Getting ready for the passion...

This morning I got to do what I love best about my job:  visit and pray with people I love in
our preparation for worship and then visit and listen to a beloved friend's story of his mother's recent death. The snow was falling this morning - make it end, Lord, please make it end - so everything was hushed.  Across the street from the Sanctuary the Vietnam Veterans gathered for prayer and remembrance while we did likewise in anticipation of Palm Sunday. Four adult readers (and a young child) moved throughout the Chancel recalling the last days of Jesus. 

Before I turned on the lights, the child said to me, "Oh... I like it like this. Kinda dark... it is so... um relaxing." We sat for a few minutes together in the natural light of this old place in silence: this fourth grader, his father and myself. Before going into the balcony to get the lights ready for our practice, I mentioned, "One of the things I like best about my job is coming in here when it is quiet and dark. It is a privilege, don't you think?" He nodded and then walked with me to learn how to get things ready for our practice. Before we started I shared this old prayer:

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who of thy tender love towards us, hast sent thy Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, to suffer death upon the cross, that all the world should follow the example of his great humility; Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who with Thee and the Holy Spirit, reign forever as one God. Amen.

Then we used Walter Wangerin's retelling of the Passion Narrative - A Way of the Cross - as our text. In 40 minutes we were finished and people went their separate ways until we gather with three other congregations @ 10 am tomorrow for an ecumenical blessing of the palms. At noon I was blessed to spend a few hours listening to the story of a man's love for his mother. I was told of the time he spent with her in hospice shortly before her death, the deep beauty he was graced to witness as she moved closer to her last breath and his abiding faith that she has now crossed over into God's eternal love. I trust that we shall be with one another again, he told me. I don't know what it will look like or how it will feel, but I know it to be true. Or I know as much as I can right now given the ambiguities of human faith and doubt. 

We spoke of the gifts the dying so often share with those who remain. Of a presence that continues beyond space and time, too. How all of this is part of what St. Paul meant when he wrote: Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death so that you do not grieve like those who have no hope. For we who believe that Jesus died and rose again also believe that God will bring with all those who have fallen asleep with him.  We talked of a grace greater than our imaginations - and far greater than our sins - a grace that gives us the serenity of peace beyond our grief. Then we embraced and promised to see one another tomorrow.

When I left the snow had finally stopped - and right now the sun has appeared.  I could do this work until I am unable to walk or speak.  So as evening begins to descend upon the Berkshires, I give thanks to God today for my calling and for this congregation.


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