Radiance

I’ve never witnessed so many fireflies in one place, flashing in the dusk as we hiked up the mountain last night, dancing around us with their flickering light. On our way back down, however, we witnessed a gathering so dense that it appeared the milky way was caught in the trees, flashing like tiny paparazzi through the dark night. It was stunning, causing us to linger so we could enjoy creation’s light show.  Although we tried to capture the beauty, it was too elusive.  We’ll have to carry the memory in our hearts.

Some things shine because light is shining on them while others radiate light from within, illuminating the world around them.  Here in Paintsville, Kentucky, seven youth and four adults are experiencing first hand this radiance of creation in the lush beauty around us but even more so in the brilliance of the people we have met.  At the top of the mountain, we shared not only Eucharist but also what drew us to come on the mission trip in the first place and what we might take from here into the rest of our lives.

Over and over people named the incredible light we witnessed in the people around us:

Bev, an EMT who is creating a cozy home out of a chicken coop, is resourceful, with an eye for finding scraps that can be repurposed.  She is intensely passionate about her children and grandchildren, caring for the latter after her daughter’s death.  Wiry and strong, she is invested in making her home livable, working side by side with the team and calling them ‘baby,’ even writing them a lovely note when she couldn’t be there.  Her infectious joy spills over even to those of us who haven’t met her.

Karen, a Wendy’s cashier raising her grandchildren together with Larry her beloved husband of 41 years, is so grateful that her kitchen floor no longer has dangerous soft spots—especially after her young grandchild fell through one.   Larry has had three back surgeries and needs at least one more, but the more urgent issue this week was his heart—he underwent double bypass surgery on Tuesday and, thankfully, is recovering well.  The concern etched in their 19 year old granddaughter’s face, wordlessly conveying the tremendous role these two have in providing a safe haven from absent fathers and a mother’s drug addiction, gave way to relief upon hearing this good news.

And there is Jason, who gave up his ‘dream job’ in Minnesota some ten years ago to live and work alongside the people of Eastern Kentucky.  He founded Good Neighbors, Inc., the group who is making possible our work here, to support the working poor while providing groups like ours an unforgettable experience.  His joy is contagious.

Like the twinkling lights of the fireflies, I cannot adequately describe the radiance we are experiencing first hand, although I’m guessing it will be visible among us Sunday morning when we share more about of our time here.  From an infamous Steak ‘n Shake stop on the drive down to priceless one-liners that crop up through each day to the fun of working hard together and making a real difference in the lives of such beautiful people, we are forging powerful bonds and memories of a lifetime.  We are deeply grateful to and for our parish, who have made this incredible adventure possible.

At our baptism, we are given a candle and invited to shine forth as the light of Christ in the world.  It is beautiful to behold this little group doing just that.  Let your light shine this day and always.

Hope to see you Sunday.

Pastor Elizabeth
06.22.17

God Spotting

I had a conversation with God one night.  A proper back and forth kind of talk. I was questioning why I had survived an illness which two other young girls I knew hadn’t lived through and there was a reply, a voice speaking in my heart as clear as a phone conversation.  One answer, “I have work for you to do”, started me on a course of seeking God’s will at the ripe old age of 14.

Seeking God and a deeper understanding of God is a life’s work.  In one version or another of the prayer book I was struck by a prayer that we would “see the hand of God at work in the world around us” and I was fascinated.  Looking for God at work became a game with me.  I’ve always enjoyed puzzles, word searches and “Where’s Waldo” pictures – I’m a seeker. “Adventures with God” I called the game and it was endlessly entertaining to observe where God was at work in the world around me.

God as creator provides a mind boggling array of examples of God at work. I call myself a gardener, but really I just enjoy working in the garden and looking at the various kinds of plants and the amazing variety of bugs there are.  What kind of God is this that insists on so many different kinds of plants, animals and even different kinds of stones?  One who must delight in a variety of shapes and colors, purposes and even scents.  Awesome God!

