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Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost – September 23, 2018
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
On Monday afternoon, I was in my office meeting with our United Methodist Richmond District lay leader when my assistant Cheryl Arrington opened my door and said, “I am so sorry to interrupt you, but there is a tornado in the area, and the staff is evacuating Reveille House and going to the basement of the sanctuary.” So, we went.
What I thought would take about twenty minutes took over two hours, two hours of waiting, checking the news, checking the weather, calling loved ones, receiving calls from schools, seeing how things looked out the windows, going back to the basement, waiting, waiting, waiting.
Reveille’s Finance Committee chairperson Ted Cox was there; he had chosen either the best or the worst time to stop by the church, and as we waited for the storm to end, Ted, Terri Edwards, our church’s director of administration, and I passed the time by telling stories of life on September 11, 2001 and the chaos of the days immediately thereafter. Ted, it turns out, was working in midtown Manhattan on that day. He told us of walking with the crowds to the shores of the Hudson River, of taking one of the commuter boats that volunteered their services that day to New Jersey. He told us of trying to get home on a day in which he had four dollars in his pocket and had forgotten his cell phone, as fighter jets circled overhead.
As we talked about the days that followed, he told us what surprised him over the course of the next several days: everyone, it seemed, had suddenly become so kind. New Yorkers, with their sharp elbows, people who ordinarily would have fought over the next available taxi cab were generously offering it to strangers: “No, really, you go ahead. I’ll take the next one.”
In the midst of such fear, anger, grief, hatred, and violence, people responded almost instinctually with kindness, a kindness that would, in the days to come manifest itself again and again, mercy upon mercy, in story after story.