Sunday, April 22, 2012
In my faith life I have opened and closed many doors. Some with a slam, some with a small click of the latch. Some with someone's foot firmly placed on the threshold. Life is composed of such things I think, opening and closing doors, windows, opportunities, lifestyles, whatevers. Some of the passages I've gone through should have been left alone. Some of them have been wondrous and God sent. Of course, you may argue that ALL were God-sent which is your privilege, but since this is my stream of thought, I'm sticking to my analogy. In the life of St. Marks, we have turned through passages sometimes facing forward and sometimes facing back. Today, we made a decision as a congregation which feels like a "facing forward" moment. In the world of fiscal responsibility, this was a good decision and well-thought out and explained by our council. We are indeed blessed with a congregational council that is willing to explore possibilities and be our representatives in the "running of the church". It was a good decision. Another congregation, just down the road had to make a decision. I don't know yet, what their decision was. But it was a hard one to make. I was briefly part of that community of faith before coming down the pike a piece. They are in a difficult place. The door is still swinging on its hinges whether to go this way or that. A friend of mine recently was officially declared divorced. The door in this case was shut while her foot was still on the threshold. She is smart, beautiful, funny and warm. She will be moving away from this rudely slammed door with her dignity in tact and her family and friends standing next to her, holding her hand and cracking smart aleck jokes to get that laugh out of her. But for me, this was a difficult door to watch close. I knew her ex. Okay, not well, apparently. But I thought I did. And he doesn't seem to be the same person he was before. I'm confused by his actions. I'm really annoyed on her behalf. I think I want some kind of closure, some kind of answer as to what happened, even though it didn't even happen to me. All those opening, but mostly closings has left me feeling somewhat scared and alone. It has reminded me that life is changing and it doesn't matter whether you are looking for change or not, it's gonna happen! And then I remembered the sermon today. The thought that Jesus is with us. Really with us, in person through all those in the pews and beyond. God was not brought into the world once and that was it. God is in the world, with us, if we but look through the doorway and see the faces on the other side. If we look to the right and left and see the faces of family in faith, we are not alone in the changes, in the closings, in the whatevers. God is with us. And no matter what door we face, whether open or closed, whether gilded or plain pine, whether in the church or out, NOTHING can separate us from the love of God. That was a promise made a long time ago. So I guess I'll keep opening and closing the doors as I go along. I just have to remember that someone is standing next to me as the next threshold comes into focus. And he's going through it with me whether I remember he's there or not.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
The flowers are blooming. The trees are festooned in their Easter finery. The grass is coming up, mostly green. Earth is renewing itself even as we wake each day. The Easter story reminds us that new life comes out of even the worst tragedies. And that the love of God for all of creation is affirmed. Yeah, yeah, "alls right with the world." But the world is not alright all the time, is it? Even Spring brings about hay fever or whatever other allergies happen to lurk with the new found airborne pollen. I wish I could remember all that great stuff about Easter all during the week. Sometimes I can't even make it through a Sunday! And those buttons and bracelets that proclaim, "What Would Jesus do?", well, they just aren't helpful to me. What Jesus would do and what I do are sometimes diametrically opposed! But the idea behind that saying is probably a good one. If we could remember that Jesus was about loving your neighbor, about listening to your fellow man (or woman), about being a servant instead of the one being served, that would be great, wouldn't it? When I leave church, I usually feel pretty good about the world in general and people in the world as well. But then someone cuts me off in traffic and my rosy glow dims somewhat. And I see someone yelling at someone else or doing something not thinking of their actions and I'm once again "of the world" and not just in it. I can't keep my head in the clouds all the time. So what can I do? Well, one thing I can do is this: I can pray more often. Hunh? Yep, I said pray. See that kneeling down and getting the posture right thing isn't the idea Jesus had in mind when teaching us about communication. I think we need to communicate better with God. And that means talking to the Almighty in the car, in the grocery store and even on the street. Before you put me away in a padded cell, though, hear me out. I'm not necessarily talking about well, talking out loud--although I guess if you felt called to do that...who am I to judge? I was thinking more along the lines of that silent commentary we have running through our minds at any time of the day. Wouldn't it be great if instead of thinking that so-and-so could use a new haircut, we would instead ask God to re-direct our thoughts to something more constructive instead of destructive? What if instead of saying to ourselves, "God, I am so useless" we thought, "God, use me as your instrument today." What if we would instead channel our thoughts to not necessarily What Would Jesus Do, but What Would Jesus Have me do? There's a world of difference with those last three words added. And it's worthy of consideration I think. What would Jesus have me do today? The next hour? The next day, week, month, year? So hooray for Spring, allergies and all. And Alleluia for Easter! And let's look for a new beginning this year. A new outlook. A new prayer life and direction. I'm all for it, how about you?
Sunday, April 1, 2012
I didn't do what I said I was going to do for Lent. I didn't really pay attention every day to the miraculous. I got sidetracked. The problem with the "looking for the amazing among the mundane" is that the mundane can be almost fascinating in its appearance. It can keep you from noticing those things like the fact that you can breathe and move and have our being. I kept being distracted. And then things happened to help me focus again. I'm writing about them not because I want your sympathy, although that would be nice, too. I'm writing about them because Lent is ending and it seems fitting to bring it up. About a month ago a woman died with whom I was friends. She wasn't my best friend. We frequently didn't talk for months. She was on my personal prayer list though. She had cancer in so many places I think in some ways I was afraid to be near her, as if I could catch it by contact. She was a gracious person. Even when it hurt to hug her, she embraced you warmly in greeting. Her eyes would light up when she saw someone she knew and she would become animated and joyful. Until that last week. Nothing could punch the wall then. It was too much pain, too much of a long struggle. Just too much. I kept in contact with her through some of her other friends. I listened to reports of her decline. I waited for the phone call to come and it came. She was well liked and respected. She was a "Godly" person and a good one as well--that doesn't always happen as we well know. And after her death, the daffodils came up in our yards. I had cut a bunch for her at this time last year and brought them around. When I saw those yellow nodding crowns I was frozen in the spot. How could she not be here for the daffodils, I thought? The season of Lent is ending for another year. Easter will be upon us next week. And she is not here for the joyful celebration of the resurrection. But then, she is, too. She's probably enjoying the biggest party in heaven as the world resounds with Alleluias. Because for her, the Lord is risen. He is risen, indeed. And she is there to see him this year. Can't think of anybody else who should be there more than her right now. So party on Elaine! The second thing which distracted me, was another death. This one was sad, but I wasn't as close to this other person as I was to the first. She was an okay person I guess. She was a teacher to both of my children in elementary school. But one of her most ardent supporters and care-givers is a friend of mine. She is generous to a fault. And so caring I look like Attila the Hun in comparison. She had given of her time, her love, her compassion, her warmth and wit so unselfishly to this person, that I was in awe. And when her friend died and left her, she was very empty. She still struggles with the emptiness of the situation. I'm not as good a friend as she, I know. But I tried to listen to her when I can. I try to encourage her when I can. Can you image how it was for Mary Magdalene to get to the tomb and find it empty? She was already feeling the emptiness. Her very good friend wasn't there to talk to anymore. He wasn't there to explain things or help to guide her or even to make light-hearted banter with her. My friend probably feel like Mary. And so I'd like to remind her that Easter comes to all of us, eventually. And that the emptiness and sorrow she feels today will probably grow less and less until the day when she is reunited with all the saints. Just a thought about Lent.