cairns me home

being still in God's big world

Category: 2012 (page 2 of 3)

Other duties as assigned #1

Part of any assistant rectors job description is “…and other duties as assigned.” This can mean any number of things. I’ve decided it will be fun to blog some of the most interesting “assignments.” So here I give you the first in the series:

Last week the sexton and I wrestled a HUGE sleeper sofa to the basement from the second floor to put in the new middle school youth room. It didn’t fit. A second large, old sofa remained on the second floor because it also wasn’t going to fit. Today our amazing junior warden borrowed a terrifying trailer (open platform trailer with broken wood slat floor -I really can’t describe how awesomely jimmy-rigged this trailer was) and came to help me haul them away.

So, Ellen and I went to the basement to haul the sleeper sofa up and out. Well, we got the couch onto the first flight of stairs -barely- and then we were stuck. We couldn’t get it to the landing but we didn’t want to lose any ground. Just then we heard a male voice and enlisted a lovely parishioner who found himself in the wrong place at the right *for us* time to help get it the rest of the way out. Ellen looked like Atlas as we loaded the sucker onto a dolly and Das and I grabbed the edges and Ellen crouched below the monstrosity and dragged the dolly forward. We hauled the second sofa (much lighter, but equally grungy and awkward) from the second floor and put it upside down on top of the first. Like a large, rickety game of Tetris. We tied them down and headed to the dump.

At the dump I directed as Ellen backed the car and trailer up to the concrete “pit” to heave the couches in the far beyond (aka trash compactor.) Well, getting the couches off meant that one of us needed to teeter on the edge of the pit as we muscled them out. I am pleased to report that I did not push Ellen into the pit in the process.

I wish I could show you pictures. Alas, my hands were a little busy.

PS All of this was accomplished while wearing a white skirt, mary janes, and a collar.

stop. breathe. bask. repeat.

We have a church mouse who moves from
place to place. Today he is chilling out with
Madonna and child. 

This morning I met with The Rev. Louis Pitt at church to walk through the Eucharist for Sunday’s service. The sixty-fifth anniversary of Louis’ ordination to the priesthood is in October so he has a lot to share with a fresh-meat transitional deacon like myself. We walked through the entire service and split up various responsibilities. As we finished and recessed down the chancel steps Louis asked if I have time for a chat. We sat in the front pew of the church in the dimmed lights and shadows as he asked how it is going here. I told him I felt extraordinarily blessed to be called to this place where I certainly know God intends me to be. I discussed with him the specific challenges I face as I try to balance the work of being the director of the formation program while also being the assistant rector. He listened intently.

As Louis began to speak of his own experience as a curate 65 years ago I noticed as my muscles began to relax. I could feel tension that I wasn’t aware existed. I realized what a blessing it was to be sitting and talking with this priest and I allowed myself to be in that moment. In those moments that we sat together in the dim sanctuary I remembered something: I work inside a beautiful church building, but I spend so much time running around, cleaning classrooms, calling potential volunteers, and doing a myriad of other tasks that I don’t take the opportunity to just sit and be still with God.

I haven’t sat still with God in a long while. I have run with God, cleaned with God, preached with God, typed with God, unpacked with God, called with God, etc… but I haven’t sat still and basked in the light of Christ. I realize that it is not Lent. I don’t “need” to adopt a spiritual discipline for liturgical purposes at the current time. But I do want to bask in the light of God. I do want to slow down and truly accept the prayer from the New Zealand Prayer Book, “what is done is done, what is not done is not done. Let it be.” I want to breathe deeply and remember on an elemental level that I am not God and I don’t need to be. I want to remember why I am doing what I am doing.

Sometimes it is so easy to turn the “to-do list” into a “must-accomplish-immediately list.” When that happens our bodies respond with stress and without even realizing the implications we become tense and anxious. So, here’s to sitting still, basking in the light of Christ. I will get done what I can get done today and what I can’t… well… was it really so crucial, anyway?

That’s what she said…

I occasionally travel to Maine to have playdates with the lady friends –4 nieces: Reyna (7), Evelyn (7), Charlotte (4), and Lydia (2). I’ve decided to compile a list of my favorite lady-friend sayings and add to it from time to time. Here we go!

