The Door is Open to Reshape our Future…

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, May 3, 2020

By: Wayne Dementi

We last met as a congregation in the church on Sunday, March 8. It was in the ensuing week that the world around us came to a staggering halt.

In our parish community we connected through technology as we continued our journey through Lent into Holy Week. We heard Christian Clergy around the world observe that what we were experiencing with Coronavirus was very similar to what was experienced during Holy Week itself – described as separation, uncertainty, and fear.

It is becoming clear that this “staggering halt” gives us an opportunity that we have never had before – the door is open to reshape our future together. This opportunity is evident in all aspects of our lives, and it certainly presents itself to life at St. Mary’s, too. Practically everything we practice is up for a fresh approach. I am reminded of our most generally accepted avenues of service: mission, ministry, worship, discipleship, and fellowship.

COVID-19 has affected each and every one of those areas. We have the challenge, and joy, of exploring how each of these might look in the future of St. Mary’s.

What now?

If our recent COVID-19 experience during Holy Week 2020 resembled the scriptural account, I wondered if the Gospel readings for the weeks after Easter offer some insight. What did they do? Here are some key words, and phrases, that caught my eye from each reading leading up to Pentecost:

+ John 20: 19-31 – “As the Father has sent me, I send you.”
+ Luke 24: 13-35 – “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon.”
+ John 10: 1-10 – “The sheep will follow the shepherd ‘because they know his voice.’”
+ John 14: 1-14 – “The one who believes in me will also do the work that I do, and in fact, will do greater works than these.”
+ John 14: 15-21 – “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever.”
+ John 17: 1-11 – “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

Indeed, we are in a period of reflection now, similar to the days and weeks following Easter in the scripture. We are strengthened by the insights offered by the Gospel during the period we are in now. We are ZOOMING and we are working hard. Through it all, though, we are also realizing that we have the unique opportunity of listening for God’s call in revealing our new life together in His Glory.

“Good Grief” with Vic Maloy

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

“Good Grief” presentation by Vic Maloy

 

Eldergarten presents an Adult Formation offering from Vic Maloy titled “Good Grief.” Please set aside about 40 minutes to listen above to Dr. Vic Maloy’s timely, thoughtful and poignant presentation on grief and loss – something we have and are experiencing right now – and best of all, hope. Vic was supposed to be our Forum speaker for two sessions during Lent and had he spoken, there would have been time for questions and answers. We can still ask him questions once you have listened to his presentation by emailing them to Eleanor at wellforde@gmail.com. Please send them by Friday, May 8. Eleanor will compile them and present them to Vic who will answer them in a follow-up presentation sometime in May.

A Stranger along the Road

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, April 26, 2020

By: David May, Rector

What’s next? When does this end?! What is life going to be like afterwards? We’re all asking these questions and I don’t think there’s one person who knows the answers. This uncertainty is taking a toll on people. One of the ways you can hear that is just how exhausted people feel. I think there are lots of reasons for this. But one of the primary ones is just the plain old stress everyone is feeling. We’re all making this up as we go along without quite knowing when we can find new patterns and a new normal that will begin to ease the stress of the uncertainty we’re all living in.

We’re exhausted because of the emotional ups and downs everyone is experiencing. By the way, if you think everyone is doing just fine except you – let me be the first to disabuse you of that! Everyone is doing the best they can, but everyone is feeling this – often deeply. There is grief and loss and fear in all of us. It’s hard not to project negatively into the future because of the uncertainty.

Which brings us to this luminous, strange, breath-taking reading we have from the gospel according to Luke this morning. If you haven’t read it yet, go ahead and read it now before you go any further with this reflection. The reading is Luke chapter 24 verses 13 through 35. It’s often called the Emmaus Road story and it tells another story from that first Easter Day. Two of Jesus’s disciples had left Jerusalem for the town of Emmaus about seven miles away. We don’t know why they were going to Emmaus. I’ve always sort of thought that they just needed to get out of town, get away. When Jesus was executed, everything that they had hoped for had been taken away. They had followed him and watched the world turn to love because of him. But now that was over. Grief and loss and fear were all piled on top of each other.

But along the way, something happened. A stranger met them. As they walked along together, they told him about all they had lost including the hope that God was changing the world through Jesus. Then the stranger reminds them that God’s story always means that love will sacrifice itself, pour itself out, to save God’s people. Which helped them to remember what they knew was true but thought they had lost.

