Resources

Wednesday
Apr232014

Vestry Minutes, February 18, 2014

Present:  Sylvia Weston, Isaac Martinez, Marian King, Susan Rice, Nancy McArdle, Marian King, Tom Beecher, Thomas Woehlers, Rev. Holly Antolini, Rev. Judith Atkinson

Absent: John Irvine, Saskia Grunberger, Iselma Carrington, Joanna Kline, JT Kittredge

Guests: Nicholas Hayes, Jeff Zinsmeyer, Bob Orsi, Lucas Sanders

Holly leads us in spiritual practice.

Feb Vestry Minutes

Wednesday
Mar262014

Rev. Holly Lyman Antolini's Sermon for Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

3 Lent Year A 3-23-14

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: Exodus 17:1-7; Ps. 95; [Romans 5:1-11], John 4:5-42

We harden not our hearts as our forebears did in the wilderness, O God our God, at Meribah – “the Place of Quarrels” – and Massah – “the Place of the Test” – when we tempted you, when we put you to the test though we had seen your works… Forgive us our faithlessness!  Take us into your rest!  AMEN.

The Living Water of Lent.  Have you drunk of it?  Have you yet found its source?

I’m going to begin this morning with a poem of the Sufi poet Rumi, who lived in the early 1200’s, an era when there was much cross-fertilization of Christian, Jewish & Muslim life in his region of Persia.  It’s a poem I received by spending a meditation morning at Bethany House in Arlington the day after the Bishop Walkabouts were over, a poem used in the Thursday Contemplative Prayer there.  I invite you to approach it as if you were entering the realm of prayer. Settle back.  Close your eyes if you like.  Let the flow of words pour over you. Don’t seize after meaning.  Let the images float into you.

This world-river has no water in it.

Come back, spring.  Bring water

more fresh than Khidr, the Green Man,

the Islamic guide to the Water of Life,

or Elijah knew,

from the fountain that pulses

in the well of the soul.

Where water is, there bread arrives.

But not the reverse.

Water never comes from loaves.

You are the honored guest.

Do not weep like a beggar

for pieces of the world.

The river vanishes because of that desiring.

Swim out of your little pond.

Go where all the fish are Khidrs,

where there are no secondary causes.

That water rises in the date tree

and in the roses in your cheek.

When it flows toward you,

you will feel a deep contentment.

The night watchman shakes his rattle

as part of his fear.

You will not need him anymore.

Water itself guards the fish

That are in it.

[“Water from the Well of My Soul,” Rumi; Bethany House of Prayer]

So how is Lent going for you, halfway in?  Is the night watchman still shaking his rattle in your fear?  Is your world-river dry?  Have you yet “swum out of your little pond?” Have you discovered even a little spring in the well of your soul? Or is the mud still hard at the bottom?  Benedictine nun Joan Chittister says, “Lent is our salvation from the depths of nothingness.  It is our guide to the more of life.”  [Bethany House of Prayer] Are you still parched and floundering on the bank of nothingness?  Is the “more of life” rising in you as the brooks are rising out of the ground in the first spring thaw in Maine?

If Lent is the invitation into “the more of life,” as Rumi describes it, what does that invitation look like in your life right now?  In mine, the “more” of the bishop discernment, with its five days of “walkabouts” – three straight hours a day of talk-talk-talking for five consecutive days, seven rooms of questions per day, thirty-five twenty-minute intervals of my words, bubbling and chortling out of me like a spring brook, attempting to answer with authenticity whatever has been asked without having the chance to know the questioner and the questioner’s underlying concerns, each answer necessarily constrained to three minutes or less; in total, upwards of 300 soundbites of my theology, spiritual grounding and experience, my vision of God’s Mission and strategic sense of how to get there – all that “more” has been TOO MUCH, pitching me right over the edge into unmanageability! This little Khidr fish was thrown RIGHT OUT of her pond and ‘way down the road!  Any water to hold me was going to have to emerge STRAIGHT OUT OF THE ROCK!

And I suspect that’s how Moses felt, most of the time he and the people of Israel spent wandering around in the wilderness, seeking the Promised Land, as gradually  the memory of the miraculous liberation from Pharoah got swallowed up in the misery and uncertainty of the present moment, their present trials; serpents crawling around; heat unremitting; food and water so scarce there was no knowing where or WHETHER either might show up next. No wonder the people start to grumble and whine and kvetsch and quarrel with each other and with Moses!  No wonder he threw up his hands and complained to God, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!” 

And then Jesus, sitting by the well in the baking sun of noonday in alien Samaritan territory, and, violating all kinds of prohibitions against speaking with either Samaritans or women, asks the Samaritan woman – already clearly designated as troublesome in that she must seek water at sweltering midday and not with the other women in the cool of morning or evening – for a drink. The whole of this story of John’s is deliciously confusing. Jesus is the Living Water, yet he needs the woman to help him to a drink from the Jacob’s deep well.  The woman is outcast even to her own people, yet Jesus chooses her as his Prophet, his Proclaimer.  Jesus does not select a person guaranteed to be “holy” enough to receive his wisdom.  He selects a person with a record of sketchy choices.  And he says the water of life will become a spring gushing up in her – even in HER! – to eternal life.  No one is left high and dry.  Everyone – EVERYONE! – can worship in spirit & in truth.

And that Water does spring up in her, a torrent impelling her back down into town, leaving Jesus and her water jar beached behind her, to spread the word, suddenly finding she has voice and influence to draw others up to the well in their thirst.

Having already done the “more” and “MORE!” of the bishop walkabouts, I find now that the invitation of Lent in me is that LESS is “more!”  Less certainty about where I’m headed.  Less time that is “my own.” Less self-will and more of God’s will because my self-will so clearly will not bridge the baptismal river but will only drop me off in deep and turbulent waters.  More letting go in silence and “letting God” be in charge.  I’m with poet Mary Oliver for this second half of Lent, through the bishop election and on into Holy Week.  She says,

Lord, I will learn to kneel down

     into the world of the invisible,

          the inscrutable and the everlasting.

Then I will move no more than the leaves of a tree

     on a day of no wind,

          bathed in light,

like the wanderer who has come home at last

and kneels in peace, done with all unnecessary things;

every motion; even words.

