I found myself carrying my phone around and checking it for the time (isn’t that a statement of our times!?)… I found myself curious about where we were in time, how much longer.
And yes, that was on All Saints’ Sunday.
As people of faith, we mark time.
We live in a liturgical year. Seasons are marked by liturgical events. Some correspond with Calendar dates, some correspond with the Lunar Calendar (Ah, Easter/Passover). Biblically time is marked by 40’s (days for Jesus in the wilderness and Noah on the ark, and 40 years in the wilderness for Moses). We can think of the 7 days of creation and even the number 12. We mark the three days after Good Friday, the 50 days after Easter, the four weeks of advent, the 12 days of Christmas.
We are constantly marking time. Last week in particular my time was marked as a bible study that started the first week we closed the church completed a 31 chapter book. One week at a time, we marked our weeks with a small gathering to talk about the message of hope even in trying times.
We are marking time differently in these pandemic days, perhaps no one other than Dr Fauci knew we were going to be counting time like this for so long.
With hope and lament we realize the differences from now and March.
We recognize with sadness that we cannot do everything that we might want to do and when we might want to do it.
Reflecting back in our bible study, we realized we have had some rough times. We have lost members of our community and we have also had new beginnings, births, weddings, baptisms. New little Joys that we savor and treasure.
We know that we are never alone.
As we enter the month of November we journey towards an American holiday of Thanksgiving and our culture emphasizes gratitude.
We are also living in an election season. A time of waiting and process and potential dispute.
The Days are shorter and the nights longer here in the Northern hemisphere, it’s easy to only see the darkness.
In the christian faith tradition, we light candles as we prepare for Christmas. Our Jewish brothers and sisters light candles for Chanukah, celebrating triumph in trying times. In the season of Advent we hear a lot about light shining in the darkness, reminding us we are never alone we are never without help.
In this season, remember to reach out. You are never alone. We are here for each day each other.
Update on my watch: My watch needed to be turned off and rebooted and re-sync-ed with my phone. I had to manually shut it down and then wait while it reacquainted itself with my Phone. It took time, patience and letting go- the re-syncing takes time to do it right.
Where can you see the seasons right now?
Where can you see the need for light in our anxiety?
Where can you re-sync yourself? Re-Boot? Re-connect?
You are not alone, you are enough, you are connected. Remember to take time to let that “sync” in.
O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
An anniversary is a time where we pause and reflect.
And each anniversary is different.
With Wedding anniversaries, we celebrate the day, the marriage, the children and the legacy. Some anniversaries are harder. When marriages end in divorce these anniversaries are transformed.
When we remember a loved one who has died, these anniversaries are full of our hearts heavy with emotions.
This past week and weekend, as we remembered the 20th anniversary of September 11th, the news was full of stories of families, loved ones, those who have died, those who have survived that day. There is joy for those who survived and there is deep heart wrenching pain for those lives that were lost.
On the September 12th of 2001, St. Paul’s Chapel transformed from a historic little chapel used for services as an annex for Trinity Wall Street to the main space of sanctuary for those who were doing the rescue work in the rubble of the World Trade Center. Remarked as the “Little Chapel that stood” this little space had no structural damage despite the proximity to the World Trade Center. The only change visible was a fine layer of dust covering the pews because a window had been left cracked the night before.
And on 9/12 the chapel opened as a space for compassion and hope. The sanctuary became a space for those who needed rest, prayer, nourishment of mind, body and soul. Letters streamed in from all over the globe and you have seen the photos of firefighters sleeping in the pews, sleeping in the pews because they lived so far from the site that they could not get home and return in time for the next shift- St. Paul’s Chapel gave the tired, the weary, the exhausted a space to rest. The Volunteers serving in the chapel lived each day into the true meaning of compassion, to hold the suffering and fatigue of those doing recovery work and be present with them.
If 9/11 was destruction, 9/12 was a crossroads.
What would we do, as a nation, as a city, as a family, as the church.
St. Paul’s Chapel chose to fling wide the doors and meet people exactly where they were. Opening to each person for 24hours a day for prayer, meals, rest, and care. The focus was less upon who was whom and instead focused upon the brokenness that needed repair. Words of Comfort, Words unspoken through hugs, compassion needed and received. All gathered there were walking towards the pain so that healing could begin.
In today’s gospel we are at again at a crossroad. Jesus and his disciples have gone as far north as Jesus will go in the gospel of Mark. We are very much outside of cozy hometown Galilee, we are in Gentile country. Here, in Caesarea Philippi (named for the King who claimed he was the son of God) is where Jesus asks that question. The question that all three synoptics ask. Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do they say that I am.”
It’s a survey question- what are people saying about me?
What’s the feedback? Tell me.
And they do, they answer the survey question with the things their friends and family are saying- you are a prophet, you are John the Baptist, you are Elijah….. so many wonderful things. Each of these references speak to Jesus’ actions calling for realignment with God, his healings, his teachings. These actions are similar to the prophets, to Elijah, to John the Baptist who had gone before him.
And then Jesus gets personal. He asks directly- Who do you say that I am?
And I can imagine the silence.
The silence of thinking.
Perhaps the disciples needed to journal a bit and think about it.
Perhaps they were afraid of being wrong
Perhaps they agreed with what others were saying and weren’t sure of another answer.
Peter valiantly says, “YOU are the messiah”- the anointed one.
The one we have heard all about…….
Great job peter……. Gold Star!
And then Jesus points out the cross road…..
They will literally begin their turning point here in the gospel. The group will turn back towards the south and the rest of the Gospel will be facing and journeying towards Jerusalem. We know what happens in Jerusalem, the disciples, remember do not fully understand.
The disciples know a Messiah was to come to be militant and fight, rebuild the temple, battle for the poor, attack the oppressors.
Jesus tells the disciples and Peter, as the messiah his fight for the poor will be through compassion. Literally suffering on their behalf, the anointed one will fight in a way that will bind up the brokenness with a love that demands justice and transforms the world with a love that is self-sacrificing and unconquerable.
And at this cross road, Peter chooses to boldy caution Jesus. I can imagine that Peter figured he did so well with that first answer he might have some more wisdom within him. Peter is trying to fit Jesus into his own definition and Jesus meets him where he is and continues to transform his path.
Jesus is clear. SO clear.
Get Behind me Satan, OUCH.
Jesus says the messiah is willing to walk towards the suffering, not seeking it, but walking towards it to transform the world and the modern understanding of how to move forward, how to bring about community, how to create healing in a world that is so full of pain.
Jesus says to come and eat, seek and ye shall find, sit a while here with me and lean on me. Listen to me, I will give you rest, I will give you living water, I will give you what you need for transformation.