1. “Mom, look! Poops are like clouds, they have shapes too. I hope my next one looks like a tiger! ROAR!” Char Faye, age 3 (this one is an oldie but goodie, had to add it)

2. Charlotte is in especially rare middle child demon form today: “I am NOT going with you. NO. I am NOT going unless I can bring ALL my barbies!” Me: “I don’t negotiate with terrorists. Get in the car.” 8/10/12

3. Me: “Girls, if you clean your room you may have one of the special popsicles I bought for you.” (a little while later) Girls: “Okay! It’s all clean come look!” (enters room and sees stuff shoved under beds and in corners; looks over at beds and sees a blanket covering a heap.) Me: “Char, what is under your blanket.” Charlotte: “Evie said to do it that way. She said since you don’t have kids we could just trick you.” Evie: “Yeah Auntie Audrey, how did you know?” Me: “I invented hiding stuff instead of cleaning. Try again.” 8/10/12

4. Evelyn: “Auntie Audrey come LOOK! Princess Leia had babies and she only ate one of their heads!” 8/10/12 (note: Princess Leia and Oreo are the girls’ pet rabbits. It was discovered that Oreo is, in fact, a boy rabbit when Princess Leia had babies a couple months back and canalized them for lack of nest. At time of posting, and after we made a bunny nest out of a box with shavings inside, about 8 baby bunnies are alive and well and prayers for the repose of a soul were said over bunny #9 when I buried it.)

5. Overheard while Char and Evie play barbies: Char (in a high pitched ‘girlie’ voice) “If you want me to go to prom with you you had better look as pretty as Obama.” Evie (in a husky voice) “Just pretend I am as pretty as Obama; I know these are skin colored unders[underwear] but really pretend I have on a pink tie and a suit.” Char (again, high pitched) “Okay, but Obama is way prettier.” 8/10/12

