Has the dreary cold weather dampened your spirits? Have long days stuck inside the same four walls with (perhaps) the same faces made you a little stir crazy? It certainly has been longer than any of us imagined, with the same uncertain future. I’m sure you’ve seen this funny meme:
2020 is a unique leap year:
It has 29 days in February
300 days in March
And 5 years in April.
Funny, but in a painful way. This week, I want to encourage us all to take a different perspective on Time, by trying to seek the infinite in the finite. I know we’re not born mystics. Modern life demands that we run a quite a pace, multitasking and staying product-oriented. But wisdom has always pointed us to process over progress, journey over destination. As Christians, made and loved by a God who exists outside of time, the closer we come to him, especially in simple, daily moments, the more fully we participate in his eternal Kingdom. Remember? His timing is not our timing: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” 2 Peter 3:8
My mom was a busy wife and mother of four. After my Dad died and she had finished raising us (as if a parent is ever really finished) she had many comings and goings of children and grandchildren and seemed always to have much to do to run her household. Her “golden years” often appeared lonely and bleak, and I remember her working and toiling to all hours. But she had learned from my Dad the art of taking a “one-minute vacation.” She would sit and pray and look out at life, not as a woman alone, but as a beloved child of God in a moment of infinite communion with her Creator. Sometimes I would watch her and see that the look of peace and love come across her face, and when she would see me in those moments, she would invite me in.
Under quarantine, we get no “vacation” from the news, the internet, the phone calls and efforts to stay connected, the pressure to feel good/do good, be productive. Many of us have lost actual planned vacations and trips that make life fun and pleasurable. Life has changed, and while we must continue to meet the challenges ahead with structure and fortitude, we have also been given an opportunity to encounter the moment in a new Way. Leo Tolstoy observed that faith “gives to the finite existence of man an infinite meaning, a meaning not destroyed by sufferings, deprivations, or death.” we are children of the Cross—that moment when life entered into death, and we are children of the Resurrection—that miracle when eternity entered into the moment. Patterns of structure and schedule need not leave us frantic, uncomforted and desperate, as we turn to God who reminds us, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Stuck in quarantine, we certainly been given many minutes to practice this level of peace and trust in the Lord! I encourage you to see restriction as opportunity. An opportunity to take a one-minute vacation, throughout your day. The truth of God’s mercy changes the moment of end to the moment of eternity, and amidst the great passing travail we can find peace in eternity, a one-minute vacation. Maybe it won’t be easy to turn off the TV or ignore the internet or even your own thoughts for a while. Maybe your efforts won’t make you feel better immediately but give it time. Give it patient trust, for one minute in our loving and merciful Lord’s care equals eternity.
“Then stirs the feeling infinite, so felt in solitude, where we are least alone.” Lord Byron
Transcend the Moment
Liturgy: A religious phenomenon, liturgy represents a communal response to and participation in the sacred through activity reflecting praise, thanksgiving, supplication or repentance.
Dear Creator Family,
I continue to pray daily for all of you knowing that God is with us all.
It was a wonderful service this past Sunday as we gathered in the Lord from wherever we may be. A new experience produces challenges not only to logistics, but in our emotional and spiritual lives. Leading the service from my home was a physical and emotional challenge with the concerns of lighting, space, presentation, sound, timing, etc., compounded with liturgical concerns and spiritual hopes. I am sure I was not the only one feeling these emotions.
While our extreme conditions warrant these new practices, it will be and is God the Holy Spirit who is and will enlighten our minds and calm our hearts. Our concern for ‘good presentation’ is valid, a pleasurable experience encourages greater participation, but the truth is that the liturgy is a door and not a destination. Liturgy opens the way for us to transcend the moment and encounter the living God, liturgy reminds us that our relationship with God is somewhat separate and set apart, liturgy shows us that our connection to each other transcend time and space.
Still, clear images and good sounds are helpful as we relinquish ourselves to God in worship, so Mary's and my efforts to change up our tech practices continue. It goes without saying that almost all internet tech is sold out (just TRY and buy a webcam!), but I check daily and I am confident we will be able to improve our liturgical experience.
Thank you all for the feedback and suggestions you have provided. I will include as many of them as possible in the coming weeks. Please continue to give us feedback. It is a blessing on us.
Peace in Christ to you all.
So then, my dear friends, stand firm and steady. Keep busy always in your work for the Lord, since you know that nothing you do in the Lord’s service is ever useless. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Dear Creator Family,
It was wonderful to join with you Easter Morning to praise God! Such a beautiful moment in time with you all, especially with the added blessing of the “Lafoon Family Singers” intoning the joyful praise to the Risen Christ! No easy endeavor, including music in our online worship has been a huge blessing—and we have Martha to thank for that.
These past several weeks have produced unique challenges for Mary and me, as we transition the services and capabilities of our Church ministry to a virtual format. This transition is far from over, as the challenges are not yet lessened with repetition, but we have been bolstered by your many comments: Beautiful service! Loved seeing the Altar! So nurturing. I felt comforted by being there with you.