Redeemer God, Jesus the Christ, has invited me into an understanding of community as a place of learning, mutual healing and generosity. Through the years Adventures with God has turned up examples of the marginalized being drawn in, sometimes by the least among us, small caliber miracles and a hunt to find the aspect of every person which God loves about them. Loving God!

Holy Spirit, the Sustainer, is a master of the game; forging connections one heart to another, giving the perfect words into the mouths of innocents just to slow you down and make you think, drawing us ever closer to the dance of God.  “Waltz with me, rumba or two-step and at each turn I’ll show you something you’ve never noticed before” she says.  Enlightening God!

So I share my game with you – a summer project to begin with, and maybe a life’s work for you as well.  “God Spotting” is about looking on purpose, intentionally throughout your day for God’s hand at work in the world around you. Pay attention, rack up points if that encourages you, take notes and photos too if that’s appropriate.  We can use our Facebook page to post our sightings and encourage each other in our hunt to know more about our awesome, loving, enlightening God.  Let the game begin!

Jo Gantzer
06.15.17

Caring for Creation

This week has been so beautiful… days not too hot, not too cold…in my opinion they’ve been just right. The moon continues to swell and the bursting forth of flowering plants amid the various shades of green delight the eye—even if they set off fits of sneezing for some of us.  I find the breathtaking beauty of our creation is easily obscured by suburban living, unless I’m consciously paying attention and looking for it.  Recently, Jim and I spent a few hours hiking trails in the Morton Arboretum, finding it so restorative to be away from buildings and pavement that we signed up to become members.  Finding a tiny fox cub nestling alongside the path in a bed of sun-soaked leaves probably helped.

From the beginning, our connection to creation has been evident. In the first of the two creation stories found in Genesis, ancient poems of meaning-making, the wind of God breathes over the face of the waters and speaks into being light and dark, day and night, land and creatures. Each ‘day’ begins with the refrain “let there be…” and concludes with the affirmation “and God saw that it was good.”

Into this increasingly diverse and expansive creation God said,

let us make humankind, in our image,
according to our likeness! …
and God saw all that he had made,
and here: it was exceedingly good!” 

The tricky part is all that is contained within the ellipses—those three dots—particularly the blessing God has for humankind to bear fruit and be many and fill the earth and subdue it! Have dominion over [it].  How are we to live into this invitation?  Clearly over the millennia, many of our brothers and sisters have seen it has giving free reign to use creation for our own benefit and purposes.

However, a few minutes with the Hebrew words give pause.  The word for subdue, as one commentator highlights, is akin to pruning, where limit is established that it might yield greater life.  Dominion, they continue, is a royal word but, again, our understanding of ruling over and God’s understanding very often differ.  Psalm 72 describes the dominion God has in mind:

He delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.  He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.  From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight. 

God becomes intimately part of creation in the Incarnation, sanctifying the stuff of earth as precious and holy.  Jesus does not lord over nor exploit others with his power, but comes alongside us with compassion, service and healing. May we follow Jesus and care for creation with generosity and joy, protecting where it is weakest and doing all that we can to ensure it yields life and flourishes.

Join the newly formed St. Simon’s Green Team—those interested in fostering opportunities to appreciate and care for creation—during Making Connections this Sunday, where each week we’ll be providing opportunities between the services to enjoy each other’s company while learning and growing together—I hope you’ll join the conversation!

Hope to see you Sunday!

06.08.17

Pastor Elizabeth
P.S.  And if you like digging in the dirt, come by this Saturday morning to help enhance our gardens with new plants!

Torn Ligament: Injured Connections

I tore a ligament in my knee a few weeks back. Initially it was immensely painful – the seeing stars kind. After a trip to the clinic, x-rays, and an MRI, the doctors declared it not broken, just injured and torn. Sometimes torn ligaments are more difficult to deal with than breaks. Breaks heal faster.

