Monday, May 12th, 2003
The singing is what gets me to church most Sundays; it feels good to hear folks yodel along to a simple organ. We also go with the hope that the kids can experience a community that gathers to celebrate the spirit, rather than education, commerce, entertainment or sport.
So this Sunday’s sermon surprised me.
Preacher Fran Ruthven talked, without notes, about her 11-year-old son’s cystic fibrosis, about the operation when he was one day old, about his rollercoaster ride since.
She said that now, looking back on her family’s terrifying experience and ongoing uncertainty, she can see God’s plan. I normally shudder when I hear people talk about God’s plan in relation to death, pain or evil, having once heard a fundamentalist preacher rationalize a Stalinist purge as part of God’s plan to launch a raft of Christians into Central Asia. (Yes, God works in weird and wonderful ways, brother.) I don’t buy that God sticks his nose into our daily business to do either good or evil.
But Ruthven knocked the ball in a different pocket. God wasn’t acting in the pain of her son’s illness. God was active and visible in the human responses to that illness: the doctor’s prayers, the community’s support. God is in man’s response to pain and evil.
I haven’t been surprised by a sermon in 30 years, but this one got me.