Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bound together and tightly woven

Today proved for me, once again, how our faith makes us a family.

My senior pastor has been very gracious with me these past few days, allowing me opportunity to grieve and to process my feelings. Today, before worship, he approached me and said that he was going to talk about the earthquake in Haiti, but he would not say anything publicly about Ben and Renee and Jon, that he would leave that for me to share with others as I saw fit.

As he finished talking about Haiti, he then asked if there were any more announcements. That was when I knew I needed to say something. I said I had something to share and then I told my congregation about my friends. I shared what I know and asked for prayers and then I sat down.

Afterward, many people shared their condolences with me. They said they had seen the story of Ben on the news and had been worrying and praying for him and his family. A few said that they remembered him from my ordination service when he, Jon, Renee and our friend Elly sang (I wish I knew how to get video off of the DVD and into a format that I can share online, it's a wonderful song made even more beautiful by my friends singing it). Almost everyone who spoke to me about this said that they were praying for me, as well, and if I needed anything to let them know.

This is what the Church is supposed to be, I thought. A family. People who care for one another, who bear one another's burdens, who reach out in times of grief and tragedy, who celebrate together in times of joy. A family of people, bound together and tightly woven with the love of God that is revealed to us in Christ Jesus, the love that we are called to share with others. The love that calls us, compels us, to help our brothers and sisters in Haiti and around the world who are suffering.

It also proved to me, again, how small and tightly woven this ELCA world is, too. A member of my congregation told me that her brother is a pastor and that he went to college with Judd, Ben's father. Another woman said that her daughter was college roomates with Liz, Jon Larson's sister. There is another family whose brother-in-law is a pastor near LaCrosse, Wisconsin and knows the Larsons that way. This shows how small and interconnected we truly are as Christians and as Lutherans.

And those are both things that I need right now. I need to know that I belong to a Family who cares, who is willing and able to reach out and care for those who are in our midst but who are also compelled to care for those in other places and countries who are in need of help. And I need to belong to a community that reaches beyond time and geography to be together. A community who, in the face of a world that can seem big and harsh, reminds me of how close and personal we really are as Children of God.

And Ben, you have reminded me of both of these things.


  1. Thanks for sharing Mark. I was worried about worshipping with the people of Dilworth today since I have been gone for two plus weeks. Thursday I was blessed to be with other Wartburgers and grieve with them but being at DLC was going to be different. They didnt know the story of Renee, Ben, and Jon. Pastor Mark mentioned to me how he was going to tell their story in his sermon. That made me nervous. Would I cry and should I allow myself to do it in front of these people? After worship, many people told me that they were praying for Bens family and friends etc. They even wrapped me in their loving embrace. It reminded me of exactly what you are talking about in your post today. I think you are absolutely right...Ben has reminded of those things. God bless my friend!

  2. I preached today and spoke primarily about what the scriptures had to say about this tragedy when we take it all in and turn to God. As I prepared, I intentionally chose not to include the WTS folks in the story. I just thought it would be too self-indulgent, somehow, in this context. But it was still on my mind during the beginning of worship and closer to the surface than I realized. I got very choked up in the middle of my sermon (where I was saying that God's judgment, like the mighty deep, is unfathomable but assuredly does NOT look like a natural catastrophe meted out on the poor and vulnerable. Take THAT Pat Robertson!) I was glad to receive support after worship, reassurance in the midst of my sense of awkward embarrassment ... and was glad to know that already this community loves me enough to understand and even welcome the emotional cracks when they show. I relate so much to what you wrote.

    Anyway, I changed things up for the second service and decided to tell the story, because it turns out that our congregation has been participating in support for St. Joseph's Home for several years. It made the connection more personal, which was good. And the small world thing is here, as well. Ben sang at the wedding of a daughter of the congregation, whose husband was friends with Ben at Luther. Which makes me chuckle a bit as I wonder just how many weddings & ordinations Ben sang at over the years?

  3. Mark,

    I haven't had a chance to talk to you since the earthquake. I'm sorry for your loss. If you get me the DVD I can get it into a postable format for you.