Posted by: jevcat | June 9, 2011

Worry Wisdom from St. Peter – and Others

I’ve been waking up early again, worrying about how we will be able to continue paying the bills with my unemployment running out, still only part-time work, and, if news reports are to be believed, little likelihood of things improving any time soon.

So it’s a good thing (and, I suspect, no coincidence) that there was no freelance work to keep me away from church this Sunday.  St. Peter (or whoever wrote the first epistle attributed to him) was writing to me.

The lesson (I Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11) speaks of “the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you.”  Well, what’s taking place in my life – and in the lives of many – these last two years may not qualify as fiery, but it sure does feel like an ordeal.  He says his readers shouldn’t be surprised, but aren’t most of us usually surprised by misfortune?  Even though we know life isn’t always easy, we generally expect things to stay okay.  Maybe it’s wishful thinking, maybe it’s “whistling in the dark”, maybe it’s just survival strategy.  Even when we do see bad things coming, we tend to tell ourselves that maybe they won’t happen.

Whatever – Peter tells us to rejoice that we are sharing Christ’s sufferings.  On a purely theological basis, I may understand this (maybe), but in other ways?  Thanks, but I’d rather not.

Whether I can rejoice or not, I can still work on the next bit, though:  “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”  All?  That’s an awful lot right now.  Does it work?  Sometimes.  For a few minutes.  But still, those few minutes are a wonderful relief.  And I’m working on it.  After all, he does add “Discipline yourselves” right after.

Peter finishes with “You know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering [just read the news].  And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you [I’m waiting … ].  To him be the power forever and ever [always].”

Make us glad by the measure of days you afflicted us *

and the years we suffered adversity.

May the graciousness of the Lord our God be upon us*

prosper the work of our hands;

prosper our handiwork.  (Psalm 90:15, 17)

So what am I left with?  Well, my beloved Julian of Norwich said:

“These words: ‘Thou shalt not be overcome,’ were said very sharply and very powerfully, for certainty and comfort against all tribulations that can come.

“He said not, ‘Thou shalt not be tempted; thou shalt not be troubled; thou shalt not be distressed,’ but He said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.’

“God wills that we take heed to these words, and that we be very strong in certain trust, in well and in woe, for as He loves and delights in us, so He wills that we love Him and delight in Him and strongly trust in Him; and all shall be well.”  (The Complete Julian of Norwich, Chapter 68 of her “Revelations of Divine Love”, Fr. John-Julian, translator)

And for all the comfort I get from church, I try to always remember the words from my favorite of the Book of Common Prayer’s four Eucharistic prayers, Canon C:  “Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal.  Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the world in his name.” – because it’s never just about me, whatever I may think at any given time.

God of opportunity and change,

praise to you for giving us life at this critical time.

As our horizons extend, keep us loyal to our past;

as our dangers increase, help us to prepare the future;

keep us trusting and hopeful,

ready to recognize your kingdom as it comes.

Amen.  (New Zealand Prayer Book)

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Responses

  1. “Thanks, but I’d rather not” I like when you put these little twists in things. It is funny and self deprecating yet not disrespectful. Try to look just beyond to capture the essence not the literal. I am not particularly interested in walking around in a desert for 40 years. With or without the Lord. Like Canon C.

    • Thanks, Carl. One of the things I love about the Episcopal Church is that we tent to take things (and ourselves) seriously but not too seriously. I agree with you about the desert but, of course, you’ve probably heard the old one about how the Israelites would have reached the Promised Land a whole lot sooner if Moses and Aaron had just listened to Miriam and asked directions 🙂

  2. Hahahaha

  3. I wake up with those same fears and worries. These are scary times…glad you’re able to find solace in St. Peter.

    • And Julian and … But, that doesn’t mean that anxiety doesn’t feel like the default position these days. May we both find our dream jobs soon!

  4. Janet–I continue to hold you and your beloved in my prayers during these challenging times. Interestingly, I have been in the same passages this week…

    there is such solace in the Word–and God, I think, truly wants the kind of relationship with us that is…honest…and true to how he made us.

    blessings
    jane

    • That better be the kind of relationship he wants from us, Jane, or I’m in even bigger trouble than I think. I’ve been yelling at God rather frequently lately. Of course, as in any family, then I apologize and say thank you for the good stuff.

    • P.S. Thank you again, Jane, for your prayers. They are a comfort and support to me.


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