Then we hear some of the most beloved words in all of Holy Scripture. When the two disciples reach their destination and the stranger seems to be walking on, they say, ‘Stay with us….’ He does and comes into their home, sits at the table, takes the bread and blesses and breaks it. They see that they are with the Lord. They know it is Jesus. And then, he is gone from them.

It is natural to be exhausted by the ‘chances and changes’ of this world we are in. It is natural to be exhausted by stress and worry and fear. It is natural to even lose hope, and just ‘get out of town’ if not physically then emotionally and spiritually. But we serve the One whose love for all of us has changed the world and who we will run into ‘on the way,’ in all those ways that we know when our hearts are kindled again with his Gospel. And when we say, ‘stay with us,’ he will.

Miracles, Angels, and Happy Answers to St. Mary’s Prayers

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, April 19, 2020

By: Ross Mackenzie

Note: With his wife Ginni, Ross Mackenzie is a five-decade member of St. Mary’s and a former vestryman. He was confirmed an Episcopalian by Holt Souder. Their sons Alec and Ross were baptized by Holt and raised in St. Mary’s, and their oldest grandchild Cole (Alec’s son, see below) was baptized by John Miller. A longtime nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, Ross edited the editorial pages of first The Richmond News Leader and then the Richmond Times-Dispatch for 38 years. He wrote the following self-interview in appreciation for the miraculous support given the Mackenzies by the St. Mary’s family….


Self-Interview

So how’s it going?
For a guy who broke his neck six months ago, miraculously well.
You broke your neck?
I did — crossing the river at our Upper Michigan log cabin. Bought the place 57 years ago, right out of college. It’s in a state forest 1,100 miles and 22 hours by car from Goochland — 10 miles from the nearest neighbor or faucet or lightbulb; for the final leg of a trip to it one must cross a 50-yard-wide river. Ginni and I have done that crossing thousands of times. This time I fell and broke C-1 and C-2, one’s top two vetebrae.
You’re kidding!
Afraid not.
Amazing. What happened?
Usually we cross in a canoe. This year, a friend had built a raft to help us make the crossings, and a matching set of steps to help us up the bank on the cabin side. In attempting to square-up the new raft to the bottom of the new steps and secure it, things happened and I fell and hit my head on a submerged boulder. I heard a crack and thought I had fractured my skull.
OMG!
…And there were many miracles.
I’m all ears.
OK. Ginni was not with us; she was in bed with a nasty bug when we were about to leave Richmond and urged us to make the trip to the cabin without her; she would fly out to join us in a week.
Who are “us”?
The first miracle, and the agent of many others — 19-year-old grandson Cole, now a freshman in the Corps of Cadets at Tech. (Oh, and Mac our Lab.) When the accident occurred (in twilight, about 9:15 p.m.), Cole also went into the river, unhurt. When I stood up in chest-high water and said I needed some help, he said, “You’re going to the hospital” — and took charge.
He told me repeatedly not to move my neck, put me back on the raft to the other side of the river, got me up the bank, and transferred me to the car. Then he crossed to the cabin for dry clothes and Mac, and brought them back across to the car. He crossed again to the accident site to search for our two cell phones and my wallet and the car-key remote — all of which had gone into the river with us. Other miracles: In the mud and in the dark (it now was about 10 p.m.), Cole found everything on the bottom of the river, and the remote and one of the cellphones still worked; had they not worked, I would not be keyboarding these words.
Unbelievable! So —
So there ensued a halting saga: the ambulance finding us in that forbiddingly remote area; the ambulance first taking us to a hospital unequipped to handle serious neck/spine injuries, and then rolling on for several more hours to a Green Bay hospital with a trauma center (probably built on the necks of Packer linemen), where a CT scan confirmed the C-1 and C-2 fractures; and finally a Lear Jet medivacing me to MCV, where by dinner time the next day I met Ginni in the ICU.
I had called ahead to a friend and mythically famous MCV neurosurgeon. With glassy eyes, he revealed yet another miracle: an MCV MRI showed no spinal impingement.
Absolutely incredible!
No kidding….I was in a neck brace 24/7 for three months, with fusion of C-1 and C-2 by an MCV team of miracle-performing surgeons; for most of that three-month period I was in health care at Westminster Canterbury, where stupendous nurses and CNAs and OTs and PTs worked their share of miracles as well.
Today I have somewhat limited neck rotation, but hey — given the death or paralysis suffered by the vast majority of those with my injuries, I’ll take it! I have been blessed with a truly miraculous recovery. And that is perhaps the greatest miracle of all.
You keep talking about miracles. Have the miracles relating to your accident changed you?
We deploy words like God, faith, and miracles to explain the unexplainable. Such as: the decisive leadership of 19-year-old Cole; his finding the phones and key remote, and one phone and the remote working; no spinal damage; angelically guided hands in the MCV fusion surgery. Such miracles reinforce our faith, solidify our belief.
Indeed.
…Somewhere in the beauty of the lilies, miracles besides the birth of Jesus happen to the everyday rest of us. Testimonies to miracles are legion. Jesus performed many, and of course we have his miraculous resurrection. Ecclesiastical philosophy, highlighted by Augustine and Aquinas, brims with the decisive role of miracles in Christian faith. Bring out the Bibles: I am here to swear that miracles are real. Without them my belief would be inconstant and iffy. And without their pulling me back into the boat time after time, I long ago would have been planted in the St. Mary’s cemetery.
“Time after time”? This is but a single incident.
I have medically challenged the good Lord — and angelic Ginni — more than once. This accident was the third big one, after two cancers. And son Alec had a near-death experience during a SEAL training exercise with a submarine off Puerto Rico in 1995. St. Mary’s has done yeoman work praying for me during my medical ordeals, and Ginni’s — and for Alec and for his Navy pilot brother, Ross. And the church continues to pray for Alec while he is forward on active duty.
As John Paul II said, “We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” Prayer works. Miracles happen. And so often, our stories and the happy endings come down to family and family prayers and family lovingkindness. So from Ginni and me, all thanks to the grace of the St. Mary’s family for the touch of your prayerful hands on the miracles that have given several Mackenzies the rest of our lives.