Jesus never claims that the path is easy.
In fact, he speaks over and over again about the suffering and challenges a life of following will look like.
He also leads us through the path together.
To see a third way, a new way.
We are in the midst of crossroads in our lives.
As we remember anniversaries.
How will we react in our pain, our loss, our brokenness? How are we transformed?
As we are in the midst of change,
How will we see open doors and new beginnings at the same time of closing chapters?
How will we walk towards suffering with compassion, knowing that this is what Jesus has shown us as he turned his face towards Jerusalem and transformed what a Messiah would look like?
We are at a crossroad each day that we are given.
It is a time to meditate, reflect and then ACT.
And at that crossroad we are invited to lean in and follow the path for justice and healing.
Mary Oliver in her poem, “What I have learned so far” put it like this: “The gospel of
Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of host, to me!
My thirsty soul desires and longs within thy courts to be
My very heart and flesh cry out, O living God, for thee.
Do you remember the children’s book “My nest is best”- where Mr. and Mrs. Bird argue about where home should be. Mr. Bird begins in their bird house with “this nest is best” BUT Mrs. bird disagrees and so, dutifully Mr. Bird flies with Mrs. Bird on the search for a new nest. After several attempts, Mrs. Bird ends up back in their original nest and says, “she has changed her mind- this nest is best” and they settle into their original nest where they hatch a new baby bird.
You might be wondering why on earth I am sharing this children’s story now and not during the children’s homily and the reason is this: Let’s be honest, We are all on a search for home aren’t we?
As a people of faith we are searching for a place to belong, a place to “center down” and be still and know that God is here, a place where we can in turn go out and serve from and then continue to grow as children, young adults, or adults- whatever stage you are.
I think this story resonated with me because growing up in the military our “nest” kept changing every 2-3 years. Our house would look different, our friends would change, and so would our context. We learned about how to pick apples in apple season when we lived in Washington State and we learned all about how NOT to touch Cactus in Arizona. I learned German in Berlin, Germany and a southern accent in Georgia.
And while we never lived in the same house twice, we realized that we had a nest as a family, beginning fresh in each space, learning and growing in each new location and finding where we belonged. The physical structures would change but God’s presence with us never did.
The people of God in the bible are always searching for their home. To be honest, ever since the garden of Eden, humanity has been seeking how to belong. The Israelites are not at home in Egypt nor are they at home in the wilderness either and yet God is there present with them.
God’s people are a people on the move and God is there present with them. The Ark of the Covenant is created to carry the 10 commandments WITH the Israelites. A container to hold the holiest of holies and allow these words to travel with the people as they continued their journey. King Solomon built the Temple to house these tablets but the presence of God cannot be contained by a building, the presence of God is right there within you, always.
We are reminded in today’s gospel reading that the disciples leave their homes to follow Jesus and continue in this sort of itinerate ministry following Jesus’ command to “Go forth and make disciples of all nations”- home is where the heart is and the heart of Jesus calls us not to be sedentary but to go out into the neighborhood, the messiness of life. To be on the move, just like Jesus.
When we participate in the Eucharist, eating the body and blood of Jesus, we abide in Christ. We are connected with God and are at home with God. Later in the Gospel of John, Jesus says we are to abide in him, be at home with God through the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The disciples say to Jesus today “This teaching is hard.”
And Jesus says, “It is hard AND it is the truth.” And Jesus believed they could do hard things.
God believes we can all do hard things.
And boy, is our world full of hard things right now.
We have seen the photos and videos of the desperation of people in Afghanistan.
We have seen the thousands who have died and those without homes because of the earthquake in Haiti.
Our sisters and brothers in Cuba do not have access to vaccines, medicines, and even food is scarce in their small villages.
And we are seeing numbers of COVID cases and deaths rise in our community.
And yet, like the wandering Israelites, like the disciples who complained to Jesus, God is constant to us and here with us, even in these difficult times.
While homes may change, still abiding in our hearts is the courage and the wisdom of a God who does not abandon us. A god who calls us to care for our brothers and sisters here in Tallahassee and beyond. A god who compels us to speak hard truth and advocate for those who need care.
Jesus asks the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away” referring to those who stopped following him, and Peter replies, “Where else would we go!?”
As disciples, they have left everything and at the same time they have gained everything too. In leaving behind their old lives, they have opened their hearts to a deeper path, a path that was one day at a time and one teaching at a time. Peter knows that he belonged in the twelve, in the group following Jesus and it was there he wanted to learn more, to grow in this knowledge of who God is through Jesus.
Even if ministry was hard,
even if this life redefined home.
You have the words of eternal life, Peter says.
I want to know more.
I want to follow you.
We know that Peter gets it right and gets it wrong, too. We know Peter, like the Israelites questions what is best. And Jesus teaches again what it means to be a follower.
A life of discipleships means compassion, suffering with those we love.
A life of discipleship means learning more and continuing to grow in the knowledge and love of God.
A life of discipleship means acknowledging that we are in this together, walking one step at a time on a pilgrimage of faith.
Psalm 84 and our Sequence hymn sing: “How lovely is your dwelling place.”
Remember, Jesus was born in a stable, lived in a tiny town his whole childhood, traveled to people’s homes and stayed there a while as an adult- no house of his own. It doesn’t matter the “where” that dwelling place is- Peter says, “what matters is the who is with you.”
Our thirsty souls and flesh cry out for the living God. And will only be satiated when we realize that, as Jesus in the gospel of John says, “Abide in me and I will abide in you.”
We carry our home with us, because there in our heart God already resides, ever present, ever ready to give us the courage and wisdom to battle our fears and compel us into the messiness of life.
Wherever you are on your spiritual journey- you are already home because God dwells in you before you even realize it.
Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
O bread of life from heaven, O food to pilgrims given, O manna from above: feed with the blessed sweetness of your divine completeness the souls that want and need your love.- J.S. Bach
Do you remember 18 months ago when there was a shortage of flour on the grocery store shelves?
People were buying flour because they were at home. More activities were at home which allowed people time to bake. And specifically we saw the rise of the Sourdough starter. The perfect marriage of science project and nutrition for those of you who eat gluten.
Bread is an interesting creation.
Simple ordinary ingredients: Flour, water, yeast and the perhaps butter or milk combined.
Just putting the ingredients together is not sufficient though, you have to force the ingredients to combine- they call the process kneading…. And it’s hard work.
The experts take the dough and on a floured surface roll the dough over and over and over again, transforming the sticky mess into a soft pliable dough.
The dough is then stretched to the form desired and let to rest.
Literally you have to walk away and let go.
On returning you see the gift of letting the dough “do it’s thing” and rise.
