December 9, 2007
I have a toothache. The dentist knows which tooth hurts but I can’t exactly tell. He says it is because of “referred pain.” It is an interesting concept, isn’t it? The source of the pain projects itself somewhere else, so that I think it is another tooth that needs work. And I wonder if maybe that is the calling of the church – to be the source of the world’s referred pain. Maybe we are to be the location where the pain of homelessness and hunger, war, and the impact of natural disasters lodge. Maybe we are the place that registers the pain when all other places are numb or in shock or oblivious. And if we do, indeed, feel the pain of the world, then we also must respond. Pain, after all, is a sign that something is wrong, that there is a danger that can threaten or cause damage. Pain is a message that action is needed. What would it be like if the church responded to the referred pain of the world by taking steps to ease that pain, to treat the source of the distress? I think we do that at our church by working to feed the hungry. I don’t think there are many folks who show up on Sunday morning with rumbling stomachs, but I do think that some come with souls that are growling because they share the hunger of the world. This month, our offerings go to the local food bank. That is a good thing. And it is also good that we are the nerve that feels the referred pain of the world around us.