Reconciled, reconciling

If anyone is in Christ she/he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Godself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (BCP, p.106, 2 For. 5:17-18)

God offers us the chance to be a new creation, every minute of every day. The old can pass away at any time, and the new ushered in with gladness. This isn’t something we do for ourselves – it’s a blessing Christ offers.

Thanks be to God, we respond.

But there’s something missing if we leave it at that. God also gave us the ministry of reconciliation – the joy and responsibility of handing on that reconciliation in our own lives, our own relationships. It’s not an easy or pleasant thing in all times, places, and circumstances. Sometimes, reconciliation is painful, difficult, and at the expense of something we’d rather do or have.

This ministry of reconciliation doesn’t seem like much of a gift compared to the chance to be a new creation. But there it is. I’m going to take it on faith that this ministry of reconciliation is every much the gift that new life is. For that reason, I’ll respond:

Thanks be to God.

A Suitable Passage

One of the following, or some other suitable passage of Scripture, is read.

The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Romans 5:5 (BCP, p 105)

Yesterday morning, a homeless woman wandered into the library just as the doors were unlocked for the day. She wanted help finding an affordable place to live. The two librarians offered to help as best they could – looking online for options, getting her in touch with local outreach groups, etc. She refused the help; it wasn’t in the form she could accept, so she didn’t.

Before she left, she looked at the books on display and read a few of the notices posted on the board. When she walked out the door twenty minutes later, her circumstances were the same. She was still homeless. But something had changed.

For twenty minutes, two people listened to her. They looked at her, and they talked with her rather than at her. They did the best they could to help, and when the help was refused, they didn’t roll their eyes or offer sarcastic comments. They just stayed in that uncomfortable space.

For me, it was as sure a sign as any that God’s love is alive and well, and the Spirit dwelling in our hearts shows herself in all kinds of circumstances.

Sung or Said

One or more of the following may Psalms is sung or said

Psalm 119: Your word is a lantern to my feet, and a light upon my path.

Psalm 121: I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come?

Psalm 126: When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, they were we like those who dream…

It makes a difference, whether you sing or say a psalm. Psalms are poems, sung or spoken in Jewish and Christian worship services. Singing comes from a different place in the heart and brain than speaking does – it’s why people who cannot speak can sing (and swear!).

There are times when I cannot speak to God. Words fail me, or seem incapable of conveying what is most important and true for me. Grief can steal my words; anger can keep me from talking with God; I can murmur memorized words without really paying any attention to them or God.

Singing is different. It bypasses my grief, anger, and complacency. Singing can bring me before God when I most need to be there and I am least able to find my way.

There is such wisdom in setting our prayers to music. Sing along, why don’t you?

Always and Forever

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Glory to the Mother, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

It has a different feel and flavor in the mouth, the glory going to the Mother rather than the Father. It’s not particularly heretical – there are feminine images for God throughout scripture; but it’s not customary or common. So why the insistence on God as male to the exclusion of God as female?

It’s important to notice gender differences, especially if one gender is valued above another as a general rule. But alternating male and female pronouns shouldn’t be the end goal: a deeper awareness of and openness to God’s presence is what we seek. The words are sacred not because of any magical property, but because we are drawn through them into God’s loving embrace.

Isn’t that the point of this often said phrase? God is, was, and will always love us; God holds our past, present, and future; we are never lost to God.

Save us, help us

Officiant: O God, make speed to save us.

People: O Lord, make haste to help us.

Why these words at the beginning of a noonday prayer service? It’s not likely that anyone praying them is in mortal danger. Anyone who is in such a predicament isn’t likely to have their BCP in hand, after all. As I pondered these words for the past few days, these thoughts arose…

The officiant is the one who asks God to save us, not the people. Although we shouldn’t need it, having a leader ask for God’s saving presence gives the rest of us permission to do the same. Everyone needs God’s saving love and presence, and asking for it is a sign of wisdom rather than a terrible weakness.

Most of us are okay with giving help, but needing help? It takes strength to admit to needing help; it’s easy to consider needing a help a character flaw rather than a universal human truth.

Asking God for help, admitting our need to be saved by God, is easier with practice. If the words become part of us, we will have them when we need them. Practice may not make perfect, but it certainly makes for sufficiency.

I may not need saving from a physical danger at the moment, but I do need saving from things that kill the soul and maim the spirit. Disdain for others and self, hopelessness, and a perspective so limited that I am unable to act with love and compassion are deadly if not in an obvious way. I may not wish someone harm, but without recognizing my limitations and my need for God’s saving love I may not wish them well – and I certainly won’t be willing to foster their wellbeing.

In the middle of the day, in the company of others, I am asking for help. Only with God’s help and saving grace can I hope to love God, myself, and others. I’m so very glad there are others asking for help, too…

Officiant and People

Officiant: O God, make speed to save us.

People: O Lord, make haste to help us.

Officiant and People

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.

