Thursday, September 30, 2010

Holy people with a holy purpose

October newsletter article by Mother Valori+

The other day I was in a meeting in my office when a bird flew into the glass door, hitting it with a thud, then falling to the ground. My heart broke. We could see the bird still breathing, so I went out and blessed it offering up healing prayer, not knowing if it was God’s will that the bird should live or die. The bird continued to lay there with its mouth wide open, breathing heavily. Its eyes were blinking, but it didn’t move. I prayed over the bird and kept talking to it, stroking it lightly on the back of its head and neck, praying that it wasn’t in pain. I told the bird that whether it lived or died right now, it wouldn’t be alone. The bird continued to just lay there.

After a while, I began to be concerned that the person with whom I was meeting might need to get on. My legs were also beginning to ache from squatting over the bird in order to pet its neck and back. I wondered how long it would take until the outcome for the bird would be evident. I dreaded seeing the bird die, but I also feared it being in pain.

Suddenly, the bird kicked itself up into a standing position to the delight and surprise of both of us keeping vigil. It hopped a few steps away and settled to rest in a soft green weed. The bird’s mouth was still open and it was still breathing hard, but now that it was standing I could get a closer look and see that nothing looked broken and there was no blood anywhere.

I entered into my next meeting, keeping an eye on the bird as it sat there on the weed. It stayed where it was for a long time, and then suddenly, it was gone. I rejoiced at its disappearance, knowing it was back on its way to the regular rigors of life as a bird. Overwhelmed with emotion, I cried.

Life is like that, though. Glass doors arise in our lives seemingly out of nowhere. We hit them with a thud and fall to the ground – the wind knocked out of us. As we wait (for what may seem like an inordinate amount of time), healing happens invisibly within us by the grace of our merciful God. When the time is right, we hike ourselves up on our feet again, wait some more while the last bit of disorientation clears from our heads, then launch back into life.

After the bird resurrected, my friend said to me, “Now that’s the way to start a day… saving a life.” I understood what he meant, but it was God’s work, not mine, that restored the bird to life. All I did was participate with God by offering myself as one who prays and seeks God’s will; one who stays near comforting the injured so they don’t feel alone; and one who rejoices when the will of God is made manifest and life is renewed.

When I arrived at Redeemer a little over a year ago, I reminded everyone that there was much healing work still to be done. We have been doing that work, and it is hard, and some of it takes longer than it seems like it should.

There was a time when the church and our membership needed to be protected from real harm. During that time an accidental underground was formed. This group was a source of strength and perseverance as the parish went into crisis. They relied on one another to understand and respond to the many confusing, even shocking realities they were confronting.

Feeling betrayed by their pastor and/or their friends in the church, and abandoned by their Bishop, this group coalesced into a loosely associated leadership team that heroically guided the church through the years of chaos that followed. They did that by trusting one another.

They were successful at keeping the church going as the ministry of the rector disintegrated, and they worked hard to spare their beloved community further harm. As this group asserted its care and leadership for the church’s life in the in-between time, it became almost sentient – perceptive and responsive. It was probably unavoidable that many who disagreed with them felt excluded.

Let me be clear - these were/are good people who love their church and their church family. It was their love that enabled them to uphold the church as the wounding happened and carry it forward. But like the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, they were/are worried about being blind-sided again, about making a mistake and being hurt again by an enemy – especially an enemy that comes from within like before, someone they should have been able to trust – their priest.

In Jesus’ time, worrying like this led the Pharisees to close themselves off from God’s redemption. They were too afraid to trust and be re-created by God even though the Savior was right there in their midst. The same is true for this group now. When they cling to a status quo of their own making, believing it to be safe, they are, in reality, cutting themselves (and potentially others) off from God’s redeeming work in our midst right now.

There is no harm threatening Redeemer now, so behaviors and perspectives that were helpful then are no longer helpful now. The only threat we face now is the same one most churches and many individual Christians face: that of refusing to be re-created by God.

We are friends and more than that, we are a holy people with a holy purpose. We are called to love and serve our Lord together. As we continue to move forward, I remind everyone not to judge people or circumstances, and to remember that our leadership will change – it’s supposed to. Our membership will change – that’s life in church. Our budget will change – and as I said in my sermon last Sunday (September 26), money is not the focus of our attention – living faithful lives is. Still, good people among us will worry – and we’ll love them for it.

It’s still a new day at Redeemer. As we launch ourselves into our common life of faith, a life being formed by God, I pray we will do so as friends, that we will relax and trust that this is God’s church and it is God who is recreating us. There is nothing to fear. “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1)

Things are going well at Redeemer. We are serving God’s people in new and wonderful ways as we are called to do. We will continue to do the hard work of healing, trusting in God to restore us to wholeness and celebrating the many ways we see that happening already.

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