Lay it down

Mark 6:1-13
“Jesus sent them out two by two, ordering them to take nothing with them but a staff…”
·      Work clothes
·      2-3 pairs casual pants
·      church clothes
·      Socks
·      long-sleeve shirts for cooler nights
·      Work shoes
·      Hat and bandanna
·      Work gloves (optional)
·      Umbrella or rain jacket
·      Water bottle or two
·      Purell – small, pocket-size
·      Safety glasses
·      Ear plugs
·      Sunscreen
·      Bug Spray
·      Snacks
·      Towel
·      Shower shoes
That is just part of the packing list for the youth trip to El Hogar that leaves next Saturday. The entire list is 2 pages long. We are a people who plan and who pack. When we go on vacation we might count the days we plan to be gone and then lay out our clothes to make sure we have enough outfits to last the entire week. Sometimes, I like to pick out several more shirts than I need because I don’t know what I’ll be in the mood to wear on a particular day. And it isn’t just clothes that we pack. We are inclined to bring along personal tokens of remembrance, books, and supplies to ensure our comfort in whatever situations we might encounter.
When Jesus sends the disciples into service with nothing but the clothes on their backs, He is sending them into the world with an expectation of hospitality. This is not how we usually go into the world. Even if we’re just taking a day trip we make sure to pack the food, water, and supplies we will need because we want to ensure that we will be self-sufficient. To be honest, even if I’m just going to the supermarket I am usually carrying my huge yellow purse full of goodness-knows-what. You never know when you might need an umbrella, Chap Stick, or goodness knows what else. We are not used to accepting or asking for help when we go into the world. We like to rely on ourselves.
So, am I about to preach a sermon that the youth group should go to Honduras with nothing but the clothes on their backs? Of course not. But I do think that we could all use a lesson in packing a bit lighter for the big trips in life and the small ones.
Each Sunday we are sent forth into the world, ideally, to spread God’s love far and wide. We were commissioned at our baptism as missionaries for Christ. But how many of us truly leave the worship here at Epiphany to go into our daily lives sharing the Good News with those whom we encounter?
Why don’t we do that?
I think it has something to do with the baggage that is weighing us down. Our extra baggage comes in many forms. For some of us it is a history with the Church that was oppressive and we have a desire to leave that pain behind. For others it might be fear of reactions from people who have negative associations with Christianity so we want to avoid being lumped in with those negative feelings. Maybe the baggage weighing us down is the busy trap: How can I share the Good News when I already have so many other things to do? And for still others it might be feeling like we don’t know where to start. There are many factors that go into determining how or if we live into our calling as missionaries and evangelists, and all too often the weight of our extra baggage prevents us from doing the work God has called us to do.
There is a book by Donald Miller called, Blue Like Jazz: Non-religious thoughts on Christian Spirituality. It is one of my favorite books and I encourage you to read it if you have a chance: we even have a copy of it in the Epiphany library. The book is a collection of essays exploring Miller’s conversion from Southern Baptist upbringing, to agnostic-at-best college student, to broadly Christian adult. One chapter in the book discusses an experience Miller had while attending Reed College in Oregon. Miller claims that Reed is the “most atheist college in America.” He tells the reader about a campus festival where all of the student groups could have tables around the campus quad to inform others about their groups. The Christian group struggled with how to participate in the event since so many Reed students had negative impressions of the Christian faith. Miller, along with a group of Christian students, decided to have a “confessional booth” as their display.
They set up a tent on the quad and had two chairs in the tent. A sign on the outside announced that it was a confessional booth. The twist was that instead of inviting the students to confess their sins, the Christians used this as an opportunity to apologize for ways that other Christians may have hurt them in the past. As wary Reed students entered the tent, not sure what to expect, they were surprised, and many were profoundly moved, when the Christian students “confessed” their part in the ways that Christianity has been used to condemn and harm other people. The Christian students reported many heart felt conversations between themselves and their guests. Some of the students who entered with the intention to ridicule the Christian students ended up sharing intimate details that explained why they were so negative about religion. –All of this happened because they were invited to lay their baggage down. When we enter into relationship carrying nothing but our full selves, we enter with the ability to meet one another eye to eye.
Every week we are sent into the world from this place in the form of the dismissal. That dismissal is a re-commissioning of sorts. We are re-commissioned, with our spiritual cups refilled and ready, to go into the world. In that dismissal, Jesus is commanding all of us to leave behind our baggage, just as he told the disciples to take nothing with them apart from a staff. You are the only one who knows what it is that Jesus is instructing you to leave behind in order to live into God’s call for you. It might be physical wealth or possessions that are distracting us from our brothers and sisters in need. It might be emotional pain that we use as a shield to protect us from the world. It might be memories that cause us to stumble because we are perpetually looking behind us. Whatever it is for you, the invitation and directive we all receive as we come here each week it to leave those things behind. I’m not going to tell you it is easy, because it’s not. The disciples were sent forward into unknown places with no idea where their next meal would come from or where they would sleep at night. That was not an easy directive. But if we trust in God and in the goodness of our neighbors it is possible for us to go into service without the weight on our shoulders.
Next Saturday when we leave for Honduras, I will carry a large suitcase full of bug spray, work clothes, first aid kits, and numerous other items that will make the work we are called to do possible. But there are several things I will need the strength to leave behind in order to be fully present to the youth of Epiphany, the children and staff of El Hogar, and to God. God knows what those things are that we are carrying unnecessarily and that are inhibiting our service to the Gospel. Will you find the strength to leave them behind?

What would Carrie Bradshaw do?

I am struck by the life I am living. I never would have imagined I’d be a 30-something, single, clergy-girl living in a fab Boston-area apartment on my own. I am happy with where I am. I have worked hard to get here! But that doesn’t change the fact that I sit here somewhat shocked by the life I am living.

I realize that I need to take steps to get out there and meet new people. I have moved “home” to a city where only a couple of my friends have remained. (Thank God for D and Lynn!) Most people have moved away from the area while I’ve been living it up at seminary. Whenever I move to a new area I have to force myself to be an extravert for a while in order to find places and people who feed my soul. This time around is no different and oh-so-different. Where does a single, 30-something clergy-girl go to make friends and have fun?

I’m not quite sure so I have a new question I am asking myself when I realize I am losing my extrovertism: What would Carrie Bradshaw do? I don’t yet have all the answers, but if my shoe closet is any indication – I’m heading in the right direction.