The word “religion” means something like to “re-ligamenting.” Religion is what holds us together – in good ways and not-so-good ways. Yet underneath it all there is a sense that we are meant to be connected. In the Gospel of John, Jesus prays that we all may be one. The Apostle Paul uses the metaphor of us being one body.

We are bombarded with negative comments about social media. Yet is not social media another “religion”—ways that are trying to connect us in a disconnected world.

I’m all in favor of technology connecting us. I joined Facebook a number of years ago to stay connected with the counselors at the camp I was directing. In the meantime, I connected with colleagues, family, and friends around the world with whom I had shared ministry and significant times in my life.

In these days in which the political pattern is to keep us separate and to demonize the “other,” repairing damaged ligaments is essential to our personal and corporate health.

I’m doing physical therapy to help restore my knee. What might we need to be doing in our physical, spiritual, and political life that helps us reconnect and restore those broken and torn ligaments that connect and support/sustain our nation, our world, the people of the Book, and the Body of Christ?  For myself, the Table set in our midst at the Eucharist is the place I return to time after time. Being gathered with you in flesh and blood reminds me that there are billions of people around the earth connecting with each other, and “with angels and archangels” to praise the One, with whom we are one – connected.

Larry Handwerk
Associate for Worship
06.01.17

Choosing the Kingdom

Every time we pray the prayer Jesus gave us, we pray ‘thy kingdom come.’  What, exactly, do we mean?  Today is the Feast of the Ascension, when Jesus rose up into a cloud, leaving the disciples staring up such that two angels appear and ask them, “men of Galilee why do you stand there looking up into heaven?” Many of us have been raised to think of the Kingdom of Heaven as a place we go when we die, when we finally get to be with Jesus “for real.” We are still looking up, but that isn’t where Jesus is nor where the kingdom is to be found.

As long as Jesus was physically present, he was in Galilee or Samaria, in Jerusalem or on the road, but not all those places at once.  Only the physical absence of Jesus from the disciples made possible his actual presence throughout space and time, here with me as I write this and you as you read it.  So what about the kingdom?  We don’t build it or make it, rather we are invited to choose to participate in it every single day.  Remember the prayer Jesus taught us continues, “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

In his book Choosing the Kingdom, scholar John Dally reminds us that over and over the New Testament authors offer a central proclamation that in Jesus, God was present in history offering an alternative to human notions of power and destiny and forcing a choice of allegiance…a ‘krisis’ (judgment) that they greet with joy…that is a perpetually available choice afforded human beings to discern the action of God in history and choose to embrace it or walk away from it.  (page 13 & 121).  We, too, are faced with those same choices each and every day.

In the midst of our hurting world, we see evidence of people choosing the kingdom. A few that caught my eye this week were the homeless men who rushed into the chaos to be with the victims in Manchester and the incredible speech given by the mayor of New Orleans before the dismantling of the last Confederate monument there. The tenderness and care of someone encouraging her friend who was struggling and some youth who sought to find the best way to be there for a friend who had posted that they had been cutting.

Where did you see glimpses of the kingdom this week? When did you choose the kingdom, perhaps even when it was difficult or costly to do so?  We pray for eyes to see the alternative worldview God is offering in this moment, coming back to be re-grounded in God’s desire for us as witnessed in Jesus.  Will we live in fear and scarcity or trust and sufficiency, the conviction that there is enough?  Will we focus on our own ‘tribe’ of culture, religion or nation or see God in those who are not like us just as much as in those we love?  Will we choose power and certainty or vulnerability and steadfastness?

