This morning I read the lectionary pages for the day and was struck by one verse. The book Nehemiah is subtitled in my devotional Bible as “Remember Who You Are.” In this book are stories that remind the people that we are called to be partners with God. The line that drew my attention was verse 21 from chapter 9. Here it is. “Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness so that they lacked nothing; their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.” The sidebar commentary on this chapter also focused on that verse and in particular, the part about feet not swelling. God, cares about the big picture, like providing clouds and fire to show the people the way and also about the small and painful details like swollen and blistered feet.
As I read the verse and the commentary I thought about how painful swollen feet are and how hard it would be to walk any distance at all, and I was grateful for my own healthy feet and good shoes and my ability to walk everywhere in the village of Shelburne Falls where I have recently moved to. I thought also about the many older and disabled people who I have already seen in the village, walking with great difficulty up and down the hills, pushing walkers and sometimes sitting on a stone wall to catch a breathe. I know that it is going to be snowing soon and I wonder now how well the sidewalks will be cleaned and if the struggling walkers will be able to get out at all this winter. I know that God is watching out for them, while at the same time watching me watching them.
And then tonight Dorrie, unaware of my meditations today, showed me a photograph that has gone viral on the internet. It was first published yesterday in the New York Times on-line edition and has now spread across cyberspace. The photo was of a young policeman in Times Square, kneeling down to help a shoeless and homeless man who was sitting on the street with feet not only blistered and swollen but also freezing cold. The police officer had seen the man and felt called to respond (to be God’s partner) by going into a shoe store, buying him a warm pair of shoes and then bending down to help put them on. The officer said “It was freezing out and you could see the blisters on the man’s feet…I had two pairs of socks and I was still cold.” He said that this situation was “unacceptable.” For this officer the automatic and natural thing to do was not to walk on by, but to stop and help the man, as our text this morning said, so that the man’s feet would no longer swell.
I do not have to look farther than this photo and this story and this text, to see that God and God’s helpers are still reaching out to save those people who suffer through hard times. And now I can no longer watch the people in my town struggling up and down the streets without knowing that some day, maybe even tomorrow, I will have a chance to put my faith in action. God does care about the details and we are all part of the picture, one day needing help and another day walking into the store and buying a pair of shoes. In another more well read story, the one about the Good Samaritan, Jesus asks, which one was the neighbor? Yesterday, in New York City, the question got answered once again. God is working in partnership with all of us.