastoral Education or CPE. There was a group of about a dozen students. We had two faculty members who trained us and supervised us once we were on the wards. In this group there were only two of us who were parents, both of us were mothers with young children. Others had partners or spouses, but we were singled out as being different than the rest. I used to get teased at lunch time about my habit of taking extra napkins. I would explain that I was a mother with small children and I was always anticipating a huge mess - out of habit. I carried a back pack rather than a dainty purse, and it usually had some band aids, Tylenol, wet wipes, tissues, a package of crackers or some sort of snack, along with the books that I carried for my studies. They all thought I was funny and pretty hopeless. I laughed along with them and kept my backpack close. Over the course of the summer, I was daily approached by one of my fellow students. They were in need of something that I was carrying with me. They could make fun all they wanted because I knew how needy we all were. I knew that the remedies they looked for from me, were not always the things I had in my backpack. It was hard for all of us to care for the sick and the dying, and I often lingered with them after I had distributed the supplies. Often times, what we all needed, no one had in their back pack. We needed one another to get through, and even more we needed God to hold us as we sat with patients and their families. Our hearts were being torn apart and remade, remade with a deeper love and compassion, remade with a deeper faith that comes from relying on God completely.

Jesus always tells a story when folks want him to talk theology. He draws a picture with words about what the reign of God is all about. He tells the story of the wise and foolish virgins who were awaiting the bridegroom. They were told to be ready, but some of them got caught up in their daily routine and rested instead of waiting. They weren't prepared. Waiting on God requires all of us to be prepared, and at the same time, it calls us to realize how needy we all are. We can pack our back packs full of first aid items, we can stock our shelves with canned goods - we can do everything to be prepared - and still miss the reign of God. The reign of God is welcomed with a loving heart. A heart that is broken open for love, a heart that is seeking God's love at all times, and aching for healing of the world.

Today, I want to be prepared for the coming of the reign of God in my life, in a new and abundant way. Worry and anxiety come easy in these turbulent days. Trust, humility, and openness as I wait on God is much harder. And I know that it is easy some days to protect my heart when it has been broken. And in the midst of what I know, Christ comes in to my broken places and promises healing and transformation. Love overflowing, constantly rebuilding, renewing and restoring. Today, I pray that I can wait with joy, knowing that, as prepared as I might be, I must be prepared and ready to lean on God completely and in every circumstance. May we all have the strength to stock our heart's shelves with love and hope, knowing that God reign is coming in a new way in our lives. God's kingdom is coming to us, to restore and rebuild us so that we may love and bring God's love to a desperate world.

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