Sandy picked up my city, my people, and our faith and sat us down somewhere else. Perhaps the faith of many has gone out to sea with the wind and the rain -- those 80 families whose houses burned in Queens, those who are now planning funerals, those who have nothing at all in this Big Apple but the clothes on their backs.
Take courage my soul, and let us journey on, says the African-American hymn that has helped me through so many shadowy stretches. Tho' the night is dark, and I'm still far from home.
New knowledge comes from being in something. New knowledge explodes our theories and research and sometimes our faith. Sept. 11, 2001 changed the way we thought and felt about war. Living in California, smelling burning wood and breathing charred air changed the way I thought about wildfires. This week changed the way I think about hurricanes.
Once you've experienced something for yourself, everything changes. One young mother that I know in Brooklyn lost all that she owned -- her apartment was completely underwater. Who thinks of Brooklyn when they think of hurricanes? Who thinks of Facebook as the new locus of care exchanges, food collection and conversations that get people through the night? But it is. In the face of the unexpected, a young mother is held this week by virtual friends. She says God is good and hasn't left her. God is wearing flesh -- on Facebook -- strangers now friends have placed themselves at the service of a newly homeless mama who has no words for the devastation but believes she will get through the storm. If God can show up on Facebook, I can dare to believe in God.
In New York City, I and many others, have been in the eye of a hurricane -- not reading about it from the comfort of our homes, praying about it in the remove of Sunday morning worship, or planning our responses in the midst of Halloween celebrations -- a big day in the Big Apple. New Yorkers lived in the hurricane that many of us have only ever read about or experienced on mission trips. We thought we knew something of what it was like, but we could not have really known -- not now.
Praise be to God, the morning light appears. The storm is passing over. The storm is passing over. The storm is passing over, hallelu.
Some of us may not find our faith again -- not for a time. But Sunday will come just as sure as hurricane season, and people will need to gather and sing and pray. They will need to hold on to something real and stable and strong. And I will turn to the psalms like generations of pastors and priests before me. I will turn to the psalms because they are the words for all times across all time when we humans find ourselves in storms that leave us without words.
I will assure my people of God's protection and God's presence and will attempt to be God "with flesh on," a something and someone real that they can cry with, yell at and question. I will share the psalm I am praying with from the whirlwind of a hurricane that has changed everything: From the end of the earth I call to you, when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I (Psalm 61:2).
And I will pray that for now, when many still feel far from home, that these words from across time will be good enough for this time.