Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Appreciating what I have

I visited yesterday with a man who had worshiped at Christ Episcopal Church on Sunday. He told me he and his wife were seeking a new church home.

I did a lot of listening and found myself moved by his sharing of his spiritual journey. He knew God as a loving, saving God. He was articulate in telling me his story. And authentic.

He had grown up in one particular denomination. It had been his family's tradition for generations. He had given a lot to his church over the years in service. He said he felt guilty thinking about leaving.

I asked him, "Might God be calling you to remain a spiritual leader right where you are?"

No, he said. He thought God was calling him elsewhere. And so he and his wife were visiting other churches on Sundays.

"I thought," he said, 'why not visit the Episcopal Church?'"

He said he was not angry with his former church or pastor or denomination. Rather, he no longer felt a sense of worship at his church and missed it. He needed to experience God's living presence once more, that sense of the holy.

At Christ Church on Sunday, the first thing he experienced was silence in the church before worship began. He saw people kneeling and praying in that silence.

And then he met God in the Holy Scriptures and sermon, in the music, and in the Holy Communion. Everything about the service, including kneeling for prayer and to receive Communion, helped him enter into the "moment" with God.

He left worship feeling filled spiritually. He was better prepared to meet the week ahead in faith, hope, love, and joy.

I sometimes take for granted what I experience here in the Holy Eucharist on Sundays and Thursdays, that sense of mystery, wonder, awe--the holy God.

And it takes a visitor to remind me how blessed I am by word and sacrament and this blessed community of faith.

Thank you, God.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Saturday in Joplin and the work is good

I spent most of Saturday in Joplin at St. Philip's Episcopal Church.

St. Philip's hosted our Southern Deanery Meeting, which was preparation for the Diocesan Convention in November.

After the meeting and a delicious luncheon in the parish hall--thanks St. Philip's Altar Guild--clergy and laity alike joined in a mini-mission event.

We were there to get the parish hall ready for a second Free Garage Sale for the people who lost everything in the tornado several months ago. The event will take place this Saturday from 8 am to 2 pm.

In preparation, we unloaded trucks and cars full of donated goods from Kansas City, St. Louis, and Bentonville, Arkansas.

Donations included winter coats and other clothing, blankets, artificial Christmas trees and ornaments, even a bed.

A group from Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield, on Friday had delivered two vehicles full of new appliances and other items, which had been purchased by our Outreach Committee and assembled.

We filled the many tables that had been set up in the parish hall, the lounge, and the hallways of the church with the donated items. I wondered how the people of St. Philip's would manage on Sunday.

On Saturday in Joplin, we came together in that mini-mission--not only people from the Southern Deanery, but also youth groups from the Dioceses of Missouri and Arkansas.

We were one Episcopal family--one in our faith in Christ and one in his mission, reaching out in love to a hurting and suffering world.

And it felt good.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Now that's therapeutic touch

The Daily Office gospel for today, Matthew 9. 18-26, tells about a ruler's daughter who has died.

The ruler comes to Jesus and begs for her life to be restored.

Isn't it interesting that this ruler, perhaps not a Jew, shows more faith than people of Jesus' own faith tradition?

He's willing, indeed eager, to rely upon the Lord and Jesus' power of salvation. Reliance is a way of understanding faith.

Do we show that equal level of reliance upon the Lord? Sometimes, I do, but many times I don't. I want to do better.

When Jesus arrives at the ruler's house, the wake has already begun. There's flute music, and I can hear that mournful tune being played, much as the Scottish bag pipes produce that wailing sound, that deep cry of a pierced heart.

He passes through the mourners, telling them them the girl is not dead. He knows what he will do, that in his hands and at his touch, there is no death, but only life. He finds the girl and takes her hand in his.

Her smooth hand is cold, lifeless, until that touch of the love and power of heaven to heal, which is Jesus' by way of his Father.

And she lives.

She rejoins her family and and resumes her life, but in a new way now, for her life has been transformed by Jesus and his touch. She knows that he holds the power of life in his hands, and that she lives because of him.

He is the Lord, even over death. As Welsh poet Dylan Thomas puts it, Death is no more.

As I read this gospel during Morning Prayer today, I found myself asking a question, perhaps one posed by God the Holy Spirit:

Lord Jesus: What in me, what in my relationships, what in this world is dead and is in need of your life-giving touch? I receive your touch now, Lord, and extend your therapeutic touch of love and life to others.