27 Apr 2019

Proclaiming the Good News of God

Priester Bunny Preparations

     As we continue in our joyous season of Easter, we declare and proclaim the good news that has been revealed to us - the Lord is Risen! He is risen indeed! ALLELUIA!
     ...so how does that proclamation look *outside* the church? How do we share that good news with folks whose faith is unknown to us?
     That was part of the invitation I extended to our young folks last Sunday as we celebrated our weekly service. We begin our common worship with children's time, and I shared that what Easter gives us is not just chocolate bunnies; but great news that we can share. We talked about the ways that we can tell others about God - wearing a cross, shouting Alleluias, declaring "Jesus Loves You!", learning that God's love is sweeter than honey and more valued than gold, writing or drawing messages of love, knowing that eggs can represent new life, sharing a message of love, singing an Easter hymn.
     So I invited the kids to proclaim the good news... first we sang "Jesus Loves Me" and then I sent them around the church on a (silent) Easter egg hunt! (The 'priester bunny' had been busy the night before!)
     Each child got to collect one egg of each colour; in the eggs were heart and cross stickers, a wooden cross necklace, a "Jesus loves you!" streamer, an "Alleluia" with pom poms, a gold-wrapped candy, an easter egg, and sidewalk chalk.
     Aside from the practicality of children being comfortable and engaged in the church, the exercise bore fruit. All week long I've heard stories of stickers being shared, and "Chris Is Risen" being drawn in chalk, and strangers being handed candies, and more.
     What a delight to know that the children not only know that the Risen Lord is cause for delight and joy, but that they are keen to share that good news.
     I wonder how many of us as adults have done the same this week: have we reached out? Have we proclaimed good news? Have we told a neighbour or colleague about our commitment to living the Easter story?
     Much to ponder... maybe we all just need a bit more chocolate to egg on our evangelism... or maybe we need to wander in the world with child-like enthusiasm and declare our faith. Alleluia, alleluia!

20 Apr 2019

Watching In Wonder

Holy Week tends to be a bit of a marathon in churchland - we have services everyday, and the physical and emotional toll does not go unnoticed. I'm so very blessed to have friends looking after me in the midst of the busy-ness - from gifts of food to words of encouragement to the ultimate in care - a friend visiting to help with the everyday (from walking dogs to laundry). Yup, I'm well looked after.
This Triduum was an extra special one for me: it's my first in a new community, and God decided to bless us all with ABUNDANCE of opportunity. For the Easter Vigil, we were approached by several families about baptism - so there were 6 young folks who received the sacrament of new birth.
6. Six. Alleluia!
With this gift, and knowing that we would have a lot of guests who may not be familiar with the traditionally long(er) format of the Vigil itself, we made a few adaptations: we abridged the Vigil readings, we had a shorter sermon, we sang shorter hymns, we started at a more child-friendly hour.
And we watched; and we wondered. And God blessed us, richly: little eyes were transfixed on the cross, little hands touched the holy water, little noses sniffed the scented chrism. Parents, godparents, grandparents - full of praise and prayer and bliss.
We watched God active in our midst, and we wondered how God's glory will be made known through these gorgeous little ones; and we reflected how we might better live our ministry to better glorify God.
We watched 6 beautiful souls receive the gift of baptism; yet we all received the gift of new life as we were engulfed in blessing. What a truly Easter moment! Alleluia!

13 Apr 2019

Giving Up For Lent: THE BIG BUT

Please note: with a single "t" I am not referring to anything anatomical.

            The word BUT is quite adaptable as a part of speech; it can be a conjunction, an adverb, a preposition, a noun... I am today considering the implications of the use of the word when it is used as a conjunction.
            A coordinating conjunction, of course, serves to join together two distinct and contrasting clauses into one sentence. For example: I wanted to continue reading my book last night, BUT I had an early start this morning.
            The challenge with this is that the secondary clause often overpowers the first. It is dismissive, seeming to have a higher priority. In the case of my arriving awake and prepared for leading worship on Sunday mornings, this can be a good thing. The book will still be there when I return from worship all energised and jubilant from the experience.
            If, however, the BUT is coming from a second person in response to someone's first clause, it can take on a negative tone. If I were to say I want to read my book, and my friend replied with "BUT you need to go to bed early," it might add some tension. While the facts may true, I would feel that the input from my friend ignored my preferences, and rejected my feelings and intentions.
            When we do this within the church, even with the best of intentions, it can inadvertently serve to overpower or dismiss the voices and perspectives of some of our members. Rather than encouraging inclusive discourse, it can shut down the exchange of ideas. And part of the joy of being the body of Christ is the collection of as many perspectives as possible.
            So one little word, those three little letters, can carry a lot of weight; and not necessarily in a good way. "But that failed last time" says the idea is not worth trying anew. "But we've always done it this way" may communicate a whole host of emotions that have nothing to do with the proposed idea. "But my way is better" (in all its varied forms) denotes a bit of arrogance, suggesting others should not even bother.
            So imagine if we addressed this in a different way: instead immediately jumping to the BUT, we acknowledge the presented perspective, inquire for deeper understanding of the statement, and (if appropriate) offer additional input.
            I invite us, as we continue in Lent, to give up the big BUT that comes so easily to all of us, and embrace new possibilities. Let us be brave enough to turn around the big BUT as a means to engage in meaningful conversation: I needed to get up early but I wanted to read my book could lead to a conversation about book clubs, or time management, or shifting worship times.
            The possibilities are endless, when we get our big BUTs out of the way.

7 Apr 2019

Mid-Lent Lull

Originally published in Diocesan Times, April 2019

Altar, TEC chapel, NYC

            On Ash Wednesday many of us set aspirational goals for a Lenten discipline. We engaged those disciplines with the best of intentions, and with prayerful consideration of the Holy season.
            So as we sit at the mid-way point of Lent, I especially invite us to reflect on how we are doing with those: are we getting up that hour early to pray? Has our abstinence from chocolate revealed great spiritual wisdom? Are we redirecting our coffee funds to charity?
Are we still giving up whatever we gave up, or taking on whatever we took on? Have we given up those intentions altogether, or have we hit a lull in energy and intention?
            While it's wonderful if we are right on course, it is not meant to be guilt-inducing if we are not. Part of the depth of a Lenten spiritual journey is the learning experience of self-reflection, where we constantly consider and re-consider how our actions are supporting our spiritual growth (and amending as may be best for that growth).
            For example, if starting the day with the daily office leads to a more harmonious family breakfast, then that action is encouraged to continue as-is. However, if giving up coffee is making your interactions with colleagues less loving, perhaps that is not the spiritual discipline for you.
            Preparing our hearts and minds for Easter is not an easy spiritual journey, yet it is certainly one worth making. So those Lenten disciplines that support the journey are to be celebrated and upheld. And we ask God's guidance to let go of those disciplines which are not helpful, that we might re-direct our energy into practices that will lead us closer to God. It's never too late to start a new journey towards Jesus.
            May God grant us the grace to grow through a hope-filled and Holy Lent.