     [Mary Oliver, Thirst: Poems]

 

And finally in the words of Scottish pastor

I heard the voice of Jesus say,

Behold, I freely give

The living water, thirsty one.

Stoop down, and drink and live.

I came to Jesus and I drank of that life-giving stream.

My thirst was quenched.  My soul revived. 

And now I live in him.

            [words: Horatius Bonar; tune: Thomas Tallis, 1561]

Do you KNOW that your roots are already down into the Living Water that springs eternally? What’s blocking your access?

GONG 

SILENCE

GONG

RESPONSE TIME

Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s People!

AMEN.

Antolini March 23

Tuesday
Mar112014

Rev. Holly Lyman Antolini's Sermon for Sunday, March 9th, 2014

1 Lent Year A 3-9-14

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7; Ps. 32; Matthew 4:1-11

All the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble, O God; when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them. You are our hiding-place; you preserve us from trouble; you surround us with shouts of deliverance.  AMEN.

Welcome to Lent!  Welcome to the special Lenten invitation to journey deeper into our faith in this time in which we prepare to remember Jesus’ Passion – his suffering – and death in Holy Week and to celebrate his overcoming of that suffering in the Resurrection on Easter. Welcome to the Lenten challenge of discovering in our spiritual life both the dynamics of dying and the dynamics of resurrection, sometimes all at the same time, alongside the challenge of allowing doubt to accompany faith.

Because in the Christian life, as in Jesus’ life, “death” and “life” are not the “mutual exclusives” we make them out to be, any more than “doubt” and “belief” are opposites. Somehow we tend to get doubt and belief crossways of each other, as if one cancelled out the other.  As if faith in Jesus would mean absence of doubt. But doubt and confusion seem woven along with faith into the very fabric of our humanity, the very way God created us, so that we must remain humble about how much we know, and must ever turn and turn to God for help.

In Matthew’s Gospel, the stories of Jesus' temptations in the wilderness pose a very different sort of "enemy" of faith than either doubt or death.  In these stories, the enemy of faith is power.  All three temptations posed by "the Tempter," as Matthew calls the devil, are temptations to hold power, whether power for good OR power for power's sake.  Power tempts us not to need God.

Turning stones into bread: how seductive is that promise to the good liberals of urban Massachusetts!  No more trouble with funding for the Greater Boston Food Bank!  Or, extrapolating from bread to other necessities, no more transitional housing in cheap hotels with microwave foods and no laundry!  No more concentrations of poverty in one or another district of the city!  No more people left off the economic ladder!  What power that would be!

Throwing ourselves off the pinnacle of the temple: no more limits to our human frailty!  We can sleep four hours a night and work the other 20!  We can sign our kids up for fifteen after-school activities and still expect them to complete an hour of community service and three hours of homework every night, without showing signs of stress!  We can text and email while driving!  We can drink three quarts of coffee and still toss back "Five-Hour Energy" in between!

Being in charge of all we survey: oh my goodness, we could command the end to global warming!  From one vantage point, we could end all the strip mining, the fracking, the over-fishing, the acid rain and air pollution! We could reduce oil & gas consumption to nothing! From another, we could remove any temptation on the part of former Soviets to continue the old Communist policy of neighbor-domination!  We could end tensions in the Holy Land, rescue the Syrian citizenry and stop the Iranian and North Korean nuclear projects!

To all of these prospects, Jesus consistently tells the tempter, No. No: that's not the way God chose to design the world.  God's design is so infinitely complicated and so fluidly and continuously imaginative that none of us can get on top of it, even though God blessed us as God’s partners in its stewardship.  When we acquire the illusion that we CAN get on top of it – read Adam & Eve and the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – we only expose our naked limitations, our human frailties. We must take our place within the mighty and turbulent current of God’s ever-emerging Creation, working out our salvation in fear and trembling alongside all our fellow humans, all of whom struggle along as we do between clarity and confusion, doubt and faith, death and life.  We must be connected with those fellow humans in order to have any hope of having enough insight and oversight, enough perspective to solve problems.  Our individual contribution is invaluable but only as it connects up with the contributions of others, humbly aware of our shortcomings. 

And we, from the vantage point of the First Sunday of Lent, know something of what lies ahead for Jesus in the working-out of his own salvation, now that he’s turned down the Tempter’s offers of power.  We know he’s headed toward Holy Week before he gets to Easter.  He’s headed toward powerlessness in its most acute form.  There will be plenty of accomplishment along the way for Jesus, but also plenty of confusion, pain, fear and trembling.  And ultimately there will be a cross, the stark testimonial to the dynamics of the Tempter's use of power when spurred by fear of the loss of that power.

In his letter to the Philippians, Chapter 2, Paul summed up the need we have for one another as followers of Jesus, stepping boldly into our doubt and our death in the humility of our humanity:

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.

In this wild Creation that God made for us, even God’s own Son – God’s own Self, in the Triune God – must empty himself and endure powerlessness before being “highly exalted,” as Paul puts it, in resurrection and ascension.  Therefore, my beloved,” continues Paul to the Philippians, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Poet Christian Wiman, himself one who has discovered the profoundest life in the teeth of terrible cancer that threatens him with death at any moment, and faith in the teeth of his enduring and endemic doubt, invokes Jesus’ and our self-emptying this way, “Doubt ...is in some way the seed of Christianity itself, planted in the very heart of him (My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?) who is at once our God and our best selves, and it must be torn terribly, wondrously open in order to flower into living faith.” [Excerpt From: Wiman, Christian. “My Bright Abyss.” Farrar, Straus and Giroux.]

This week, I was blessed to attend a screening sponsored by our own Episcopal City Mission of a small documentary called The Vigil, about the Arizona law SB 1070, a law that criminalized the presence of undocumented people by forcing them to present immigration papers at any time, and by demanding their arrest, internment and deportation for even minor traffic infractions if they could not produce such papers. 

