"When the World Is Sick" by Eliza Marth

A couple of weeks ago, after a fabulous birthday party, I was on vacation at my home in the mountains of North Carolina. I spent the week and a half on the side of a mountain in a house that has been in my family since my great-grandfather. The property is surrounded by National Forest on three sides, and an Episcopal retreat center on the fourth side, which leaves a view of God’s undisturbed and magnificent creation.

Every morning, I woke up to be cradled in the beauty of God’s creation. No internet, no cell phones, no television -- even as a Millennial, this is my idea of paradise. I passed the days helping my parents to fix up a neglected room of the house -- I got to play with the power tools, install installation, drive around on the tractor, dig up an invasive plant, pet the horses, and host a couple of my best friends from an intentional community I lived in up in Washington, DC.

My friends and I spent our days laughing, talking, exploring, picking and eating wild black raspberries, and basking in the view of mountains. We spent our nights looking up at the stars with a sky so clear that we could see the Milky Way, imagining the possibilities of our lives, and making s’mores with a real fire. I laughed, I talked, I ate, I poked at the campfire in the company of beloved friends, cradled in the palm of God’s hand.

I got back to Boston, internet, cell phone, and television on a Thursday. With my friend driving the car, I dared to open my phone and check facebook for the first time in two weeks. The first thing that popped up was a video of two white police officers on top of a black man in a parking garage, muttering voices that I couldn’t understand, then the echo of gunshots. I was completely unprepared, and I felt horrified and hopeless by the violence of our world… and so chose to avoid facebook, internet and cell phone for the following couple of days… trying to avoid the violence and chaos of the next several days.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus teaches the disciples to pray. Jesus says to the disciples, when you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread.

And forgive us our sins,

for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.

And do not bring us to the time of trial.

This summer has felt heavy and filled with violence. And it feels so out of place to me because the violence is happening at the same time as I am experiencing deep joy, at the same time I’m seeing children playing outside and photos of families on vacation.

The words from this reading that have been echoing in my head are, “your kingdom come.” In the interest of using gender expansive language, I’ll be using the word “kin-dom” (kin means family) -- your kindom come.

I think part of the reason this particular passage of the gospel reading stuck out to me is because of how much I’ve been asked to imagine God’s kindom this year. With a capital campaign on the horizon, I’ve had the privilege of sitting in on several meetings of folks who are gathered to imagine “A Place for All” here at St. Paul’s. What is God’s dream for St. Paul’s? Jeff even asked the vestry, if overnight, God’s dream had come true for the world, when you woke up in the morning, how would you know?

My campus minister once told me that a human trying to understand God is like a clam trying to understand a human… So I won’t claim to know the entirety of God’s dream for the world, but I do think that I got a taste of God’s dream, nestled in the natural beauty of the mountains -- spending time with friends, where I was safe and seen and loved -- tasting the seedy and tart and bountiful black raspberries, and wild unproductive and unnecessary enjoyment of poking at the campfire, simply taking time to be present to those things that God created that give me joy. I get a taste when I participate in Eucharist at God’s table, where all are welcome. I taste it when I’m with my activist, artist and community organizer friends who are struggling against the status quo, because they believe in a more beautiful world… because they believe in God’s kindom come.

In closing, I would like to share with ya’ll a chant that has been meaningful to me. The chant comes out of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network, which is a national group of students that are organizing on their college campuses to get their universities to divest from fossil fuels and re-invest in renewable energy… but I learned the chant from a couple of friends I met in Boston. When I am lead into temptation to fall into hopelessness and despair, this song gives me strength.

The words are:

When the world is sick

Can’t no one be well

But I dreamt we were all beautiful and strong.

This chant reminds me of the interconnection of our human family, reminds me to keep dreaming of God’s kindom come. It reminds me that there are hundreds of thousands of people, Christian and otherwise, who dream of a beautiful and strong human family. So when I am discouraged about the violence I see between people and police, I remember the police officers I met in Ferguson who are advocating for community policing, where relationships with people in a community are the basis of a police officer’s authority. When I despair about the homeless people who spend so much of their lives struggling to survive, I’m strengthened by my friend Libby Gatti who is working with the mayor of Boston and faith communities all over the area to end chronic homelessness in the Boston. When I’m discouraged about the latest studies about women being expected to do emotional labor for free,  I am strengthened by remembering that I am able to stand before you and preach thanks to feminists of years past who struggled to free the female voice.

So next time you are finding yourself hopeless, and the Kindom of God feels far away, and the Lord’s Prayer just ain’t doing it for ya, I invite you remember this song.

When the world is sick

Can’t no one be well

But I dreamt we were all beautiful and strong.