This poem is by Patrick Ray
I say this to myself today, as I prepare to administer communion on Sunday.
It’s the day of my sweet mother-in-law’s visitation, which means I have to interact with people and in so doing realize that her death is real.
People ask me for prayer for their healing and the healing of the ones they loved. I can’t manufacture healing with magical words which enable my will to usurp the will of God.
I feel odd calling what happened the “will of God.” God hates death. God’s will is to reconcile all things in Christ.
Yet there is nothing that happens outside of God’s watchful eye. He ordained the death of Christ; how can I say that my mother-in-law’s death is outside of his will?
There I am, thinking theology again. Shouldn’t I have the answers to these questions?
People come to me for answers, yet what I have to give them is bread.
This week a 14-year-old boy was murdered on 37th and Bryant.
On Sunday I will show up to church not with answers to our problem of violence, nor with a strategy for the Christianization of the Northside.
But I will show up with bread, again.
This work is difficult. It’s not difficult because writing and preaching are difficult. It’s not difficult because the days are too long.
It’s difficult because the days are not long enough.
I want to change the world.
I want to change the Northside.
But things seem to be getting worse.
And all I have been given is bread.
Is this my calling?
Surely there is an answer, a 5-point strategy, or some ministerial trick I haven’t learned.
“Surely the Lord can’t be calling me to minister to the exiles for 70 years?”
I ask myself this question like I am better than Jeremiah and like the people in my church are more important than the remnant of Judah.
So maybe this is it.
If I live as long as my mother-in-law, I have 28 more years.
That is before retirement age.
If my calling is to suffer with people who are suffering, I will suffer.
If my calling is to pray for prayers that are not answered, I will pray.
If my calling is to be horrified by increasing paganization, I will be horrified.
Lord, please make this not my calling.
But with my Savior I say,
“Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Either way, I will hold the bread out to all who are suffering, praying, and horrified with me.
Until the day comes when You hold the bread out to us, and we share it together.
On that day there will be no suffering, nor will there be horror. All there will be is open-eyed prayer to our Savior who will speak to us face-to-face.