The film focuses on a months-long vigil sponsored by Roman Catholic undocumented immigrants, held on the statehouse lawn in the period between Governor Jan Brewer's signing of the law and the date of implementation, as part of a much-wider effort to challenge the law’s implementation.  In the film’s opening frames, a statue of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, the symbol of Mexican faith and also of Mexican independence and fortitude, is traveling belted into the passenger seat of a car.  She is unloaded and set up in front of the state house and, as she is each and every day, loving decorated with a lace mantilla and flowers and beads and other adornments, as she presides over the long Vigil. Under her gentle plaster gaze gather immigrant families of all ages, in prayer and non-violence. Men are involved; we see a priest in a chasuble periodically at the Vigil.  But the primary participants are undocumented housewives and their children, who spend every day from sun-up to nightfall under the Virgin of Guadalupe on folding chairs, making witness despite the danger of being visible in public in a climate of intense and realistic fear of arrest.

The chief protagonists of The Vigil are two women, one a housewife, Rosa, and the other Gina, the owner of a small second-hand shop.  Both are mothers, and their children appear centrally in the film, Rosa's daughter, Dulce Matuz, who as a young-adult political organizer was chosen as one of TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in 2012, and Gina's 10-year-old son, Brian, fearful of losing his mother to arrest for her activism at The Vigil.  The story unfolds very much through the mothers’ eyes and their narrative (in Spanish), and through them, we begin to see the real hardships and privations, the struggles and terrors of the life of an undocumented immigrant in Arizona, as the powers-that-be in the state become more and more antagonistic and inclined to see “aliens” as the source of their economic and social woes.  Thanks to the up-close interviews the women granted the filmmakers Jenny Alexander and Alexandra de Gonzalez, we are privileged to witness the two women stepping out of the safety of their hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding anonymity, braving their fear and their truly alarming vulnerability, stepping out in faith, in order to witness to the injustice of the power dynamics at work in SB 1070.  Gina could easily lose her son if she were deported; she even completes papers to assure that he will go to his grandparents in Mexico should that happen.  Rosa DOES lose her daughter to arrest in Washington D.C. in a demonstration against SB 1070, and suffers the terror of uncertainty about whether Dulce will be released and whether she will be deported.  Ultimately Dulce IS released and NOT deported, and ultimately three of the four provisions of the law itself, challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court, are struck down as violations of the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, leaving only the provision requiring immigration status checks during law enforcement stops, a provision left standing but with the warning that further judicial action may be taken against that provision if it proves to invite racial profiling, as its critics insist it will.

What we see in The Vigil is a wondrous Lenten journey by two women into their vulnerability and fear for the sake of the wider welfare, demonstrating “the same mind in them that was in Christ Jesus,” as Paul told the Philippians, a mind not to let doubt or the threat of death dissuade them nor to let it undermine their faith and life, but to go forward in humility, looking to the interests of others, finding their encouragement in Christ. 

On the very last day of the Vigil, after Dulce has been released and celebrated and the ruling has been given on the legislation, the Virgin comes down from her perch above the Vigil grounds.  After days and months of safe passage to and from the Vigil and even a trip to demonstrate in Washington D.C. in front of the Supreme Court, the statue now falls and breaks into dozens of pieces, her loving face split apart on the grass.  “It’s as if her job was done,” comments Gina.  But she takes the Virgin’s pieces home anyway, and we see her, at the film’s end, reassembling and gluing them back together, the seams of Mary’s accident visible across her face.

It’s a fitting icon of our Lenten journey and our Lenten spiritual task: to say “NO!” to the Tempter’s offers of power; to allow ourselves – like Gina & Rosa, Dulce and Brian, like the Virgin herself – to risk breakage in our insistence on stepping out on behalf of the interests of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters, not “counting equality with God as a thing to be exploited, but emptying ourselves” of our power, …being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” with Jesus, in humility and the knowledge that, though we suffer doubt and court death, God’s new life lies ahead.  AMEN.

Tuesday
Mar112014

Olivia Hamilton's Sermon for Ash Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy Name. Amen.

The language of physics is like poetry to me; I do not attempt to know or understand or make sense of it, I read it for its possibility and not for its certainty, I make meaning with it but I do not claim to know what it means. In other words, I stand before you with a very miniscule understanding of anything having to do with anything cosmic or even molecular, but with a profound love of the strange and wonderful images and questions that these concepts stir in me.

Take the notion that we are all made of stardust, that has been popularized over time by astrophysicists and pop-science gurus such as Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan: Tyson reminds us that our bodies are quite literally made of the chemically rich guts of stars that exploded eons ago, that we are fundamentally tied to one another and the cosmos at large through what he calls the “chemistry of life.” Carl Sagan imagines that our bodies, the star-stuff of which we are made, act as a way for the universe to know itself; in much the same way, my own imagination points me toward a loving Creator who breathes us and all cosmic matter into being, a Creator that comes to know itself as the source of all love by seeing us enact and embody that love.

With the knowledge that we are all made of star-stuff, Tyson feels compelled to shake people as they walk down the street, shouting “did you know this, have you heard that the very atoms that compose each of us erupted from stars, that the universe is not only around us but within us!?” In much the same way that Tyson’s light-bulb moment draws him closer to the stranger on the street, this knowledge of our cosmic interdependence sends me spiraling ever closer to God, the great mystery, God who is the endless potential that creates us and stirs within us and all matter, God who is the very impulse to reach out and communicate with the stranger walking down the street. God who is often the question and not the answer, God who, like poetry and physics, is possibility and not certainty. God whose limitless love surrounds us not only in times of expansion and new life but also as stars burn out, as we experience death in the cosmos and in our communities, not as a metaphor but as a daily reality.

A star burns out when, under immense pressure, it collapses under the weight of its own gravitation. Such stars are optically invisible; I think of a generation of mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, who have died of AIDS, who we know but cannot see, and young people of color who still contract the virus at alarming rates today. I think of transgender women who have been murdered on our streets, Lorena Escalera, Islan Nettles, Eryicka Morgan, in a world not yet ready to celebrate their brilliance. I think of young people full of questions, of expansive energy, of endless potential, and a justice system that attempts to dim and diminish, young people who die through acts of violence that are ignored if not sanctioned by the state. A world where a nineteen-year old boy like Jorge Fuentes can catch a stray bullet to the head while walking his dog in Dorchester, while some thousands of miles away, in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, a factory town on the border of Arizona, sixteen year old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez is hit seven times by bullets fired by the U.S. Border Patrol, allegedly because he threw a rock at their watchtower. These young men are now optically invisible, though the candles that burn at vigils in Boston and are placed in a makeshift memorial on the section of border wall where José Antonio was murdered remind us of their brilliance.

