I am here in bed at the end of the anniversary of my birth today.
It has been a long and tiring day, and absolutely full of the kind of blessings that enrich my life. I celebrated Eucharist this morning above Long Island Sound at Camp DeWolfe with this year’s summer staff as they completed their weeks of training. What an amazing group. How full of faith and love and grace. I spent time with the dedicated (and small) staff of Saint Anselm’s, celebrating the retirement of one of our own, a great woman who has been a sign of welcome and love to the children and parents of the parish for the better part of three decades, day in and day out. And tonight I sat here in the rectory in conversation with four of this summer’s camp staff, two from the UK and two from Poland. What a blessing to sit and talk and get to know young people from these nations who are full of life and possibility.
A staggering (to me) number of people shared happy wishes on Facebook and by text and on Messenger and by phone – family and friends, near and far. Some I see often. Some I have not seen in decades. How could anyone deserve such an outpouring, I say? But you don’t have to. It is, truly, all grace. Gifts given and received.
Two songs sum me up at this point in my living. One is the Canticle of the Turning, expressing the certainty that the world will turn to the way intended by its Creator and Redeemer. Justice and mercy will in the end embrace all that is. I need to hold this truth in the midst of a daily world that speaks a different lyric indeed.
The other is the 19th century tune of Robert Lowry, How can I keep from singing? The beauty there is the seeing deeply that all in the end is so beautiful, so good, so filled with the love of God that no other response is justified save a lifelong hymn of praise.
Thank you, Lord, for life and for every breath; for every word spoken and heard; for every heart open and for the blessings that lie ahead . . , especially when they cannot yet be seen.
I opened my eyes
To the same leafed trees
Beyond the same windows,
But now the light streamed
From within them
And the life shone there.
I said, “My God, You are here.”
And came the ancient
I’m sitting in our empty church where we intended to pray Eucharist 20 minutes ago at 9am. That’s a change of our usual weekly schedule, so folks arriving for mass might have been expected to be few.
Just around 9, the children and families of our Academy arrived for the day. They gather first in the church and there was life and laughter and movement here only minutes ago.
It’s hard as a pastor not to note the contrast of the two moments, especially as one with a love of the liturgy. The important question is always in this space, and in this heart, as to how in our day real pastoral care and true prayer relate. I know they do. One of the moms bringing her daughter this morning to school shared the joyous good news of her own mother’s freedom from cancer. And she attributed the gift precisely to faith and to prayer.
So faith and a reverence for prayer are not gone. They’re not missing.
The thing rather is the struggle to integrate the settled ways of old church with the lives and legitimate needs of the people of God living this moment. The ‘give’ (as needed) likely needs to be on the ‘old church’ side. An institution, and it is that, does best in having a genuine loving generosity toward all God’s people. Anything less makes little sense and leads nowhere where there are young voices and laughter and possibility in bright eyes.
Arriving at Job’s Pond
On a late May evening
Of a day filled with the Word and the work,
He spied the plot of land
That days before had masqueraded – poorly – as a lawn
Now in the preposterous pretense – worse yet – of being a Prairie.
Procuring his semi – trusty mower,
He took to the task.
The grass, if that is what it might be called, was not impressed,
And the insect life living therein, had never spied a sheet of paper proclaiming this attacker the owner of their home.
The oldest among them, seeing the tool at hand,
Called out to the others incredulous,
“It’s a hand push-mower. He thinks it’s 1948. Attack! We can send this rake scaping!”
And so they did.
And so he did.
I was in an insane asylum
Looking for a girl I knew.
Not a mental health facility;
this was the old-fashioned huge affair,
Bed after bed;
wandering children of God with vacant eyes.
The beds too were empty
Each one only
with a note
On the pillow
Sharing word of that
Person’s unique pain.
I woke under a pier
At an amusement park
Asleep on a thin mattress,
And the tide lapping
Around it’s edge.
I struggled up,
Found my knapsack already soaked by salt water,
And rose into the light
To continue the quest.
[Danvers (MA) State Hospital, ca. 1893]