The Church building, the holy images and the familiarity of our routine are all gifts from God helping us focus on the call of Christ in our lives no matter the circumstances. These gifts are part of the Divine Gift that seeks us out through all things and in all places. As you know, I have often said that we can “see” the presence of God in a radial tire as easily as in a blazing sunrise! Perhaps more than ever we are all feeling the challenge of this truth right now and are being called upon to face the process head on.
Last week Bishop +Goff called on clergy in the Diocese to stay at home and to cease streaming or recording services from the parish churches. Her instructions are in-line with best practices for non-essential personnel during this time of social distancing and virus precautions. Accordingly, Mary and I will continue to work diligently, primarily from home, to transition our worship and ministry. While this will be unfamiliar territory for us as we join for Sunday services, it will also add an opportunity to experience God in new ways through the power of prayer and reflection.
Please be at peace. Though we are in the midst of turmoil, Jesus is with us, and though we may find our sensibilities challenged, the glory of God is manifest—even unto a radial tire!
Performance or Placeholder
Dear Friends in Christ,
“Performance or Placeholder?” That is the question.
This week I am working with five other Priests to celebrate The Great Vigil of Easter. The Easter Vigil (Paschal Vigil or the Great Vigil of Easter), is the first official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus in the new year. The Vigil takes place during the dark hours between Holy Saturday sunset and Easter Day sunrise. The most common time for Easter Vigil is during the evening of Holy Saturday or midnight. The Easter Vigil is considered as the most important service of public reverence and Masses of the liturgical year.
This beautiful service anticipates the return of Christ with the lamps burning (the Paschal Candle), so that he shall find his followers awake and watchful. The service is divided into four parts, the Service of Light, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of Baptism, and the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist.
Four Priests plus myself along with three lay people will gather outside around the Paschal Candle to celebrate a form of this historic service. We will maintain our six to ten foot distance and move through the first three sections of the service. While we will be omitting the Holy Eucharist, I am excited because I dearly love the Vigil. It is a unique and very special component of our Holy Week observance and, though we have not done it at Creator in many years, there was a time when it was a glorious part of our Easter celebration. I will post the Vigil to our YouTube page and send a ling out for you to watch it Saturday night.
And, though I am enjoying our weekly worship in our very altered form, I am conscious of a “performance” aspect to worshiping in any empty sanctuary and filming it. There’s only so much “life” in live-streaming, if you know what I mean. For the Palm Sunday service, I enjoyed laying out the palms and planning my procession (of one!), knowing you would be able to see our beautiful sanctuary and the altar readied for Holy Week. I very deliberately hung the red banners and made sure the “camera” angle would capture a larger background. I wanted to make it so you could be where I was, see what I saw and experience the sacred space as much as I.
Along those same lines, I have spent a lot of time researching technology and platform to enable our corporate worship to continue uninterrupted. I am also giving much thought, energy a time and some cost to our audio/visual capabilities at Creator, trying to make our weekly gatherings more reliable and effective. If it’s the only way we have to connect, then it better be good. I am aware that it is not the same. You might still be in your pajamas! From your kitchen table or living room sofa. That is very different. Though this form of gathering has much in common with the practice of watching T.V., it is rather our holy spiritual offering to God on Sunday morning.
For as long as we are connected by various social media platforms, I see our weekly “Zoom” worship as a sort of placeholder, keeping the habit and practice in place until we can be together again. We will look back and see that there was never a Sunday our church was not prayed in. Never did our congregation not come together to glorify him, even in the midst of a terrible crisis. In fact, we came to him more. That gives me peace just thinking about it.
I want to suggest that our time together on Sunday is neither a performance nor a placeholder. Even in “normal” times, God is speaking to us in many different ways, but it is precisely because life is “too” normal, too satisfactory, complacent or predictable, that maybe we don’t hear him. Or we don’t listen. And even though worshiping on a laptop or cell phone with little “Brady Bunch” images of our Creator family is temporary; I believe part of the change will remain long after we are side by side in the pews again. Some change remains, because that which is changed is made new. The Bible is filled with transformation: think name changes, transfigurations, think healing both physical and spiritual. Think of the greatest transformation of all: From death to life.
I believe in the transforming power of shared time. If you are praying every morning at 8:15, then you are part of that power. I believe that gathering at the same time every Sunday has the same spiritual effect to transform, only previously maybe we were too “distracted” by physical presence to recognize it. Now that we are coming together in every format other than physical, the mystical reality is more obvious as it glorifies God and strengthens his people. We are more, because we are one, and worship plays every note of our Oneness. See it? There is a discipline there, and there is a dedication in your willingness to gather against all odds. God’s love and mercy, which is without glitch or barrier, which will never grow weary or sick, is here, among us in the incarnate Christ.
I know another word for transformation: Redemption.
I cut this sentence but haven’t deleted it entirely:
Change is part of our life in Christ. It began in his work on the cross and your personal reception of it, and it is being lived out through our new online worship
What do you think?
Father Bill Burk†