What’s in your wallet?

“What’s in your wallet?” – that’s the tagline of a credit card company trying to convince us that we need their product to successfully navigate the world. With this in your wallet, they proclaim, you can face any challenge.

          But that made me wonder – what else do we carry in our wallets?  What hidden treasures are held within this mundane carrying case?

          It reminds me of a time when I was helping my father-in-law fill out a pile of forms necessary to move into assisted living.  They needed lots of information – his driver’s license number, social security number, health insurance number.  Again and again, he would say, “I have that – it’s in my wallet.”  He handed me his wallet to look through.  As I was searching for the information, a small black and white photo dropped out.  It was a picture of his son,  my husband’s older brother who had passed away 15 years earlier.  My father-in-law grabbed the photo and at first looked almost angry, then maybe embarrassed.  Finally, this quiet and private man said to me, “I always carry him with me.”

          Since that time, whenever I encounter someone, I always wonder, “What’s in their wallet?”  What hurts are they carrying with them? Who are they missing? What is private and precious to them? Who is near and dear to their heart – hidden from view but always close to them?

          I try to let that thought influence my behavior when I encounter someone who is rude or surly, withdrawn or distant.  I try to wonder – what’s in their wallet?  What load might they be bearing? What unspoken truths do they carry with them?

          This is where the “love kindness” part of Micah’s dictate (Micah 6:8) comes in. We are commanded to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.

Every day we encounter many people.  I suspect all of them are yearning for kindness – or at least decency and respect. Every day we meet people who are carrying some burden with them. Without ever knowing what is in their wallet, we can endeavor to treat them with the kindness they deserve.

Holy Week: Good Friday

During Holy Week we are invited to consider Jesus’ final days and wonder what those events might say to us today.

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.   (Luke 23: 44-46)

     Death comes in many ways; it can be tragic, gruesome, or unjust as Jesus’ was. It can also be a relief, a release, and a blessing. Death is a holy mystery that we cannot explain. A person embodies a physical presence and then – in a moment or after a lingering illness or tragically, unexpectedly – that person is no longer on this earth. They have gone to place we cannot follow. And though our love or relationship may still endure, we are separated from them in a way we cannot explain.

    Jesus was the Son of God. He did not have to suffer a human demise. Yet his willingness to endure death assures that I will not be alone when my own path inevitably leads me to the end of my days. He has gone before me. I visualize a trailblazer who will continue to guide me into the unknown beyond just as surely as he does right now.

     The death of another can leave us brokenhearted. Thoughts of our own death can paralyze us with fear. What can we learn from Jesus’ final act of courage? What does Jesus’ faith and trust tell us about the final moments of life? Can we turn ourselves and our loved ones over to God’s care with those same words, “Into your hands I commit my spirit”? Can we trust that our loved ones are safe in God’s care?

     Good Friday tells a sad story that nonetheless offers comfort and hope. God’s steadfast love endures forever – in life, in death, and beyond the life we know into life eternal.

Prayer for Las Vegas

God of peace,

We pray for all affected by the violence in Las Vegas.

We pray

For singing and dancing turned into terror and loss

For joy turned into sorrow

For lives ended too soon.

We pray

For families across the country who are suddenly thrown into grief.

For your healing presence to be with the wounded,

To surround those who have witnessed horror with your compassion.

We ask you to

Bless the first responders: the police, EMT’s, doctors and nurses

who share your love by caring for your people.

Today let us

Treat one another gently.

Speak words of kindness.

Reach out to those in pain.

Let us not be swayed by evil but rather strengthened by your faithfulness.

You who are always with us, hear our prayer.  Amen.