Depending on the end product you may have to knead it again, punch it down and let it rise one more time.
And then when it is ready you place it in the oven to cook.
Once baked, it is ready to be consumed.
A loaf of Bread is a labor of love, each loaf unpredictable, yet through the process bread is a unique creation for nourishment.
Bread for the journey.
The bread making process is time consuming,
patience and vision towards the end product.
Secretly, I always rejoice a bit when that first rise happens- proving that I did not accidentally kill the yeast with water that was too hot…. I wait impatiently, I wait expectantly.
When we hear the word “bread” in the church we cannot help but think of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, the breaking of the bread. Together, sharing the table with his beloved friends remembering the exodus from Egypt when God told the people of Israel to eat so quickly that the bread did not have time to rise for the journey towards freedom from oppression.
We remember also the manna God granted the Israelites during their time in the wilderness, no kneading involved with this quick bread, it appeared every morning ready to eat (first MRE?) just enough for the day. The Israelites worked with what they had for that part of their life, I am sure they dreamed of the promised land of milk and honey to add to their bread.
Remember also Abraham and Sarah when the angels visited them, Abraham invites the visitors to sit at the table and share a meal, bread and conversation- nourishment for the stranger.
Remember Elijah and the widow who had just enough for one and God multiplied it for their survival.
We have the miracle of the loaves and fishes feeding more than they possibly should and we are reminded that the disciples are sent out with just enough bread for the journey no more or no less.
And we can’t help but remember the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They shared a meal with that stranger who, in the breaking of the bread, they realize they are eating with Jesus himself.
Jesus takes the ordinary and reimagines and expands our understanding of what we need to be nourished and to thrive with what we are provided.
The past 18 months have taken the ordinary and reimagined it for us.
We may have felt the process of being made into bread over and over again.
The kneading process punching us down again over and over again.
And yet there have been moments of rising, of flourishing, or new beginnings, awarenesses.
New connections and prayer buddies.
While we have experienced changes that we didn’t expect, we continue to find the manna for each day, knowing the bread of everlasting life is present to us also.
The NZ book of Common prayer begins their evening prayer with this phrase:
“It is but lost labour that we haste to rise up early, and so late take rest, and eat the bread of anxiety. For those beloved of God are given gifts even while they sleep.”
Reflect on your week, where have you seen the bread of anxiety feed your actions?
Did you hold your breath during some of the Olympic events?
Are you anxious about work, about school, about your health, your loved one’s health, your ___ fill in the blank.
Breathe in, breath out.
In each and every instance of scarcity, God has provided.
“Those beloved of God are given gifts even while they sleep.”
I am not saying throw caution to the wind.
I do believe wearing a mask and getting vaccinated (as you are able) are important and vital ways to protect our community.
As a community we can support each other, take steps to give hope to each other.
We are beginning a new school year, we are in the midst of a new search process for a rector with a newly appointed Search Committee.
These are new beginnings that look different than before and St Paul in our reading from Ephesians tells us the ingredients for our community that are essential for us to rise up together as one.
First, Speak truth to our neighbors
This also means listening to each other, we are each the neighbor and the speaker!
Second, Do not let the sun go down on your anger
Do not act in anger but talk to those with whom you have a challenge, grow in relationship with each other learning from wounds.
Third, Speak only that which builds up the community
Consider your words, does judging someone else’s actions help to build up the community? Or how can each person be brought into the conversation together- it takes time and patience.
Fourth, Be Kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another
Listen with the ears of your heart. What are the other person’s words really saying- are they afraid, alone, deeply glad?
Finally, Be imitators of God as beloved Children
We are given the perfect example of love
As Christ loved us and gave himself for us as a sacrifice to God.
Knead it all together.
We need to be all together not just for today but for tomorrow.
When we kneel at the rail we receive the Body of Christ, the bread of heaven. We have a foretaste of what the communion of saints come together is like in its most human and divine form.
We too join that body, united and given strength and courage to go back out into the world to build up community to seek not just the temporary but the long- lasting hope for tomorrow.
Jesus is the bread of life given for the world, for us, Come and eat of this bread and be fed.
Give me neither poverty, nor riches Lord: but bread for today and hope for tomorrow.
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Love goes beyond language
Love interrupt thoughts
And is boundless in her might.
Let love meet you in your hiding place.
Let love meet you in the mystery.
Right here where you are
Not just your tomorrow self.
Oh no, you are loved today.
(Morgan Harper Nichols, “How Far You Have Come” page 107)
Do you remember the tune, “One is the Loneliest number that you’ll ever know?”
A catchy tune that Harry Nielson penned the song: was made famous by the band: Three Dog Night. Believe it or not, Harry Nielson wrote the song inspired by the beep beep beep of the busy signal that Harry listened to while dialing a friend. Reaching out for connection, Harry’s desire was denied by the fact that the other person was talking to someone else (1968 was very much PRE-call waiting OR voicemail). Harry penned the song to the rhythm of the tone. As he sat and listened to the fact that no one was going to respond to him.
It’s simple song with a chorus of “One is the loneliest number that’ll you’ll ever know”— in the late 60’s this chorus struck a chord with many. Feeling alone, isolated, separated. The song was so popular that it topped the charts for three weeks, at number (wait for the comedy here)— #2!
If we are being honest, this song still resonates deeply within us.
One can be the loneliest number.
When you have been separated from those you love, when you find yourself alienated by peers or family, when illness restricts your ability to be present with others.
One can be the loneliest number.
And yet love meets us there and can transform that loneliness.
St Paul this week is writing to the church in Ephesus. Ephesus the booming town with flourishing trade and lots of conversation. Like any place of commerce there was wealth, comfort, AND disparity and division. Paul is writing to the Ephesians to remind them that the true definition of being one is to be no longer lonely, no longer solitary,
Rather, “being one” is defined by coming together to be one as community.
To become one to eliminate division and isolation.
In our reading today St. Paul uses the word ONE 4 times in his reading!
First, be one to bring groups together, breaking down walls.
Second, be one and recreate one humanity, through the God incarnate, in the flesh with us in human form.
Third, Be one and reconcile into one through Jesus’ death on the cross, and expressing his love so expansively for all
Finally, we are one restored daily through the one spirit, when we feel discouraged, alone, left out.
Being one is no longer lonely rather it is unifying and strengthening.
Being one together acknowledges the beloved individuality of each person and brings them together on the common ground of Love.
Community that was divided is brought together, walls broken down, and as one, the community stronger.
And this is hard work- it was for the Ephesians and is for us.
This was the reason baptism was only for adults in the early church, in baptism you are committing to promises of behavior to transform your daily life. We promise to strive to building community and growing in relationship with God and one another.
