Friday, September 2, 2011

September Newsletter Article: From one discovery to another

A Taoist parable: Once upon a time and old farmer and his son watched as their only horse, a beautiful stallion, broke out of its corral and ran away. The farmer’s neighbor came around to grieve this loss with the farmer: “How terrible that your only horse is gone! Such bad luck!” The farmer replied, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?” The next day, the farmer’s horse returned bringing a wild mare with him into the corral. The farmer’s neighbor rushed back to celebrate, exclaiming,“Such a wonderful event! A mating pair! You are truly blessed by this richness of good luck” to which the farmer replied, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?” The next day, the farmer’s son fell of the new mare and broke his leg. The neighbor returned, bemoaning the bad luck of the elderly farmer who now had no one to help him with this farm. The farmer simply replied, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?” The next day, the local warlord rode into the village and conscripted all of the able-bodied young men into military service. Seeing the farmer’s son was lame, they left him with his father. The neighbor thought to himself, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

We are cautioned over and over again in Scripture not to judge – one another or the present circumstances. Isaiah helps us understand why: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are 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.” (Isa 55:8-9)

Anyone looking at Jesus’ life and ministry during his time might not have judged it too well. He was an itinerant preacher dependent upon the benevolence of his followers for his food and shelter. While his resume looked pretty good regarding pastoral care and healing, and his attendance numbers were good at the end of his ministry, Jesus was ultimately a ministerial failure: arrested, humiliated, publicly stripped and beaten, and finally, condemned to death and crucified by the powerful in his time. He even needed to borrow a grave.

But we look back at Jesus’ life and ministry and see something very different than the world saw then. We see the redemption of God unfolding in all of the circumstances of Jesus’ time – good and bad. God used it all. As Joan Chittister said, “the history of …God’s people has always been a good event, bad event situation, a continuing affirmation of life despite the unending threats of death.” (National Catholic Reporter, July 22, 2011)

In each of our lives, and in our common life at Redeemer, we confront circumstances like the farmer in the Chinese parable of the farmer. Some of us react like the neighbor, dancing in happiness or drowning in worry, spending our energy assigning credit or blame – forgetting that in all the cares and occupations of our lives we are ever walking in the sight of the Lord, (BCP, 100) who continues to use every circumstance – good or bad - to draw us closer to God’s self and to one another, according to God’s perfect plan of redemption for the whole world.

As we look at where we’ve been and where we’re going at Redeemer, we would be wise to remember that in every circumstance of our lives, God is there – loving us, guiding us, redeeming us, gifting us (yes, even the ‘bad’ circumstances are a gift), and then seeking to use the gifts given to us for the redeeming we are called to do with/for God.

God continues to form us and make us into the church God wants here in this time and place. As we move into our next program year, take a look at the many wonderful things God is doing in/through us:

EVENING PRAYER: Second Sundays at 5:00 pm in the church (new day and time). Evening Prayer is part of our long and rich Anglican tradition. There is no Eucharist at this service.

SERVICE OF TAIZÉ: Fourth Sundays at 5:00 pm in the church Take a break from the demands and stresses of daily life and join us in this ecumenical service featuring meditative prayer and song based on the practices of the monastic community in Taizé, France. Open to the community. All are welcome.

BIBLE DISCUSSION GROUP: Thursdays at 6:00 pm (new day) A weekly "no judgment zone" discussion group. Topics taken from the Bible and other spiritual books. Meets after Evening Prayer.

CENTERING PRAYER: Second and fourth Thursdays at 5:30 pm
Centering prayer is silent, meditative, receptive prayer resting in God’s presence. Come join us as we consent to the presence and action of God within.

EPISCOPALIAN ROSARY: These Rosaries (developed by our rector) and ‘how to pray' booklets are free to all who ask as an aid to their prayer life. Watch our online calendar for Rosary-making workshops which are scheduled as needed (and we need one soon!).

GROUP AND INDIVIDUAL SPIRITUAL DIRECTION: A time of entering into a sacred space together, to explore how we can live more fully into whom God created us to be. Individual meetings are by appointment.

MOVIE NIGHT! First Fridays at 6:30pm (new night) Popcorn and soft-drinks provided, along with BYOAdultBeverage. Next Movie Night! is September 2. We’ll be watching “The Lord of the Rings, the Two Towers” rated PG-13. Watch our online calendar for movie details.

PRAYER SHAWL MINISTRY: Wednesdays, 12:45 pm (new day and time) Beginners to experienced knitters and crocheters meet weekly after the Shepherd’s Table to make shawls.

Also in this newsletter, you will hear from Matthew Kiggen, our new Youth Minister, about our newly designed Youth Program. Deacon Pam writes about our newly re-formed Christian Formation program for all ages. Steve Sherer talks about the rebirth of the Parish Net program as the Parish Meal Ministry and how you can help with it. Lowrey Young and Jane Shooter update us on the formalization of our Shepherd’s Table and Food Pantry ministries, including the development of policies and procedures, volunteer training and more!

Our Music Director search is underway, so your prayers for this are much appreciated. We are also transitioning in our admin office again - Ashley has accepted a full-time social work position in Gastonia (where she lives). Since we only recently interviewed for this position, I have re-contacted our top two other picks and will be re-meeting with them this week. I hope (expect) this will be a short transition.

The vestry has also approved Phase One of the garden project – the Columbarium. Work should begin any day (behind the connector, between the admin building and the parish hall). Our roof is also scheduled to be repaired later in the fall.

We still need to get busy on our planning for a playground/outdoor worship/learning space for our children. Anyone feeling called to help with that? Let me know:

As you can see, there is a LOT going on at Redeemer. Our life together is full, blessed, and constantly forming! Come and find your place, and God’s will for your gifts among us. I close with a prayer written for our Taizé service on Aug 28: “Although within us there are wounds, Lord Christ, above all there is the miracle of your mysterious presence. Thus, made lighter or even set free, we are going with you, the Christ, from one discovery to another. Amen.”

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