Beloved People of St. Martin’s,
It is my habit that, every time I pull into the driveway of St. Martin’s, I say a brief, three-part prayer.
First, I say a prayer of thanks for some aspect of our common life and ministry, such as a wonderful discussion at book group or adult forum, or a memory of a joyful child’s chatter during worship, or the solicitude I see experienced when someone needs help with transportation and another parishioner seems always to be quietly yet reliably there in support.
Then I pray for one particular concern within our community— about someone who is having a medical test that day, or for some other anxiety or need that someone has shared.
And then I pray in wonder for some particularly beautiful aspect of our common life together, some beauty observed, some hope or dream or blessing arising and developing among us.
It’s basically a reordered version of Anne Lamott’s observation that prayer as simple communication from our hearts to God can often be best centered around three brief prayer words: Help. Thanks! And Wow!!!, which is also the title of one of her books.
I find that this brief prayer time—the whole thing only takes a bit more than a minute—helps ground my specific intentions for the day, no matter what actual experiences and events the day itself might bring. I repeat this process each day when I leave for the last time.
In the last few days, our Pumpkin Patch ministry and Fall Festival taking place this Saturday have been the center of all three of those prayers. I am so grateful for the cheerful volunteers who continue to work tirelessly to make the related events happen. Each time I see those pumpkins in front of the church building, I remember the years that our family would travel to Gallup, New Mexico, in the heart of the Navajo Nation. I remember both the beauty and the trials of life on the reservation, where unemployment rates are always above 40%, and I am grateful for our small, determined, meaningful choice to be involved in countering that, even half a continent away as we are.
Yesterday, one of our parishioners covering a shift came into the offices, and told us of a customer asking us to pray for God’s help and comfort regarding a health concern within her family. Our presence out there in front of our church selling pumpkins opened the way for this woman to know that our community, as represented by our volunteers in that moment, embodied the grace and love of God. Because members from St. Martin’s were visible on our front lawn selling pumpkins in the middle of the day, we were also able to envelop this woman and her family in compassion, empathy, and support as they ministered to her. We were there for her at that moment to help share her burden. After they prayed with her she left, knowing that her concern would be placed on our prayer lists—well, all I can still pray repeatedly, in awe and wonder, is, “Wow… wow… wow.”
It may not seem like much to some people, but that moment pulled back the veil that too often blinds us to the ways that Jesus is present among and within each of us, at any moment. May we give thanks that God continues to strengthen us, in ways great and small, to help embody the light of Christ into the world, to willingly help shoulder the burdens of hearts we encounter, and rejoice in wonder at how God can use loving hearts gathered around a pumpkin as an altar in the world.