Journey through the storm

“O God thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.”
I speak to you in the name of one God. + Amen.
President John F. Kennedy had a bronze plaque on his desk in the oval office with the Breton Fisherman’s prayer on it; the same prayer that I began this sermon with. The plaque was given to him by a navy admiral who used to give such plaques to new submarine captains. Kennedy recognized that this prayer stretched even further than the literal context, which we heard in today’s Gospel passage, into our everyday lives. That prayer is modified by many groups to include a call for protection from God. The girl scouts of Canada sing the prayer adding, “Oh Lord Protect me, your sea is so big and my boat is so small.” I would venture to guess that each of us has encountered a time in our lives when we feel like the disciples in that boat at sea in a storm.

I’ve never been out to sea on a small boat but I grew up canoeing so the way I relate most closely to the literal interpretation of this passage is through one of my experiences on a canoe trip. I drew the short straw on that trip and had to sit on the bottom of the canoe in the middle while my sister and brother got to sit on the seats and paddle. We were on a lazy river in Maine, on one of our many camping vacations. My parents were in a second canoe and it took work for them to stay near our boat since my sister lacked a little something in the steering department. In the center of a canoe are two-to-three wooden slats going horizontally from one side to the other. My father told me to sit between these slats either cross-legged or to sit sideways, stretching my legs over the side of the canoe and into the water. The one thing I was instructed not to do was to put my legs under the bars.
About an hour into the trip my brother started horsing around and rocking the boat. My sister and I were cross with him, but this just made him rock the boat more. (That is what little brothers are good for, after all.) And, you guessed it, he flipped our canoe over. My sister and brother easily swam to the surface and began bickering; but I had done the one thing my father warned me about and stretched my legs under the wooden bar. I was trapped, upside down under the canoe, under water.  It was probably only a few seconds before my dad got to us and flipped the boat upright getting me above water again, but I was terrified. I still remember the feeling of being under the water and not knowing what to do or how to escape. I was afraid to get back in the boat and I can understand how some people can be afraid of water.  
Water is powerful and being stuck out at sea with a storm rising must be one of the most terrifying things a person can face. If I had been in the boat with the disciples that day long ago, I would have woken Jesus up with even more colorful language than the disciples did.   It is hard to trust that God will provide when we face the storms in our lives. Does trusting that God will provide mean that we believe everything will always work out the way we would like it to? Does trusting God mean that we don’t need to worry about anything and we can leave all of the details to God?  No.
Trusting in God means that we will use the gifts we’ve been given and take the steps we are able to take in preparation for whatever life throws our way.  What we are trusting in is that in the end, regardless of the result, everything will be okay. Our salvation is assuredthrough Christ who died to save us. — But trusting in that salvation to be “enough” is easier said than done.  Trusting God in the midst of a storm means that we recognize how little control we actually have in life. We would like to believe that we can control so much, but when troubles arise we are forced to face the fact that we actually have little to no control over most things.
We can learn a little something about this by listening to the story of Job.  The book of Job in the Old Testament teaches us about a man who has had everything in his life torn away.  Job, a pious and faithful Jew has all of his animals and his 10 children killed by Satan –“The Adversary” – who is said to be testing Job’s piety. In the midst of it all Job still offers praise to God.  As the story of Job continues, and as the storms in Job’s life increase, Job begins to face personal physical sickness and pain.  Eventually, Job calls out in distress to God.  He wants to understand why he has been cursed.  He is a righteous man who doesn’t deserve the storms in his life.   
The Old Testament lesson we heard this morning is the beginning of God’s answer to Job: and it is fitting that God calls out from the whirlwind.  God doesn’t offer Job a rote response. God draws Job’s attention to the many areas where Job is ignorant of the complexities of creation.  He doesn’t get a neat and tidy solution to his storms; rather, like the disciples in our Gospel lesson, Job is met with God illuminating even more places where human intelligence simply cannot go.  Sure, we would all like God to tie a neat bow on it and explain why it is that we face hardships in our lives, but God answers us by pointing out all of the other things we cannot understand.  The key is learning to surrender our need for control in the little things so that we are more able to cope when the big things pop up.  But that is easier said than done.   
When Jesus speaks to the storm saying, “Peace! Be Still!” the world is rocked. The winds die down and the waves shrink away. Jesus challenges the disciples, asking if they have any faith at all.   It is easy for us, sitting on this side of the story, to criticize the disciples for their lack of faith, but we must remember, this is still early in the story of Jesus’ ministry. The disciples are still not certain of the true, divine identity of their teacher. And they are facing a situation that could most certainly mean death. But Jesus also has a point: how many wonders and miracles must He show them before they will believe?   How many does he have to show us? We have the luxury of knowing the end of the story, of knowing the resurrected Christ, yet we still fear the storm.  
This “calming of the sea” is regarded as one of Jesus’ miracles, but it is also an example of what we should be seeking everydayin our lives. As followers of Christ it is our responsibility to hear and speak the word of “Peace” in the storms we face each day rather than waiting for catastrophe to strike before calling out to God. It is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and forget to hear the word “Peace” in the midst of it all. How many times do we say, “I can’t do that I have too far too much on my plate already.” When that is our rote response in so many instances in life it is no wonder that our relationship with Christ becomes a Sunday morning liturgical occurrence rather than a living, vibrant exchange.
On that canoe trip in my childhood I had been given all of the advice and information I needed in order to make it through the day. But I didn’t heed the advice; I allowed comfort and convenience to cloud my judgment and enforce different priorities. If I’d been sitting in the canoe as I’d been taught it wouldn’t have prevented the boat from capsizing, but my recovery from that emergency would have been different.
God wants us to call out in times of joy as well as times of crisis. Our western faith often becomes a faith of convenience, until the storms come along. When sickness, death, loss of relationship, difficulty at work, or other challenges arise we are the disciples crying out saying, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” But where was our call to God when our six year old rode her bike without training wheels for the first time; when we ran a mile farther than we’d ever run before; when a friend called out of the blue right when we needed it most? Where was our cry to God when we had “just” another normal day?    
 Job was in constant conversation with God throughout his entire life; maybe that’s why God’s call from the whirlwind was so loud… because Job was inclined to listen for God’s voice in his life.  I wonder if the still, small voice of God that is in all of our lives would really seem so still and small if we were accustomed to listening for it on a daily basis. Maybe if we paid closer attention that still, small voice would actually roar like a tidal wave.  
Every day of our lives is a journey across the Sea of Galilee. And God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is present in our boat on calm days and stormy ones. God is giving us all of the direction we need to make it through our journey, and God wants us to remain in constant conversation through the normal days and the extraordinary ones.  We were created, just as we are, and sent us into this world — into this vast sea — for the benefit of all creation. Although our boat is indeed terribly, terribly small, we are never in it alone. So keep up the conversation: on smooth days and on rough days because it is easier to hear Christ’s call of “Peace” when we have made time for the stillness each day of our busy lives.
Amen.

