July 21, 2016
Quite often, Jesus made invitations to those who would follow Him. One time, it was “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and come...” and on another, it was “Leave your nets and all that’s familiar, and come....” Then there was the time that He invited Zacchaeus to get down from the “sycamore tree,” and join Him at a meal in the latter’s home. “Peter, get out of the boat, walk to me” on the Sea of Galilee; to the 12, it was “Can you drink from the cup from which I drink?” Sometimes, even these many years later, He calls us by name, and invites us to “Walk with me” - and we take up His hand and go, even when it’s challenging and difficult.
One of my favorite contemporary worship songs has Jesus inviting us, “Come away with me to a quiet place, apart from the world with its frantic pace, to pray, reflect, and seek God’s grace.... Come today with thoughts of the countless ways that God’s steadfast love blesses all our days, and join with me in silent praise.... Come away with me to a quiet place, to God’s loving arms waiting to embrace all those who come in hope of grace. Come away with me, come away!” (Mary K. Keithahn, #2202, The Faith We Sing hymnal)
In much that same way, I want to invite you to “Come away” with hopefully, a large number of folk from all over our community to this Sunday afternoon’s “Flash Mob!” It’s not a political rally, not a demonstration for/against some cause, and not even a “Methodist thing.”
On this coming Sunday, 24 July 2016, you are invited to “Come away” to a 20 minute gathering in front of the Poquoson Police Station, just down Poquoson Avenue from our Church, starting promptly at 3:00 p.m. We are inviting others from all the congregations in Poquoson to gather with us to pray for the City’s Police Officers, their families, their leaders, and those whom they “protect and serve.” (Now being United Methodists, we may have to sing a song or two, but our main purpose is to pray....!)
You might consider parking here at the Church and walking along the edge of the street, so as not to “clog up” the PD parking lot; or you may be able to park alongside the way, at the Ford dealership, in the parsonage yard, or on Odd Road or the lane that leads to the Police Department from that direction; you might find a parking place somewhere nearby, and even in the PD lot if walking is a challenge.... There will be a chest-full of chilled water at Tabernacle, and if it’s a spectacularly sunny day, you might bring an umbrella for “portable shade!” Nonetheless, please come that we might pray together.
This is not a “Blue Lives Matter” event, as if other lives did not. They do! It is a peaceful, visible, and strong way of encouragement for those who help to sustain order in our greater community every day and night, all week long. We want to pray for the chief, the newest officer, and everyone in-between, asking God to cover them with His grace, peace, and wisdom, as they go about their difficult, challenging, “every day work” in our city. We want to pray for those who answer the phone and those who drive the cars and those who step into situations of domestic tension and times where there has been loss of life. We will pray for their safety and their good judgement in their work, grounded in the experience and faith in their hearts and lives. Theirs is a profoundly difficult vocation/calling, serving and protecting others before self.
Then, we want prayerfully to lift up the family members - spouses, children, parents - of those who are members of the Poquoson Police Department. As we’ve been reminded several times lately, they don’t know “in the morning” if their loved ones will return home “safe and sound” at the end of their day/shift. I remember my own father saying once that a police officer is “never off-duty.” Their active service may conclude, but there is always an awareness within them of their surrounding situation, such that it’s not possible to simply “look away” when something’s going on that draws their attention and requires a response.
Finally, we want to pray for those whom the officers of the law serve, protect, and defend.... that would be you and me - and all those who “never darken the door” of any church or household of faith. We want to pray for the rank and file of our city’s residents, its leaders, and all those who are caught up in the network of relationships in our neighborhoods. Fire fighters, first responders, emergency medical technicians, certainly; but also those who cut the grass, teach the children, take away the trash and recyclables, and look after the good and well-being of folks in and around Poquoson.
Now, I know that this is a lot to consider in just 20 minutes! It will be an intense, important moment in our life together. No speeches; no lengthy “instruction of the Almighty” as to what we think He “could” be doing; no rehearsal of “ought and should and must.” In far less time than it has taken me to put these words together for your reading, we will gather, sing, pray, sing again, and go about our way. If you want to bring some flowers, wear blue ribbons, or share some small gift (something like bottle of cool water to drink, a card of blessing or appreciation that you’ve signed, some token of gratitude, etc.), great!
So, here’s the invitation. Come to the Poquoson Police Department station on Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. to pray for and with these public servants, and with others from communities of faith in our city. We’ll sing a song or two, offer our prayers and gifts, and then disperse to our afternoon’s leisure.
I hope you’ll come.... and invite a friend or neighbor to join you.
See you on Sunday! Flash mob! Be there!
Grace and peace,
Jim Earley, Pastor