Choose the kingdom this day, this moment, and pray that I may do likewise.  May our prayers shape our actions that we may participate in the kingdom of heaven here and now.  Rather than standing there looking up, how are we entering into the kingdom of heaven this day?  Some may wish to join the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Rev. Justin Welby, who has initiated an 11-day global wave of prayer today through June 4 entitled ‘thy kingdom come,’ others may want to sign up for the Feed My Starving Children followed by being the guests at an Iftar hosted by our Muslim brothers and sisters or perhaps deliver meals on wheels to those who are in need.  Jesus invites us to see through his eyes, the eyes of Love, and to let our actions flow out from there. How are you choosing the kingdom?

Hope to see you Sunday,

Pastor Elizabeth

PS.  This summer, we are continuing with our regular 8am and 10am Eucharist schedule, providing opportunities between the services to enjoy each other’s company while learning and growing together.

What Matters

This week the staff held a planning meeting, one of several, to begin mapping out the coming year. In my first parish, the rector called it the long death march through the calendar—painful, but necessary. Actually, we had a lot of fun along the way, and I’m grateful we are working on the project further ahead than in some years.

All too often the tasks of daily life can consume our time and energy such that we lose sight of the big picture. I’m reminded of when we lived in Evanston, right on the border with Northwestern University’s campus, and the students would all walk looking down at the sidewalks, which were plastered with signs announcing this or that upcoming opportunity. Now, of course, students are just as likely to be looking down at their phones while walking, something I’m afraid I’m guilty of as well. But life is more than the immediate demands and expectations. We need to remember to look up, to see further out, to ask the bigger questions.

Author and theologian Frederick Buechner put it this way:

We are much involved, all of us, with questions about things that matter a good deal today but will be forgotten by this time tomorrow—the immediate wheres and whens and hows that face us daily at home and at work—but at the same time we tend to lose track of the questions about things that matter always, life-and-death questions about meaning, purpose, and value. To lose track of such deep questions as these is to risk losing track of who we really are in our own depths and where we are really going. 

Rarely do we move in a perfectly straight line. Making a commitment to giving ourselves time to think about the meaning, purpose and value of our life and to ensure our priorities reflect what truly matters, can help us be sure we are on track, giving our time and energy to those things that are most important to us. I know first hand how hard it is to do and how essential both as an individual and when working as part of a larger community.

Our parish Identity Statement, Celebrating God’s love for all, seeking to embody Christ in the world, is helping to shape and inform the longer range planning of both the staff and the vestry. This Sunday, we’ll have time to explore this more during our vestry town hall meetings, but it is a lens we can all use to reflect on the purpose, meaning and values in our own life as well as within the parish community and ministries. It goes behind the “what” are we doing and moves us into questions about “how” we go about doing whatever it is we do. How do I show up with others? How am I present to and with those who I find easy to love and those who may trigger me, for whatever reason. How am I making decisions about my time, money, energy and other resources, remembering that whatever I put my energy and focus into, grows. What do I want to grow in my life, and how am I investing toward that end?

Church is a place that can and, hopefully does, encourage you to make space to explore these essential questions by fostering opportunities to engage with scripture, with others who are sharing the journey with us, and with ourselves. Thomas Merton said, with God, a little sincerity goes a long way. If we desire to engage in these bigger questions, there will be sufficient space in our lives to do so. In God all things are possible!

Hope to see you Sunday,

Pastor Elizabeth
05.18.17

Discerning Hearts

Not long ago, a parishioner shared that he had been doing a lot of discerning of late. He joked that before meeting me that wasn’t a word that he had ever used, and now he found himself using it frequently. Most of us find ourselves making decisions all the time, from how we will spend our time, resources or energy to what we will have for breakfast. We are inundated with choices, so much so that sometimes I find myself deeply weary of making decisions. Occasionally I’ll even ask whomever I’m with to please just make the decision about where we’re going to eat, as I’m decided-out! And all of us are affected by the decisions of others, regardless of how we feel about them.

