not in vain

October 31, 2022

During practice this morning Jennifer warned me, “I’ve been losing it when I get to the end of this song, so don’t be surprised…”

Sure enough, during the offertory, I was suddenly singing alone when we came to the last chorus. I shifted to melody, and sang out a bit more, relieved to be able to go back to harmony when her voice, trembling slightly, came back in for the final repeat of the chorus. Noticing a teary-eyed face in the congregation, I felt self-conscious about my dry-eyed stoicism. A nagging voice in my head whispered that I had nothing to be reassured of in this regard; I am not, in fact, laboring in any significant manner. I have no real hardships in my own personal life, and my life is largely my own. Sure, I workplace demands, and home and family responsibilities…but I have a life of relative privilege. And I have no children, or others with any consistent demands for my attention or care. I think of the newly immigrated mother who stood next to me in the exam room this week. She undressed one infant while I held the other, swapping with me so I could get vitals for each of them. The little ones were quiet compared to most of that age, and limp in my arms.
Lord have mercy, I thought.

Have mercy on this young family as they try to live through the moments and the hours and the days with disabled twins a rambunctious toddler. 

My mind begins to race with images of all the people I see, on any given day, with needs so great and burdens so heavy.

Have mercy.

The faces of the world fade away and only one remains. I am once again gazing at the face of my grandmother, curled next to her on a small bed in a dimly lit room.

And then I too am overcome and weeping. My head bowed for the Prayer of Thanksgiving, tears roll down my face, so that when I lift it back up again, Jenn is turned to me, “You too, eh?,” she smiles, handing me a tissue.

Later this afternoon, on my way home, I stopped at a Trunk or Treat celebration. I wandered through the parking lot and admired the creativity. Two young men were breakdancing with an old school boom box, in roughly painted black t-shirts. It took a moment to recognize the square patterns and then I grinned. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I may or may not have danced a few steps myself.

At the next car, I was looking at the train of plastic toy animals heading towards the car’s trunk when I heard an eager, “Well? Do you know what it is?” I looked over at the woman and suggested Noah’s Ark. she clapped her hands together with delight and then pointed up to the top of the trunk door. “That’s my favorite part of it,” she added. I looked up to see a long strip of paper with different color stripes crayoned on it. The colors of the rainbow. I gave her an appropriately pleased grin, and complimented her work.

It occurred to me that I was doing the same as her last night in my own home, pointing proudly upwards when Peter walked in, to make sure he noticed our newly green and purple lampshade. It had begun as a purely practical impulse-an attempt to soften the harshly bright light of it. We had just moved a lamp into the living room after our “Halloween lights” burned out (we keep a strand of Christmas lights hanging above the window that come on at night to add a bit of ambience. Their name changes throughout the year, so that they morph from ““President’s Day lights,” to “St. Patrick’s Day lights” to “Mother’s Day lights”, etc, etc). So when the lamp’s light proved too harsh, I thought I’d paint it yellow. Only all my paints had dried out except for purple and green. So purple and green it is, and decidedly unimpressive to look at. But I like it.

No matter how great, or how small, our labor may seem, we all need to know that it is not in vain. We need to know that it is not unknown. That it will bear fruit. And that all that is broken will, indeed, be healed.


By Wendell Kimbrough, Paul Zach, and Isaac Wardell 

Your labor is not in vain

Though the ground underneath you is cursed and stained

Your planting and reaping are never the same

Your labor is not in vain

Your labor is not unknown

Though the rocks they cry out and the sea it may groan

The place of your toil may not seem like a home

But Your labor is not unknown

I am with you, I am with you

I am with you, I am with you

For I have called you, called you by name

Your labor is not in vain

The vineyards you plant will bear fruit

The fields will sing out and rejoice with the truth

For all that is old will at last be made new

The vineyards you plant will bear fruit.

The houses you labored to build

Will finally with laughter and joy be filled

The serpent that hurts and destroys will be killed

And all that is broken be healed

goodbye my Lady

October 3, 2022

On to Glory, Lady.

We will miss you.