It has been a hard winter in my part of the Midwest. Frigid temperatures, higher than normal snowfall, blustery Plains winds.
One Saturday, a blizzard closed the interstate highway for miles as trucks jackknifed and visibility shrunk. The snow attacked us in icy horizontal shards, the city asked everyone to stay home and an eerie urban silence enveloped neighborhoods.
“Wouldn’t it be awful if you had planned your wedding for today?” I asked.
Of course, some people had.
In the Omaha World Herald March 2, Marjie Ducey chronicles the heartening story of a young couple in a small Nebraska town whose wedding was sidetracked by this whiteout blizzard. Even their “fun bus,” which was supposed to transport the bridal party from their little Lutheran church to a city reception venue 40 miles away, was canceled.
The community rallied. The fire station, four blocks from the church, contained a party room, and people began to decorate. A woman who didn’t know the couple baked cakes. The fire department provided an ambulance to take people from the church to the fire station. Someone knew a nearby disc jockey. Liquor cabinets opened all over town.
I grew up in a small town, so it didn’t surprise me that 550 people had been invited to the wedding. It’s come one, come all. Less than half that number made it, but it was still quite a party.
A few people spent the night on pews in the church, and helpers plowed trails for those who needed them.
I was so happy to read this story that I cried. Because right now, my weary heart — and probably yours — can use some good news.
Consider the news we’ve digested in just a couple of weeks. Cardinal George Pell of Australia, convicted of child sexual abuse. Testimony by our president’s longtime lawyer reminded us that we’ve become inured to phrases like “payment to a porn star.”
A rapper is accused of sexually abusing underage girls, a titan of business allegedly sent photos of his private parts, an NFL team owner faces charges that he solicited sex in a “massage” parlor where women may have been trafficked, and an MLB team owner is filmed in what resembles a physical altercation with his wife.
Amid this sordidness, we move into Lent.
We need to remain committed to being informed. But during Lent, might we consider how to avoid becoming immersed and overwhelmed by scandal and search for the good news community provides?
The 40 days of Lent mirror the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert before he began his ministry. There, the devil tried to tempt Jesus, lonely and hungry, with power, with pride, with the ability to control things for his own benefit. Jesus resisted.
Throughout his ministry, these are the temptations against which Jesus railed. He chose the weak over the powerful, he distained the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who placed rules above people. He elevated women, defending them against stone throwers and welcoming the tears lavished on his feet. He constantly cautioned against greed and wealth.
Jesus lived a life in contradiction to the powerful, of his own time and ours. Maybe it’s time to go to the desert for Lent, and ask Jesus how to proceed. Maybe we should spend more time with Jesus, asking how the way forward might be found in community.
It’s good to remember that Jesus began his ministry in community, at a wedding, and his presence in that community heralded good wine appearing seemingly out of nowhere. A little bit like it did at a wedding in rural Nebraska.