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December 2, 2008
This place is a madhouse, I tell Christina as I make it into the office and flatten myself dramatically against the closed door. The thrift shop is setting up in the parish hall, a tsunami of Christmas decorations, designer handbags, shawls, cookbooks, children's jackets, skirts, trousers, tea sets, rolling pins and pillow slips that inundates us every month. It has been said authoritatively that matter can be neither created nor destroyed; I look at the thrift shop's swell of offerings, and am not so sure.

Christina raises one eyebrow and nods from her desk, without taking her eyes off the Moroccan man who is trying to explain something complicated to her in stumbling Italian. Two Sri Lankan men wait their turn outside the door: if the church can fax a request on their behalf to an agency here in Florence, there is a chance that they will find work there. The telephone on her desk begins to ring. In the back classrooms, a child wails inconsolably after his mother, who is trying in vain to detach him from her leg and exit the children's play group, so that he can learn to play well with others.

St. Clement's was a madhouse, too, of course, I reminded myself. All churches are, especially at this time of year. So much to do! And so little time! The greatest single truth about parish work is this: it is never finished. Never. If it ever is, look about you. The Rapture will have happened.

This is the time of year when a cherished thing, or maybe two or three, may have to be thrown overboard. It might be something you've always done. It might be something you've always loved to do. You might be torn between equal measures of relief and sorrow just thinking about jettisoning it. You don't have to, of course, You can always soldier on with it. But you can also not. Sometimes that is much the better part of valor.

There was a time before you started to do that beloved thing you think the world can't live without. There was a time before it ever happened. As wonderful as it is, the world managed all those centuries without it, and can probably do so again. And the space it leaves behind will be filled with a spacious green abundance the world just may need even more.

Wheat That Springeth Green

Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

In the grave they laid him, love whom men had slain,
Thinking that never he would wake again.
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green,

Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain,
He that for three days in the grave had lain.
Quick from the dead my risen Lord is seen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Thy touch can call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.
--words by John Crum, 1928
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