News travels fast. At 2:24pm on Tuesday afternoon my daughter, who lives in DC, messaged me asking, “Do you know what’s happening on Point Rider Lane?” She had seen a news link, shared on Facebook by a friend from her middle school soccer team who was concerned about the helicopters flying over her house. I didn’t have an immediate answer, but soon I would. What does one do with news like this? As our Pastor put it yesterday, “the worst possible news.”
We do what people do in hard times. We gather and share the news.
Yesterday, I pulled into the church parking lot past an oddly marked vehicle. In the driver’s seat sat a man furiously typing on his laptop. I thought this odd because, as usual, I was arriving only minutes before the start of the service. Why wasn’t the man getting out and coming in? When I walked by, the ads printed on the side of his car told me why. He was from the media, probably on deadline to submit this morning’s story.
Floris UMC worship was news. And the news outlets were reporting it.
I felt a little odd, then, walking into the service. Wasn’t sure what I would find there. But I was greeted, as usual. Welcomed, as usual. Seated, as usual, although the sanctuary seemed a bit more full than usual. The sermon title had changed, but we were still welcoming new members and handing out Bibles to our 3rd graders. Just like usual. Then we sang our opening hymn, so familiar, so fitting: I Love to Tell the Story.
It felt a bit ironic but so fitting. Today, an old, old story was breaking news.
We are a community suffering through tragedy. And so we come. To be comforted and to connect. To ask questions with no answers. We bring our grief and our sorrow. But we come. Tom Berlin’s wonderful heart for all of us was poured out in his words.
Tom brought to mind a message I heard this summer delivered by Rob Fuquay, a pastor in NC. The theme was the “I am” statements of Jesus. Rob was teaching from John 11:25-26. Jesus said to Martha whose brother Lazarus lay in the tomb, “I am the resurrection and the life…Do you believe this?” Rob asked us if we could put our trust in this. Rest in this. Because the resurrection was not just for those who have died but for the many left behind, the people who have to live with death. Who carry grief.
Tom cautioned us that “grief carried casually can easily convert to anger.” So, so true, Tom. Thank you. But grief, cradled carefully, the way our church has helped us carry it this week, can be made alive again. Life, not resuscitated, but resurrected.
As the song goes…I love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love. I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true; It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do. I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory, to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love. I love to tell the story, for those who know it best seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest. And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song, ’twill be the old old, story that I have loved so long. I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory, to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.
What a privilege we have as keepers of the whole story… of Jesus and His love.