Ashes to ashes, stardust to stardust. As Episcopal theologian Sylvia Sweeney suggests, the rites that we participate in on Ash Wednesday “seek to speak to the potentiality and vulnerability of the human person and the human community as we stand on the knife edge of life and death, and seek to understand what, if anything, lies beyond.”[1] Christ pulls toward a world that is fundamentally different than the one we know, one wherein no one collapses under the immense pressure that injustice exerts, wherein no one must struggle to survive against the gravitation of their own dreams, their own expansive energy.

As we move into the Season of Lent, with its taking on and taking away, Jesus warns us not to practice our piety in order to gain attention or acknowledgement from others; is it not the case that so often, our cries for justice are inexplicably bound with our own sense of moral aptitude, that we wade in the waters of self-righteousness rather than prophecy? Jesus advises us, “do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” – it seems we get so lost in resisting the reality as it is that we forget to imagine the reality as it could be. Our very bodies are made of star-stuff, and through these bodies we can imagine and know the universe that is within us and around us, just as we can imagine and know a world that is safe for Jorge Fuentes, safe for Eryicka Morgan, safe for the victims of violence whose names we do not know and cannot speak today.

We are stardust, we are dust. We are as noble as that bright star that burned in the East, leading the three Wise Men through the dark night with nothing but hope that a new world was possible; we are as fragile and transient as dust, when the wind blows over us we are gone. It seems that just as Jesus invites us to create a world that is different than the one we know, he also points us toward our own incapacity to fix, to solve, to repair.  Reminded of our own limitations, it seems that sometimes the most radical political act is to be gentle to ourselves, to be kind to the mistakes we make as we try and fail and try to make a world that is safe for us all.

The imposition of the ashes invites us to both remember our finite nature, but also to honor and imagine the sacred reality within us, around us, and beyond us. We are dust, we are stardust. The very smallest particles within us, the quirks and quarks that make each of us the strange and wonderful divine creatures we are, are the same that stretch and unfold and expand and contract throughout the mysterious cosmos that God imagines and adores.

Please pray with me:

Loving Creator,

Remind us that you have made our bones with the stuff of stars, so that we may use them to restore the streets we live in, to make those streets safe for Jorge, safe for Islan, safe for those whose bodies bear the brokenness of our healthcare system, safe for young people, and all people,

Call to out to us with your poetic language, open our eyes to the mysteriousness of your creation, as death surrounds us, widen our hearts so that we may heal and be healed, but also that we may be gentle to our own limitations,

As we transition into the season of Lent, that knife edge season, inspire us to imagine other possible worlds, in which we all can live and thrive.

 Amen.


[1] Sylvia Sweeney,  An Ecofeminist Perspective on Ash Wednesday and Lent, p. 8.

Olivia Hamilton Sermon

Monday
Feb242014

Rev. Holly Lyman Antolini's Sermon for Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

7 Epiphany Year A 2-23-14

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: Ps. 119:33-40; 1 Cor. 3:10-11; 16-23; Matt. 5:38-48

Turn our eyes from watching what is worthless; give us life in your ways. Amen.

I’m going to begin today by sharing a gripe with you about these famous and much beloved passages of Scripture from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount!  Whether it’s the opening Beatitudes themselves – “Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” – or, further into the sermon, last week’s “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out!” – or this week’s extremity of turning the other cheek, giving away both cloak and shirt, walking the extra mile, and on top of all that, loving your enemy.

My gripe is this: despite all we know about the ways Jesus tended to bring his teachings vividly to life by whopping us up the side of the head (or at any rate, on both cheeks, for sure!) with imagery so drastic we couldn’t ignore it, we still want to literalize it.  Even those of us dedicated to NOT literalizing scripture still try to adopt the line “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” in a way that drives us toward high principles of holiness that are sickeningly dizzying in their expectations, worse than imagining yourself at the top of the Sochi Grand Slalom course with no way out but down!

I don’t know about you, but here’s the temptation for me:  at the very same moment that I feel CONVICTED of falling desperately & perpetually short of Jesus’ expectations by the Sermon on the Mount, I yearn for the Sermon to lay out the principles of sanctity for me so I can ultimately prove myself worthy of God’s love and God’s forgiveness and healing. It’s a devil’s compact, unfortunately.  My unworthiness dogs me in the face of this imagery of giving to all who ask of me and forgiving my enemies.  And at precisely the same time, my aspirations vaunt all the more strenuously to master every twist and turn of the spiritual Grand Slalom, to win the Gold of salvation.  I’m afraid it’s precisely this toxic blend of self-denigration and over-scrupulous self-righteousness that leads dedicatedly religious people to act out in ways that hurt themselves and others around them, ways that I’m convinced make Jesus weep, partly in sympathy and partly in frustration! We might as well impose the rule of Law all over again and forget about grace.

Yet even the Law – the Jewish law embraced so passionately by our psalmist today – is not simply the set of legalistic principles we so often make it out to be in the spiritual life of Jewish believers.  I’ll never forget the Rev. Dr. Paul Van Buren, a member of my tiny Deer Isle Maine congregation of St. Brendan’s, instructing me out a quarter-century of his study and collegiality with Jewish theologians, his fellow scholars at Temple University. Far from being legalistic rule-binding, the Law, the Torah to which the writer of Psalm 119 refers in nearly every verse, was actually more akin in the Jewish life of prayer to the Christian theology of the breath of the Holy Spirit, the presence of God in and for us, animating all goodness in us and around us.  Listen again to the Psalmist’s longing with the Holy Spirit in mind in place of the words “statutes,” “law,” & “commandments,” and see if it feels different, as if the Law were not so much a statutory code as a life-blood, necessary for breathing:

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end.

Give me understanding, and I shall keep your law; I shall keep it with all my heart.

Make me go in the path of your commandments, for that is my desire.

Behold, I long for your commandments; in your righteousness preserve my life.