Building Community is messy, hard, and challenging work.
Building Community is listening deeply to the person with a different opinion or perspective rather than dismissing them.
Becoming One means letting go of our way being the only way and coming together.
Here’s the thing.
God has a knack for transforming our lives in every step and stage.
When being one could be lonely and terrifying, God can make us one: strengthened and unified.
In our Gospel reading you hear Jesus departing for a time away to rest and upon arriving sees that the crowds on the other shore are lost, as though without a shepherd.
Jesus does not run the other way, instead he runs towards them and transforms their space.
In their loneliness, their wanderings, Jesus gave them compassion and teaching, healing, and presence. The crowd became one flock drinking deeply the still waters of peace that Jesus restored to them. He met them where they were and was WITH them.
Yesterday we gathered for the Lynching Memorial Marker Dedication Ceremony and Interfaith Service of Remembrance just a half mile from here at Cascades park. WITH over 200 people, we remembered Piece Taylor, Mick Morris, Richard Hawkins, and Ernest Ponder all murdered without ever having a day in court between the years of 1888-1937. And they are just four of the members of our community who died in this way.
45 different faith communities came together in the form of the Community Remembrance Project to strive to collaborate to looking honestly at our past in this community and how we can move forward to strive for justice for all of God’s children and respecting the dignity of every human being. The work of this collaborative group is to come together not just to mark the past but also to create a better future. Their work does not conclude with the marker dedication, it continues with continued education and work towards seeking building up community.
Similarly, St. John’s continues to work with Capital Area Justice Ministry. This ministry is a collaboration of multi faith, multi-economic, multi-race congregations seeking to build up community for the restoration of humanity, the recreating of community and as Paul says, a dwelling place for God. Ever since Cain was jealous of Abel, we have had work to do to be in community with each other and with God.
In the church, we are constantly coming together as one body.
ON Sundays, like now, together in one space (physically and virtually)
We return to church in those thin spaces of our lives, when we gather for marriage, baptisms, and at funerals.
We gather as one when we need healing, strength and courage.
And we are sent out as one into the world.
Our work is to help convert the “one is the loneliest number” chorus into “We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord”- accompanying those who feel weak and grow in the knowledge of the love of God.
Let God meet you right where you are, in whatever that makes you feel like one is the loneliness number and know that we are one right here with you, one with you as a shepherd giving you healing, strength and courage to be loved today and to make a difference today.
To close with the words of Bono from the Band U2, we are:
One love, one blood One life, you got to do what you should One life, with each other Sisters, brothers
One life but we’re not the same We get to carry each other, carry each other One One
O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
We give thanks to you, who are the source of Love; whose light shines forth throughout the universe! Come awaken our hearts that we might do your work; For, without you, we can do nothing; ‘tis your Love that loves through us.
(Psalm 107:1-3 from Psalms for Praying by Nan C. Merrill)
Happy Birthday America!
Did ya’ll know that the statue of Liberty arrived in 1885? One of our favorite landmarks actually arrived near our 110th birthday. This year on June 17th She celebrated her 135th birthday, standing tall in New York City’s harbor. With her torch and tablet, she is a beacon on the shoreline. Lady Liberty right there on her pedestal so that she is the first thing you see as you enter the harbor, a beacon of hope and freedom. The gift of this statue actually began on the 100th birthday of this nation. While she stands tall now, did you know that this isn’t the only place that she has stood?
She was fully sculpted and assembled in Paris before she was sent to America.
This meant that in 1885 she was disassembled and – 350 pieces of copper and iron in 214 wooden crates arrived in the New York Harbor AND thankfully they came with a “handy instruction manual.”
Talk about putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. With hammers and nails, soldering irons and a whole lot of dusty workspaces and women men, the task was accomplished by fall of 1886.
This amazing structure was in pieces and sent with love and assembled for an entirely different country to re-assemble and for all to be reminded of the hope and light of change that it was to those across the ocean.
To be reassembled, to be pieced back together.
To be made whole, to be stronger together.
Awaken our hearts that God’s light can be shown through us.
Our country is in a space where there are so many pieces.
So many pieces that have jagged edges and pointing harsh edges.
Beautiful pieces each with their own part of making the larger structure strong and full of hope.
We are in need of some beautiful coming together moving forward to be light for one another and the larger community.
Where are our handy instruction manuals? Some days it seems like a wardrobe from IKEA would be easier to bring together.
Well with King David, God was always the instruction manual.
While God kept telling God’s people you don’t need a king, you have me as king over you, God relented and gave them a King (first Saul and then David)- and David was. HUMAN.
David was full of broken flaws, but God never left David. Sweat tears, mistakes from King David and yet faithfulness continued from God. The northern and southern kingdoms of Israel were united under King David. It took time, some challenges, some failures, but with God’s direction, David was the leader that the people needed.
In our Gospel today, we see division amongst those who knew Jesus as a boy, they had seen him in those in between years where we know so little about and they listened to Jesus and are divided.
The people of his hometown can’t believe that Jesus is claiming such authority. They KNEW him, they changed his diapers, they saw him when he got his first tooth and when he lost his first tooth. They had been WITH him all of his life. Where was this authority coming from? They chose to stay apart rather than come together and follow Jesus.
And Jesus says to his disciples after this experience, “go out into the world and share what you know about me” YOU ARE the equipment, you don’t need much else, YOU are the manual for how others can believe. And if there is rejection, do as I did in Nazareth:
Go to the next town.
Don’t make a big deal just keep doing the work with those who will listen.
And in our gospel you hear these words, “Shake the dust off your feet.”
Now dust is mentioned a lot in the bible J….
Remember God created the heavens and the earths and the dry lands
Remember Adam was created out of the dust.
Remember it’s the dusty dry bones of Ezekiel where God breathes in new life.
Remember it is in the dust of the desert the Jesus is tempted and has angels wait upon him
Remember we are dust and to dust we shall return, we say on Ash Wednesday.
Remember Jesus washed the dust from his disciples feet at the last Supper as the example of the leadership they too were to have.
When Jesus is talking about dust, he says to give those who do not accept you to God.
Do not fear the dust of failure
Do not fear the dust of rejection
And also do not become indifferent, do not become numb, or lose hope.
Remember only the God who breathes new life into old bones and dust itself can also bring resurrection, give new life.
Jesus says, “Let those who do not accept you, -this message, this hope, this joy, this love- leave that rejection to God. God is in charge of giving new life, of changing lives, yours may not be the voice with which God’s love might be heard but this should not silence your voice.”
Continue to strive to speak hope and love and strive even more so to listen.
Remember, Jesus did a lot of walking and talking.
He did not stay in one place.
People who met with him, who walked with him- literally got covered in dust.
