On Sunday, we ‘officially’ acknowledged our return from the many places we have traveled over the summer months, and we kicked off a new year of learning and life together. It was a kickoff to remember!
Dr. Elizabeth Nordquist talked with about 100 of us about Ancient Practices for Contemporary Christians, and urged us to consider the rhythm of Sabbath and Rest. What would it be like, in our 24/7 culture, if there really were times and places where we regularly experienced the joy and the restorative grace of the Holy One? She wondered with us about our current practices of Sabbath (or lack thereof!) and invited us to think about ceasing our ordinary work and activity, feasting on the good gifts God offers us, and embracing the world God loves. How wonderful it would be, and how transforming, if we could create safe places for weary pilgrims to cease and to feast and to embrace.
In worship, 15 of our number presented “The Bible in About an Hour”, which began at The Very Beginning (with Creation), and closed with Jesus’ invitation to follow. Along the way, we met the snake, sang about Noah, heard Gabriel visit Mary, and engaged stories of the prodigal and the wise and foolish builders. How wonderful it is to remember the long story of God’s work in the world, and the fact that our lives continue that story in our day.
And then five new members (not to mention their cool children!) stood before the community and affirmed their trust in God and their desire to walk with us in the way of Christ. Two of them were men who had never been baptized, and so we marked a new beginning in their lives with the sign of water and the ancient sacrament of naming and blessing them. One of them, Mark, has been an active participant in our common life for over 35 years. Though he had thought often about his faith, and was clear about his ‘belonging’ here, he had avoided being baptized in order to honor the Jewish parents who gave him birth. This fall, he found himself ready to take another step on his spiritual journey, not leaving behind his heritage, but affirming his present circumstance, and following the Spirit’s prompting to risk and trust in a new way.
How wonderful it would be if all of us, no matter how long we had been sitting in a pew or how long we had been following Jesus, felt like we could respond to God’s invitation to take new steps of faith.
After worship, two of us went to the chapel to offer prayers for healing and wholeness for those who wished them. It was a holy thing to welcome one after another, to hold before God a wide range of concerns: cancer, pre-school age children, broken relationships, crises in faith, physical pain and chronic illness. The Spirit of Jesus the healer was present, and all of us went away strengthened and encouraged. How wonderful it is to help one another experience the healing love of God.
What a beginning it was! We were The Church this weekend: Remembering The Story, taking new steps of faith, offering healing grace, and seeking God’s promised Rest! May all of these things continue to be visible in this church in the year ahead! So rise, and shine, and give God the glory, glory- And thanks be to God.