Imagine that Jesus, good Jew that he was, understood the Law in this way himself, so that when he speaks about fulfilling the Law, he’s not talking about imposing some new graduate level of spiritual principles upon us but instead trying to drive deep into us the full scope of God’s own passionately merciful and forgiving “for-us-ness,” a for-us-ness that forgives our worst evil-doing. A for-us-ness that sends down the rain upon us whether we’re just or unjust, and makes the sun rise on us, the evil and the good, together. A divine for-us-ness that turns the other cheek and offers cloak and shirt and does not refuse us.  A for-us-ness that willingly went to the Cross FOR US. The divine for-us-ness. Jesus is trying to say, already infuses everything in us and around us.  It is just waiting for us to claim it. And when we DO claim it, it transforms our whole moral universe and makes us act in generously magnanimous ways the world would say were crazy foolishness.

When I was a student at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, I had the honor of meeting the first black South-African ever consecrated a Lutheran bishop, Dean & Bishop Tshenuwani Simon Farisani.  Consecrated in the middle of the anti-apartheid struggle despite being a member of the African National Congress that was so despised and feared by the South African government at the time, Tshenuwani was arrested four times over the course of the anti-apartheid struggle, and physically tortured the first three.  As the tensions mounted, the violence against such a perceived ANC leader ratcheted up, so that each time he was tortured, the torture was more extreme.  He suffered two heart attacks during torture and his health became increasingly frail. Amnesty International was involved in his release each time. The fourth and final time of his arrest, not much more than a year before I met him, did not involve physical but rather psychological torture, which turned out to be even more destructive.  He was questioned from five to 10 hours a day, and threatened with death for himself and members of his family. Tshenuwani realized that he was very close to dying at the hands of his torturer.  In that moment, as he related it to me and the other students meeting with him, as he looked at his torturer, in a blinding flash of spiritual insight a word came to him for the man at whose hands he was suffering.  He said to him with immense compassion, “You know, you can kill me physically, but you cannot harm me spiritually because Jesus loves me and will raise me up.  So really, in hurting me, you are only hurting yourself.” The man was unable to continue the torture.  And Tshenuwani, ultimately, was again let go, at which point the Lutherans in South Africa sent him into exile for his own protection, overseas to America for treatment in the Center for Torture Victims in Minneapolis and then to the Graduate Theological Union to complete a PhD.

And here is what I want to say about my experience in the presence of Tshenuwani Farisani: this was a man who had suffered untold harm at the hands of his enemies, his literal enemies in the apartheid regime, as had so very many black South Africans.  He had every reason for bitterness and self-righteousness about those who had persecuted him.  It certainly drove him to a dedicated determination that they would not prevail in their racist policies.  But it had not embittered him.  In fact, I have never heard anyone speak about the dynamics of racism with more searing honesty but simultaneously with a more compelling and comprehensive compassion for all involved, black & white. Not one ounce of sentimentality, mind you.  His honesty about the destructiveness of apartheid and its counterpart in our own persistent racism and racial inequality in the US was not in the least softened.  But shining in the core of his critique was his forgiveness and love. 

That’s because Tschenuwani’s “foundation,” as Paul said to the Corinthians in our first lesson, was not principle, but Jesus Christ’s loving presence. It makes me think of a wonderful passage from an essay by Presbyterian minister and writer Frederick Buechner, in which he messes up the Grand Slalom interpretation of Jesus’ “love your enemies:”

Principles are what people have instead of God. To be a Christian means among other things to be willing if necessary to sacrifice even your highest principles for God’s or your neighbor’s sake the way a Christian pacifist must be willing to pick up a baseball bat if there is no other way to stop a man from savagely beating a child. Jesus didn’t forgive his executioners on principle but because in some unimaginable way he was able to love them.”  [Wishful Thinking (Harper & Row, 1973)]

Why is it so very, very hard to hear the core of Jesus’ message inside these extreme exhortations in the Sermon on the Mount?  It is so easy to miss that, despite all their impossible standards, at their heart, they’re the ANTITHESIS of the self-denigration and self-righteousness that comes from trying so strenuously to make them principles to live by. In them, Jesus is pleading for us to accept what is already IN us: God’s loving forgiveness.  It reminds me of Paul pleading with the Corinthians – themselves aiming to be medalists in the spiritual Olympics – to hear him. “Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? ...For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple… So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future-- all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.” “It has been said… but I say to you,” Jesus says over and over in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, pleading with us not to get tied up with the letter of the Law but to let the breath of Spirit infuse the whole of us, the weak and frail parts and the gifted and capable parts of us, filling us with grace as God intended us to be filled.  If we really love God as much as God loves us, we will finally be able to feel the truth of Paul’s proclamation, that despite all our foolishness, despite our wayward adherence to “the wisdom of the world,” EVERYONE & EVERYTHING – ourselves, our world, our enemies – already belong to each other and to Christ, ONE as Christ and the Creator are ONE.  The sooner we grasp that, the sooner the shalom of God’s great Dream of Commonwealth will come into being.  In fact, WHEREVER and WHENEVER we grasp that, even a little, even for a moment, God’s Commonwealth IS COMING INTO BEING, transforming us from haters to lovers, completing us, completing God’s good creation.  “To be completed” is what the word “perfect” in Jesus’ Sermon really means.  “Be completed as your Creator is complete!” Tshenuwani’s moment of compassion for his torturer was a moment of COMPLETION: an in-breaking of God’s Kingdom in the midst of the worst of the worst travesty of human perfidy, the worst enmity. HALLELUJAH!

Because in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus isn’t inviting us into a spiritual Grand Slalom or any other Olympic contest.  He just wants us to know the full scope of God’s love for us. Because if and whenever we ever truly sense the scope of that merciful love, our own mercy will expand to include the whole world and everyone in it.  AMEN.

Antolini 2-23

Thursday
Feb202014

Vestry Minutes, January 22nd, 2014

Present:  Rev. Holly Antolini, Carol Hilliard, Sylvia Weston, John Irvine, Isaac Martinez, Rev. Judith Atkinson, Lucas Sanders, Joanna Kline, JT Kittredge, Steve Clark, Marian King, Susan Rice

Absent: Saskia Grunberger, Warren Huber, Iselma Carrington,

Holly leads us in spiritual practice.