Perhaps we should focus less on the dusting off our feet and instead getting so close to Jesus that we are covered in his dust. (Imagery shared with me from a leader from Happening in North Carolina. WOW, right?)
All of the work that we do is covered in God’s thumbprint of the dust of hope, joy, love, freedom from earthly burdens.
Perhaps the handy manual we have for putting our world back together again has been within our hands all along through pausing, listening, recognizing and acting in love for loving our neighbor and ourselves.
This calling is hot and dusty and exactly the work Jesus did for each of us.
We are the instruments, we are the equipment, you don’t need much to do this work but a heart full of love, a willingness to learn and be transformed, and being intentional with all that you do.
O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
May your hope be as bright as a flaming light held high long the unknown shores of night
May you never lose the vision of what the years to come could be,
And no matter how dark the sea may look,
You have the courage within to dream (Morgan Harper Nichols How Far You Have Come)
That beautiful prayer is written by Morgan Harper Nichols, which is found within her book “How Far You Have Come”- a beautiful artistic book telling both her journey but also her poetry and words of encouragement. The book narrates her family’s car trip from Atlanta to Los Angeles the summer of 1996.
The journey begins with leaving Atlanta, just as the Olympic torch was arriving to begin the games, the family heads westward.
Car trips never go expected. Her family’s first hiccup was getting out of Atlanta.
Traffic came to a standstill as they were departing…..
in their rush, they were late, leaving later than they had hoped and frustrated and anxious…..
everything came to a full stop on the 75/85 connector…..
to literally watch that tiny flame of the Olympic torch cross over the highway.
While this tiny runner with a small flame delayed their departure, it also gave her family pause to join everyone else around them and gaze wondering together about the hope and the excitement of the Olympic games….
An unexpected pause on their journey. A chance to gaze together at hope, at endurance, at community striving together. To dream.
Do you not care?
Why are you afraid?
Who is this among us?
These three questions meet us head on in our Gospel reading today. In the midst of their perfect planned boat trip at the end of the day, a storm brews up on the disciples.
While storms were common on the sea of Galilee, they were also commonly life threatening. The family of the disciples got in the boat ready to get to their destination. As a storm brewed, all hands were on deck to keep the boat upright, to keep things going and not capsizing, the disciples were focused on not losing nets, people, the material things that are essential.
And Jesus, where is Jesus? Well, he is redefining the term “deep sleeper.”
I can hear the disciples’ exasperation after a long day of keeping up with Jesus’ that can’t he help out with this????
Jesus, Don’t you care about us?
(your inaction make us think you don’t)
Jesus, don’t you care enough to be awake with us until all the work is done?
(If you cared, you would help!)
And Jesus awakes and responds to the heart of the matter, to hear what they were asking, he responds with “Why are you afraid?”
Perhaps it’s the fear of the storm
Perhaps it’s the fear of not getting to the other side of being stuck in the middle
Perhaps it’s the fear of not being included and knowing the rest of the plan for the rest of the journey.
Jesus does care about our deep fears.
Because Jesus Cares Jesus says to the waters, “Peace be still”
The creator says to the created “be calm.”
To us, to creation.
The God we believe in, is among us.
The God we believe in IS in the boat with us.
God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit is with us in the midst of the storm AND the stillness.
Many of you have started your car trips of the summer, getting those long-awaited vacations in now that the school year has finished.
Now that many are vaccinated, covid restrictions are loosening we are taking adventures YET even in those carefully planned adventures, we find ourselves involuntarily in the midst of storms.
The unpredictable, the change of plans, the delay of plans.
We might set out in our vessels thinking we have all that we materially need safely secured tightly around us and yet we can’t control the weather nor the traffic! (YOU TRY driving through Atlanta at any time!)….
We are awaiting the unknown of the next chapter of middle school, high school, athletics, college life or new jobs.
We are awaiting medical diagnoses, next steps, and treatment.
We have had a loved one die recently and can’t even imagine what comes next.
We see inequality of treatment of our brothers and sister in Christ and struggle with our own call to work in the community.
And Jesus says to us, Peace be still.
And immediately the waters are calmed.
Remember the same waters that were in the beginning of creation parted for life to be created. Remember the waters of the Red Sea parted for giving new life to the Hebrews escaping the Egyptians.
Remember the waters at Jesus’ baptism declaring the beginning of his ministry and calling us into our own.
In the midst of the stormy waters, God is right there with you in the boat, right there stilling the seas and present through the challenging waters of our life.
In our epistle reading today, St Paul is giving a truth filled pep talk to the Corinthians. I love Paul’s words in The Message translation today:
“Companions as we are in this work with you, .. don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us.
“I heard your call in the nick of time, the day you needed me, I was there to help.” (This reminds me of the disciples today!)
Paul also is imploring the people to open their hearts to God who is right there with them in the long days, the short days, the days where you don’t get lunch because you were caring for someone else, the days where you were judged and mocked for doing the right thing. God is right there with you.
To continue on the journey, as Paul says “enter this wide open spacious life.” “Open up your lives and hearts and live openly and expansively.”- God’s peace is there to be found and steady us in our boats.
God’s Peace is there to awe us and give us courage and to bring us back around to the journey with purpose and calling and sends us forth.
Today is Father’s Day, yesterday was Juneteenth, this past week we hosted Youth BEAT and Summer Choir Camp, we gathered and scattered and prayed as a community in so many ways.
Youth and children coming together to learn about music, Youth coming to learn more about God’s call for them to live out their faith in action on their faith journey, parents accompanying them on their adventures.
On June 19th we recognize the day that those who were enslaved in our country were given their freedom on paper, we rejoice in that freedom and we simultaneously acknowledge that same proclamation did not change a system overnight and we still have work to do, pain to recognize and work to do to rebuild the beloved community of God as a nation.
Today is Father’s Day- a day where the only perfect example of Fatherhood is the one we know through God’s sacrificial love for this world through creation and his son, Jesus.
And today we will commission Caroline and John Allen to go forth, sent by St. John’s to continue to be the hands and feet and heart of Christ in a new location! in Ecuador.
Paul today says, Today is the acceptable day, NOW is the acceptable time, to listen, to act, to be who we are called to be.
Water and Storms, Cars and Boats, Stillness and Calling.
Be Stlll and Know.
Know that God does care deeply about you.
Know that God knows your deepest fears and is there with you
Know that God is the God of all creation,
God is present and beside you in all that happens as you respond to the call of being a beloved Child of God.
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
O God I thank you for the lanterns in our lives who illumined dark and uncertain paths calmed and stilled debilitating doubts and fears with encouraging words, wise lessons, gentle touches, firm nudges, and faithful actions along our journey of life and back to you. Amen (Marian Wright Edelman, “Lanterns” A memoir of Mentors)
Happy Mother’s Day!
