light

Outside the sanctuary a bitter wind was howling. On this first Sunday of the new year the intrepid gathered to celebrate the power of light to guide us to new life. It was Epiphany Sunday.

We heard the story of how it was three wise men followed the star.

Most enchantingly, we heard the scripture read by young people. Both the prophet Isaiah and the writer of Matthew’s gospel were given voice by children and youth who call our church home. Their moms and dads had cell phones at the handy to record their young wonders and every person in the place leaned in and leant their breath and energy in order that the story might be told. Through the hearts and sounds of our very own beloveds the story was told.

The woman who directs the Little Angels children’s choirs – preschoolers who sing open-hearted beauty – shared a solo. Witnessing her singers watch their teacher bear witness with shine and beauty broke my heart open with wonder.

What is this glory that we share? What is this light we seek to follow?

On a wretchedly cold Minnesota morning the light of Christ drew us near and we bowed and offered our gifts. We offered the gifts of our presence and our intentions and our longings and our shine and we were warmed in the doing of it.

And the winter did not overcome it.

so much

Gratitude takes up space.

Gratitude swells and transforms and it is alive alive.

The kindnesses of my life sprung from the heart of human grace are tender mercy. Love lives in my home and it visits in the form of children who share life and laughter as well as questions and ache. The tender goodness of thick coffee and attentive hearts are ground for the stretch into the unknown of each day.

The artistry of the Holy pounds in the power of the Great Lake outside my window and it spangles in the still of night and the need to stop and pay homage lives in every “thank you” breathed on every day. Two bald eagles dipped blessing over our heads yesterday. Two.

Where is the space for so much gratitude?

engaged engaged!

leah and terin 2

My daughter is getting married.

Oh. Oh. Oh.

She who was born bright of eye and wise of soul has found a companion who shares the light and the deep of it all and this, this is momentous.

She will cleave to another. While it has been years since she last shared home with me her home will now be established around the nucleus of the heart they share and tend.

What courage it takes to love, to say “yes”, to open to learning life in the company of another.

They have that courage, do Leah and Terin.

We who love them will bask in the power of what it is they become in each other’s keeping. They are good together. The shine and ground of their love is blessing to creation.

And this mother, this mother is feeling the cellular surrender that began at Leah’s birth. It has long been such wonder to behold the world through her being.

Now I add another to my heart and apprentice myself to learning life through him and my daughter is getting married.

I who have died

Eleven years ago I moved to Minneapolis a newly divorced woman with three grieving children.

We were all nuts.

Somehow we lived, one day to the next. The eldest left for college. The two youngest endured finding their own new ways in a new place, as did their mother. Life was marked by train rides to see their dad and sometimes visits with the Chicago-dwelling eldest. We were careful around each other. We grieved. Oh, we grieved.

And we lived.

Friends were found and life made and gradually it became easier to breathe.

We lived:

Pick ups to and from college for three. A”bonus dad” and “bonus sibs” to acclimate to. More friends, explorations, band concerts, leaving and returning and growing awareness that the bond of love is a rare and precious thing.

Graduations from college and jobs won and left. Partners welcomed and woven into kin fabric. Hearts passionate about healing and justice and beauty and community and the splendor of the earth. Pastor’s kids adept with people and open to life.

And now the youngest graduates on Saturday. There for his walk will be his deepest and most tenacious fans: his mom and dad, his step-Coop, his sisters and their partners and on the next day a raucous cloud of witnesses present to mark the good of it all.

It will be the last big party at this house that has known many parties – some I knew about and many I did not. We will be together, we who have been so blessed to walk from a world saturated by grief into a world near too-full of gratitude.

I can’t speak it fully. e. e. cummings comes close:

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
wich is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
e.e. cummings

We are alive.

I thank you God for most this amazing.

gingerbread

The ground keeps shifting.

For awhile shifting was something that felt important to resist. With change comes loss and grief about that loss. Letting go of what was in order to live what is felt somehow wrong or disloyal.

I spent precious energies trying to recreate what can never be again and in that insistence upon constancy I forgot the core constant: The ground keeps shifting.

Anything that cannot change will die. Biological truth is making its way to my heart.

Around the table at Thanksgiving were beloveds. Some were missing. Those not present were joining other families or they were doing what felt important to them. Next year the same will be true. There will be those who are there and those not there and rather than lament or rail or whimper about what is not my heart was and is so full of what is.

I am able to set a table and there are those who come.

The wonder of it.

At church, in my home, and through my heart I am able to set a table and there are those who come.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

oh

Folding clothes my heart was pierced.

On the radio the strains of Serenade to Music by Ralph Vaughan Williams transported me to another lifetime.

Suddenly I was eighteen and under the direction of Dr. John Hunter at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. My only previous experience with choral singing was with a mighty fine church choir but I was little prepared for singing in the select choir at UW-Whitewater. I will never forget the first rehearsal when fifty voices joined as one. It changed my life forever.

The man who wove the strands was a Texan by birth. He was huge of heart, exacting and had a laugh we sang for. His conducting was fluid poetry and his soul desirous of communion and he got that from his singers.

I fell in love. I fell in love with heart given soar through music. I fell in love with friends who are life companions yet. I fell in love with choral literature diverse and resonant. And of course I fell in love with Doc Hunter.

