Sermon of the Week
Words to Build a Life On:
We Will Not Fear.
One of the things I love about people
is how they get animated about the things that they are passionate about.
Walk down the street with someone who fancies themself a baker
and see what happens when you pass the storefront of a bakery…
eyes light up, looking over the éclairs and the macaroons.
Spend some time hanging out with that guy who had a band in college
and see what happens when some amazing song comes on the radio.
He’s tapping out the drum rhythm to Led Zeppelin’s When the Levee Breaks
or doing air guitar to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
Take your philosopher major friend to a used bookstore,
your gardener friend walking through a well maintained urban core and their parks,
that sort of thing.
Every so often, a friend of mine who was once a journalist
will get so animated reading the news
that he’ll exclaim with great passion: Wow, look at that lede!
and no one around him will really quite know what he’s talking about.
I thought about him, yesterday, reading the New York Times
and its coverage of Hurricane Florence.
There’s was a great story that started like this:
“As the flat-bottomed fishing boat crept into the swirling river
that had once been Summer Haven Lane,
Tray Hillman scanned the brown floodwaters
and half-submerged houses
in search for somebody to save.
“Today it’s been women and kids,” Mr. Tillman said.
Now that, as my friend would say, is quite a lede.
A Lede is the opening sentence or paragraph of a news story.
It summarizes the most important aspects of the news being reported.
Back in the day, when they actually printed the news
on real paper, and smudgy ink
every inch was valuable real estate.
So every word was scrutinized
and journalists quickly developed
a style of writing
that put the key details early in the story,
knowing that they might lose anything towards the end
to the wrath of the editor’s pencil.
A well crafted lede is a thing of beauty, to a print journalist and an editor
and probably to us, too, if we stopped to think about it
instead of the story at hand.
But this lede on Saturday opened me up to a beautiful story
about the everyday heroes that worked through fatigue and stress and muck
to try to save lives in the wake of these horrible storms.
The article’s headline is telling too:
Torrents of Water in Towns Across the Carolinas. And a Guy With a Boat.
The story detailed how Tillman, who is a construction foreman,
was part of these makeshift rescue flotillas
that plucked hundreds of people stranded in attics and second-floor bedrooms
and church vestibules and crumbling decks
as the relentless rains flood rivers
and send all that water
through downtowns miles and miles away from the coast.
Inland flooding, it is reported, is maybe the biggest continuing danger
as Florence continues this weekend through the Carolinas,
and an improvised network of volunteers
from all over the world, some, they report, from as far away as Africa
sprung up to rescue those who did not evacuate.
either because they were far enough inland that they weren’t in evacuation zones
or because they were poor or hobbled and unable to get away.
I heard on NPR that some people from the KC area
left on Monday and Tuesday to go help out this week, too.
There are more than 1000 FEMA workers in the area
trained and well equipped.
There are hundreds of sheriffs deputies and firefighters.
And then there are people like Mr. Tillman,
a guy with a boat
and other unofficial groups with amazing names
you might pick for your fantasy sports teams.
That’s how I think about the Cajun Navy, at least.
They use a walkie-talkie app called Zello on their phones
to share information about people and situations they’re concerned about.
“It’s been reported that snakes are in the floodwaters around Crabtree Creek,
so I would not go outside,
we don’t want any of you all to get bit by something”
“I have two elderly people I haven’t heard from since yesterday”
[can you check on them?]
That sort of thing.
And as we watch with amazement
these powerful events and the grand human drama
of suffering and hurt and loss,
we see the incredible spirit
of people working to save each other
from waters that come up to our necks, if not higher
to use a biblical metaphor for our most fearful moments (Psalm 69:1).
And we might utter a little prayer, of hope and of deep yearning
that they all might all be ok.
Our sermon series on Words to Build a Life On is wrapping up soon.
Just this Sunday, and next Sunday.
We’ve been exploring essential ideas of our faith
that can be said in just a few words
a phrase here and there to remember. [Read more…]