I know Mother’s Day is a bittersweet day.
Some of us do not have or never had a good relationship with our mothers.
Some of us lost our mothers at an early age never got to know our mothers personally.
Some of us might yearn for motherhood and may have miscarried or never carried our own children.
Many of us have adopted or fostered children into our family.
Motherhood is complicated and unique to each of us and our story.
Here is where the scriptures meet you in your own complicated story.
Hannah – the mother of Samson, strongest man in the bible- was barren most of her life.
Sarah- wife of Abraham gave up trying to have children and sent in Hagar to Abraham, of course this only made life more complicated later.
Rebekah- the mother of Jacob and Esau declares that she would rather die than carry the twins because they are struggling so much even before they were born.
Anna- who we hear about in the gospel of Luke, spend her life praying in the temple- no child of her own but beholds the infant Jesus when Jesus is presented.
Mary- the mother of Jesus is called at a young age to an unexpected pregnancy, challenging truths to tell, and the courage to walk alongside Jesus all of her life, even to see her young son die on a cross.
None of these women walked alone, there were siblings, spouses, those who struggled with them. Their faith and assurance carried them through their hardest times and gave them their sense of hope and joy.
As children of God, adopted into the family through baptism, our story becomes a blended one. We are all able to claim the love of god through this adoption, and in this adoption that John speaks of in our epistle lesson today, we are reminded that the love that we learn through scripture, through Jesus’ life and teachings gives us hope when expectations are dashed. When knots form and when we seem all tangled up.
Both our gospel lesson and epistle lesson speak a lot about Love. Both written by John, they are both descriptive and repetitive. And if something is repetitive in the bible, we probably should pay close attention to it.
Today’s reading in the gospel is during Jesus’ last discourse with his disciples, the reading follows after the lesson about “I am the vine and you are the branches” as Jesus sits with this disciples and speaks in love to them. He says to them, “you are going to have your expectations dashed, there will be knots in your stomachs about how to move forward, life is going to seem all tangled up.
I am here with you.
You are my friends, you are my companions.
You are the people I break bread with.
Remember the sacrificial love I have shown you, you have felt, and you too have shared in those moments. Know you are not alone and I am with you.”
This sort of love, of being with, being present, sitting with you right where you are is the love that we are to live out.
This message of enduring love is the core message of all of our scriptures.
Never does God abandon God’s people.
Rather, God compels his disciples, his friends to share that sort of knowledge with those they know, to strive for compassion for all of creation.
I have another Mary to share with you today: Marian Wright Edelman is the founder and president emeritus of the Children’s Defense Fund. Born in Bentonville, SC, the daughter of a school teacher and preacher. She was the youngest of 5 children. Her father died when she was 14. Calling her parents tall oaks, like the oaks of righteousness mentioned in scripture, she witnessed the love of family and mentors all of her life. In her “memoir of mentors” called “Lanterns” she tells the stories of those who were lanterns on her path, encouraging and believing in her potential as a scholar, lawyer and educator.
She was the first African American woman admitted to the bar in Mississippi in 1964 and much like Bryan Stevenson’s move from his home state of Delaware to work in Montgomery AL, she moved from Yale Law School to where the work she could do was most needed. Marian moved to Mississippi to practice law and work in the civils rights legal work that needed to be done. Her work continued to develop and create the Child Development Group of Mississippi which would eventually drive her to Washington DC to found the Children’s Defense Fund whose purpose is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.
Because of the lanterns of loving care and accountability in her life, she strove within her entire professional career to provide those same lanterns for each child.
This is the love that Jesus shared at the table with his disciples, compassion and fighting for a way in the darkest of nights. Seeking all to come within his embrace.
Jesus says, Friends, when it gets hard,
Come back to the table, sit with me and be present.
O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
One of my favorite “church songs” that I learned when I was young was “Go Tell it on the Mountains.”
This song is FUN to sing. Go tell it on the mountain, Over the hills and everywhere Go, tell it on the mountain That Jesus Christ is born.
The tune carries you along, it is joyful and it wasn’t until I arrived here as an ordained priest that I realized it is a Christmas Song. That last line sort of gives it away doesn’t it….. and as a young child I could hold on the chorus but never learned the verses….. which truly tell the Christmas Story.
When I was taught the song I was taught to sing it LOUDLY and joyfully….
and in return the song reminded me that my job as a christian was to GO, Tell, EVERYWHERE—-
Tell the story of Jesus.
And this simple tune reminds me quickly, GO AND TELL is our job to do, daily. Right where we are. GO and TELL it on the mountain.
We are to tell the story of Jesus’ birth, life, teaching, healing, suffering, death, and resurrection.
That in the form of Jesus, God came to be WITH us here in our midst.
The tune gives you courage in case you don’t know how, the words gave me instruction (where and how) in case I needed reminding.
Now before you think I have recycled a Christmas sermon today, I will draw your attention to our gospel lesson today, where at the very end of the reading the gospel writer tells the disciples (and us) that we are witnesses to these things.”
For those of you who might have grown up in a different faith tradition, the word witness might bring up the memory of “can I get a witness”- meaning someone to affirm what was saying, or make a public affirmation of faith in front of others.
For those of you in the legal profession (or those who watch it on tv)- a witness is one who has seen what has taken place and is willing to share “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” with those who were not there.
And both of these come from the same meaning of the Greek word used in the gospel today. The word in Greek is μάρτυς, mártys– which of course brings to mind the English word martyr and those witnesses of the early church.
These faithful followers were witnesses of these things without fear for their own lives. Perpetua, St Peter, St Paul, St Sebastian, Polycarp, to name a few. These believers went and told the story, affirmed what was shared from their own experience or those who told them first had.
They told the truth and placed their life upon it. This witness was a deep reflection of the love they received from God and were willing to go over the hills and everywhere to share because the need for this sort of sacrificial love to be understood/shared in this world was greater than their need for safety and security
The early church leadership let go of their personal fears and leaned into God’s being with them.
Letting go is often easier said than done.
In seminary the first Greek word I learned was apolýō– to loosen, to let go of.
It’s the first word we were given because it is the lynch pin of understanding salvation.
Letting go of our own pride and hubris, letting go of plans that were not meant of us, letting go so that we can more fully live into the example that Jesus gave us to live more closely with God.
apolýō is the Greek verb used for the power of forgiveness of sins that Jesus gives to his disciples so that they might free others from what hinders or distracts them to be beloved children of God, to loosen or let go of their sin.