I wonder. Did he have any notion that years after his death one of his singers would gasp upon hearing music previously shaped by his hands?

Oh, to be eighteen again, broken open by amazement.

Oh, to be fifty-six, broken open by gratitude.

Instrument

The Prayer of St. Francis invites us to ask God to use us as instruments.

I am feeling like I have been well played.

Today my eldest marks her last birthday in her twenties. Twenty nine years ago I was little prepared for the heart-stretch wonder of being a mother. I so savored carrying her life within my body. Certainly I loved her unfolding and promise as she grew and claimed her space within me.

But nothing prepared me for the stunning miracle of the way her eyes and heart and hands are so fully open to life and love. Nothing prepared me for the sheer terror of responsibility and the deep sense of completion found in being her mother.

The shine of her eyes during night feedings and the song of her morning salutations live in a place in my soul where I am pregnant yet with life.

There are many words that describe my being in the world.

Leah’s birth gave me the name of my most resonant calling. I am Leah’s mother, blessed with bearing witness to the song that is her life.

Well played.

Advent 20

Bulletins are printed, folded, and stuffed.

Candles are put into holders – new ones this year!!! – and set.

Sugar has taken up a seemingly permanent place on our staff table.

All is in readiness for worship on Sunday and Christmas Eve worship (4:00 PM and 11:00 PM) on Monday.

And now we wait.

For preachers, this is a time of fervent mulching and prayer.  Yes, we pray for the perfect sermon on Christmas Eve, but really, that isn’t the point.

The point for this preacher is that there is an almost physical desire that hope would be named as more important than fear in this world.  My hope is that those who come in out of the cold might find welcome in this house.  My hope is that the power of Christ Jesus might take up the places of empty and despair that sound such clang in the souls of the walking wounded who include our very selves.

Oh, I have such hopes.

And those hopes are perhaps made more strong by the wash of violence and snarl that seem to be dominating our collective consciousness.

We cannot afford to be a people of hate.  We cannot afford to allow it any purchase in our being.  We cannot afford to be cavalier about our faith and our witness because it takes enormous and conscious effort to be a voice crying out in the wilderness of this time:  Prepare the way of our God.  The wounded will be made whole.  All flesh shall see it together.  For the mouth and the heart of our God have spoken it.

We are ready. We are ready we are ready we are ready.

We are ready for peace to speak and soak into the rough places.

We are ready.

 

 

Advent 11

Tonight at 6:00 PM we gather for worship.  The service is one of the most powerful we offer at Richfield UMC.
We call it an Advent Service of Hope and Healing.
While around us the culture seems intent upon denying and sidestepping places of loneliness and loss in this season, we pause as faith community and mark the wisdom of our heart aches.
There is something about the Advent season of purposeful waiting for the light of hope that stirs in us awareness of loss.  We miss the physical presence of people in our lives who have blessed and vexed us.  We miss the ways we used to encounter life in a way that felt simpler and less tentacled.  We miss our children’s footie-jammied presence in our daily life.  We miss, we mark, we name, and we are present to all of the major and minor losses that make for honest living.
Tonight during worship we bow before those losses and ask for them to lead us into wholeness and wisdom.
We will savor scripture and silence.  We will allow the singing of Silent Night to move us.  We will light candles to mark our questions and we will know the power of giving over to God the burdens and beauty of our souls.
I hope you will join us.  If you cannot, I hope you will pause at some point on this day and listen to the wisdom of your heart.
Folded into the power of community or sitting in a moment of mindfulness, may we each name the power of stumble and question, healing and hope.

The Healing Time

                                                Finally on my way to yes
                                                I bump into
                                                all the places
                                                where I said no
                                                to my life
                                                all the untended wounds
                                                the red and purple scars
                                                those hieroglyphs of pain
                                                carved into my skin, my bones,
                                                those coded messages
                                                that send me down
                                                the wrong street
                                                again and again
                                                where I find them
                                                the old wounds
                                                the old misdirections
                                                and I lift them
                                                one by one
                                                close to my heart
                                                and I say    holy
                                                holy.

                                                   © Pesha Joyce Gertler

Advent Day Three

O Come, O Come Emmanuel,

and ransom captive Israel,

that mourns in lowly exile here

until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice!  Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee,

O Israel.

 Somehow my soul has always leaned into the mournful power of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”.  Even as a child growing up, I felt the shiver of mystery whenever the above song of longing was sung.

The hymn begins with a prayer so deep we seldom name its power:  O Come, hope.  O Come, deliverance.  O Come, Dayspring from on high.

To begin the season of Advent, we name our soul longings.  Surrounded by the many stuffs of our lives, we name the places of echo and want.

We name the longings for peace in our world.

We name the loneliness that sounds in our soul.

We name the hunger we feel for compassion made food for the hungry.

We name the near desperate sense we have that the antidote for all the brokenness in creation seems so long in the coming.

O Come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer

our spirits by thy justice here;

disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

and death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee

O Israel.

 In the midst of the bustle of this holiday preparation marathon there is melancholy.

There ought be melancholy.

The promise and the gifting that is Christ Jesus is light and witness to answered prayers and gut sung entreaties.

And we know him not; not really.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

On this day give to God these questions:

 

For what does my soul long?

 

Who will I pray for during this Advent season?

 

How will I know my own call to live the vision of Jesus?

 

 

Rev. Elizabeth Macaulay