Dr. Joretta Marshall Offers a Line of Hope

There’s a war and a plague, smoke and disaster
Lions in the coliseum, screams of laughter
Motherless children, a witness and a bible
Nothing but rain ahead, no chance for our survival

Just before the flood comes, just before the night falls
Just before the blood runs, into the valley
Just before my eyes go, just before we can’t go any further
Love throws a line to you and me

Sworn enemies for more than 20 years have embarked on a journey of peace? After nearly two decades of war and conflict, and well over 80,000 lives lost, Ethiopia and Eritrea have signed a peace treaty with an agreement to collaborate on matters of economy, environment, culture, politics, and health. Where much of the world is embroiled in power maneuvers and political posturing, these two small African countries have found a path to peace!

Then in Thailand, the twelve young boys and their soccer coach were finally rescued from a flooded cave after 18 perilous days trapped deep in the labyrinthine maze of tunnels.

It’s comforting, I think, to hear some good news these days in the context of our worries and anger around our country’s immigration practices, or the political tensions and social polarization in our country, or record heat waves and ecological worries around the world, or even the theological/doctrinal battles within our own denomination.

But as I write this, we are in the 3rd day of our Vacation Bible School at First UMC. The halls are full of chatter and laughter! Over 600 children are scattered throughout the campus in small and large groups, creating art and science, hearing stories of hope and love, singing songs of affirmation and joy! Assisted by dozens of adult and youth volunteers, the groups of kids make their way through the maze of hallways and classrooms, walking quickly in lines as they carefully follow the person in front of them to their next session, occasionally stopping to look in my office doorway or bend down to tie a shoe, and a comical “20 child pile up” ensues!

At one point, this morning, the halls were quiet as everyone seemed to be in their next classrooms when a first-grade boy suddenly stopped in my doorway. His back to me, he quickly looked down the hall one direction and then the other and then back and forth again. I think he was about to start crying when it seems he’d just realized he was standing in my open doorway and there I was sitting at my drafting table. He whimpered and sniffed and asked, “Can you please help me? I’ve lost my line!”

I smiled, “Absolutely. It couldn’t have gone far!” So I took his hand and just around the corner and there was his line, waiting for him.

Yes, here’s to some good news.

The great quote above from the Patti Griffin song, “Love Throw a Line,” reminds us along with much of the bible and our faith, that just when it looks as if the dam will break or all hope seems lost — “love throws a line to you and me.” Sometimes the line was always there, we just didn’t realize we were a part of it.

This Sunday, I will be joined by our guest speaker, the Rev. Dr. Joretta Marshall, Dean of Brite Divinity School. Also a professor of pastoral counseling and author of numerous books on creating and bridging reconciling and inclusive communities, she will share some hopeful thoughts around the text of Amos 7 — “see, I have placed a plumb line in your midst.” What is that measure of hope that guides us in all our actions and even through our most difficult anxieties? There are so many ways that love reaches out to us in some of our most difficult and exhausting periods. That line by which we measure our connection to others is also our guide in how we choose to strengthen that connection of hope with others.

I hope you can join us as

Dr. Joretta Marshall shares her message,
“The Plumbline of Hope”
with the music of Patti Griffin,
Greg Holcomb, and Jack Johnson.


Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven

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