But discerning is a little different. It leads to clarity around a decision, but it has more to do with the process of detecting or coming to recognize something, often using senses beyond vision. It comes from the Latin word discernere, meaning “to separate,” “to distinguish,” “to determine,” “to sort out.” Traditionally, Christians have used discerning as a reminder that the Spirit of God is at work in the world. Engaging in the process of discerning expresses our desire and commitment to open our selves to, and partner with, the Spirit’s movement in our lives. As Christians, we affirm that we are not alone, although sometimes we may feel that way. Jesus promises his followers his own Spirit, as both a guide and a witness: But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

Author and teacher the Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault shares the image of sailing in the fog. It isn’t easy to do—and can be quite dangerous—but realizing they cannot physically see, sailors open themselves to a different kind of awareness that helps guide them through potential dangers. So, too, those who experience a loss of one of the senses often experience a heightening of the other senses as well as this expanded awareness.  We might say we commit to listening from the heart, using our whole self, rather than just our intellect or will.

This greater awareness, often referred to as wisdom, is available to us always, but very often I’m too busy or forgetful to engage in listening from the heart. When I remember to discern, I’m actively opening my awareness to include the Spirit’s movement. I remember that my life is not simply my own. All of us have a purpose, and discerning is being curious about how I am responding to God’s call for me here and now. Now some of you may say I have a call and a purpose because I’m a priest, but in truth God calls each and every one of us right where we are.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt. Rev. Rowan Williams, writes that it isn’t that we are being drafted for some role in a drama, given a script and we’d better follow it or else.  Thank goodness!  Rather, God calls us to be who we are, to be true to ourselves. He goes on to say:

It’s all a way of restating the idea that vocation has to do with saving your soul — not by acquiring a secure position of holiness, but by learning to shed the unreality that simply suffocates the very life of the soul. It has to do with recognizing that my relation with God (and so with everybody) depends absolutely on making the decision to be what I am, to answer God’s Word (saying yes to being true to myself), and doing this without fuss or existentialist drama because what I am is already known and loved and accepted in God.

A commitment to discerning means choosing, over and over, to be true to who we are, to be authentic and real, in our work, in our relationships, in the living of our lives.   The leadership of St. Simon’s, the vestry and staff, continue to discern where the Spirit is leading St. Simon’s, as we live into our identity: Celebrating God’s Love for All, Seeking to Embody Christ in the World. All of us are encouraged and invited to discern in our own lives so that we may respond to the one who loves us and calls us. Where have you noticed God calling you in the past? Where and how is God calling you now, to be true to yourself?

Hope to see you Sunday,

Pastor Elizabeth
05.11.17

Learning from the Living School

Whether we are given many days to live or too few, we don’t often stop to consider why we are Christians, where we have seen God at work in our own lives—or even where we still aren’t sure!  Why are you a Christian?  What is the meaning of your life and how do you make sense of the challenges that are so clearly a part of living?  What real difference does it make in your experience of living?

We are called an Easter people—those who have journeyed with Jesus through death and into resurrection.  Too often people today think of resurrection as what happens after we physically die. This concept emerged only after the Roman Empire co-opted Christianity in the 4th century. The Empire had no interest in the ongoing transformation of human beings, for that would have challenged the status quo of power and stability—which of course was exactly what Jesus himself did. So in order to maintain the benefits of State protection, the Church began shifting its understanding of resurrection to something that we hope for after we die, assuming we follow the rules of those in power in the meantime.

That was a far cry from the way Jesus lived and the way the early followers understood resurrection.  For roughly three hundred years, Christians understood that following Jesus meant embracing a new way of living this life.  It meant continually letting go of things they thought were essential in order to experience the freedom to live this life—in the midst of persecution and hardship or even every day ordinary challenges—free from fear. And their joy was infectious as many embraced this way of transformation here and now.  Through the millennia mystics and saints have continually lifted up this understanding of what it means to be faithful: to follow Jesus’ way means making a commitment to die to our old ways of seeing, and learning to see and understand how to live in new ways.

