On my walk this morning, I stop, and stand at the fence. My congregation, the sheep, don’t mind silence, which is nice and different from many churches I have visited. After a while, I tell them, “I need your help. My heart hurts today, and I don’t know what to say. Or do. I know you all don’t read the news. But the world is broken. It’s been an exhausting and terrible week.” They look up at me.
“You don’t mind if I stand here a little while do you?” I say. “It’s peaceful here.”
And I tell them about the 106,000 people who have died. And about George Floyd, killed by police, pleading for his life with the words, “I can’t breathe” and how he called out for his mother in his final moments.
“Today there are riots in cities, with fires,” I tell them, “which is striking because today is Pentecost Sunday, which is about the fire of the Holy Spirit. I feel like I’m rambling. I’m sorry.”
“You sure do apologize a lot.” Their look tells me.
“Well, I grew up in a church that always required answers. And I don’t have any,” I tell them. “But I can tell you a story.”
A young girl who returns home from school in tears. Her Mother worried, asked, “Sweetheart, what happened?”
“It was awful,” the girl told her Mother. “My best friend’s cat died. And she was very, very sad. And I don’t think I’m a good best friend, because I didn’t know the right words to say, to try to help her.”
“What did you do?” the mother asked. “I just held her hand and cried with her all day.”
Here’s the deal: There is nothing small about compassion.
“Thank you,” I tell my congregation. “You did my heart good today. You helped me remember what matters.”
I tell them what Mother Teresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” I think they liked it.
West Wing has always been one of my TV comfort foods. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched the series. But it never gets old. Even better with dark chocolate and a glass of wine.
In one episode, Toby Ziegler, White House Communications Director, is called to the National Mall (the land between the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capitol), because his business card is found in the coat of a homeless man who has died of exposure from extreme cold. The explanation is simple. Toby had given his coat to Goodwill.
But the experience affects Toby deeply. From a tattoo he had seen on the man’s arm, he knew the man to be a veteran. Back in his office he calls Veteran Affairs, with hope of figuring out the man’s story, or at least finding his next of kin. There is no luck. Mandy (White House Media Consultant) walks into Toby’s office while he is on another long hold. “What’s going on?”
“A homeless Korean war veteran died from exposure last night on the Mall. I don’t know if his family has been contacted. I don’t know what kind of burial…” He trails off, clearly frustrated.
“How do you know him?” Mandy asks.
“Then what does it matter?”
This made my heart stop.
And I think I know why the death toll doesn’t compute with so many, because we can’t connect to their narratives. Only when there is a name, does it feel real.
So, what do we do? I was schooled to know what to say. The “right” words, mostly for appearance. As if what I had to say, was more important than that I’m here. And I forget the power of simply being present. A witness. One person at a time. A bestower of grace and light in a dark world.
And, when I do not feel that grounding (as if nothing matters), where do I park my anxiety? If I’m only reacting, outrage easily wins. And not just outrage, but superlative simplification; this is all a hoax etc. That never works out so well. I trade kinder, wiser and better for seething and judgmental.
There is nothing small about compassion. There is nothing small about making a difference in the life of one human being.
But sometimes, we need an experience (like Toby), to rock our world. Or, to invite us to hit the reset button. You know, back to what makes us human. To say Yes, to whatever connects us, as humans, as children of God, as people who need compassion and mercy for sustenance, as people who cannot walk this journey alone. And to say No, to whatever divides or demeans or belittles or degrades or incites hate and exclusion. And I must speak that Yes, and speak that No, not only with my voice, but with my hands and my feet. Lord hear my prayer.
When the world feels small and dark and frightful, it is not surprising we choose to protect our hearts. We do not easily give it away. This happens when we live from the notion that we carry only so much emotional capital—you know, that precious commodity which allows us to pay attention, to focus, to contribute, to care, to forgive, to set free. So, it goes without saying that conservation is called for. And it becomes our default. “There is no need to spend empathy on just anybody,” we say. “We need to pick and choose.” To be blunt, “there are those who deserve care, and those who don’t.”
Lord help us. And we lose track of the values that sustain us.
There is nothing small about compassion. It is the thread of life woven through each day. As humans—in the image of God—we touch, love, give, receive and redeem. It’s time to rethink our notion about the scarcity of compassion.
This is an affirmation of what is already alive and well within each of us. We have the capacity to be places of shelter and hope and inclusion and healing.
Our dignity or value or capacity is not tied to the way we look or how we dress. Or the size of our wallet or the digits of our zip code. Not by how we are judged by mankind, because our own souls are imbued with the power to work miracles to change water into wine, the meek into the mighty, to change base metal into pure gold. (Thank you Congressman John Lewis)
Whatever it is, the light of compassion brings people out of hiding, out of unease and out of fear. The light that invites courage and renewal and resilience. And that, well, that is light worth spilling. And it is the light of Grace.
