Pastoral ponderings . . .

How many of us have felt overwhelmed by anything we’ve witnessed in the past 2.5 years? I know I have!! How many of us have had a day when just getting showered was a big deal? We’re living in really challenging times, aren’t we? We can finally be unmasked indoors at Tabor, if we want. We are mask friendly, but mask optional. We can finally be physically together with each other! Sing, pray, laugh, socialize. It’s wonderful.

But there are heavy layers of dread that shadow us: Will the planet survive global warming? Will Europe survive Putin’s insanity? At what cost? Will American democracy survive? Will the Great Salt Lake survive? And if not, will our City survive? Will Mount Tabor survive? We’ve had so many losses in 2.5 years. What’s next? Will I, vaxed and boosted to the gills, survive my next battle with Covid 19?

There’s layers of dread, and grief, and reason to not take on anything more. What does crossing the bridge, any bridge, into human misery with Christ do for me? With so much beyond our control (just everything about the Future) many of us find our anxiety through the roof! Anyone having trouble sleeping? Waking up wondering how it’s all going to turn out?

Casey White’s devotional reminded our council last month that servanthood in Christ makes our lives meaningful. Doing one thing that’s meaningful for someone else, especially for those feeling the most lost and hopeless, those living in hell on the street, turns out to be a really healthy thing for us too! It helps us stop thinking even for a little while, about just ourselves, and our routines (that Are Important!) but also our anxieties; and helps us go from “Me” to “We.”

It’s wonderfully affirming to find out that we aren’t alone in our layers of dread. We aren’t the only ones feeling this. And when we get together with others to do something meaningful, to cross the bridge human selfishness can make, to do something for someone in misery, and especially learn their name, that’s such a simple thing that can mean so much to others and to ourselves.

So the question I often ask when I feel hopeless is: “What’s God doing in the layers of dread I feel, and see?” What’s God doing? The God of Easter, Resurrection, New Creation. “Where’s God in this existential mess we’re living in?” When I think I find God doing a new thing, a good thing, a redemptive work among us, I feel inspired. Do you ever feel inspired? That’s the Holy Spirit, I think.

Turns out that God’s using the Utah State Legislature. Isn’t God amazing! Last year, the legislature passed a law that said every city along the Wasatch Front has to start doing something to provide shelter for homeless people in the winter. They said it’s not just Salt Lake City, or Salt Lake County’s responsibility. We’re all in this together. That’s the gospel, I think! That’s going from Me to We. That’s going from Not In My Back Yard, to “We’re All In This Together.”

So this is the first winter that a city or county along the Front, other than Salt Lake, is mandated by the State Legislature to open a winter overflow shelter. Just one city or county other than Salt Lake. This is a radically new thing for Utah! The first winter overflow shelter outside Salt Lake will be in Millcreek at the former public library building on 3300 South and about 800 East. There’s been one public meeting in Millcreek recently with many voices in support and many voices against. “Not in my back yard” those voices say.

But there’s no debating the issue. It’s going to open in November and stay open through April. But there’s plenty of local animosity towards it. We don’t want Lazarus named and housed in

our neighborhood. . . .That’s human nature, I think. But I also think it’s an opportunity for ministry. “For living God’s love in the world” as our Mount Tabor mission statement puts it.

So I wonder what it would be like for us as a Utah Conference of ELCA congregations to be present in some helpful, meaningful way and join what I think God is doing in the community in the opening of the Millcreek winter shelter? What might that look like? To offer a physical presence of support to the people of Millcreek as they take a new step into something that’s for some, new and intimidating and scary? It feels like that might be one way Mount Tabor, and our Utah Conference neighbors nearby, might come together in service and witness to the good news of the gospel. It’s something I’m praying about. I’d welcome your thoughts, prayers, and ideas as well.

In addition to “Dinner at Vinny’s” it could be another way to learn someone’s name who is living on our streets. Learning someone’s name tells them they are important. They have dignity. They’re not an object to be put up with, or stepped over. And I think we make God’s love real, by embodying God’s presence as a community for the life of the world.

Asking “What’s God doing out there, right now, in the community?” and partnering together in that, for the sake of God’s unconditional love. I think that’s healthy for us individually, and healthy for God’s world. Thanks be to God, for everything God is already doing! Pastor David