Grounded in Love and Compassion

Shauna MacLeod

Shauna MacLeod Photo by Tacha Reed

It’s been another one of those bad news weeks.

Horrific and heartbreaking news.

Another toddler dead… along with her father… this time in Canada.

An off duty police officer killed, probably by someone she knew and trusted.

Chance pastoral encounters that speak of violence and betrayal.

Sorrow and heaviness bore their way into my heart until I felt as if I could hardly breathe.

It is so easy to become captivated and riveted by the bad news that is very real.

I am not denying it.

And I remember the words of scripture that Sally read, “And God created humankind in his image, male and female he created them.”

And I think “Really God? This is what you envisioned when you create us?”

It’s small wonder that the early humans created the garden of Eden story and then of banishment to try and understand how evil came into the world.

But… what if there was no garden… what if instead, we are constantly evolving to greater love…greater understanding… greater compassion?

Then there is nothing to go back to… there is no mythical time when things were perfect… instead we were created, along with the birds of the air and the fish of the sea and the stars in the sky… and the plants of earth…

And God saw that it was good… not that it was perfect…

What if instead, we are these earthen vessels… these bodies that are shaped and reshaped as we grow, our hearts and minds formed and reformed as the potter shapes and fashions the clay?

What if none of our mistakes is forever… what if everything can be transformed somehow?

Have you ever seen a potter at work?

I am lucky to count a couple of them as friends and have watched them work.

My husband knows that I can’t pass a pottery shop without stopping and checking it out and we have many pieces in our china cabinet. In fact, it should be called a pottery cabinet.

But before the pottery gets to the final stage and form, there is plenty of time for adjustment… for reforming and reshaping.

Until the pottery is fired in a kiln, it is still malleable earthen clay.

A potter shapes and reshapes until he or she is satisfied and only then is it removed from the wheel and set aside.

I like to think of God as the potter, shaping, forming and fashioning us… perhaps we never get off the wheel, because God is never finished with us.

And so there is reason and cause for hope.

We are not descending into some black pit of evil.

Who we are now is not who we will be in the future.

We are still being fashioned and shaped.

Parker Palmer calls it living in the ‘tragic gap.’

This is what he has to say about that, “By the tragic gap I mean the gap between the hard realities around us and what we know is possible — not because we wish it were so, but because we’ve seen it with our own eyes. For example, we see greed all around us, but we’ve also seen generosity. We hear a doctrine of radical individualism that says, “Everyone for him- or herself,” but we also know that people can come together in community and make common cause. As you stand in the gap between reality and possibility, the temptation is to jump onto one side or the other. If you jump onto the side of too much hard reality, you can get stuck in corrosive cynicism. You game the economic system to get more than your share, and let the devil take the hindmost. If you jump onto the side of too much possibility, you can get caught up in irrelevant idealism. You float around in a dream state saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice if . . . ?”

These two extremes sound very different, but they have the same impact on us: both take us out of the gap — and the gap is where all the action is. I call it “tragic” because it’s a gap that will never close, an inevitable flaw in the human condition. No one who has stood for high values — love, truth, justice — has died being able to declare victory, once and for all. If we embrace values like those, we need to find ways to stand in the gap for the long haul, and be prepared to die without having achieved our goals.”

Living between what we know could be and what is.

And so each day this week, I chose hope.

Each day, I chose resurrection.

Each day, I chose to seek out the goodness in my personal life and in the world around me.

Each day, I was rewarded with things that are going well.

Things that spoke of God’s love alive and active in the world.

I found this story about Ramundo Arruda Sobrinho

For 35 years, this 77-year-old homeless man spent his days doing his passion: writing poetry and short stories. But his work remained completely invisible to the world until one day in 2011, he befriended a woman named Shalla. He gave Shalla one of his poems and she was so touched by Ramundo’s poetry that she started a Facebook page to share his work with the world. That Facebook page connected him with his family, who had no idea where he had been for so many years. One of his brothers took him into his home. And today, Ramundo has a book of poetry published.

P K Subban is a Montreal Canadien’s hockey player and even though I don’t follow hockey, I am impressed by his generosity. He has donated 10 million dollars to the Montreal Children’s Hospital. The $10 million from the hockey player’s foundation, paid out over seven years, will be used in part for a fund called P.K.’s Helping Hands, which will help families struggling financially with a child’s illness.

His gift inspired a young hockey fan to donate $20 to the hospital. None of us can donate $10 million dollars, but I bet most of us can donate $20.

And this… Refugees welcomed by the thousands into Germany.

And this… Public information sessions on how to sponsor refugees and churches gathering together to see what they can do.

And this… A Values and Visions forum for all federal candidates in this area where the focus will be on:

• Welcoming the Stranger
• Care for Creation
• Right Relations

I found those without any trouble at all… it all depends on what you look at.

I challenge you to find your good news stories.

Let us stand in the tragic gap, let us work for peace and justice, let us be shaped and formed into the people of God.

Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity, amen.

Catherine MacDonald 2015

Genesis 1: 26-31, Jeremiah 18: 1-7

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