I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;Psalm 9:1
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
Isn’t it significant that scripture ties thankfulness to testimony? Praise with proclamation? Here in Psalm 9, for example, how the internal “heart”-work of giving gratitude to God flows into public declarations of God’s work. Silent thanksgiving is only one necessary part–we need to tell, and hear, about the good news.
It seems fitting, then, that I came across the incredible story of Casey McIntyre during this past week, first in a Twitter post, and then in a feature article in the Washington Post. Ms. McIntyre, a thirty-something wife and mother who worked in publishing, died recently of ovarian cancer. During the years of her illness, even as her own insurance was excellent, she became aware of other patients who were struggling to pay their medical bills–and witnessed the dire effects it had on their treatment. She was determined to do something. Then, her husband saw a video about the Trinity Moravian Church in North Carolina, which has taken to purchasing medical debt and paying it off through RIP Medical Debt, a “debt jubilee” website. According to the Washington Post, “[f]or every $100 donated, the company relieves $10,000 of medical debt.” McIntyre and her husband began donating to the company and, more importantly, decided that that would be her legacy: to use her obituary to pay off as much medical debt as she could. This is part of what her husband posted on Twitter:
to celebrate my life, I’ve arranged to buy up others’ medical debt and then destroy the debt. I am so lucky to have had access to the best medical care at MSKCancerCenter and am keenly aware that so many in our country don’t have access to good care. https://bit.ly/CaseysMemorialAndDebtJubilee
To date, her effort has yielded donations over $600,000–which will translate to something like $60 million in debt relief.
A jubilee, indeed. A powerful story of generosity. A story that needs wide telling.
But, of course, “good news” means hearing all the news, even the sad news that young women die of cancer and that people lack medical care and adequate resources. Part of telling the “good news” is to highlight how badly we need it.
As has become a bit of a custom, then, I end today by offering a prayer from my beloved friend and colleague, Jane Zwart. Jane’s prayer reminds of all the burdens from which we need freedom–jubilee–and from whence our delivery ultimately comes.
In this Thanksgiving week, may we be hearers of the good news–and tellers, too.
Intercessory Prayer to Accompany Matthew 23.1-12 by Jane Zwart
You are our Instructor. And we are your disciples. Though sometimes we, your disciples, are also Pharisees: the good we do calculated for other people to see. So let us take this time with our eyes closed and be, for this moment, seen only by you. Let us take this moment and not try, for once, to appear better than we are or to make light of what is heavy.
Because Jesus, we come to you with heavy, cumbersome loads. And some of what we bear we do tie up and place on others’ shoulders. You have seen us shift blame to those least able to protest. You’ve seen us pile abuse on scapegoats. In your sight, let us begin again; teach us to humble ourselves instead of each other. Help us shoulder our own wrongs. Or how will we repent?
Jesus, we come with heavy loads, so look tenderly on us-–especially those of us who walk into church with leaden feet because we’re unsure of our welcome. Look tenderly on those of us burdened with things we have been carrying so long we don’t even know where we picked them up–-or how: addictions and anxieties, the reflexes of cynicism and prejudgment. And teach us where–and how–to set our burdens down. Summon us to the foot of your cross.
Jesus, we come with heavy loads, so let us see what you see: how we have saddled ourselves, almost willingly, with so much of what we carry. How we have hoarded resentments, how we have put on the ugly jewelry of self-righteousness, how we have weighed our hearts down with idols. Let us recognize dross for what it is. Purify us.
And, Jesus, look upon the weight of this world concussed by bombs and warmed by fossil fuels. Look upon us, who feel but cannot bear the weight of the aid trucks that can’t cross into Palestine; the dead weight of our siblings, Russian and Gazan, Israeli and Ukranian, Sudanese and Afghani; the heaviness of sickness and of grief. Remind us, O Christ, that it does not make us Pharisees to trust the weight of the world to you, who gave it shape and heft. At the same time as we trust you, though–you who have the whole world in your hands–instruct us that we might ease the cumbersome loads of those we travel alongside.
And where there is joy–-for there is joy–-let us not miss out on it because what we do is done for people to see. In a moment, when we open our eyes, let us focus not on our own achievements or ambitions but on what you have done: how you knit us together in our mothers’ wombs, how you mend what is broken. Open our eyes and let us see our way to abandoning our places of honor joyfully, humbly, and unselfconsciously so that we might play with little children and feast with the unpresentable. So that we might give ourselves over to love.