The Gospel for this weekend is Luke 20:27-38, in which Jesus proclaims, “God is God not of the dead, but of the living.” I shared some reflections in my sermon this morning about how I experienced this God of the living this week.
It was one of those weeks when nothing seemed to go as planned. But as one of my mentors reminded me weeks before my ordination, ministry is about interruptions. And in those interruptions, sometimes, we experience the most life, the most joy. Those spirit filled moments that we couldn’t plan, but can only come as pure grace.
A photographer arrived last Sunday to document life in Cairo among the refugees served by StARS. When I arrived in the office after our Arabic class on Sunday, he asked about the services. It turns out that the only one he was available for was the one that was happening right then. I offered to walk down with him and, in timing that must be attributed to pure grace, Pastor John had just stepped out. He invited the photographer to come into the service, and I went along, too. I often sneak in the back of the church on Sunday afternoon to hear the youth choir sing at the end of the Nuer service. But on Sunday, it happened that I made it in time for communion. A gift of grace indeed. And then the music broke out. The youth choir sang and the Spirit moved. We danced, we sang. Well, they sang, I hummed. I can barely speak Arabic, and definitely have a ways to go before I can sing it. People danced in the aisles. Smiles broke out across faces. God was praised and the Spirit was moving among us. God is a God of the living.
Yesterday, after a visit to the American cemetery, I bought some plants for my office. They made it back to the office relatively unharmed after a very crowded Metro ride. I decided to pot them in the courtyard, and had soon attracted the attention of some of the StARS students. Soon, I had six or seven little helpers, helping me dump the soil into the pot, dig holes, and pot the tiny plants. “Beautiful!” and “Wow!” they exclaimed. “Where should this one go?” they asked. In a matter of a minute or two, I had a beautiful arrangement for my office. We wiped the the dirt from our hands and most of the kids ran off to keep playing. But a few of the girls proudly carried the pot to my office. I suspect that I will see them peeking in occasionally to check on their masterpiece. God is a God of the living.
I had a couple of things I needed to do before I sat down to write. But then, I was invited to get henna from one of the fine henna artists from the StARS community. As the photographer snapped away, seven of us gathered in the conference room, marveling at the artistry, and amazed at the ways that each one received a completely different design on her hand. I learned about the traditions in some of the countries represented in the StARS community. We laughed, especially when some of the men decided they wanted in too, and she free handed spiders and scorpions wrapped around their thumbs. God is a God of the living.
And then it rained. For the first time since we’ve been in Cairo. I was getting ready to leave, standing at the gate chatting with the guards. All of the sudden, I felt rain drops. I looked up, confused. “Mayya,” one said. “I know,” I said, “but from the sky?” They looked a little confused, and then a huge smile broke out across my face, “From the sky! It’s the first time since I’ve been here. It’s raining!” I walked home with an extra spring in my step, smiling at the children dancing and even more at the young man dancing on the clothing platform of one of the stores as he pulled in mannequins to prevent them from getting too wet. I must have looked ridiculous with the smile on my face as I occasionally looked up to confirm that there was indeed water coming out of the sky. It was glorious. And I was, admittedly, a little disappointed that it had stopped by the time I got to the bridge, where I would have been completely unprotected. I was looking forward to getting drenched. And thanks to the extra bag of potting soil from the plants I had purchased earlier in the day, my purse stayed dry in the plastic bag. Our God is a God of the living.
I trust that this God of the living walks with us, in these moments when God’s presence is so clear, and also in the moments of heartbreak, despair, and frustration. In an attempt to capture some of the ways I’ve seen God at work through the work I do and to give a short explanation about what I’m doing, I created this video to share with friends and sponsors/sponsoring congregations.
God is at work here, and throughout the world, in beautiful, perplexing, and grace-filled ways. Thank you for your prayer, support, and encouragement!