This past Sunday morning I met the end of myself. I didn't know it would happen as it did, and I certainly never imagined it would happen in the middle of the hustle and bustle. But sure enough it happened and, looking back, I am so glad it did.
If you were in worship on Sunday morning, you know that our musician for the day sent a text that morning to say that she was in the ER. So, I scrambled to put together a CD of service music for worship that morning. I had also brought in Fellowship Treats, unaware that someone had signed up after I left the church Thursday evening for my Sabbath. SO I was trying to do this as well. I also hadn't gotten the online worship service pre-recorded for Sunday due to my knee injury and subsequent doctor's appointments, so I set my phone and the tripod up on Sunday morning to Live Stream the worship service to the church's Facebook page.
Evidently, I should never play poker. For many reasons, really, but for one in particular: My face tells everything. It always has. And what my face was saying Sunday morning, I think, was "I am anxious. I am sad. I am overwhelmed. I am exhausted." And that's when it happened. I met the end of myself. I met the end of myself, and my hustle, and my tendency to over-function. I met the end of myself, and met the beginning of community....and I met that beginning in you.
When I finally stopped trying to do all of the things, I met concern. I met kindness. I met camaraderie. I met relief. Through offers of help. Through hugs. Through willing hands ready to pitch in. Through encouraging words. Through laughter and conversation and a mutual desire to care for each other, I met the end of myself and my limitations and found new life in the embrace of St. Paul's Beloved Community. And I thank God that I did.
I know some weeks that church feels like one more thing to do. I know if feels like one more direction we're being pulled in. But I also know what a DIFFERENCE your presence makes for me and for others when you show up. For someone, your presence isn't "one more thing," it's "the only thing" that pulled them through. For someone, your presence is what pulls them back from a direction filled with despair. For someone, you and your willingness to be church and offer community support and connection is just what they need to be reminded that not one of us gets through this by ourselves...not you...not even me.
Each of us free-fall from time to time. That is a part of the human condition. But, to quote the fictitious doctor, Meredith Grey, from ABC's Grey's Anatomy, "If there's an upside to free-falling, it's the chance you give your friends to catch you." May each of us take the chances we are given to catch one another in the embrace of a loving, compassionate, grace-filled community. Maye each of us remember that this community is here to catch us too.
Free-falling into grace with you,
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen was called as the pastor of St. Paul Congregational UCC in June of 2020. Prior to her call to St. Paul, Pr. Melissa worked as a hospice chaplain in the Ames, IA area, following pastorates at rural churches in Central Iowa and Southern Illinois. Pr. Melissa is a second-career pastor with a background in agribusiness and production & supply operations. She received her M.Div. from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO, and holds a MA Ed. in Adult Education and Training, and a BA in Organizational Communications.