Pastor’s Note August 17

Dear Friends,

The other day, I was sitting in the backyard after a 3-hour ZOOM call with the Bishop and Annual Conference Planning Team wanting to enjoy a few minutes of peace away from the blurred screen. I sat down in the comfortable shade of the roof covering the patio to watch the green bell peppers grow and tomatoes ripen. My moment of Zen was seemingly interrupted by the sound of a thousand leaf-blowers and tree-trimmers. Wednesdays, I learned, are noisy days in the beautiful neighborhood where we are privileged to live. After I got over feeling a bit annoyed, and gave thanks that people had work as landscapers, gardeners, and tree-trimmers, I was able to hear the birds sing. The birds, of course, were chirping and singing all along. The unmistakable sound of the Mourning Dove, no doubt, continued through the storm of leaf-blowers, but I couldn’t hear the birds because I was not listening for them.

You see where I am going with this.

It’s especially important during these uncertain, if not turbulent times, to be able to say: “Yes, but I can hear the birds singing.” I can notice something good, beautiful, and true while not denying or even avoiding much in our noisy lives and world that is often frustrating, depressing, concerning, or disturbing.

Please do not misunderstand. I am not saying we should simply: “Look on the bright side.” I am not suggesting we offer the empty consolation: “Every cloud has a silver lining,” which is usually not consoling at all.

Life is hard. Suffering is real. Our bodies hurt. People die. Nuclear weapons have not gone away. Climate change does threaten our very existence. Unemployment is at a record high. Parents are struggling to make ends-meet. Children are not able to return to school under “normal” conditions. Some politicians are thoroughly incompetent. And the list goes on.

The LA Times headline made some noise this morning: “California becomes first state to pass 600,000 coronavirus cases.” With the subtitle: “The state has also notched another sobering milestone, as surpassed 11,000 COVID-19 deaths, a 10% increase from one week ago.” Yes, but I can hear the birds singing. Yes, but thanks in large part to Ray and Gerardo, SJ First delivered food from Second Harvest to 50 additional households.

The party politics and inability, or perhaps unwillingness, to draft an acceptable and much needed coronavirus stimulus bill. Yes, but SJ First UMW continue to lead our congregation in raising funds for the people in el maguey.

Wildfires scorching 100,000 acres in Colorado and California. Ex-FBI Officer to plead guilty to altering email during Russia Investigation. Real economic fragility, despite some optimistic reports. And so on. Yes, but I read this week of a man giving a testimony: “It made me feel like a human being again,” he said. He is a former inmate in San Francisco Prison, and now works with the San Francisco Garden Project, an eight-acre garden where prisoners grow vegetables, and the organic produce is then delivered to seniors, homeless, and other vulnerable populations.

Last week, Pastor Gerardo and I took time to stop by homes and socially distance visit with our youth. We have an amazing group of young people. The number one question they asked was: When can we come back to church? Gerardo and I were heartened that our youth feel so positive about SJ First they can’t wait to come back! Surely, the birds are singing.

In the midst of our noisy lives and world that is often frustrating, depressing, concerning, or disturbing – Church continues. Hope, love, kindness, and beauty are present.

This week let us pay attention and listen carefully so we can say: Yes, but I can hear the birds singing.

Grace and Peace,
Jeffrey

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