What’ll Preach?

This morning I met with my partially reassembled lectionary group (one is still on vacation). We looked at the lectionary passages for this coming Sunday, and I have to say we felt…nothing. After 45 minutes of talking our way around Exodus, Matthew and Romans, one said, “Well, what do you feel like preaching this Sunday?”

I guess I want to talk about how we need to pitch in and help each other. I guess I want to talk about loving people we don’t even know, really, enough to do something for them. I want to talk about Badger, who I love and grieve for, although we have never met, and about Academic Coach, who has been helping others help Badger’s family. My husband isn’t sure why he has been petted so much today, but those of you who know Badger’s story will understand.

I want to talk about how inadequate it is to say, as Governor Blanco of Louisiana did this afternoon, “We need to thank the Lord that we’ve survived,” as if God had been sitting around picking people out to survive or not. And perhaps that isn’t what she meant at all. Perhaps she meant that those who survived ought to be grateful to all that is good and then marshall their resources to help others who are still in trouble. That’s what I want to say.

This afternoon Pure Luck and I spent a long time watching CNN. Just now on NBC, Brian Williams said that New Orleans today looked like scenes from somewhere else in the world. People are in the city without drinkable water and flushable toilets. They are looting stores, flagrantly. They will sleep tonight on freeway overpasses. More than one of the people interviewed today who stayed behind rather than evacuate did so because they didn’t want to leave their pets, and didn’t know where to take them. These stories wash over me like a wall of water, and it is hard to remain standing. The outer edge of what is left of Katrina may bring us three inches of rain tomorrow.

How much of what goes on in this world happens because we don’t take care of the great gift that is our Earth? I’m listening to stories about the loss of land, about the water temperature in the Gulf, about how much more built-up Biloxi is than it was for Camille in 1969. What are we thinking?

“I needed to at least survive to where I could help someone else,” says a man in Gulfport who clung to a tree for six hours until the waters receded, worrying about his neighbors.

Well, that’ll preach.

And looking back at the lectionary, I see what we overlooked this morning. Here is Psalm 119:33-40, as rendered by Eugene Peterson in The Message.

33GOD, teach me lessons for living

so I can stay the course.

34Give me insight so I can do what you tell me–

my whole life one long, obedient response.

35Guide me down the road of your commandments;

I love traveling this freeway!

36Give me a bent for your words of wisdom,

and not for piling up loot.

37Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets,

invigorate me on the pilgrim way.

38Affirm your promises to me–

promises made to all who fear you.

39Deflect the harsh words of my critics–

but what you say is always so good.

40See how hungry I am for your counsel;

preserve my life through your righteous ways!