And apolýō is the word that is used when Mary encounters Jesus at the Garden tomb- where she wants to cling to him, Jesus says to Mary, you must let go of me…..apolýō.
Resurrection means letting go of what was and live more fully into what is to be.
Resurrection transformed Jesus and our understanding of God’s Power over life and death.
With Jesus’ resurrection on that Easter morning, there is hope in our future, we live because we know we are not alone, we are beloved and we are more than whatever shame, guilt, or pain has occurred in our past.
Letting Go allows us to Go and Tell, or the fancy church word- “proclaim”, or witness, to truth that there is joy in this world amidst our struggles.
We are not alone, we can do together what we cannot do alone.
This afternoon we will be present for nearly 70 members of St. John’s of ALL Ages to publicly affirm their faith before our bishop. While we will not martyr them, you are ALL invited to come and be present at the outdoor service and witness this, say that great Amen as they make this public statement of faith. We, as a parish, all stand with them witnessing their joy and own experience of good news in their lives and it’s a GREAT day in the church!
This past week St John’s has lived a very real sacramental week. It is not often that you have a funeral, a wedding, and a baptism amidst all of our regular bible studies and services and then confirmations within 4 days- we joked all we needed was an ordination to complete all of the sacraments this week! All joking aside, in each of these sacraments we are reminded of letting go.
At Funerals we are letting go of our loved ones with prayers and celebrating lives transformed not ended by death, restored to wholeness with God our creator.
At baptisms we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ and are making promises for a new life with this love claimed as our own.
At weddings we commit to letting go the lives we had separately joining together as one and beginning a new chapter together- seeing the image of Christ in the other and being an example of God’s love to the world.
And in a new ministry this week, Walking the Mourner’s Path- we completed 8 weeks of walking together praying with 10 people who have lost a loved one some as recently as 6 months ago and some years ago, together we listened deeply to each other –not to fix each other or to have a solution, instead to witness to each other where sadness and anger dwelt and where hope also resides.
Journeying together knowing we can do more together than we can do alone.
This week also we trained new Pastoral Care Shepherds- a new initiative within our parish for how we witness to each other that not one of us are alone in this life, that we are to hold up the light of Christ to each other. You will hear more about these shepherds in the upcoming weeks as we all continue as a community.
We, daily, are called to open our minds to the scriptures, just like the disciples in our gospel today, we too are called to hear again and again the “peace I give to you” of Jesus. And we are reminded that in our letting go of things that have been we can see the new beginning.
We are letting go of a rector in June, we are embarking on parish wide Becoming Beloved Community work in the near future, we are collaborating with Capital Area Justice Ministry and other faith leadership in our city. All of this work means letting go of our own fears and at the same time walking in love together, listening deeply to each other and beginning WITH each other.
Last week with Thomas in the gospel of John, we heard “Peace be with you” said three times. This week, the third week of Easter, we hear those words again in the Gospel of Luke.
What were the disciples holding onto so dearly that these are the first words Jesus says to them over and over again? Where do we need to hear those words in our daily life so we too can put one foot in front of the other?
In church life we are always letting go and at the same time commanded to GO. As Father Wallace mentioned last week, our liturgy calls you into this space gives you sanctuary – a safe space- and at the end we are sent out to GO to love and serve- to tell it on the mountain.
This week what can you prayerfully let go of?
And where will you tell the love of God on the mountain?
Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
ALLELUIA CHRIST IS RISEN!
Happy Easter my friends!
It is so good to be WITH YOU here in this space today.
To be together
It has been a long Lent and here in this time, gathered together, we gather again …transformed. It’s a bit of a coming home.
I feel as though last year at this time we felt much like the disciples lost and confused on Easter, not knowing what was coming and we were so challenged in the past year.
We were together and yet separate
and now, little by little we are able to experience the joy of regathering,
of even the potential of Hugs.
We are re-emerging transformed.
The time isolated gave us a time to reflect, to be anxious, to evaluate what we took for granted and what we did not need.
Like the recent ship in the Suez Canal, the Ever Given, everything came to a standstill last year…. Things just had to wait.
And in that waiting,
We have struggled with the reality of racial injustice and violence.
We have also appreciated heroes who have carried on in the daily work to be done.
We have prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed some more.
We have experienced losses indescribable from death of friends and family
We have experienced hopes and dreams deferred.
People are emerging with new bodies (some lost a few pounds- some gained a few),
We emerge with new vision/goals,
And some have emerged with even new children!
We return to the familiar, to church gatherings, to Easter…transformed.
On this Easter morning we might understand Mary, Simon Peter and John a bit better.
After their three days of hiding, of emotional exhaustion, angst and fear, they re-emerge.
They return to the familiar in their processing of the events.
Mary Magdalene goes about the ritual of caring for a loved one and tending to the ritual care of a beloved’s body.
Peter and John and the disciples are in their routines gathered in community.
And in the midst of the familiar the divine appears.
The divine, appearing and reminding them that God is there in their midst.
Meeting them in the familiar, but like them- also transformed.
God has not abandoned them.
God is with them.
Jesus, son of God, born of Mary, teacher, healer, human and divine is there WITH them.
Speaking words of comfort, of consolation.
“Mary,” Jesus says.
Calling her by her name.
Mary knowing Jesus’ voice
Mary replies letting her grief, her joy, her relief and emotions spill within that title.
Mary, willing to still learn, receive, yearning to understand.
The simplest of exchanges and yet most profound of relationships.
Longing and connection.
And the Easter message is that God is right here saying
I am here. Here WITH you.
Here WITH us.
NOTHING can Separate us from the outstretched love of God.
This is the story of all of scripture, God does not abandon god’s people. And with each change and chance of this life, new beginnings occur.
Think of Noah and the ark, another monstrous boat. This boat giving shelter to Noah and his family while the storm outside raged. And when that dove returned with the olive branch, the journey in the ark was over and new life began. The land, their lives, all transformed. A new chapter of life beginning.
If we are honest, we too have been transformed.
Like the disciples on this morning,
Like Mary we are emerging and invited to continue to be in relationship.
Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, betrayal, death on a cross and the empty tomb were not something the disciples could forget, sweep under the carpet and just continue on as before.
Jesus, there with them, transforms weeping to joy.
Jesus not held by the earthly powers, the suffering, the pain.
Jesus transformed with the loving, lifegiving, liberating love of God.
And Jesus calls the disciples to be transformed by the same love.
Jesus reminds them they cannot, nor should they, forget.
Just as we too felt the isolation, the sacrifices, the angst this past year, we cannot forget what we learned in that space.
The things our eyes saw for the first time, the desire we found to make changes.
God shows us on this Easter morning that while power creates suffering,
Love absorbs suffering and transforms it.
