The Possibilities that Life Holds

Weekly Reflection , Sunday, May 12, 2019

By: David May, Rector

Last week, I met with the Confirmation Class for our final meeting. You should know, they are wonderful, wonderful young people. They are – as far as I’m concerned – the apple of God’s eye. What I appreciate most about them is the way you can see in them – here and there – a little glimpse of who they are as well as who they are becoming. 

They’re finishing up eighth grade which I personally remember being ‘a challenging year’.  For me at least, it was that time where it became clear that I was definitely not a child anymore, but I sure wasn’t an adult yet either. So, if you’re not a child anymore, but you’re not quite an adult, what does that make you? Well, that’s the big question at that age: who am I and what will I be? I remember trying on all kinds of answers:  I’ll be a veterinarian, no, an oceanographer like Jacques Cousteau. No, I’ll be a forest ranger.  For me, it was a long list!

Part of the gift these wonderful young people give to us is a reminder of the possibilities that life holds open for each of us whatever our age and however settled we think we might be. Of course, some things aren’t possibilities anymore. I’m past dreaming that I’ll be an astronaut someday, and maybe you are too. But I am sure that God is never done with us, never. In fact, God is much more interested in what we are becoming than in what we were. A wise friend said to me once, ‘God couldn’t care less about your past. But your future, now that is something that God is very interested in.’ Spending time with these beautiful young people has kept me close to that insight.

It has been a gift to be a part of our confirmands’ journey over these past months. I find them inspiring, smart, funny, intriguing, and good-hearted.  And today, for who they are and what they are becoming, we surround them with our love, prayers, and encouragement. I hope that you find a way to say ‘thank you’ and ‘we love you’ to them. Their lives are already a great gift of our parish, for who we are, and for who we are becoming.

To be Seen and Loved

Weekly Reflection , Sunday, May 5, 2019

By: Amelia McDaniel

I cry at every baptism. Admittedly I am a weeper. But this started early for me. I can’t tell you exactly why but for most of my life, even as a teenager, baptisms have made my feelings come out of my eyes.

We receive you into the household of God. Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood.

By the time we get to this part of a baptism I’m already a goner. But this part sends me over the top. We are as a community saying to the newly baptized, We see you little one. You are a gift to this whole place, to this whole broken up world. We are going to try to share the story of love we know with you. You belong with us and we belong to you always. If someone walked up to you this morning and held you by the shoulders and said, “I see you. You are so loved. You are just where you should be,” what would you do? My feelings would come out of my eyes for certain.

But this is precisely what I hope happens for our children and youth in some way each time they come here to St. Mary’s. Where else in their lives, except in their homes, do they hear they are unconditionally loved? Where no grade on a test, no ability on an athletic field, no accomplishment at all is necessary to be SEEN and LOVED. The way we treat them helps to shape their understanding of the story of God’s never-ending love for them. Their sense of worth is in part informed by how we greet them and welcome them and model for them what a life lived in the knowledge of God’s love looks like.

This morning at the 11:00 service there will be lots of kids leading and participating in the service. We will recognize 5th graders moving on up to the youth program. We will say goodbye to the seniors who are graduating and heading off to college and early adulthood. And we will say thank you to the many adult volunteers who are the front line of loving up our youngest members here at St. Mary’s. When you see them tell them how proud you are that they are here with your words and with your smiles.

The Gift of Prayer

Weekly Reflection , Sunday, March 31, 2019

By: David May, Rector

I’ve been living with an image this Lent. It’s an image from childhood of me stepping into a small stream of water, barefooted. My feet sink into the silty bottom and stir up all those tiny particles and turn the water cloudy. Then I watch as gradually the water clears and I can see down to the bottom.

For me, an image like this is one of the ways I find myself drawn into prayer with God; where my spirit and God’s Spirit confer, heart to heart. That last part of the image – watching the water come clear again – is what I’m living with these days. My experience of being settled on the Northern Neck, and then suddenly, being wrenched out and plunked down in a new life here stirred up a lot of silt and made the water really cloudy! But gradually, it’s clearing, and I can see deeper now. This Lent, I’ve been still to let my spirit confer with God’s Spirit, heart to heart, to watch the cloudy water clear.

