Lent 2o11–Day 11

Pastor Daniel Carlson, and his lovely wife Faith Carlson, were with us yesterday on Sunday, for a beautiful morning’s worship. Pastor Carlson came as a representative of Lutheran Social Services of New England. We have a link on our website now, if anyone wants to go directly to their site. His discussion of the care LSS offers tied into our reading in John, to what Pastor Carlson called the “little Gospel,” John 3:16. Some of the confirmands from last year were sitting in the front–they’d memorized that verse, like countless young Christians have for generations. I saw them nodding, when Pastor Carlson asked if anyone knew the what the “little Gospel” was. They did.

I love the phrase “faith active in love.” LSS is certainly that. Afterwards, during coffee hour, people came up to me with questions about their own lives, and ways, perhaps that LSS might help. Pastor Carlson had preached well, and judging by the thoughtful response, people heard the message.

It was heartening to feel our kinship to the wider church, and its many ministries. Our church is not large, and as Pastor Carlson said, the Lutheran church in New England is not large either. Yet, we flourish. “Small is beautiful,” and so is connection. He told us there are 66 programs in New England alone, supported by LSS. Nationwide, Lutheran Services in America serves 1 out of every 50 people. Part of the solace of the church-wide connection, at least for me, is knowing that distance, for the church, is no object, for we have prayer, and we have people on the ground, serving, giving, helping, all over the world. If I can’t be there in person, they can. It’s good to support their work.

Marge Piercy, wonderful poet, has an amazing poem about people who help, about usefulness, about faith active in love. Here it is.

To Be of Use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

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