As Richard Rohr reminds us:

Some form of suffering or death—psychological, spiritual, relational, or physical—is the only way we will loosen our ties to our small and separate false self. Only then does the larger Self appear, which we would call the Risen Christ, the soul, or perhaps the True Self…The overly defended ego is where we reside before these much needed deaths. The True Self (or “soul”) becomes real to us only after we have walked through death and come out much larger and wiser on the other side. This is what we mean by transformation, conversion, or enlightenment.

This process of ongoing transformation is the search for, or awakening to, our True Self.  It takes extraordinary courage to let go of our false self and all that it works to protect. Rather than ask, Why is this happening to me?  What would happen if we asked, What is happening to me and how do I participate in it as fully as I can?   The central question becomes whether we trust in the goodness of God to bring about something life-giving—some resurrection—out of every hardship, every pressure, every failure, every ending.  Therein we experience, abide in, Joy that is both larger and stronger than our particular circumstances.

My desire to become a more active partner with God in this process within my own life prompted me to enter a two-year program called the Living School, an offering of the Center for Action and Contemplation initiated by Richard Rohr. During the remaining Wednesday evenings in May, I will be offering Learnings from the Living School and inviting participants to become more active partners with God in their own lives, not only during the four weeks but beyond, and to consider how we might be a school for living here at St. Simon’s.  Please let me know if you are planning to attend, by replying to this email, and if you cannot attend but are interesting in exploring more, please let me know that too.

Hope to see you Sunday,

Pastor Elizabeth
05.04.17

Surprised by Joy

Little did I imagine what would unfold when I agreed to do a room dedication at the Buddy Foundation for a parishioner.  The Buddy Foundation is a wonderful local shelter that provides for homeless and abandoned animals, committing to their care even if homes cannot be found.  They often receive animals from the Pike County Shelter in Southern Illinois, where dogs and cats are euthanized if they haven’t found a home.  So on the Wednesday of Easter Week, a few volunteers and family members gathered in the multipurpose room before moving into the cat side for the room blessing itself.  Afterward, he invited me to walk through the dog side.  I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t.  Dog after attentive dog looked through the bars, quietly or aggressively or just curiously.

Then there was one face that tugged at my heart.  A black lab mix, I noted, about three years old.  I moved on, but my heart stayed back.  They were closed for the day, and I had commitments to attend to, after all.  Finally as I was leaving, I ventured the question:  Would there be someone who could tell me something about her, by chance?  Not that day, as it turns out, but was she ever a sweetie, came the reply.   Whew.  Well, sort of. Later I floated the idea to Jim, thinking somehow he would talk sense into me, but he didn’t hesitate at all. The kids were overjoyed at the possibility.  I was flying to spend two nights seeing mom—who remains the same—early the next morning, but Jim, Howie and the kids went to meet this sweet little one (well, 80 pounds isn’t that little!) after school that next day, setting up a video with me so I could get a sense of how it all went.

Bailey came home with us Saturday afternoon, and the two dogs played so well together that Howie might as well have been three—though I suspect he was a lot more stiff and sore afterwards than she.  She has been amazing, surprising all of us with her sweet (yes, she is very sweet), joyful disposition.  She’s taken to training beautifully; and even Howie has embraced a little training refresh that was long overdue.  She loves to cuddle—something Howie only tolerates—and is eager to soak up all the love we offer, pouring it back out as generously as she receives it.

Aside from the fact that she tends to spill huge amounts of water out of her mouth a good ten feet beyond her drinking bowl—we had to create a runway of indoor/outdoor rugs in an attempt to stem the flood—she is an Easter miracle in our life, a surprise we were neither looking for nor anticipating. And given that she was picked up in Pike County as a stray, she seems equally enthralled with the resurrection miracle she found in us.  We cannot imagine life without her in it.