Vestry Minutes 1-22-14

Thursday
Feb202014

Vestry Minutes, December 18th 2013

Present:  Rev. Holly Antolini, Rev. Judith Atkinson, Sylvia Weston, John Irvine, Isaac Martinez, Lucas Sanders, JT Kittredge, Steve Clark, Marian King, Susan Rice

Guests: Jeff Zinsmeyer (Redevelopment Committee)

Absent: Saskia Grunberger, Warren Huber, Carol Hilliard, Iselma Carrington, Joanna Kline,

Holly leads us in prayer.

 

Vestry Minutes 12-18-13

Tuesday
Feb182014

Isaac Martinez's Sermon for Sunday, February 16th, 2014

6 Epiphany Year A 2-16-14

Lections: Deut. 30:15-20; Ps. 119:1-8; 1 Cor. 3:1-9; Matt. 5:21-37

Almighty God, you give us commandments not so that we will use them to judge each other, but rather to call us ever deeper into your great and unending vision of love. Give us your grace, the grace we need to choose again and again the abundant life you dream for us. Amen.

Wow, those readings, amirite?!

Murder, anger, sex, broken marriages, lies—and those are just topics from the Gospel reading alone! In our epistle for the week, Paul basically calls the Corinthians “spiritual babies” for being jealous of each other and arguing with each other. Imagine what he would call us if he could see the state of our Anglican Communion today! And in the reading from Deuteronomy appointed for today, we find Moses declaring to the people of Israel, as they wait to enter their promised land: See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God…by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you.

Ordinances, now there’s a word you don’t hear in our worship very much. Love, grace, and mercy? Yes, give us more of that stuff. But commandments? Decrees? It’s hard to wrap our heads around the idea that God would make his blessing conditional on us adhering to such impossible standards. That doesn’t sound very loving of him. In fact, that sounds rather Old Testament of him! And, in today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus sounding kind of Old Testament-y himself, with his talk of judgment, hellfire, and cutting off body parts. Wasn’t he just talking about being salt of the earth and light of the world a week ago? What the heck happened to that Jesus?!

I’ll get to that in a second, but first, I think it’s important to explain that with any religion, whether it’s the Second Temple Judaism of Jesus’ time or the Christianity of this morning, there is a tendency to conflate spiritual truth with keeping commandments, to neatly map every interaction with the Holy onto outward observance of cultural norms and expectations. And from that mindset, with human nature being what it is, it’s inevitably easier to write up the “Shall Nots” rather than the “Shalls”. So whether it’s the Old Testament version or the 21st century version, it’s easy to focus our time, energy, and resources on staying within the letter of the law, “avoiding the big sins,” as theologian Amy Oden puts it. Look, we say, I have not murdered anyone. Am I not worthy to offer my gift at the altar? I have not committed adultery, aren’t I safe from hell? Or we say, see, I am not racist or homophobic. Look at how much I show I care about the poor and the environment. That must mean the evil one is not in me! Look, look at my righteousness! “Aha!” you might think, “a sentiment like that is a ripe target for some of the radical ethic we expect from Sermon-on-the-Mount Jesus.” And you’re right.

It may seem that Jesus is channeling some old fashion Leviticus, but we actually are seeing him reframe what it really takes to be righteous, saying that to focus only on avoiding “bad” behaviors, rather than to examine the cognitive or emotional processes that lead to those behaviors, runs its own risk of keeping us trapped in small, puny lives, not the abundant life God deeply wants for us.

Still, radical or not, this new kingdom Jesus is preaching about seems a lot more demanding than the old one. If now even things like anger and lust are sins, the chances for failure are exponentially higher and the accompanying guilt is exponentially greater. And at this point of the Gospel narrative, Jesus isn’t quite gotten around to spelling out how we make up for it. I mean, at least in the Old Testament, you knew what your punishment was and how you could atone for some sins.

But the thing is, I don’t think we need to wait for the Holy Week story to start choosing life and prosperity over death and adversity. Because we know, and Jesus knew, that life is messy and in need of salvation long before we ever get to Good Friday. And transformation doesn’t need a big, flashy resurrection moment to start happening in our lives.

You see, the good news is that Jesus is simply saying to us “pay attention to your relationships,” because it is through our daily relationships with individuals that our days become long and rich. And by paying attention to the thoughts and feelings that underlie those everyday relationships, we can figure out, as Mary Beth told me, how God wants us to preserve them by valuing what’s good or by fixing them when they’re broken.

So, when we pay attention to our anger, we are called to reconcile with whom we are angry. When we pay attention to our desire, we are called to see the person as a subject and not an object for our possession. When we pay attention to our chafing at commitments, we are called to remember that relationships don’t suddenly end with a mere certificate. And when we pay attention to our urge to make grand promises to prove our intentions, we are called to speak only from our simple truth, whether it is yes or no.

And it’s not only shortcomings in individual relationships that benefit from some Gospel light. Our communal relationships could also use some of that transformative power of paying attention. Last weekend, at our Vestry retreat, we recognized two rather big unmet needs of our parish. The first is a real desire for spiritual formation, both as a way to radically welcome the many newcomers to our parish year after year, and also as a way to begin building cross-generational and other difference-spanning relationships. Secondly, we recognized that as much as our mission and outreach activities are a major component of our identity as a congregation, those ministries and programs are no longer at the center of our community.

As those of you who have read the Sunday News know (and check your spam folder if you haven’t been getting it!) two of our Vestry goals for 2014 are to address these needs: by creating new infrastructure for adult formation and by discerning how to promote greater understanding of our mission and outreach activities. I think we have learned that simply saying, “let’s start another program,” has not been very sustainable for any of our Holy Currencies of gracious leadership, of time, and especially, of relationship.

So in 2014, we will be paying attention to how we create, deepen, and expand our relationships with each of you and with each other, knowing that we are called to spiritually nourish each other with dinner and conversations as much as by Eucharist and sermons. And we know that true mission, God acting in his world through his relationship with us, springs out of a spiritually nourished life.

And so just as the disciples did on that Galilean mountain, so we here at St. James’s today see Jesus giving us a new law of Love, “a new way of life, one that demands more, but also promises more,” if we pay attention. Let us keep these commandments, as the Psalmist says, knowing that a happy and abundant life comes when we seek God with all our hearts. Amen.

