Sunday, June 21, 2015

A prayer for our discernment

Our vestry/leadership team had our first discernment meeting led by The Rev. Bill Livingston this week. I watched as this group worked hard and courageously to open themselves and let go interior barriers so as to begin to hear God’s will for us now as church. They went lovingly into some very difficult topics of conversation, and by doing so, modeled the very definition of church community. It
was a beautiful thing to behold and I am so grateful for their faithful devotion. Please come to our congregational meeting this Sunday to hear more about this and offer your feedback.

I closed our meeting with a prayer by George MacLeod (1895-1991), a minister in the Church of Scotland and the inspiration for the restructuring of the Abbey in Iona, Scotland – a project which began in 1938. I have loved this prayer for a long time and I hoped it would bless us at this first discernment meeting.

A little background first… Founded in the 6th century by St. Columba as a Benedictine monastery, Iona Abbey, like most monasteries, fell on hard times. The eventual restructuring led to a new community at Iona Abbey - an ecumenical religious order known as the Iona Community. Iona Abbey is currently one of the most popular sites for spiritual pilgrimage in the world. The hard times are over and the community is radically different than it once was, but Iona Abbey continues to fulfill its purpose: being a place that welcomes pilgrims into the presence and transforming experience of God’s love.

Here is the prayer:

It is not just the interior of these walls,
it is our own inner beings you have renewed.
We are your temple not made with hands.
We are your body.
If every wall should crumble,
and every church decay, we are your habitation.
Nearer are you than breathing,
closer than hands and feet.
Ours are the eyes with which you, in the mystery,
look out in compassion on the world.
So we bless you for this place,
for your directing of us, and your indwelling.
Take us ‘outside the camp’, Lord,
outside holiness, out to where the soldiers gamble, and thieves curse,
and nations clash at the cross-roads of the world…
So shall this building continue to be justified.

People often ask me if I think Redeemer is really going to be OK. I do - absolutely. God continues to look through our eyes with compassion into our world and leads us to serve beyond our comfort zone, touching the wounds of our world with the love of Christ who dwells in us. Our church buildings are beyond beautiful and our worship definitely welcomes people into the loving presence of God. So yes, I really do think we’ll be OK. I don’t know what that means, however: how we’ll look, operate, etc., but I trust in God’s plan for us.

As Brother Geoffrey Tristram from the Society of St. John the Evangelist said, “When God calls us on, to larger life, we rarely see much beyond the next step.” We don’t have to, though, because God is guiding each step and God’s plan for us, while often surprising, is always perfect. Guaranteed.

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