“No dark fate determines the future. We do. Each day and each moment, we are able to create and re-create our lives and the very quality of human life on our planet. This is the power we wield.” Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu (The Book of Joy).
With religious and civic leaders around our country, we are observing today as a National Day of Mourning and Lament. To stop. To weep. To mourn. To honor. To pray.
Did you watch incredible history being made yesterday when the SpaceX shuttle made lift off on its way to the International Space Station? A literal bright spot among a lot of dark news.
I am grateful that you join me for Sabbath Moment. You are welcome on the patio anytime. No one of us is on this journey alone. In the garden this week, the pageantry continues, with peonies, foxglove, lupine, astrantia, Louisiana Iris and French lilacs.
Quote for your week…
And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Book of Colossians
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–I read your post aloud as Amy and I had our morning coffee in our orange chairs, looking out at the Cuyahoga National Forest. Yesterday we read the NYT, with you as it turns out. Loved that bold move, the effort their editors put in, the movement in their hearts from this is palpable. Just talking is better than a sermon indeed. Thank you for sharing your Sabbath Moment with us. Ray
–Thank you for your Sabbath Moment Daily Dose. Has been a wonderful way to start my day…and survive our shelter-in-place. With much gratitude, Joan
–Dear Terry, I found solace in your Sabbath message today. Thank you for lowering the blood pressure and giving food for thought and contemplation. Beverly
–Good Morning Terry, It is a welcoming day of sun and soon the wind will join in this salutation. Congratulations on your son’s recent convocation. And Thank You for this week’s Sabbath Moment. Your words,”to listen, to notice, to pay attention, to learn” wrap around me in grateful reflection. As I sit with the “isness” of now, words that Thomas Merton wrote, journaling during an extended period of solitude, come to mind. If I may share: “It is enough to be, in an ordinary human mode, with one’s hunger and sleep, one’s cold and warmth, rising and going to bed. Putting on blankets and taking them off, making coffee and then drinking it. Defrosting the refrigerator, reading, meditating, working, praying. I live as my fathers have lived on this earth, until eventually I die. Amen. There is no need to make an assertion of my life, especially so about it as mine, though doubtless it is not somebody else’s. I must learn gradually to forget program and artifice.” Peace to your day. Make the sheep laugh. Linda
–Thanks Terry, I went to Mass yesterday for the first time during this quarantine. The service renewed my faith like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Your note today filled in all the rest. Each day is a chance to renew our commitment to God and faith. Thanks!!! Linda
–Terry…..This morning’s message is so special. It will be read and reread and shared. You and Jesus are buddies. Love, Pat
–Dear Rev. Hershey, I continue to draw much solace from your Sabbath Moment contemplations and usually connect the visuals to the message but not so much of late. Here we are all practicing physical distancing and making the most of, even working to better, those sanctuaries. What say you to using some pictures of your sheep congregates or the emergence of new life in your garden, or the back porch space where you enjoy your glass of wine, etc? Best regards, Jo
POEMS AND PRAYERS
|May this not be just “another day” but one where, as I open the door to what is an orchestra of bird song in this beautiful, if fragile world, that somehow I connect with you who gifted us this temporary home and yet, still daily walks with us, even when we think we are alone. For such gracious and enduring love, we offer this, our heartfelt thanks. Amen|
When Someone Deeply Listens to You
When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you’ve had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water.
When it balances on top of the brim,
you are understood.
When it overflows and touches your skin,
you are loved.
When someone deeply listens to you
the room where you stay
starts a new life
and the place where you wrote
your first poem
begins to glow in your mind’s eye.
It is as if gold has been discovered!
When someone deeply listens to you
your barefeet are on the earth
and a beloved land that seemed distant
is now at home within you.
God whose name has been used to enslave those who bear your image,
God whose name has been used to steal this land and kill those who bear your image,
God whose name was called upon by Moses and Miriam and Martin Luther King Jr and Sojourner Truth, Brionna Taylor and George Floyd.
God who raised up prophets to speak truth to power, and poets to speak truth to stupid,
We call on your holy name to give us what we need to undo what has been done in your name.
We call on your name to bring your fierce mercy upon us and remove our complacency and our complicity.
We call on your name to heal the wounds of those whose daily reality we do not understand.
We call on your name to give us a holy curiosity about what being Black in America is really like, Lord.
We call on your name to free us from our cherished notions of being “good” that keep us from hearing this truth,
We call on your name to give us this day our daily truth, our daily humility, our daily rage, our daily hope.
This country is burning Lord…may is be a cleansing Holy Spirit fire.
Guide us to believe that the true name of God is stronger than what has been done in God’s name.
Come, Holy Spirit. Amen.