With light in every window
Saying, "Welcome, welcome, share this feast
Come in away from sorrow"
Take a moment for gratitude, a balm for the soul.
Photo by Kathleen Zagata RN, MSN Parish Nurse
Before you and you alone, we acknowledge these painful uncertainties. Loss of employment, housing and health, are ravaged further by inequality. Loved ones lost are unable be mourned. Events that once sustained us have been put aside. Deep divisions and animosity persist. Creation and her peoples crumble under the weight of injustice and exploitation.
So, we cry out, when will we be able to throw our doors wide open, O Lord? When will lighted windows signify the sharing of the feast? When will the Thanksgiving Song be joyfully lifted up even as we clasp hands with others?
Yet you remind us that you are always in the face of the least of these. You come as the ignored, the marginalized and the hungry. Yours is the face lined with sorrow. Yours are the eyes who have seen too much. You come as the one who is incarcerated, the one who is sick but without adequate health-care, the one who stands outside a food bank wondering if there will be enough.
Great Redeemer, in our searching and longing for you, be with us in the light of your countenance and shine through the windows of our hearts. Let your welcoming affirmation accompany us when we bring food to the shelter, make a phone call to the lonely and write a message of cheer to the imprisoned. So that all your children – through your unfathomable grace – may come away from sorrow, seeing one another not as strangers, but as long-lost brothers and sisters who together share in the feast of gladness. May it be so. Amen.
~ Rev. Dr. Jessica McArdle
The reality of the pandemic, racial injustice and the political climate have brought so much uncertainty into our lives however, it has also increased awareness of systemic problems in our country. More and more people are coming to understand the responsibility we all have to create a world where ALL people, especially people of color, the vulnerable, and those who are suffering will be treated fairly with compassion and love.
The reality of virtual worship, meetings, conferences and other events has increased access for those who might otherwise have been able to physically attend. Even though we miss seeing each other in the sanctuary, we have the opportunity to be even more creative to draw people into church participation.
With all of the burdens and opportunities in front of us, it can be hard to focus on what needs attention first. This Thanksgiving, I invite you, especially clergy, lay leaders and caregivers to take a moment to breathe, in … and… out… slowly. Breathe in the breath of God as given to Adam, let the breath of the Holy Spirit fill you with healing presence. Repeat.
In closing, there is a letter that was shared with me during my parish nurse education retreat. I do not know the source but it discusses the feeling that many of us get, “so much to do in too little time.” This is the feeling of overwhelm and responsibility, of trying to everything for everyone. Sometimes the things we think we are called to do really rest in someone else’s’ hands. Clergy especially, get caught in the dilemma of exhaustion and duty to God’s work. This letter suggests looking at what is before us with a discerning eye to discover if what we think we must do is our job, or that of another. Perhaps you can ask someone else to assist?
The most important part of this letter is: “Dear child, daughter, son, please don’t feel that you are totally, absolutely, irrevocably responsible for everything. That is My job. Love, God”.
In this time of Thanksgiving let’s give each other permission to stop for a moment to breathe, just breathe, reflect on the blessings in your space and time, and rest in the love, and grace of God. Amen.
Check out these helpful, uplifting SNEUCC/UCC resources:
Pastoral Care, Self-Care and Mental Health Resources
Resilience Webinar Videos
Thanksgiving in a Pandemic
UCC Daily Devotionals
Peggy Matteson, PhD, FCN Minister of Congregational Health recommends a few of her favorites:
- Early or Late 11/09/2020
- In the Wee Small Hours 11/08/2020
- Unmasked 10/31/2020
- Who Runs the Church? 10/30/2020
- Longing for Sanctuary 10/21/20
- Q Source 10/12/2020
- Sleepless Nights 9/29/2020
- Hateful Christians and Certain Love 9/28/2020
- That Sinking Feeling 9/22/2020
Rev. Dr. Jessica McArdle is a member of the SNEUCC Environmental Ministry Team, and a writer, researcher, and advocate for God's creation. She posts at thespiritualactivist.blog
Deborah is the Minister of Health and Wellness at the Southern New England Conference.