Through Jesus, through Jesus’ outstretched arms on the cross, through the empty tomb unable to hold God, Jesus’ suffering is absorbed and transformed.
New life is possible.
New Beginnings through a God who meets us in the familiar and opens our eyes to what can be.
God on this Easter morning meets us in our isolation, our anxiety, our distracted lives and transforms us with arms of love, embracing us, hugging us and transforming our wildest dreams so that we too can be like Mary and go running with joy out into the world.
Sharing the good news.
Life does not end in death, God gives us hope beyond death. A new day, each day.
God, right here, through Jesus, transforms our isolation to community, our anxiety into joy.
We are reminded that even in the grave we sing Alleluia, Alleluia.
As we re-emerge this Easter Season, Let that loving, lifegiving liberating love shape our life and all that we do.
Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Precious Lord, take my hand Lead me on, let me sta-and I am tired, I’m weak, I am worn Through the storm, through the night Lead me on to the li-ight Take my ha-and, precious Lor-ord Lead me home[i]
I love the melody of that hymn, the lullaby-esque quality that soothes ones soul that is in desperate need of soothing in the midst of struggle.
This song was written in 1899 by Tom Dorsey, written in his grief over the death of his wife who died in childbirth and newborn son who also died that same day. As one might imagine the grief was overwhelming, inconsolable.
And as the son of a preacher also musician, Tom sat down at the piano in his grief, picked up a familiar tune and wrote this prayer from his weary heart.
A prayer of beseeching, a prayer of seeking guidance, acknowledging the storm, the struggle, the pain and also there is light to come, that he was not alone and like a loving parent, God will take his hand to lead him on.
Take my hand.
It’s the phrase you say to children when you cross the street. For safety
It’s the action of young lovers as they grow closer in relationship. For love.
Currently we don’t do a lot of hand holding (and perhaps more hand wringing) in these pandemic times, but we miss clasping hands in handshakes in high fives, in ways where we connected. For hospitality and welcome, and affirmation.
Take my hand also acknowledges that we cannot live in community alone.
In grief, in sorrow, in joyful times- we are connected by each person around us and through God in our midst.
It takes courage to ask to take someone’s hand
and it takes courage to ask for someone’s hand. (ask anyone preparing for marriage!)
We are being vulnerable, asking for help. Reaching out.
We are trusting that the person reaching back will lead and guide us on the path for healing.
Today in our Gospel, the Greeks who came to Philip reached out to say “take our hands Philip, we want to see Jesus.”
Philip was familiar to them, he was their guy they could ask vulnerably, for help.
They wanted guidance through the challenges of living in an empire that was full of oppression.
They were seeking hope in a world where the “powers that be” were not changing.
These friends were Greeks, not Jews, they were outsiders.
Philip reaches back to them, with Andrew. and holds their hand
Brings them to see Jesus.
Take my hand precious Lord.
Think for a moment about times when you have cried out these words too, “take my hand precious lord”
Moments where you have felt as an outsider
Moments of grief or loss
Moments of frustration and need for companionship on this journey
Moments where you have needed someone to help you through the storm.
In the past year
At your work
In your faith journey
Who are those people who have brought you along, helped you to see the divine in your midst?
Helped you to not give up hope,
Who have held your hand?
And who has reached for your hand?
Have you reached back?
Did you swat the hand away?
In a broad sense “taking one’s hand” is what the church is and does. As Chris Schwenk shared in his coffee talk last week, the word “Church” literally means “gathering”- for joining together. To see God in our midst of the inconsolable times and also to move us towards change.
And to see Jesus means to realize that our Savior dies on the cross as a means of salvation. That in his death, giving up all that he was, we are given life. In his death, our hope is renewed, our sufferings understood and our struggle a part of the path of faith.
Take my Hand
This phrase is also the title of a mural that was unveiled in 2019 by Michael Rosato.[ii] A FSU graduate and resident of Cambridge MD. This mural is of Harriet Tubman reaching out to the observer, offering her hand to you to come with her into the wildness of the water and journey with her. She is breaking through the bricks of a wall to invite you to something bigger.
Harriet Tubman has always fascinated me.
Perhaps it’s because I lived on a military base with so many rules that I thought were unfair and unjust and I yearned for freedom. (oh my naïve understanding of lack of freedom)
Perhaps it was the fact that she refused to hear the word “NO” and would not listen to a system that was stacked against her because it saw her as black and female and therefore without deserving of dignity.
Perhaps she intrigues me with her creativity for making things happen and
perhaps it was the awe of her risking her own life and health on behalf of others’ freedom.
She both believed that God has freedom in store for each of us and that caring for others was more important than her own self.
Michael Rosato has a curious story of becoming an artist. As a military brat, he felt the call to ROTC and the military. And then the choice between art and air… he chose art and found himself in front of the pieta by Michelangelo.
A broken Jesus in Mary’s hands.
And Michael’s hands began to work in paint.
The mural TAKE MY HAND calls you to take Harriet’s hand, inviting you to come with her.
Her eyes are determined, strong, and those eyes assure you that she knows the way.
In this mural she is an icon to let you know that you are not alone, even today in needing freedom, new life, and hope.
This past week we heard of the killings of 8 people in Atlanta, 6 of which were Asian American Women. My alma mater, Sewanee, is struggling with student behavior that does not respect the dignity of every human being and their own historical roots established in the mid 1800s in the south. Here in Tallahassee, we have our own work to do with racial healing and we are still experiencing death and illness, isolation and disconnection due to the pandemic.
This week, I invite you to reach out, reach out to someone new this week check on them, listen to them, struggle with them and listen some more.
Let God take both of your hands together as we are tired, weak, worn through the storm, through the night –Let God Lead us on to the li-ight.
Tom Dorsey in his grief, clung to God for hope and light and did not give up.
The light in our world is within each of us. We have to work together, acknowledge our faults and short comings and work towards change in our own community so that each person’s belovedness from God can be recognized and honored.
I find the words of this prayer from Laura Jen Truman a great guide for our path ahead:
As we continue to take the single step that is in front of us, Jesus, keep us from becoming what we are called to transform. Protect us from using the empire’s violence- in our words, in our theology, in our activism, and in our politics- for your Kingdom of peace. Keep our anger from becoming meanness. Keep our sorrow from collapsing into self pity. Keep our hearts soft enough to keep from breaking, keep our outrage turned towards justice, not cruelty, remind us that all of this, every bit of it, is for love. Keep us fiercely kind.
(Laura Jen Truman page 74 in The Rhythm of Prayer)
Precious Lord, Take our hands
With the comfort of the song by Tom Dorsey
The Curiosity of the Greeks and friendship of Philip and Andrew