An Artful Blessing

What was good? What was hard? Where did you see God?

They come a bit early to Sunday school, and help me set up the day’s activities while their mother leads the choir. They keep me informed about all the latest happenings in their lives, and on the new toys and books that I’m too old to know about. And they draw. This Sunday, they drew me.

(By Henry Tyler)
(By Addy Tyler)

The artistry, and the effort that it took, are wonderful answers to what was good?

The artists, Addy and Henry, are wonderful answers to another of the questions: where did you see God?

Before, During, and Aftermath

Last week, a storm blew in, stayed long enough to down trees and power lines, then headed out. Already high water levels went even higher. A few inches of water and two and a half days without power were the results. The lights and heat returning were among the answers to “what was good” in the storm’s aftermath.

My answer before the storm centered on appreciation for the time to get things buttoned up before the 70+ mile an hour winds arrived – putting away things that might be damaged/do damage if left out, getting the cars off the road, and getting ahead on laundry and baking (just in case.).

The before and after aren’t much of a surprise, are they? But the “what was good” during might be. I was so grateful for the time without power. Life took on a rhythm based on sun and light; appliances and electronics were no longer vying for attention. I woke up well rested, refreshed.

I wouldn’t want to live without electricity as a permanent thing, but for a couple of days in warm enough weather it was blessing more than burden.

What was good? What was hard? Where did you see God?

Add your answers…

https://padlet.com/ccpsundayschool/1cb2vk2xkdnyrxeh

Original Source

What was good? What was hard? Where did you see God?

These three questions for me are the gist of the Daily Examen of Saint Ignatius, but that’s not where I first heard them all strung together. They guided the evening wrap-up for the teens and chaperones of Saint John’s church, Duxbury, on their yearly mission trip.

It’s been twelve or so years since I heard the questions, and they’ve stayed with me. I’d guess they’ve stayed with everyone who went on those mission trips, in one form or another. In their depth and simplicity, they offer a holy pattern of remembering, of recognizing God’s presence in the people and events that daily life offers. They offer us a glimpse of the holiness of our own lives.

Saint Ignatius came first, but it was Heidi Marcotte who gave me the questions. I am profoundly changed by and grateful for them.

What Was Good?

Heidi Marcotte’s presence in my work at Saint John’s back then, and the blessing of her friendship today.

End With A Blessing

The service concludes as follows

Officiant: Let us bless the Lord

People: Thanks be to God

it’s done, this 10+ minute service in the middle of the day. We’ve read a psalm or two, prayed the Lord’s Prayer and all the other ones written on pages103 to 107; we’ve even lifted a few joys, concerns, and people that are on our hearts – with our own words and in our own time. It’s time to begin the rest of the day.

And so we end, not with asking for another blessing or two, but by blessing God and offering thanks. We end with giving, not receiving. Beloved children that we are, we give our blessing to the God who gave us life and breathes life into us every day. We may not understand all that God has done, but in this final part of the service, we are given the marvelous gift of being able to bless freely and generously.

In medias res, in the middle of things, I doubt there’s a happier or better ending.

Heaven On Earth

Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, “Peace I give to you; my own peace I leave with you:” Regard not our sins, but the faith of your Church, and give to us the peace and unity of that heavenly City, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, now and forever. Amen.

Peace I leave with you, Jesus said. He didn’t say leisure, money, power, or the security and insularity they might buy us. Don’t look at our blindness or our inability/unwillingness to see past our own desires: see us always as part of that spiritual congregation whose vision is clear, we ask. Because the peace and unity of heaven will never settle in our bones and our communities through our own efforts. Such things come from an awareness and acceptance of our own participation in a communion that stretches back to the beginning of this creation and will embrace all life that is to come.

Heaven on earth isn’t a mini-paradise of our own making. Heaven on earth is already here, in the peace that Jesus left with us. If we want to find ourselves in it, we have to let go of our smaller, self-centered versions that will always fall short.

What a gutsy, wise thing to request in the middle of my day.

Collecting Paul

Almighty Savior, who at noonday called your servant Saint Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles: We pray you to illumine the world with the radiance of your glory, that all nations may come and worship you; for you live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

Illumination is a gift from God to be sure, but it comes at the cost of the life we assumed we would lead. Paul had no desire to bring the love of God to Gentiles, but that was the holy calling and life that he got. The flash of light and the voice from heaven stripped him of his spiritual blindness courtesy of a three day physical blindness.

Perhaps it is only when we are stripped of the illusion that we see reality clearly that we are willing to rely on God’s vision. It’s quite a bold thing to ask for, as an individual and as part of the nations of this world, this clarity of vision. If it changed Paul’s life so dramatically, it’s likely to do the same to ours…

The Second Collect

Blessed Savior, at this hour you hung upon the cross, stretching out your loving arms: Grant that all the peoples of the earth may look to you and be saved; for your tender mercies’ sake. Amen.

I haven’t spent much time thinking about when Jesus was on the cross. Only in Holy Week does the movement of my hours align with the hours of crucifixion. But here it is, in the middle of my routine day: a prayer to remember the cost of true love.

If I claim Jesus, then Jesus has a claim on me. I doubt it will involve martyrdom, but it does demand that I take up the cross of my own life. I’m meant to love truly in this time and place, and to sacrifice to foster that love for and in others.

It’s the best of all possible realities, not the easiest.

Silent or Spoken

A meditation, silent or spoken, may follow. (BCP, p. 106)

Words, spoken aloud or within the heart, have the power to change our perceptions. They can reassure, humiliate, amuse, and frighten. Some can bring us closer to God in new and unexpected ways; others can assault the spirit and break us. They can be the words spoken by others, and they can be our own self-created and sustained inner dialogue/diatribe.

This meditation isn’t at the beginning of noonday prayers; it is in the middle, following psalms and a couple of other short scripture passages. The Lord’s Prayer follows soon after. But in between the two are these words:

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

Have mercy, loving God, on the words I ponder within my heart or speak out loud. May they be words that reveal your love, imperfect as they are. Give me the courage to speak and meditate. Give me the wisdom to recognize and admit my limitations. Fill in the gaps with your grace. Amen.

In Every Place

From the rising of the sun to its setting my Name shall be great among the nations, and in every place incense shall be offered in my Name, and a pure offering; for my Name shall be great among the nations, says the Lord of Hosts. (Malachi 1:11) (BCP, p.106)

People: Thanks be to God.

It doesn’t say that the nations will follow a holy path, or that love of God, self, and neighbor will be the guiding political principles. But somewhere in the world, among the many nationalities and faiths, there are people who offer sincere and honest prayers to God. Every moment of every day (the sun is always rising, shining, or setting somewhere, after all!) God is loved, honored, called upon, and recognized.

There isn’t a single place on the planet that lacks the spirit of prayer, or the Spirit that guides them. There isn’t a single faithless, prayerless moment.

Every day, from the rising of the sun to its setting, you and I are invited to participate in this most holy endeavor. What a wonderful thing to remember as morning transforms into afternoon.

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.