As I am awaiting the expertise of a Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning professional (otherwise known as the "HVAC Guy") at my home, where our heater is attempting to keep up with our near record temperatures, I am struck by the immense safety my privilege affords me. Even with a "limping-along" heater, the temperature of my home can be kept 80 degrees warmer than it is outside. Meanwhile, many are unable to afford the expense of heating equipment, maintaining or fixing that equipment, or do not own homes to heat in the first place.
At the Leavenworth Interfaith Community of Hope, the Director there has recently made changes to allow for guests to stay 24 hours a day. Normally, there would be a cleaning period or time in which the shelter is fully emptied out and cleaned and reset, providing for respite for staff and volunteers. But with temperatures outside that threaten frostbite in 15 to 30 minutes, even an hour can be a threat to life.
Heat. Shelter. Food. These are the necessities for all of us. And yet for many of our neighbors, these are resources difficult to obtain. I might imagine myself in a better spot, able to obtain these through resources or connections that I have. I might imagine that our neighbors who must rely upon the services of the Community of Hope as being in a lesser spot. And yet we both must rely upon one another. For my neighbors at Community of Hope, there is a vast network of volunteers, staff, support folks, board members and community members that are relied upon for that heat and shelter. And as much as I might expect things to just "work" at my home, I am reliant upon a vast network of professionals, workers and community members also. We are dependent upon one another for our shelters to function.
I am a big fan of Luther's hymn: "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." Usually singing that song makes me imagine a mighty castle in the black forest with towers and walls and little windows. Safe behind those walls, in a great hall, illuminated by firelight, it is there I imagine God's safety from the terror and hate of the world. But as we station ourselves next to our heaters and fireplaces, keeping warm from the blistering cold of these days, perhaps just as mighty as a stone wall, the heat itself is a bulwark - a mighty fortress.
And these walls that we keep safe behind, in our homes and in our shelters, they are built and maintained by one another. The literal walls of this mighty fortress protecting from the cold; the reference that we make to God being that wall that protects us, is a product of community. Not so difficult is it then, to jump from the safety of the Divine to the work of that Divine in our work together as a community. God is our image of safety, shelter, heat and all that we need. And we can lean into that image by working together, giving to one another what we need, no matter the resources we individually amass.
As we continue to huddle next to our heater and fireplaces, in our homes or in shelters, let us give thanks to the God who gives us the example to seek out; to pursue a love for one another, no matter where we are. God's love in a warm meal, a friend’s embrace, a bed to sleep in, or, in the case of our heaters, the friendly HVAC professional keeping it warm inside. Thanks be God, and gratitude for one another.
To help with our neighbors in need of shelter, get in contact with the Leavenworth Interfaith Community of Hope at their website or by calling 913-702-8108.