Isaac Martinez 2-16-14

Tuesday
Feb112014

Rev. Holly Lyman Antolini's Sermon for February 9th, 2014

5 Epiphany Year A 2-9-14

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: Isaiah 58:1-9a; Ps. 112:1-9; 1 Cor. 2:1-12; Matthew 5:13-20

This is a day acceptable to you, O LORD. Go before us, our Vindicator, and let your glory be our rear guard, so that our light shall break forth like the dawn, and our healing shall spring up quickly.  AMEN. [from Isaiah 58:6-8]

Salt preserves.  Without it, meat and fish become dangerously rotten very quickly.  With it, they can last a long, long time to provide us with nourishment. Look around you at this congregation.  Who are the preservers of our life together?  Who has been feeding us a long, long time, literally, and spiritually?  Who are the ones who remember who is suffering, and reach out to them?  Who picks people up for surgery, and fetches them again afterward?  Who consistently calls our attention to the needs of the world, and organizes us to respond to those needs?  Who shows up to pray and read in our liturgy, or bear the cross?  Who simply consistently shows up for worship and fellowship and all the “currencies of blessing” that sustain our missional ministry?  You KNOW these people! 

Salt intensifies.  You know when you are tasting salt in a dish, even though salt has no taste of its own, because it makes all the other flavors stronger. Look around you.  Who intensifies the savor of our spiritual community?  Who has a gift for enabling us to FEEL the Spirit’s presence and power?  Maybe with words; maybe with kindness; maybe with humor or insight; maybe with a capacity for real and substantive empathy with others; maybe by bringing musical or visual beauty into our life together; maybe by the sheer power of prayer.  You KNOW these people!

Salt is necessary to life.  That’s why it’s the first thing given when someone has been dehydrated; they’ve lost not just their moisture, but their salt balance.  Never did I know this essential nature of salt in our bodies until my sister was diagnosed with the ear trouble called “Meniere’s disease,” a fluid build-up in the inner ear which not only interferes with hearing but can destabilize your entire balance system and cause horrendous vertigo and nausea.  No one knows how to cure it, but lowering your salt intake can lower the amount of fluid in your ears and make a significant difference.  Well my sister – being my sister! – is nothing if not determined!  So when she was told to lower her salt intake, she virtually cut salt out of her diet.  She read every label and consulted every restaurant’s recipes and refused salt everywhere she went.  Until one day she collapsed at the office and was rushed to the hospital on the verge of a stroke!  Thank God, she DIDN’T have a stroke, but they quickly determined that she was dangerously low on salt!  Her ears might have been benefiting, but the whole rest of her system was seriously out of whack!

Look around you at this congregation.  Who makes our congregational life WORK?  Who is mobilizing quietly in our congregational “blood stream,” keeping the systems running?  Making sure we have enough wafers for communion and that the flowers get sent out to the frail and the suffering? Keeping the wood polished and the paper products stocked?  Managing our insurance and applying for grants and loans for restoration?  Remembering to put the names of those in need of prayer on the Healing Pray-ers list, and then remembering to pray for them! Looking after our babies in the nursery and keeping them safe and happy there? Bearing communion to those who can’t physically join us?  Adding up the numbers, Sunday after Sunday, and pledge statement after pledge statement?  Often the folk who are salty in this way are nearly invisible in our common life, because they go about what they do in a very un-self-advertising way.  But if you think about it, you KNOW these people!

Your Vestry has just spent Friday night and Saturday on retreat, preparing for leadership at St. James’s in the coming year, a year full of opportunity and fraught with uncertainty, as the building project comes ever closer to beginning, and as we all wonder what will happen in the episcopal election on April 5th and whether I will remain your rector or become your bishop.  We will be commissioning them for this leadership this very morning, blessing and praying for them, and I hope you will keep them in your prayers as the year unfolds.  Having just spent two days with them, I can testify that this is a truly wonderful, strong, capable, differently-abled group; God has provided for us the currency of gracious leadership most generously.

And they are really clear that the preserving, intensifying, essential salt of their call to leadership in the congregation of St. James’s isn’t just for St. James’s alone.  To leap to Jesus’ other metaphor from the Gospel of Matthew today, the purpose of their salt is so that we as a whole congregation can SHINE IN THE WORLD BOLDLY, a lamp on the lamp stand, not hidden, but visible, a testament to God’s generosity of blessing, radiant with the glory of Christ’s self-giving love. Because although we are here at St. James’s clearly to refresh and renew our own faith, to pray for each other and comfort – con-fort, strengthen – each other in the power of the Holy Spirit, to “speak God’s wisdom to each other,” as Paul tells the Corinthians, “so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God,” that’s only the beginning.  All this is just to prepare us to be the Light of the World, to both ILLUMINATE and EXPOSE the ways in which the world is going about its business.  To expose how unaware of God’s presence and power most people are as we attend to the world’s daily operations, relying on “human wisdom,” a wisdom inadequate to the real needs of the world, and relying on our own human strength, a strength inadequate to the challenges we face. As Paul earlier warned the Corinthians, God has said “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’” [1 Cor. 1:19b] And later, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”  The light of such exposure is not accepted gratefully by a world determined to rely on its own resources.  Some of the time that we are called to “let our light shine before others,” it’s a searing light, a light that lays bare injustice and uncharity.  Sometimes the light is a light that calls the ungenerous and the self-preoccupied to account.

But equally likely, the Light we bring is a gentle and a healing light to those who have been injured or bruised by the world’s unconcern or underestimation, who have been in the shadows of the world’s inattention and neglect, or who have languished under the world’s crushing exploitation.  It is an ILLUMINATION of the value of those whom the world has overlooked or oppressed.

Our Vestry is prepared to lead us in doing all of the above at St. James’s, refusing to be hidden under the bushel basket of our frustrating lingering “in diaspora,” church school here and food pantry there and offices somewhere else, while our poor old parish house sits, huddled and pathetic, awaiting its transformation into an accessible, hospitable and welcoming community space embracing our church and garden, in the redevelopment.