C. S. Lewis, a prolific novelist, scholar and theologian, wrote a book entitled, Surprised by Joy, wherein he outlines his journey of searching for joy through painful childhood losses to a youthful atheism and, finally, to a strong, vibrant and mature faith.  Lewis writes:

I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and from Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. Apart from that, and considered only in its quality, it might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is. 

Joy is something most of us have tasted and want more of.  The promise of joy is woven throughout scripture. Jesus says, I have told you this that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. Not pleasure or happiness, but joy.  When I think of the joy unleashed in our household by our Easter surprise, it reminds me that Jesus connects true joy to abiding—abiding in God and with one another.  It isn’t a theological proposition but an experience of the heart—of belonging, of knowing and being known, of being loved and loving that is unshakable even by death.

Sometimes I think I’m searching for joy in all the wrong places—thinking I can achieve it or earn it or secure it. But joy is a gift, freely given and available to all of us, even when we are blind to it.  Love never ceases drawing us in, showing up in our lives in expected ways that we might taste joy and, in tasting, awaken all the more to its ongoing presence.

God, you sent your Son into the world that we might live through him: May we abide in his risen life so that we may love one another as he first loved us, and know the fullness of joy. Amen.

May you be surprised by joy…and abide in it!

Hope to see you Sunday,

Pastor Elizabeth
04.27.17

Resurrection

There is a wonderful book title, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. I haven’t opened it in a long while but occasionally the title catches my eye, causing me to smile. Certainly I can relate. Life is punctuated by joy-filled highs, standing in stark relief against the backdrop of ordinary time. We celebrated the resurrection this weekend with brass and tympani, bright Easter outfits—occasionally including bunny ears! and the triumphant shout “Alleluia! He is Risen!” The energy is palpable and the joy infectious. The Ecstasy. But then we go back into our week, our work, our life. The Laundry.

The two couldn’t be more separate. There is the sacred, and there is the rest of life, the secular. The Church, over the course of history, has sought to heighten that distinction: we have wafers instead of bread, wear special clothing and call things by funny names such that the entry becomes the narthex. And indeed, it’s hard to see the laundry as holy. But that is exactly what we are called to do. It’s the point, actually.

We celebrate Easter for fifty days, hearing throughout that time the resurrection appearances, the way Jesus kept showing up to Mary, to the disciples and those on the way. I’ve always loved those stories because it’s like Jesus is playing with his followers, “Now you see me, now you don’t!” until they get that while he isn’t with them the way he once was, he is with them still. In the garden. On the road. Having breakfast. Doing laundry. Over and over again they miss that it’s he, thinking him a gardener or a fellow traveler, until suddenly they get it, they see him where they hadn’t before, their hearts burning within them.

The message is clear. God is right here in the midst of our ordinary, everyday life—should we have eyes to see. Rather than seeing the sacred and secular as separate, sacred spaces and actions are intended to help us practice seeing the holy in the ordinary, so that we can see with the eyes of our heart how all of life is holy, sacred. So we take this water, this bread, this cup, affirming God’s presence in these ordinary things. We believe, trust, that this is true, because it isn’t something we can prove, any more than we can prove someone loves us. But we aren’t to leave it there. We are to take in that promise of the holy in the ordinary and recognize—as Mary recognized Jesus in the gardener—God’s presence in the rest of life.

It isn’t easy, at least not for me. I experience moments of ecstasy, of incredible joy and wonder, when I am resonating with the power of living and loving in the midst of ordinary life. But much of the time I don’t live there. Over and over I forget or simply can’t see the holy in the laundry. Being open to that flow, that deep down joy, is something I yearn for, and I believe that yearning comes from God. One of the primary practices that help me see the sacred in the ordinary is through the sharing of stories, hearing the stories of others and reflecting on the stories of my own life. Often the holy that was not obvious to me in the moment becomes clearer when I look for it. My prayer this Eastertide is to practice being open to glimpses of the holy in the ordinary, to expect it.

Hope to see you Sunday,

Pastor Elizabeth
04.20.17