Affecting Change?

Yesterday morning a video of a 68-year-old school bus monitor, named Karen Klein, being bullied to tears by a group of middle schoolers went viral. It was a horrible video and showed how a mob mentality takes over. Kids, some of whom are likely very nice in other situations, joined in taunting and ridiculing the senior citizen who has given 20 years of her life to that job. The comments I saw from people sharing the video ranged from suggesting that the children involved “never should have been born,” to criticisms against the parents, to cries for emails to the school district. But there was one response that made my heart soar. A 25-year-old man in Vancouver started a fundraiser online to hopefully raise $5,000 for the woman to take a vacation. When I donated a small amount the total was already at $20,000. As I write this post the campaign has collected almost $350,000.
While it makes me happy that so many people were moved to help Ms. Klein, I can’t help but feel sad that there are other causes in desperate need of funding that cannot seem to get folks to put their hearts behind. Helping the victims of genocide in Rwanda, assisting orphans of the Iraqi war, local homeless shelters, food pantries, job assistance programs for the unemployed, saving victims of human trafficking, under-funded school districts, the list goes on and on. Globally and locally there are so many causes that could do so much good for so many people with a quarter of a million dollars. According to thewaterproject.org, $7,000 can build a clean water well in an African village. Last fall I helped raise $12,000, which will build a medical clinic in Myanmar. So why is it that we can raise almost $350,000 in a 24 hour period for a woman who was cruelly bullied at work while we have to continuously campaign and strive to collect money to aid the homeless men and women who live right down the street from us?
 
