Newsletter: “The strange gift of vulnerability”


Dear Friends of Second Church,

On Monday, I had to be in the city for a short medical procedure on my right eye. It went fine—I was in, I was out, I was on the subway and back in a comfortable chair in no time.

But after an hour or so, I started to feel some discomfort—not pain, exactly, just that “this doesn’t feel like I remember it felt the last time” sort of feeling—and I began to wonder if this was one of those things you just wait through, as we do so much of the time, or if this was something I was supposed to be tending to right away.

I thought about calling the doctor to check. Or calling Liz to see what she thought I should do. I wondered if I should call someone to drive me home rather than taking the train. And it was then that my discomfort really began, because I realized, all of a sudden, that I couldn’t call anyone at all. I had left my cell phone back in Greenwich.

I also realized that: my parents were in New York City; my in-laws were in New York City; the doctor I had seen that morning was in New York City; half of my friends from college were in New York City; many from our congregation were at work in New York City. If you ever need help in New York City, call me: I can get someone there in ten minutes. Or, actually, that’s something I can do… if I have my phone.

Well, I decided to wait the situation through for a while. But as I did, I had a new sense of my own vulnerability.

Of course, we all deal with the unexpected on a regular basis—that’s what life is. However, what makes us vulnerable is when our strategies for dealing with the unexpected break down—when the cell phone isn’t in its customary place, when the phone number you need isn’t one you remember, when the people you rely on for help cannot be contacted.

Or maybe it’s when the parents you’ve always called for advice, or a little support, are no longer available to offer it. Or when your health takes a turn, and things you once did easily and without any thought now require tremendous care and concentration. Vulnerability comes in many forms.

What do we do when we encounter it? Are the things we rely on truly seeing us through, or are they just propping us up?

My time of vulnerability did not last long—after resolutely/foolishly getting myself home on the train, I was back in the world of the familiar, and well on the mend by dinnertime. But what if that hadn’t been an option?

It’s worth thinking about this week because so much of the story leading up to Easter Sunday is about the courage and faith of Jesus, even in the face of his own vulnerability. In no small part, the story of Easter is God’s affirmation that he remains with us in our most vulnerable moments, for he knows first hand what it is to see strategies break down, and to see the way forward plunge into confusion.

But most of all, it is to affirm that confusion never has the final word.

To walk the way of Easter is to believe in the power of forces we cannot quite see, and to trust in answers we may not entirely understand, remembering that it is often when our own familiar solutions run out that God’s most miraculous and unexpected solutions emerge. Christians affirm that “new life” does not simply mean “more life” — it means a life that is transformed, led in different ways and lived on different terms than the life that was before. For us, that can only mean a life that is grounded in love of God and neighbor—which is the only truly solid ground there is.

Even so, many hear that affirmation and are essentially unmoved. But for those who believe, and for those who have found in their own vulnerability a path they might never have known otherwise, they are nothing less than words of life.

May God grant you and those you love words of life to sustain and guide you this Easter, and always.
See you in church

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