As I sat on a bench at the end of the pier, a huge flock of seagulls squawked and sang their way up the river. What looked like thousands of birds were loud, a rushing sound that could have been Babel, yet I heard something loud and clear from them that I have reflected on for the past week.
I thought I heard them say…. Or maybe it was God saying – yet it was a statement I heard my grandchildren say when they were little, “Are you picking up what I am putting down?” Seriously. Is this a word from God? That sounds more childish than I think the voice of God sounds, more confusing than even the squawk of the gulls.
The question, if it really came from God, sounds like holy exasperation to me. What a way to get my attention! “Are you picking up what I’m putting down, Lib?” Or is your tongue still lazy and your witness glaringly weak? Where are you proclaiming righteousness and serving the least and calling the greatest to more? Are you silent when you should speak and timid to live the lessons you have been taught and shown by Jesus?
The gulls were con-fabbing where they would find food for the day. Would it be in the river that was underneath them? Would they find it in the newly turned fields just beyond the tree line? Bugs and worms, or fish? At least they were seeking. They were busy making a plan to thrive. I was sitting. Silent.
The prophet hears, Have you not seen? Have you not heard? Three thousand years ago God did not speak in colloquial slang. But the message is the same. Does my witness bear forth what I really know and believe about Christ? Why is God still asking the same question? Where am I, a Christian, “putting down” what I know to be of God: acts of kindness, justice, generosity, mercy, forgiveness, hospitality, and love?
Last night I sat in a sanctuary at a church that truly is a sanctuary and heard John Pavlovitz, a preacher/prophet like John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness. He called out in a progressive voice, stand up and be the people God has called us to be. Now is the time we can’t sit idly by.
In plain sight we see the ills of a broken culture around us. It is not spin to see the pain that policy and rhetoric from pulpits and podiums, preachers and politicians inflict. Distortion of the message of Christ, sowing of division, ramping up of hate and distrust are everywhere, and it starts at the top with a president who gives new meaning to the word “base.”
Where are you, Senators and Congressmen? Where are you preachers and Bishops? Who is picking up what God is putting down? Why is it taking so long for the kingdom of God to come on earth as it is in heaven?
I thought I heard God saying to me: look for new life, find a new voice, speak a new truth. Do not shrink from speaking and writing and acting out. Next week is Holy Week. Jesus comes into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. What must he have been thinking? Jesus has picked up what God put down; he heard and followed. O God, give me faith to pick it up in my life. And let me not be afraid. Amen.