Jesus’ admonition to “not worry about your life” always speaks to me each time I hear it for I am a worrier. In my role as trip leader for the last two Mission Trips there has certainly been much to worry about – who is going, what will we be doing, how will we get there, how much will it cost, where will we stay, what will we eat. These are details I don’t take lightly for it is not only my own experience that rides on everything coming together but also the experience of the entire group and indirectly the people of New Orleans who we are going to help. Although I try to “strive for the kingdom of God and his righteousness” and know deep down in my heart that “all these things will be given to you”, there have been many times over the past two years when everything seems to be going wrong and I can hear Jesus chiding “you of little faith”. Although I pray daily to be preserved “from faithless fears and worldly anxieties”, it is still hard for me not to worry.
But seriously, when have I ever had to worry about if I was going to have enough to eat or warm clothes to wear or somewhere to sleep? I think of the people at the New Orleans Mission for the homeless where a few of us volunteered one day. The most moving part of that experience for me was standing outside waiting to be picked up. The three of us huddled together with the homeless men milling around, the smell of urine and vomit overwhelming, the rain beginning, people lying on the sidewalk under blankets. Although homelessness is an issue in every major city the homeless population in New Orleans has tripled since Katrina while at the same time funding has dropped.
I also think of Joe and Gloria whose home we worked in for several days, still displaced 5 ½ years after Katrina. Gloria, who lost her job and tries to keep up her social work ties in a home office where all her belongings were thrown in every which way until we helped organize it. Joe, who tries to split his time between his contracting business and supervising the volunteers who come to help him fix up his own home. I think of the concerns they have about the toxic sheet rock that covers part of their house and will now have to be removed. I think of them running out of money for insulation until we came and were able to purchase the needed materials. I think of them not worrying about their own lives but instead providing us lunch of jambalaya and red beans and rice, their way of being people of faith and knowing that God is truly taking care of them.
I think of the list of weekly murder victims we heard read both at St. Andrew’s and at St. Anna’s churches where we worshipped, mostly young men in their late teens and early twenties. I imagine what it must be like to be a mother of a young man that age in New Orleans, to worry about whether my son’s name will be read aloud next week. I think of the people who are tired of worrying both about their own situation and those of their neighbors, who just want life to return to what it was before Katrina when the lives of the entire city were disrupted, who want to forget.
But I also think of the people of St. Michael’s who won’t forget, who take the words of Isaiah seriously “for the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his suffering ones. Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands”. St. Michael’s, you have inscribed the people of New Orleans on your hands through your love and support and they thank you. Let us pray.
Oh God, when I have food help me to remember the hungry,
When I have work, help me to remember the jobless,
When I have a warm home, help me to remember the homeless,
When I am without pain, help me to remember those who suffer.
And remembering, help me to destroy my complacency and bestir my compassion.
Make me concerned enough to help, by word and deed, those who cry out for what we take for granted. Amen.