The Rector's Blog
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December 14, 2017, 2:42 PM

Compare and Contrast

I’ve subscribed to three different Advent Meditations series, and I get quite a mix – reading and praying them set over and against one another is a lot like reading the Scriptures set forth for our weekly worship together, although there, we have four voices (including the Psalm). 

I’d like to invite you to consider the three following readings, and reflect on how they seem to speak to each other in your mind and heart…

The first reading comes from Virginia Theological Seminary (an Episcopal seminary in Alexandria, near where I used to live!) as part of a photo-sharing activity on the internet called “AdventWord.”  People post photos that respond to each day’s theme.  Click on the link to see what people are posting!   

WILDERNESS

14 December 2017 – Israel finds her Way in the wilderness.  God is the only gardener in the wilderness.  Israel’s God is our only Way through the wilderness, from the hill country of Bethlehem, past the signpost of the Cross to the rivers that are grooved into the earth.  Go into the wilderness.  It is where we live.  God is there.

Our second entry today is from one of the brothers at the Society of St John the Evangelist, an order of Episcopal monks who run a retreat center in Newbury MA.  They e-mail a daily meditation, with a link to “read more on their website. The link here will take you to a fuller discussion on Praying Slowly.

PRAY SLOWLY

It takes some time truly to comprehend the sacred mysteries of Jesus’ birth, of his passion and death, and of his resurrection. It takes prayer, and faith, and trust in the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.

-Br. David Allen,
Society of Saint John the Evangelist

The final entry comes from an Advent series offered by Plough Publishing, called “The Daily Dig.”  It features a quotation from Jerome, who is best known for the earliest complete translation of the Bible (both Jewish and Christian texts) into Latin, but he was a prolific writer of theology and meditations as well.  He was an advocate for asceticism in personal life.

From ST. JEROME

As often as I look at the place where the Lord is born, my heart enters into a wondrous conversation with the Child Jesus. And I say, “Dear Lord Jesus, how you are shivering; how hard you lie for my sake, for the sake of my redemption. How can I repay you?”

Then I seem to hear the Child’s answer, “Dear Jerome, I desire nothing but that you shall sing ‘Glory to God in the highest’ and be content. I shall be even poorer in the Garden of Olives and on the Holy Cross.”

I speak again, “Dear Jesus, I have to give you something. I will give you all my money.”

The Child answers, “Heaven and earth already belong to me.  I do not need your money; give it to the poor, and I will accept it as if it were given to me.”

Source: Cries from the Heart

So, what do you think?  Do you see connections or contrasts among these various works?  Do you find a message for your heart?

Blessings to you all!  ~ Evelyn+




November 30, 2017, 9:58 AM

Happy New Year!

The Church’s “New Year” begins this Sunday, December 3, with the First Sunday of Advent.  Ironic, that:  Whereas the world is already deep into Christmas, and the new year is still five weeks away; the Church is already into the new year, but Christmas is still four weeks away!  Nothing contrarian about us at all, is there?

But that’s the way of the Gospel, the good news that Jesus brings us – and Isaiah makes the same point: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9.)

Advent offers us a chance to step back and look at the big picture of God’s plan of salvation for all people.  Advent offers us the opportunity to ruminate and reflect, to ponder, and to learn again what it means to wait for the truth to be revealed.

Usually by the time we all arrive at Christmas, we are quite sick of “Christmas” as the world presents it – with the commercial focus on buy-buy-buy, how to have the perfect Christmas dinner or the most beautifully decorated home or just the right gift for that special someone. The Hallmark channel is playing all the latest Christmas romance movies already. The whole modern-day mythology of Christmas is a presentation of an ideal that most of us will struggle to meet; and many of us regard with fear and trembling (and not the good sort of fear and trembling).

Don’t be misled into thinking that Christmas is about things or that Christmas will magically solve all our problems, find us a new partner, or make us supremely happy.  No human ritual can; no human mythology can do these things. 

And that’s okay, because that’s just the way of things.

So what can make us joyful? 

First, there is the anticipation of joy to come.  When I was a child, the fact that every few days another package with my name on it, wrapped in pretty paper, appeared under our family Christmas tree filled me with an almost unbearable tension of desire and hope. 

I’m older now, and presents under the tree are pretty much a thing of the past, but the feeling of desire and hope, and the tension between them, remains a vital part of my life.  Only now, instead of a new toy, I yearn for something less tangible: a reason to hold on, a reason to hope, a reason to sing, a reason to rejoice.  In short, I yearn for the grace and mercy of being able to love and be loved: the grace and mercy that are sourced in God alone.  I pray you find them, too!

Blessings to you all!  ~ Evelyn+




October 19, 2017, 11:25 AM

The Importance of Play

  When I get stressed – and I do get stressed! – I find that I like to distract myself with “binge” activity.  Usually this takes the form of either re-reading Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings (all the volumes) or of watching some TV series on Amazon Prime (I’ve watched Last Ship, Battlestar Galactica, and Mission Impossible (the TV series from the 60s), for hours and days.  I tell myself this is better than binging on chocolate cookies or wine… but it’s not always constructive.  It’s essentially an avoidance technique, and not really a way to resolve the underlying causes of my stress.  It’s also a sign of fatigue, in that I don’t want to do anything that involves actual effort on my part.