There’s no “officiant only” service that I’ve ever seen, something that doesn’t require the presence or participation of anyone else. Sure, any of the services can be prayed by someone in solitude – but there’s no pretending that no one else exists.

That makes sense to me, reminding me of a deeper truth; you and I are part of a much larger, older community of prayer that is not limited to the souls currently alive on this planet. You and I, we are part of an unbroken chain of prayer that stretches back to the beginning of creation and will stretch well beyond the span of our lifetimes. Neither as officiant nor as one among the people do we ever pray and praise by ourselves.

Worship isn’t a spectator sport or a television soap opera. It isn’t the job of the officiant to perform for me. I am asked to show up and participate, to serve as a conversation partner in this most basic act of honoring God.

What a wonderful and necessary requirement.

Noonday Prayers

I pray in the morning, I pray in the evening, but I don’t pray at noon on any kind of a regular basis.

I’m familiar with Morning Prayer and Vesper liturgies, but not the Noonday service.

I say prayers throughout the day, depending on what I see, hear, and feel; I don’t say mid-day prayers as a routine activity. There’s no “noonday prayers” on my calendar. Why is this?

Our Muslim sisters and brothers pray at noon as part of their every day faith, stopping in the middle of activities to orient themselves toward God. Isn’t it time I give this a try?

I hope you’ll join me. With these words, let us begin…

O God, make speed to save us.

O Lord, make haste to help us.

 

Maintenance

It’s on the corner of Center and High streets, a lovely brick building that once housed the town library. The morning sun slants in the windows, creating an airy space within; the afternoon sun glances off this side window, and mirrors the dazzling sun-on-waves found on the river just down the street. There is a grace to this old building, and the town is made more beautiful for it.

But give it more than a passing glance and the neglect cannot be overlooked. The bricks are no longer held fast by mortar; it’s only a matter of time, and not a lot of it, before whole sections are sheared off by the erosive effects of weather and age. No matter how well constructed this building was, regular care and maintenance are necessary to keep it solid and safe for use – regular care that was withheld for at least the past twenty years.

In this building, I see the beauty of craftsmanship, a structure built to serve this town for hundreds of years. In its disrepair, I see a town’s lack of respect for its own inherited history and beauty. There’s a stinginess to withholding basic repair to save a few dollars, and a lack of understanding that routine maintenance is necessary for all things.

I hope the town invests in this building, restoring it to serve as a resource for decades to come. But leaders unwilling or unable to recognize the necessity of routine maintenance aren’t likely to invest in an expensive restoration.

If leaders cannot see the necessity for investing in what is right before their eyes, what are the chances that they will invest in the intangible and sometimes invisible elements that foster communal life – services for the elderly and poor, resources for the very young, and the preservation of the local environment and all that live therein?

Form and Function

A couple years back, she was a birthday present from my son, Colin. I’d never seen an all-white nesting doll before. I thought Colin picked it because it would show up on the dark bookcase shelves – something the traditional multi-colored nesting dolls might not. I was wrong.

Not about the showing up part, but about her true nature. Sure, she held two other nesting dolls, each with different flower pattern on the front. I thought the change in pattern was just for fun. I was wrong.

My nesting doll isn’t just decorative, lovely as she is. She is a set of measuring cups. The tops are the thirds: 1/3 cup, 2/3 cup, and 1 cup; the bottoms are the quarters: 1/4 cup, 1/2 cup, 3/4 cup. The patterns on the bottom make it easy to tell one size from the other – a clever way to keep measuring mistakes to a minimum. This nesting doll set is sturdy, washes easily, and takes up less space than the usual 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 1 cup sets.

She sits on an open shelf in my kitchen – simple and pretty when not in use. She measures dry goods when I’m cooking – simple and accurate when in use. Form and function residing together in a thoughtful, simple, gift. If that isn’t a bit of kitchen magic, what is?

What Do You See?

Mysterious Changes

They began as six hollyhock plants, three a lovely pale yellow, three a deep scarlet. Being an heirloom variety, they reseeded themselves every year – yellow on one side of my front walkway, scarlet on the other.

Ten years after they were planted, something changed; the yellow gave way to something closer to a very pale pink, and the deep scarlet lightened. A few years after that, the flowers opened with two colors: peach and yellow on some, lavender and cream on others.

Over the years, the plants have moved up the walkway on both sides. I’m never sure where the newly reseeded ones will emerge, and I adjust the placement of my annuals – an opportunity to rethink my flower beds every year.

Weeding the beds the other day, I saw in these changes my life. In the nineteen years I’ve lived in this place, I’ve gone from a mother of small children to a mother of 20-somethings. My life pattern is different, growing out of changes that are beyond my control.

If someone had asked me nineteen years ago what life would be at this point, I doubt I’d have landed on what it is. But this life has grown out of the older one, changing with each season, flowering in new ways.

I can’t control it, and I can’t predict exactly what the coming nineteen years will bring. Isn’t that amazing?

What Do You See?