In nature, the sun remains fixed while the planets orbit around it. The nucleus of the atom remains fixed while electrons whiz around it. And the eye of the storm remains fixed, calm, serene, while the storm rails around it.
The global storm exploded again – this time in Nice during the celebration of Bastille Day and in Istanbul, with a coup to overthrow the government. And in Baton Rouge, another assault on police officers. And at a mall in Munich. Panic flushed through me when read about Nice. I keep expecting these horrors to stop, at least for us to have a respite between them. Instead, they keep on coming.
Experts agree that we have a complex task ahead of us to combat terror in our country and in the world and to combat the mass shootings to which we have been subjected over the years. Economic and educational disparities conspire to foster anger, mistrust, resentment. Lack of mental health support in communities and the proliferation of guns too easily available form a lethal combination. Challenges stare us in the face every day: to knit communities in families, towns, cities and beyond; and to nurture understanding and tolerance among faiths, among races, among ethnic groups.
We have much to do.
But in the eye of the storm, in the eye of the tragedies around us and the daunting tasks ahead of us, again and again, we look and we find what we need. We look into the eye of the storm, the calm centered within the chaos, and we see a tableau. We see Jesus at Martha and Mary’s house, at a dinner party, Jesus and Mary talking, and Martha protesting her sister’s lack of helping with dinner.
And as we watch the figures in the tableau – the aroma from dinner on the fire, Martha setting the table, Mary at Jesus’ feet — we hear Jesus say to Martha: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
“The better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Jesus reminds Martha, and us, that there is need of only one thing — our relationship with him.
Again and again in these last weeks which have lain heavy on our hearts, we have found the guidance we need in the gospels we have read. Jesus naming Legion, the unclean spirit and with that naming taking power over him and driving him out of the man tormented by spirits. Jesus setting his face toward Jerusalem, letting nothing distract him from his purpose. And even more recently, Jesus challenging us to love not only those with whom we get along, but to love our enemies as well.
And now this story of the two sisters reminding us that in all the events and troubles swirling around us, all that matters is our relationship with Jesus. That’s where we start with our Herculean tasks. That’s where we learn what to do first, what to do at all, what not to do. And that’s where we continue to find the hope and support and comfort we need as the turmoil whizzes around us.
Through this, we know that all parts of the Godhead are with us – our Creator, our parent; our Redeemer Jesus Christ; our guide and comforter the Holy Spirit. And those who shaped the lectionary, the calendar of assigned readings. The Holy Spirit truly guided them as they chose when we would read what lessons, what gospels. All walking with us.
And from another time and place in the history of our faith, Julian of Norwich’s voice calls to us, reminding us, comforting us that: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”
So what are some ways we can find our own eye in the storm? What can we do to find that calm, that centeredness, that assurance that all will be well? How can we stay focused on that tableau at Martha and Mary’s house?
Contemplative prayer, spiritual direction, quiet time for meditation, small groups with whom we share our lives and faith journeys. All can help us to continue to feel grounded, at peace, when the storm crashes around us. And we can pray each day that God will help us to find our eye in the storm, a calm place, where we focus on Jesus and what he wants for us in our lives and in the lives of all people. Then in the evenings, we can thank God for what we found there. We can be assured that we will find the wisdom, the peace, for which we yearn.
And as we move more and more deeply into the eye of the storm, we will rejoice as the planets continue to orbit around the sun, electrons whiz around their nuclei and we join Jesus, Mary and Martha in their tableau, in the place of hope and confidence, in that place where we once again know for certain that: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”