Drs. Andy and Lynn Wisely,
Spiritual Emphasis Team
Processing and Recessing
Remember Bishop Fisher telling us while he was our rector that our final hymn during worship is not really a recessional but a processional into the world? This is a place of being sent out, as our post-communion prayer makes clear: “Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord.”
The church has revolving doors. Certain stages of life invite return. When we exit the doors of a church, we may be carrying a candle from a baptism, flower petals or birdseed to throw at a newly married couple . . . or a casket. In the rhythm of the liturgical year, we may exit with ash on our foreheads or a tongue of flame pinned to our clothes.
When we enter the sanctuary at St. Alban’s we see the words “Prayer is Work.” When we leave, we see the words “Work is Prayer.” It’s strange that in a sanctuary we’re reminded of work, but of course liturgy is the work of the people, not just of the clergy. So as we kneel, we roll up our sleeves. Here on Sunday and on every day, we both rest secure and pitch in to the work God is doing already. Prayer is a long haul with no quick fix. Put on your boots.
Remember our processional hymn from last Sunday: “O wounded hands of Jesus, build in us thy new creation; our pride is dust, our vaunt is stilled, we wait thy revelation: O love that triumphs over loss, we bring our hearts before thy cross, to finish thy salvation.”
Your gates will always be open; by day or night they will never be shut. You will call your walls, Salvation, and all your portals, Praise.
I’m only speaking for myself here, but maybe what I’m feeling will resonate with others. Two things stand out to me. First, last Sunday’s Gospel featured the Beatitudes. These declarations of blessing make clear that Jesus sides with the poor, weak, and marginalized. Take the first three from Matthew 5:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.”
The second thing that I’m thinking about are the anxieties, mostly real but some imagined, that surround tumultuous elections. For some reason, the lyrics of “It is well with my soul” come to mind. Do you know this verse? “My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”
Imagine that my anxieties are included along with the sins that get nailed to the cross. Then I can agree that it is well with my soul. I don’t feel it right now, but maybe I will live into the promise if I profess it, and especially if I heed the way Jesus closes out his Beatitude blessings: “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.” (Matthew 5: 12). Imagine Jesus sitting on a mountainside and addressing the crowd that followed him. He has no need to raise his voice or use a microphone, because the crowd then, and whoever has ears to hear now, is leaning forward to catch every irresistible word.
One of the Prayers for our Country from the Book of Common Prayer (18) reads:
“Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (BCP 820).
For the Departed
Nov. 2, 2016
O eternal Lord God, who holdest all souls in life: Give, we beseech thee, to thy whole Church in paradise and on earth thy light and thy peace; and grant that we, following the good examples of those who have served thee here and are now at rest, may at the last enter with them into thine unending joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (BCP 202)
Who are the saints in your life, living or passed on, who haunt you—in the sense that you shudder to think where you would be now if they hadn't been a part of your life and formation?
It's likely that we refer to the mentors and ministers and spiritual figures who have shaped us the most as "rocks" or even "giants." So it's appropriate, in line with Our One Foundation, to thank and follow "the good examples of those who have served thee here." The bedrock of the generations before us on which we build isn't just a vague concept to be sentimental about or to point to as the "better old days." We can think of specific names in our lives and in the life of this parish. We keep the lights on here thanks to the saints and souls who insist that their lives were literally changed here. What about yours?
You are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God. (Ephesians 2:19)
Conceiving the Temple
Oct. 23, 2016
Several chapters in the Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Chronicles capture the efforts of David and Solomon to build the temple. At least three points stand out from David’s preparation to build the temple.
1. The place that David chose for the temple was the same place where he had presented burnt offerings to God. It was originally a threshing floor that belonged to a man named Ornan. David could have had it for free, but he paid Ornan full price for it: “I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (I Chron. 21:24 NSRV). Some amount of investment (sacrifice) was necessary for David to feel right about his sacrifice. When he made his offerings, he called on the Lord, and God answered him by sending fire from heaven. Altars, arks, tabernacles, and temples were places for God to dwell—where God had shown up. This temple was no different.