It’s hard for me to remember how important it is to spend this life-giving time with God; to pray with God. But more and more, I find that if I don’t allow God to draw me in, to incline my heart to God’s then something important in me becomes arid, stale, and lifeless.

This time has been a new gift and a reminder that prayer is not a conversation that I have to begin with clever words to entice God to respond. No, God has already begun the conversation, already spoken, and waits patiently for me to answer. A very wise person once encouraged me by saying, ‘just pray your life, whatever it is, with God’. That’s exactly right.

This gift of prayer, of letting our spirits confer with God’s, to draw heart to heart with the one who made us and will always love us, somehow settles the cloudiness that the ‘cares and occupations’ of the day stir up.

My prayer for each of us is to pray your life, let your spirit be drawn to God’s in holy conference, heart to heart. Receive that gift to let us see deeper, past the surface, into the depth of the clearing waters.

5 Ways to Practice Lent

5 Ways to Practice Lent:

The season of Lent before us is a brief forty days.  We are given a few short weeks to prepare ourselves – in body, mind and spirit – to receive and then proclaim the astounding good news of the resurrection of Jesus, that ‘the Lord is risen’.

For centuries, Christians have used this time to take on certain spiritual practices:  prayer, worship, study, fasting, giving.  The hope is – whatever practice you choose – that during this Lenten season, the Spirit will be at work in you and with you to clarify and bring to light in some new way what is most important and what – frankly – is not.  Lent is a season of sifting the wheat from the chaff in each of our lives.

If you like, you can think of these coming forty days as a gift for you.  Take time.  Give yourself permission.  Recall that the Spirit is at work in you.  Find time to know this in some new way.

Here are five ways to begin sifting the wheat from the chaff this Lent:

  1. Be Faithful in Your Daily Prayers. Use a devotional or prayer guide found in the Café or Narthex.
  2. Come to Church on Sunday mornings or join us on Wednesdays at noon for Eucharist with Prayers for Healing.
  3. Learn the Word of God’s Love. Sit on the Gospel with Bob on Sunday mornings. Listen to Lenten Speaker Series on Wednesday evenings. Read A Season of the Spirit by Martin Smith.
  4. Make a Fast. Learn to Wait. Fast one day a week in Lent. One way to break your fast is with St. Mary’s parishioners on Wednesday evenings at the simple Lenten supper.
  5. Give for Others. Set aside something of yours for someone else.

We hope the Spirit of the living God will guide each of us, and make of this brief time, a holy Lent, that prepares us for the joy of Easter morning.

Serve and Love through Presence

Weekly Reflection for World Mission Sunday, Sunday, March 3, 2019

By: Allison Dunaway

During our time in Ecuador, each team member shared a devotional on one given evening. I was fortunate to be able to prepare mine while spending several hours in solitude at El Refugio, a 300-acre wooded, mountainous Christian retreat center outside of Quito. El Refugio is a “thin space”, where the distance between heaven and earth seems thinner, and we’re just a little bit closer to the divine.

As I sat in those peaceful surroundings, the Prayer Attributed to St. Francis came to mind, as it had many times during the course of the week. God whispered those sacred words into my head and my heart with each home I visited and each new person I encountered.

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is
hatred, let us sow love…Grant that we may not so much seek to
be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is
in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we
are born to eternal life.
 (BCP p. 833)

The generosity of the congregation of Misión Emaús deeply moved me. The St. Mary’s team worked, taught, and healed, but I always felt that we received more spiritually than we gave physically. As I pondered all that had occurred during our time in Ecuador, I realized that St. Francis’ prayer is one of action. It tells us how to truly serve God—and each other. God does not need us to make grand gestures. He just wants us to be present for one another. No act of love is too small for Him. Cooking a meal, giving a hug, sharing a conversation—God is present in, and is the source of, these everyday acts of kindness. We glorify Him and bring the Kingdom of God a tiny bit closer to Earth with each one.

As I prayed in the hills of El Refugio that day, it occurred to me that perhaps the last sentence of the prayer isn’t referring to physical death. Perhaps the message is that we are closest to God when we die to ourselves, and seek to serve one another in all things. When we love one another.