Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Never before have I been so proud of my parish. In a time of pandemic, when ordinary parish life remains limited, we are expanding on many fronts. We are training up laity for spiritual leadership across the parish. We are signing up for prayer sessions, Bible studies, and formation groups, and Kim has new youth and family ministries up and running for 2020-21. We are expanding our sense of good stewardship beyond financial pledging to include the giving of self in time, talent and prayer. We are working hard with our past involvement in the brutality of slavery, and how the church supported this, thus massively distorting the meaning of the Gospel. We are busy unpacking that and what it means for us now. We are welcoming newcomers. We are helping to feed the poor and keep a roof over people’s heads. We are listening more deeply to the black parishes in northern Orange County. We are finding ways to enjoy each other in fellowship.
…and we are letting God grow us in all these ways without even having the heart of parish life — the Sunday Eucharist — to support us. Just imagine, my friends, what it will be like when that heart comes back online and starts pushing the nourishing blood of fellowship and Eucharistic worship though our life again. Our growth now is tenuous because the blood flow is weak, but — to continue the metaphor — just imagine what will happen when the new veins and arteries we are growing now are supported by Sunday Worship again.
As Jesus comes to Hillsborough, he invites each human being here to know that they are secure in the love of God, that they are beloved daughters and sons of God, that their whole being with all their suffering and longing is known and held in God. God is intimate; God has us. If Jesus invites us assiduously into relationship with himself it is only so that we can grow in this awareness of ourselves as God’s Beloved, eternally safe in the Creator’s knowledge care. This is what we mean when we call Jesus Savior.
But we also call Jesus Lord — and this means that we accept his leadership and teaching as authoritative for ourselves. Our allegiance belongs to him. This means a reversal of priorities so profound that Christians have symbolized belonging to Jesus as a process of death and resurrection — dying to their entire old way of being a self and finding meaning and worth in order to be raised into a whole new of being a self and finding meaning and worth. And the principal way that this new self happens in our lives in Jesus is that we find ourselves in a community of people quite different from ourselves, sometimes undesirable to our old selves. And we find in this community a valuing of human dignity quite radical. It’s based on nothing that the world uses to establish who should be valued and given esteem. The weak, the poor, the marginalized, the less capable have equal esteem in Jesus’ community because Jesus wants them there in the exact same way Jesus wants the powerful there. And we are all there on totally equal terms.
It’s helpful to remember that when the Roman Governors in the 3rd Century demanded from a deacon named Lawrence the treasures of the church — meaning the gold chalices — Lawrence came back and “he presented the indigent, the crippled, the blind, and the suffering, and declared that these were the true treasures of the Church.” Indeed. He got martyred for that.
Jesus is Lord and Savior. Jesus is opening our eyes to the possibility of being in Orange County a new way: a community of people gathered around him in gratitude for being saved, held in God, and exploring a whole new way of being human together. We go on with our ordinary lives as parents, employees, neighbors — but there is a new light, a joy, a great welcome, shining at the heart of all that we do. To God be the Glory.