Maybe our long sojourn, pressed together in our worship space, has heightened a charism – a gift – God gave us long ago, a gift that God has burnished brightly within us even in the long years when our parish house was falling down around our ears, linoleum crumbling, window frames porous, heat escaping through the open pores of our roof and sewage cascading into our basement classrooms.  Paul names this singular charism of St. James’s with poignant eloquence when writing to the elegant Corinthians. “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”

So it is at St. James’s.  For we, in our visible frailty, proclaim Christ crucified…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  It is precisely our human shortcomings, so clearly on display at St. James’s, which make God’s own forgiving love manifest in us. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. The steadfast loving kindness of God in Jesus Christ wells up in us precisely through the cracks of our imperfection.  Hence Paul’s words challenge us, like him, not to rely on our strengths merely, but to illumine and expose our own weaknesses, as he says he did coming into the highly elite and capable community of the Corinthians – the ancient Greek equivalent of Cambridge, cosmopolitan, urbane, wealthy and powerful – so that the Light we shine with is Christ’s Light and not our own.

Pray for your Vestry & clergy, dear friends, as we embark on leadership this year.  Pray that we may know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.  And that in so knowing, we your leadership may invite us all to be salt and light of the world, come what may.  AMEN.

Tuesday
Feb112014

Sylvia Weston's Homily for Candlemas, February 2nd 2014

The PRESENTATION -Simeon & Anna’s Experience In the Temple:

Prayer: (  Forward Day By Day) Luke 2:  20-40  & Malachi 3:  1-14 -  Psalm 84   Hebrews: 2:14-18

“In worship and in work alike, may we know your presence, Till work itself be worship, and every thought be to your praise.”

What a Gospel  - one where sight and speech are heightened and Liturgy – the work of the people is at it’s peak,  which culminates in voices of Praise!   Reality -New insights and Proclamations emerge from the depths of the Soul through the working of the Spirit of God.  Simeon and Anna, at that special  place, the Temple, are transformed and given NEW SIGHT, new Directions.

A few weeks ago, members of our family gathered to celebrate 2 birthdays.   It was evening; gradually, as the candles were lit, the room illumined with the brightness of the LIGHT, and instantly  we heard a loud shout ‘THANK YOU GOD, HALLELUJAH!”  We were all amazed with the instant excitement -  hands lifted high, and the proclamation of  unrehearsed Praise that came from Justice.  Needless to say, even more Joy was added  to our hearts, and in the room by his act of Worship.

What is it that brings us here today -every week?  What is it that stirs us from sleep, that knudges us to Get Up, Get dressed and Get Going?  Where do we Go – and Why?  We come to present ourselves to God and to offer a Sacrifice of Praise.

It is the Spirit of God in each one who brings us here.  We come to St. James’ and Gather  as One, with expectation and to do the Work of Liturgy.  I think of Susan and Tom Harris and Ginny – faithful  ministers who,  come every week to prepare the Table /Altar for the Feast of the Eucharist..    This is work; this is Worship. We are in search of something ; we desire to Become One with someone Greater than ourselves.   And so we come, As We Are..  “How aimiable arethy courts, oh Lord of host.  My soul longs to be here in your temple; My soul searches for you.” cries the Psalmist as he Worships.

Simeon is stirred by The Spirit, the Messenger of God who prepares the Way, and Malachi’s prophesy comes true:  “The Lord whom you seek shall suddenly come to His Temple.” (Malachi 3:1)   Anna is also moved, and obedient to the call  they come  to the temple.  United in One cause, and faithful in their work, they are TRANSFORMED.  The Desire of their innermost wish to know God is realized, and they SEE beyond the ordinary.  God communicates with Simeon and Anna in that moment, and they see  the Incarnation of JESUS, the CHRIST.  The Baby who is here in the Temple with his mother and father  is the  very PRESENCE of GOD Himself in human form…   Joy is come to them, and PRAYER in PRAISE flow from the depths of their Souls as they engage fully in Worship, to give God his worth , his glory and adoration.  Simeon’s song , ”Mine Eyes have Seen Your Glory...” continues in our Worship today.  Now he can Rest and Abide in Christ.  Anna too joins in Worship, as she tells of SALVATION that has come to the world through this young child – JESUS, the Christ.  ANNA, is given a VOICE with her NEW assignment to be a WITNESS of this glorious Personal Encounter.  I can picture her walking and talking with seekers such as us:  SALVATION has Come to us!    She is empowered by the Spirit to carry on her work and to tell with confidence, I HAVE SEEN SALVATION.  Amazing Grace.

And Simeon, in Obedience to his mandate says to Mary “ This child is  destined  for  the rise and fall of many.  A sword shall pierce your soul also!”  Mary must have pondered:  “what does Simeon mean?”  One day in 2009 while I visited at Youville Rehab, I took some time and walked through the premises.  There across a wall I saw these words: “It will happen:  It’s all in the Cross.”    I wondered – what does that mean, and why is this here, and why have I come upon it at this moment?   I have pondered on that moment many times.   We are connected/linked to the characters in this story, and we also find ourselves in situations and places when we have to ponder and seek meaning of  “sword” and Cross that come in the pathway of our Journey.   Mary knew she was never alone.  JESUS The CHRIST is right beside her; Grace and Mercy flows from Him.  Ponder – yes?    Still she can carry on with the work – with Worship and trust in God’s mercy. .  A great TRANSFORMATION has just occurred , not only in JESUS, her son, but also in these 2  Witnesses who were always at the Temple in God’s presence.

We too are never alone and are always in the Presence of Jesus, the Christ.   As we gather  to Worship,  we  join our voices with Simeon and Anna, with Mary & Joseph and ALL who have gone before, as we continue the Journey of Seeking  and Finding Jesus, the Christ in each other!    Like Simeon  we can  Rest in God and like Anna , tell of the Gift of Salvation that we have found – of the New Sight received and of the new LIGHT that sparkles within us – JESUS, the CHRIST.  Carry on the work of Worship.  When , on this Journey , we encounter  the LIGHT of Christ, may the Child in us – like Justice, and the aged, like Simeon and Anna - shout out unabashedly “ Thank You God, Hallelujah!”    May we be blessed with new sight to see God’s glory – God’s Salvation.