I think it comes down to who we relate to most. In Karen Klein people see a woman who could be their friend, neighbor, mother, or grandmother. We are horrified by the punishment she endured and the grace with which she handled it. She certainly deserves a gift and support. But I question what we are learning from this massive showing of charity?
I truly wish that we could relate as easily to the homeless woman seeking shelter in the park, the dehydrated young man tilling a field in Africa, or the Thai teenager who was sold into the sex trade when she should have been finishing high school. I still believe that human beings are intrinsically good, but I see so many ways that our Western, middle class upbringing makes us out of touch with the rest of the world and the rest of Christ’s body.
Keep in mind: I donated to the campaign for Klein. I think it is a wonderful thing that we want so badly to help this woman. What I am pondering this evening is how we can use resources like this to raise awareness and support for causes more far reaching. People were invited to donate as little as $1 to the campaign for the bus monitor. Most of the donations that are tracking are between $5-$20. The power is in the number of people moved by the original video. I pray that people might be able to see the power we have when we work together. Global problems like homelessness or starvation seem too large for one person to fix, so we often give up before we start. What this campaign teaches us is that we can change the world one person, one dollar, one heart, and One body in Christ at a time.

Real Deacons

I attended the Diocese of Massachusetts ordination of 7 new vocational deacons yesterday. It was wonderful to see the “magnificent seven” ordained to a vocation to which they are so clearly destined. Vocational deacons are deacons who are called specifically to the work of a deacon. My ordination 2 weeks ago was to the “transitional” diaconate. Transitional deacons are deacons who are called to a temporary service as a deacon and will, God willing and the people consenting, be eventually ordained as priests in the church. There is much debate over whether it is necessary to be ordained to the transitional diaconate prior to being ordained to the priesthood. I believe that the time of service as a deacon is a vital part of our formation as priests. It is my belief that the eventual calling to sacramental ministry, the ministry of a priest, also includes some of the vital components of diaconal ministry.

Deacons serve a very important role in the church as those who are specifically called to a servant ministry of welcoming the poor and oppressed, providing pastoral counsel, and proclaiming the Gospel outside of the walls of the church. While we are all called, by virtue of our baptism, to share the good news it is the vocation of a deacon to organize such efforts on behalf of and in cooperation with the church. It is my belief that one never stops being a deacon once ordained to the diaconate. Thus, when I am (God willing) ordained to the priesthood next year it will be an extension of my ministry into a sacramental realm because that is the calling I have received.

When I arrived at the ordination I met a priest in the diocese whom I have never met before. I was wearing my cassock, surplice, and deacon’s stole. The priest asked me, “So, are you a real deacon?” I was confused by the question. I am, undoubtably, a real deacon. But what he meant was “are you a vocational (permanent) deacon?”

Does being a transitional deacon mean that I am not a real deacon? I don’t think so. Some dioceses ordain seminarians to the transitional diaconate in their senior year so that they can be ordained to the priesthood more quickly after graduation. There are many reasons for this and the deacons I graduated with are tremendous ministers of the Gospel. I am grateful, though, that my diocese did not choose to do that. Personally, I found senior year of seminary to be very challenging with the many directions demanding of my focus and I do not think I would have been able to adequately focus my attention on the work of a deacon.

For the next six months -or longer- I am gratefully, proudly a “real deacon” and I am excited to see where this ministry will lead me.

Coming Home

One month ago, almost to the day, I drove away from the Virginia Theological Seminary preparing for a new adventure. Seminary is different than other types of graduate school in several ways that are hard to describe. My peers and I discussed these oddities of seminary on various occasions, but most deeply as we prepared to leave a community that had become our family.
There is a lot you have to give up to enter into life as a clergy person. You give up a sense of control over your life as you give it over to God (and your bishop.) You give up your home parish. If you are called to go away to seminary, as I was, you give up your friends and proximity to your family. You give up your financial stability. But in the midst of all that loss there is this tremendous gain in realizing your calling. As I sit at my desk in my new office typing this message to all of you, I can’t imagine being anyplace else.
I loved my time in Virginia and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  Despite the feeling of family in that community, there was a part of me that could never internalize that it was home. You go to seminary in order to prepare for the next step in your call toward ordination. Seminary is not a destination; it is a beautiful stop along the road. Despite the deep sadness I feel at leaving that place, I knew it was time and I left with the people I loved the most.
One month ago, almost to the day, I drove up to my new apartment in Arlington. There were “welcome” balloons tied to the front porch railing. When I opened the door I was washed in the scent of fresh lilies and found my living room already set up for me. I went into the kitchen and found a fridge stocked with my favorite foods and a beautiful basket filled with cleaning supplies, snacks, tea, and other essentials. I hadn’t cried at all since leaving school but in that moment the tears came. I made a cup of tea and drank it out of my new Parish of the Epiphany mug. In that moment I knew I had finally come home. Despite being overwhelmed by all of the emotions swirling inside of me I could identify that there was one emotion greater than all the rest: gratitude. For the first time in a long while I can set my feet on firm ground and internalize – this is my home.

