We celebrate our Mother's this coming Sunday and all that they have done for us over the course of our lives. As I get older and hopefully wiser, I have reflected on all the people in my life who have mothered me. What I have learned about myself and sharing my thoughts with others is we all mother one another in one way or another. We may have friends, relatives, colleagues or church members who at one time or another over the course of our lives have stepped in to be a nurturing presence.
I prefer not to think of Mother's Day as only a day to celebrate women because there are many men who have had to take on the role of both mother and father when raising a family. This is not only in the case of death or divorce but can be for military service, extended business trips or illness. We are so fortunate to have made compassion and love something we can all participate in.
Perhaps in your own life you have had a friend who has been the one who has cheered you on from the sidelines. The one who did not doubt when you doubted yourself. In my own life I have been fortunate to have had many of those friends and I am eternally grateful for them.
Theologically I began to think about the Holy Spirit as a mother image. She is the little piece of God which enters our hearts and souls and like mothers everywhere, she nags us sometimes to get up and act. Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit at his baptism and is then able to the work God has set out for him to do in this world. Jesus also tells the disciples in John 14:26, "The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." Just like "moms" everywhere. Happy Mother's Day
We have waited these last few months with great anticipation for the article about St. Thomas to appear in "Our State" magazine. It arrived in the mail this week and as we all opened to the article, were not disappointed. The photographic art by Lissa Gotwals and the reflection written by Susan Stafford Kelly couldn't help but remind us of what a special place St. Thomas is. For those of us who are members, it is easy to walk into our lovely sanctuary and forget all of those who have gone before; but Ms. Kelly reminds us as she gently walks through our history not only as a congregation but as citizens of our great country.
My reflection on the article is this, how often do I take for granted the beauty that surrounds me? Too often I am afraid to admit. As a newbie here in North Carolina and as the rector at St. Thomas, I feel as if I have never lived anywhere else. It is difficult to describe what makes St. Thomas so delightful, peaceful and indeed soulful. This is the fifth parish I have served and each has had their own personality and life but nothing in my estimation compares to St. Thomas. When pressed to understand what it is, for me it is the scent of the ages as I walk through the doors. The wood, the brick, the whitewashed walls all cause me to pause and reflect on the past, live in the present and look to the future.
Was that not what the settlers of the town of Bath did when they constructed the church? Our little parish home was what gave the citizens of the town of Bath a place to gather just as Kelly points out in her reflection. Things I have often taken for granted since my arrival and I will certainly try to not fall into complacency again.
One of my favorite things to do when I enter the sanctuary is to first marvel at our beautiful altar, it's dark wood against the whitewashed walls and to then breathe in the history of this place. My second favorite thing to do is to view our Guest Book and read where the people who have visited are from. Often times my breath is taken away to read someone's name from Italy or the UK and I am humbled to know they have found peace and tranquility in our sanctuary.
In Genesis 28:16-17 Jacob upon awaking from a dream of a ladder extending to heaven and angels ascending and descending says, "The Lord was in this place and I did not know it." When I walk into the church that passage comes to my mind and I hope those who have not always had a good experience of church, and there are many, will walk into our place and know that the Lord is truly in this place. They not only know it but live it and feel it just as those of us who are fortunate to worship at St. Thomas do each and every Sunday. The Lord is truly in this place and we do know it.
This past Sunday we celebrated the retirement of our long-time parish administrator and the Sunday liturgy was a celebration of her service to the church and the body of Christ. As I began to preach about Marty, a member nudged his spouse and said, "It sounds like a eulogy." In a way it was a sort of eulogy or rather tribute to all of Marty's contributions to the life of St. Thomas. It was a wonderful day celebrating a true servant of God.
The bigger question which has rattled around in my heart and mind, is this: Why do we wait to tell the world about someone, their gifts and attributes after they are dead? The beautiful thing about Sunday was Marty didn't have to wait until she was dead to celebrated. We chose to celebrate her right now while she was in midst of us. We told her how much she meant to us and even though she is leaving, she is not leaving our hearts and minds. I believe that is a good thing and not done enough over the course of someone's life. We sit at funerals and hear family members tell about the deceased and I know I often think, "Now that is someone I would have like to have known while he was alive." Instead I am hearing about him at a time when he can't realize what an impact he had on the world. I think it is a shame to share someone's story with the world after they have died and can't hear it.
Perhaps what we need is a conscious effort to tell someone when he is among us just how much we value his presence. How he makes a real difference in our lives and that the world is a better place because he is in it walking alongside us. I don't give advice but in this instance I will: Don't wait for a death to proclaim to all how someone has been a faithful presence in your life. Tell that person today and better yet tell others in his presence, with all the negativity swirling in our world today, it is time to add some positive energy to our existence, we never know the difference we may make.