Trust, Prayer, and Faith in God

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, April 5, 2020

By: Harry Baldwin

The Liturgy of the Palms for Palm Sunday is a short but powerful story. As Jesus gets closer to Jerusalem, he directs his disciples to get a donkey for him to ride in a parade. People along the roadway proclaimed joyously by waving palm branches that he was the son of David and their king. This action fulfilled what the prophets had said would take place.

I can’t imagine what is going through Jesus’ mind. He knows this action of proclamation and joy is the beginning of his death sentence. While others had no clue of what was going to take place, Jesus knew precisely.

Jesus by all character traits was a true introvert. Given his preference, he would rather be with his family, his disciples, or by himself. He meditated and prayed in private to his Father in heaven. Jesus exhibited his extroverted side in his interactions with large groups, as a celebrity guest at a wedding feast or when a blind man called out to Jesus from a crowd to have Jesus give him sight. He spoke to crowds – 5,000 in one case – who came to hear him, to catch a glimpse of his actions and to listen to his every word.

Jesus’ journey took him from teaching and forming his team of disciples to human temptations and questioning God’s plans for his son. His journey included a parade filled with collective behavior and a backdrop of evil and darkness. Jesus knew where his life’s journey on this earth was leading him – to betrayal and death.

Fast forward over 2,000 years to our own, present day journey. Our journey today takes us into an unknown realm and possible illness at the hands of the Covid-19 virus. Whether introvert or extrovert, we are forced into an isolation of uncertainty. There are times of inappropriate collective behavior and great temptation. We are tempted to go to the store when we should stay home. We are tempted to rationalize that the guidelines MUST apply to others, certainly not us. We are tempted to question the presence of our loving God during this time of illness and death. How could dedicated nurses, skilled physicians and innocent people die by the hands of Covid-19? Will our journey last weeks, months, more than 40 days? We don’t know where or when this journey will end.

Comparing the story of the Liturgy of the Palms to our Covid-19 story, there are parallels. We get whipped up by crowds and confused by what we hear. There is a dark, evil side surrounded by death in both stories. One clear difference is Jesus knew his outcome while the contagious virus’ final chapter is unclear to us.

Jesus’ story makes our story pale in comparison. The lesson for me is that Jesus teaches us trust. He teaches us the power of prayer. He teaches us to have faith in God. Our story of 2020 is very real and we are active participants. By following Jesus in prayer and with faith, we will come to the destination of our journey. We will be alright. The tough times will show God’s love for us. Thanks be to Jesus – Thanks be to God.