Your Place in the Family of Things


Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things. 

Mary Oliver

I have been in two worlds for the past three weeks. I have been in Alexandria, VA at The Virginia Seminary—just across the Potomac from Washington.  The fast pulse of Washington with its adrenaline as well as its division flows across the river.  Since the election I haven’t been able to watch the news channels on television.  They make me want to move to Canada.  Instead I rely on Judy Woodruff on the News Hour to keep me not only informed but to some degree comforted because she offers a sane perspective.  She is the news version of Mr. Rogers.  But these days even Judy looks perplexed and perturbed.  There is a fundamental disorientation in our country that we, or at least I, feel on some molecular level. 

Of the many blessings of being at VTS, perhaps foremost is being at the Eucharist every weekday.  Regardless of the news; regardless of the outrage or the smug sense that the people I agree with have gained some upper hand, I get to hear God’s Word, say the Prayers of the People, be absolved of my many sins, and eat the Bread of Heaven and drink the Cup of Salvation.

I mean the jagged edges of my current story get gathered in the never-ending story of God’s redemption of the world and like the poem, I rediscover my place in the family, not of things, but of God’s ongoing movement. I get hope that in Christ God is bringing this world “from error into truth, from sin into righteousness, from death into life.”   This grounds me in something bigger and true and makes me believe that I really am sent into the world to “love and serve the Lord.”

In all honesty, I think that’s why I am at VTS. It is less to teach students about preaching and the spirituality of Dante and more for my own realignment.  I did not know how hungry I was until I was able to be fed every day.

You may not be able to receive the Eucharist every day, nor may you want to. We all have our own path. But we all need to be fed.  “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely” the Lord calls you to remember your place with Him and to recall beyond the noise of Washington, the wild geese call you home.