Dear Creator Family,
We sure have had a run of it with our 56-year-old parish buildings – and then some! The year has seen the demise and repair of many major systems: A/C, septic, water main, window units, floors, portico lights, and wood rot! What else could go wrong and when would it? Right on cue, our ailing boiler, which malfunctions each year around this time, broke once and for all, right when the bishop is scheduled to visit, and we have (or had) a lovely brass concert to look forward to. I thought the 4th Sunday in Advent was all about Peace. Where is this peace?
You’ve heard the adage, “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”? This truism, if you take it as such, is a stoic teaching, but I am not a stoic. I am a Christian, who believes in the redeeming power of God’s mercy and love, not to mention the deeper meaning behind it all. There is a wonderful hymn recently receiving more attention because of the movie coming out about its author, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In his hymn, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” many of the lines resonate with our feelings today:
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.”
Does that not speak to the times? And consider that Longfellow wrote the poem on Christmas day, having just received news that his son had been severely wounded in a Civil War battle. Dismayed, still mourning the death of his wife from a house fire that wounded him so badly he could not attend her funeral, Longfellow searches his heart for the hope and peace promised…and nowhere to be found. So that sort of puts the church boiler and other predicaments and property disasters in perspective for me. His deep faith and certainty that God’s mercy prevails in the resounding reply of the hymn:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
I am heartened and grateful for the way our parish family responded to the boiler “crisis” and lack of heat. Last Sunday was such a gift of gathering in Jesus’ name and welcoming Bishop †Mark to our parish. Hours of hard work and preparation went into converting the Parish Hall to a worship space (with thanks to Carolee and Steve Stuckey) and reception hall at the same time! Food was made by loving and caring hands and good cheer was exchanged by all. Broken boiler? Forced relocation? Cramped space? None of these things could still or stop the Holy Spirit from filling our hearts and blessing our worship as we joined our Bishop in Word and Sacrament.
Our mission is to praise God for all we have received and gather in Jesus’ name in thanksgiving for all we don’t deserve but are still given by a God who loves us into eternal life, and that is what we did! Your witnesses of love and communion were inspirational and your welcome in Jesus’ name was the witness of the day. Maybe the old adage should be, “what doesn’t kill us makes us holier,” as your witness of meeting these challenges in the Lord’s name has the power to transform the world!
Bishop †Mark preached a powerful word of hope and possibility in his sermon as he called us to dream the dream that God has for us. Amidst the pain and hurt and fear and disappointment of our lives, we are reminded of God’s gift to Joseph: the dream of God’s love for us. God came in the flesh to make the dream of love and the gift of joy real for each of us: amidst the pain, we are healed, inside the moment we touch eternity. Through God’s dream, God’s revelation of God’s self in the incarnation, “We are not bound by yesterday, we have no need to fear tomorrow, and today we are alive in Christ,” as Bishop †Mark said.
We are hopeful we will be back in our sanctuary by Christmas. But if not, we will continue to live the “Dream of God,” where the impossible comes to pass as possible in us, because of God’s love and providence in our midst. Emmanuel. It is amazing that a 56-year-old building could continue to give us such opportunities to grow in grace and serve in love!
Faithfully in Christ,
Father Bill Burk†