  Maybe you’ve experienced something similar.  I do know people who have made healthier and more constructive choices than just sitting down and “vegging out” – they go to the gym or go for a walk or pull out their pens or paintbrushes or camera, wash the dishes, call a friend, or play with their grandchildren and thereby make endorphins using their physical and cranial muscles to wind up with something to show for their efforts.

  But a small voice inside me asks if we are supposed to be “constructively engaged” at all times.  I think in many ways I was certainly raised to think so – but then I read about the negative side-effects of programming every hour of a child’s day with no time for free play, for running around outdoors, or for the benefits of kids learning to problem-solve without adult supervision.

  We are taught to fear for our children – someone will hurt them, someone will kidnap them, someone will teach them things we’d rather they didn’t know or think.  But some of the most beloved children’s movies have plot lines about kids doing their own thing – The Goonies, The Sandlot, Matilda, Bridge to Terebithia, My Neighbor Totoro, even Home Alone

  I think adults enjoy these nearly as much as children, because they evoke a world where adventure happens, surprises await, and heroines and heroes are born.  But (aside from the obvious fact that grownups made the movies) in all these stories, the children are the principals, and we see them learn and grow in ways that our modern programmed schooling and after-schooling lives may not leave room for.

  It’s the same after we grow up, too.  You and I are locked into our routines, our responsibilities, our expectations – many formed in childhood – and we may have forgotten how to play, or the importance of play.  We’re supposed to be serious.  We’re supposed to use our time efficiently and construc-tively.  We’re supposed to be serious about self-care, and we have to make play-dates (or real dates, even with our spouses) and we have to make plans and we have to schedule time, and we have to, have to, have to…

  Sorry, but that’s too bleak a prospect for me!  I’m not particularly good at playing, but all the TV I like to watch is about adventure, mystery, surprise, danger, and it’s about cleverness, wit, unexpected strength, and learning and growing.

  Something there is in the human spirit, I think, that needs to play.  We see animals playing – dogs who chase, cats who wrestle, elephants who surely look like they’re laughing.  Maybe in these days of high-stress politics, disputes about religious freedom, natural disasters that boggle the mind, we need to be out in the woods tracking down birds or down by the river tossing stones in the stream or playing stickball in a park – with friends, with our own kids and grandkids, with the guys from work – and just simply playing and having fun.  What do you think?

  Faithfully,

   ~ Evelyn+




October 5, 2017, 9:00 AM

A Journey to Generosity


“Put simply, life is a God-given opportunity to become who we are, to affirm our own true spiritual nature, claim our truth, appropriate and integrate the reality of our being, but most of all, to say ‘Yes’ to the One who calls us the Beloved.”

~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

Dear Ones,

Life is an opportunity and a journey — a journey to saying “Yes” to the God who calls us Beloved.  Life is a journey to love, to welcome and to invite; a journey to create peace and to live generously.

Bishop Robert C. Wright of Atlanta has written:

When we give, we are participating in the personhood of God. We are participating in what is most real in the universe — God's inexhaustibleness!  We are making God real in the world by lending God our flesh through partnership.”

The “Journey to Generosity” is about participating in God’s inexhaustibleness. But first we must believe that God’s love, healing, and forgiveness are inexhaustible.  We must overcome our
trepidation about God’s nature so that we can say “Yes” to God’s call to partnership.

If this sounds like a great risk, consider also these words of Bishop Wright: “When we give, you might say, we are rolling the dice in a game, the outcome of which we are already certain. God is love. And loving is giving.”

I invite you this year to take the risk of believing the outcome is certain and to participate in the inexhaustibleness of God by confidently joining our journey to greater generosity.

Please consider committing to a standard of giving that reflects your standard of living. For many, that means giving 10 percent (the biblical tithe) of their income to God’s work through Christ Episcopal Church.  For others, tithing is a goal they are working toward by increasing their giving two or three percent each year.

Let us walk together on this Journey to Generosity so the glory of God might shine brighter through the mission and ministries of Christ Church!

     Faithfully,

   ~ Evelyn+




September 21, 2017, 12:00 AM

Lots of Holy Spirit Action!

I honestly can’t tell you how excited I am with our current vestry members and with our parishioners.  I do believe the Holy Spirit is doing some new things here, and we’ve only just begun to find out what’s in store. This is a great time to be part of this wonderful church community.

Cindy Armstrong and Ted Todd braved a sunny Thursday evening to host a table at the Hanover Student Activities Fair earlier this month, while I got to tour all the other organizations, both college- and community-based, that were reaching out to the new arrivals. It was fascinating to meet them all.  There’s a group that does improv comedy (what if we invited them for an evening show?), another group that enjoys archery (I haven’t shot an arrow since high school and was soooo tempted to sign up!), and service groups that tutor local students in Madison and Hanover, and many more!

I always hope that we might find ourselves a student or two, and we may yet.  Because … we have the opportunity to “host” evening prayers at Brown Chapel coming up (October 8 @ 5:45) – so let the cookie brigade get to work!  All are welcome to attend this event!

I’ve also been in touch with some of the groups I am part of outside of church about the possibility of offering occasions for silent meditation or contemplative prayer – either here in the church or at another quiet location.  Let me know if you’re interested in that, please.

I will be participating in a prayer service on October 10 for National Coming Out Day – it’s geared for members of the LGBT community and will be held at Hanover Presbyterian church.

Thanks and Blessings to all who make Christ Church the BEST church I know!

~ Evelyn

 


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