Last Day at St. Anne’s

Today was my last at field education. The last two years at St. Anne’s were wonderful and formational. This is the sermon I preached… based on the readings for Easter 5 year B. Enjoy!

Good-byes are rarely easy, even when they may have been anticipated. When I was working in the hospital I said goodbye frequently. Usually those good-byes were happy occasions. Often, saying goodbye to a patient meant that he or she was well enough to go home. Sure, I would miss them; But our goal was healing that resulted in homecoming. Because of the conditions I specialized in, I had many long-term patients. They were always the ones who were hardest to say good-bye to.

There is one girl in particular who immediately comes to mind when I think of good-byes.  Nancy was a 4-year-old child of immigrants. Her parents did not speak English, but Nancy was bilingual. Because of their work at a factory several hours from the hospital, Nancy’s parents were not able to visit very frequently. She would spend days or even weeks waiting for a visit from her parents. They were good people, but the language barrier coupled with a less than cooperative employer made visiting difficult.   Nancy became one of my special patients.   
During her 4-month stay at the hospital I had a standing date with Nancy everyday, Monday through Friday, at 3:25 in the afternoon. Nancy’s favorite television program was on everyday at 3:00. I couldn’t always watch the show with her, but I made the commitment to be in her room everyday in time for the closing theme song. Sometimes I had to run through the hallways in order to make it on time. Some days I would be late, and on rare occasions I missed our date. But I never forgot that I was supposed to be there.   
One Thursday afternoon I showed up at her room to sing the song and found her room cleaned, reset, and ready for a new patient. I was perplexed; Nancy had been there in the morning when I’d run past on my way to another room. I knew I would see her at 3:25 so I didn’t worry about it. But when 3:25 rolled around, Nancy was gone.  (Don’t worry: Nancy was okay!)
We are almost at the end of the Easter season, two weeks from now we will be in the last week of Easter and we will celebrate Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven.   The passage from John’s Gospel that we read this morning is from what is called Jesus’ “final discourse.”  This is where Jesus is preparing to say goodbye to the disciples by imparting his last lessons about the love of God and the commandments to keep. In doing this Jesus is also enabling them to say goodbye to him.  
But Jesus does something a little bit tricky, Jesus tells the disciples to abide in him as he abides in them.  Hold up, do you see what he did there? He indirectly told the disciples that he is still going to be around, in a way. Through the commandments he leaves, the lessons he has taught them, and the love that is always available from God, He is here. He said all of that when he said the word, “Abide.”  
Abide isn’t a word you hear very often, unless of course, you are a seminarian thEVirginia Theological Seminary. I must now give pause to thank one of my brilliant and faithful classmates who gave a sermon in the seminary chapel that focused on the word abide. Since that sermon a few months ago, the word pops out at me when I am reading scripture and causes me to pause. I hadn’t realized the power contained in that word before her sermon, and I know I will never forget its power now.  
You see, I used to think that Abide meant, “to rest in.” –I was wrong. (That does happen from time to time…) What abide actually means is: to uphold, adhere to, or stand by – but it can also mean to remain, persist, or live on. Some might say that my definition, “to rest in” was close enough, but I disagree: Abide is an action verb and I was making it passive. Yes, it is true that “technically” to rest is an action very… but, let’s face it, the “resting in” I was talking about had nooooo action involved in it. The “resting” I was talking about meant that I would sit back and let God come to me.
One of the ways I talk about refreshing myself is in allowing myself to be washed in the word, which sounds like a passive act, until we look at it in the context of our Baptism. All of a sudden, when we look at being “washed in” the word in the context of Baptism it becomes an action. Baptism is a choice we make, or a choice made on our behalf until we are old enough. It is a choice to adhere to God’s law and accept God’s love. Baptism is a choice to Abide in God. Abiding isn’t just lying there letting things happen to you; Abiding is acting, even when it is still, abiding is an action based decision.    By telling the disciples to Abide in him, Jesus is communicating that they do not have to do their future ministry alone: he will be a persistent presence in their lives as long as they actively choose to adhere to God’s commandments and remain faithful in their love of God in Christ.  
This idea of Abiding has been close to my heart as I prepare to say goodbye in so many parts of my life and to so many people who have been walking with me. St. Anne’s is a big part of that   I intend to Abide here with you all, even though this is my last Sunday at St. Anne’s.  So, this seems as appropriate a time as any to tell you about a a spiritual practice of sorts that I engage in each week as I sit up front with the altar party.  It started my first Sunday at St. Anne’s and continues every sunny Sunday morning and I’d like to share it with you today.  
The key word in my Sunny Sunday Spiritual Practice, is sunny… this practice doesn’t work when it is cloudy out.  What I like to do is to watch the shapes that the sun casts around the room through the windows. I like to watch them as they gradually re-member themselves by the end of the 11:15 service.  I will explain: You see those diamond shaped windows up to the sides and then up at the back? During the fall and winter months the sun shines through those windows and at the start of the 7:45 service the shapes they cast are slivers of triangles that begin on the ceiling, as we progress through the 9:00 service the triangles move and bend and distort as they travel from the ceiling into the pews effectively blinding a number of you as the services continue.   But while you are reaching for your sunglasses or otherwise shielding your eyes, I am noticing that the effect of the triangles of light is like a halo. Even if just for a moment, you look like angels in that light.  The light moves and hits different people from minute to minute.  On Sunny Sunday mornings I look into the congregation and I see a room full of illuminated angels.