2. The temple was conceived as a place of peace. David’s son Solomon, a man of peace, was supposed to carry out the building, but David said: “My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the Lord must be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorified throughout all lands; I will therefore make preparation for it” (I. Chron. 22:5). David was a bit of a helicopter parent, but at least he made sure Solomon had more than enough materials and assistance for the task.
3. As king, David was used to giving orders, but the charges he gives to both Solomon and to the leaders of Israel sound more like a blessing than an ultimatum.
To Solomon, David says: “Now, my son, the Lord be with you, so that you may succeed in building the house of the Lord your God, as he has spoken concerning you. Only, may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding, so that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the Lord your God. Then you will prosper if you are careful to observe the statutes and the ordinances that the Lord commanded Moses for Israel. Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid or dismayed” (I Chron. 22:11-13).
To the leaders of Israel, David says: “Is not the Lord your God with you? Has he not given you peace on every side? . . . Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God. Go and build the sanctuary of the Lord God so that the ark of the covenant of the Lord and the holy vessels of God may be brought into a house built for the name of the Lord” (I Chron. 22: 18-19).
Like Solomon, some of us need to hear the message of strength and courage. Like the leaders of Israel, we are reminded that God has already given the peace, and that it is time to build the sanctuary that both holds and spreads that peace.
The Right Time
Oct. 16, 2016
We find reasons to put off doing the things we know we should do. Why? Are we waiting for the right time to do the right thing? Usually our attempt to do something right, at least for our bodies and souls, coincides with New Year’s resolutions or Lenten disciplines.
The Bible will show you, and Wikipedia will tell you, that the ancient Greek term kairos is the quality kind of time, while chronosmeans the quantity kind of time. Kairos is the title of many ministries, because it means “the right time.”
70 years ago (chronos), people built St. Alban’s. Now it’s the right time to do something of that magnitude again. We’ve heard the reasons for doing so—why now is the right time (kairos). Aging facilities, and donors who want to give back now. A bright future, and a visionary rector. And a season for making promises more durable and long-lasting than the promises we make during New Year’s or Lent.
Jesus said often enough during his ministry that his time had not yet come. But then, when it did come, he recognized it. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom. 5:6) That’s one of the 86 times that Kairos appears in the New Testament.
But I like its meaning in classical rhetoric too: “a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved.” (Last year, against North Carolina, it was the right time for Baylor to use the Wildcat offense).
For everything there is a season. We’re entering a season of harvest . . . and of giving. The two belong together. As do Kairos and Carpe diem: It’s the right time to seize the day.
We Are A Temple
Oct. 9, 2016
“In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.” (Ephesians 2:21-22) At the same time that we find our home in the household of God, God’s dwelling place is also in us, because we are part of the fabric. We know that the Church is already spiritually present wherever Christians gather throughout the world. Is there any better way to express gratitude for being part of that holy temple than by giving back to God? Then we can pray, work, and marvel as beautiful spaces of worship, formation, and ministry unfold before our eyes in celebration of God’s presence among us.
In God We Trust... And Build
Oct. 2, 2016
“Building” is a noun and a verb: we say that we are building a building. Other things that get built are relationships, legacies, bridges, hope, even suspense. We build trust, too, which is not so much blind faith as an acceptance of inevitable risk. A campaign, like a business contract, begins with such awareness of risk. We trust the testimony of committees and consultants. We trust our fellow parishioners, our vestry, and our hardworking clergy. We especially trust God to keep us on course. “In God we trust,” we say. May God grow the trust in our hearts to build buildings. May we respond as 1 Timothy 6: 19 invites us to do, with good works and generosity, in order to “store up . . . the treasure of a good foundation for the future” and to “take hold of the life that is really life.”