painting of medieval church in summer

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Because I am modern, I assume effects have causes. I assume sciatica has a cause.

Our theory about the cause of D’s recent bout of sciatica is “stairs.” Specifically the stairs in Dayton, Ohio, at her family’s houses, that she spent a lot of time going up and down last Labor Day weekend.

As the Buddha said, though, you don’t really need to know who shot the poison arrow or from what direction or what specific kind of poison it was dipped with or so on and so forth, you need to know what to do about it. Stairs or no stairs, it turns out there isn’t much to do about sciatica but suffer.

There are various forms of suffering. One of them is going to the ER in the middle of the night, because you’d think there must be SOMETHING that would make this suffering a little more sufferable. You’d be mostly wrong, but you wouldn’t know that for sure till you’d been to the ER and back.

The effect of going to the ER in the middle of the night was partly why I attended Unitarian Universalist church with D. via live stream instead of Presbyterian church via actually being there.

[I am, yes, aware of the historic incompatibility of Presbyterians and UUs. These things happen. I always make a point of reassuring D’s UU friends of my benign status by reminding them that the Presbyterians haven’t burned any Unitarians at the stake for hundreds of years. I seem to find that a lot more hilarious than they do.]

The Presbyterians were going to read Job, which would have been timely.

The Unitarians were reflecting on vocation and the artistic expression of spiritual themes and how popular music can tap into universal human emotions. Like the longing for home, and the sadness of feeling lost and unsure of where home even is.

I automatically drifted off to think, Christianly:

That our true home is with God. So apart from God, of course we will feel lost – if we are still capable of feeling accurately. Even though we may not be clear about why, because we have learned to associate “home” with something or someone else, something or someone less ultimate than God, so that we might look around and think we are “home,” according to that less ultimate standard, and realize we still feel homesick, still feel … away from home. Lost, even.

Feeling homesick and lost is another kind of suffering. Unlike the sciatica, there’s a cure for it.

But how to offer that cure to someone who has ruled out the possibility of a cure ahead of time, or who believes it’s highly toxic … there’s a challenge.

I think rising to it must include giving people a taste of what it is like to feel “at home,” or begin to, on the way to our true home.

And that entails actually making a home for people, “being home” for people, here, where they are.

People quote Robert Frost all the time, that line from “The Death of the Hired Man,” that home is “the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in” – and forget the next line: “I should have called it, something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”

Like how I feel with the Presbyterians. Who called and texted after church and asked if we needed anything. And said “Get some rest.”

Just like home.

Flemish Baroque peasants doing summer work in a field with a church in the background
“Summer” – Pieter Brueghel the Younger
“For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” 2 Corinthians 5:4-5

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