Sometimes, People of Faith Love Irrationally


An A bell waiting for me to ring. A student in his MMU shirt is reflected in the bell.

An A bell waiting for me to ring. A student in his MMU shirt is reflected in the bell.

Thanksgiving week started, as it often does, with the Monday night interfaith service, this time at the Unity Center on Blairs Ferry Road.

The format was a bit different this year. Instead of a selection of readings from a broad range of faith traditions, the night featured a speech by Clint Twedt-Ball, co-founder of the group Matthew 25 which has done flood recovery work in Cedar Rapids.

His speech was a pretty powerful one, I thought. He acknowledged that many government officials worried about faith agencies being too active in flood recovery—the concern being about how a diversity of people would be treated. And he noted that those concerns have some legitimacy. But he also noted that what unites all great faith traditions is the idea of unconditional love—of altruistically doing things that benefit others in ways that can’t be rational or self-serving.

It was a pretty potent message, and well stated, I thought.

And the music of the night, provided by the Unity Spirit Choir and the Mount Mercy Hand Bell Ensemble went well, too. Honestly, that was a blessing. The rehearsal about a half hour beforehand was a bit rough—but I guess sometimes bad rehearsals come before good programs, and the irrational deity seemed to be on our side tonight.

I think it went pretty well, although I still felt a few eighth notes were ganging up on me now and then. And it’s always hard for me to judge from my vantage point. In the middle of bell music, my own big bells sound so loud that I can’t really hear the whole song.

Still, I seemed to start when the ringing started and ended with the others in the choir, and that was good.

Our final song. "Let All Things Now Living," also known as "The Ash Grove." "To God in the highest, hosanna and praise."

Our final song. “Let All Things Now Living,” also known as “The Ash Grove.” “To God in the highest, hosanna and praise.”

In the midst of trying times, of racial wounds unhealed, of a violent world still struggling with who deserves atomic weapons (I suppose the clear answer is nobody, but that’s not an answer that is easy to achieve), of hunger and disease, of an early winter and icy roads—well there is also a lot still to be grateful for: For people motivated to come out on a cold night and share food for others, for church ladies who make cookies, for my sister and her spouse who came to the service, for a brief interlude with grandkids before I came to the concert, for some progress made today on the backlog of grading this semester, for family and food and gatherings to take place this week.

Rabbi Todd Thalbum said tonight that, in the Jewish tradition, one is expected to find at least 100 things each day to thank God for. I suppose a decent night of ringing can count. So, thanks.

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