I like to think that the sunlight is actually the Holy Spirit exposing the Christ within each of us as it hits. By the end of the 11:15 service the triangles of light move back to the ceiling, eventually rejoining together to form the perfect diamond that mirrors the shape of the window.  When that happens I think of it as the Christ that is within us all bonding together in the corporate body of Christ.   Later in the spring and early summer months (like now) the light comes from the latticework above the altar, but it gives the same effect = Angels in our midst.    

The Epistle reading this morning from 1 John reminds us to Abide in love, because it is in abiding in love that we abide in God. I love you. I love the people of St. Anne’s. There have been times when it has been a struggle to get up early and drive out here early on a Sunday morning, but I always leave grateful that I was here. You have been kind, generous, challenging, comedic, encouraging, and thoughtful. You have pushed me to be better. And you have supported me when I was struggling. A major constant in my life in the past two years has been my time with all of you; I thank you for that. I intend to abide in you. I will abide in your call to social justice. I will abide in your inclusive nature. I will abide in your desire for intelligent conversation. I will abide in your love of Jesus Christ. I will abide in you.
You have taught me that I can be creative in Adult Formation curriculum and in liturgical planning. You’ve taught me to be curious in conversations as I meet new people at coffee hour. You have taught me to be faithful but relaxed in my sermon preparation and to be open to critique. My lay committee, Audree, Emily, David, Rachel, and Jim have taught me to assert my boundaries, be confident in my abilities, and claim my authority. I will carry all of this with me as I abide in you. Because we are collectively called to abide in God’s love, and abiding in that love together is a universal bond that eternally unites us to one another.  
Good-byes are rarely easy, even when they may have been anticipated.  
That Thursday afternoon when I arrived on the unit to see Nancy I was devastated that I didn’t get to say goodbye. I knew we had been working for weeks on transferring Nancy to a hospital closer to her parents but there had been no indication that this was going to happen soon.  I had taken for granted that Nancy was going to be there when I ran past that morning.  I knew I would get another chance to say goodbye so I hadn’t stopped. But upon further reflection I realized something: with every loving interaction I’d had with Nancy we had been saying goodbye, because we were creating memories in which we could Abide. The truth is, Nancy and I said goodbye to one another everyday at 3:25 when we sang her theme song together:
Goodbye, for now, until we meet again.
I say so long, farewell, to you my friends
Goodbye, for now, until we meet again.
           
Amen.
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