Thursday, May 31, 2012

The "Dead Church"

Two weeks ago, we celebrated the feast of Pentecost! It’s one of my favorite feasts but it is also a disturbing one!

Scripture gives us the wonderful story of the first coming of the Holy Spirit upon Mary and the Apostles by referencing many images of surprise, change, movement, energy, fire, empowerment, understanding of foreign languages. And, today, if we consult Scripture scholars and spiritual directors, they will tell us that the same-- the exact same-- changes, surprises, energy and empowerment are meant also for us, gifts from the same Spirit, to fit our needs, in our specific place and time! That’s the disturbing part of the Pentecost liturgy and truth! But also the most promising part of Pentecost! So, you may ask, how can it be both disturbing and promising? Where’s the missing link?
Recently I received the following e-mail message entitled “Dead Church.” There are times, aren’t there, when we feel we are dead members of a dying church? Let me share this email with you! It seems a new Pastor in a small Oklahoma town spent the first four days making personal visits to each of the members, inviting them to come to his first services. The following Sabbath, the church was all but empty. Accordingly, the pastor placed a notice in the local newspapers, stating that, because the church was dead, it was everyone’s duty to give it a decent Christian burial. The funeral would be held the following Sabbath afternoon, the notice said.

Morbidly curious, a large crowd turned out for the ‘funeral.’ In front of the pulpit, they saw a closed coffin, smothered in flowers. After the Pastor delivered the eulogy, he opened the coffin and invited his congregation to come forward and pay their final respects to their dead church.

Filled with curiosity as to what would represent the corpse of a ‘dead church,’ all the people eagerly lined up to look in the coffin. Each ‘mourner’ peeked into the coffin, then quickly turned away with a guilty, sheepish look.

In the coffin, tilted at the correct angle, was a large mirror.

Am I the missing link? And perhaps you too?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mothers Never Leave Us

Mothers Never Leave Us

Does anyone ever really remain free of delight when the warmth of May comes around each year? I, for one, consistently revel in its appearing. Among the many reasons for this is the forceful presence of my mother and Godmother (my mother’s sister) at this time. Both of these formative “Ammas” [wisdom women] died in May.

In 1983 (3 years after my mother’s death) I was invited by the pastor to give a few remarks at the Saturday and Sunday Eucharist in my home parish, St. Boniface church, Cold Spring MN. This invitation came because that year I was celebrating my 25th Jubilee as a Benedictine sister. I actually welcomed the opportunity to comment on how several parishioners were wonderful role models for me as I was growing up.

After having repeated the same remarks for the third and final time, I finally felt relaxed as the sun streamed in the large church window landing on my left cheek and shoulder. After the Eucharist, my cousin who was present, came to me and asked, “Did you feel the sun on you as you spoke?” I needed to admit that I had and its warmth felt so comforting. She responded, “That was your mother, she wanted you to know she was with you again today.” The flood of tears that followed her remark revealed again how terribly much I continued to miss her. However, almost immediately, the refrain of a popular John Denver song came into my mind.

Sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy.
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry.
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely.
Sunshine almost always makes me high.

So now, all year round, whenever the sun warms my left cheek or shoulder I say, “Hi mom, I’m so glad you keep letting me know you’re with me. I love you too.”

Friday, May 11, 2012

Rush Upon Us, O Spirit

In a very short time, we will be celebrating the soul-shaking, global-shaking feast of Pentecost. St. Luke says that the Spirit came down upon Mary and the disciples with power to open the gates of life to all nations! Peoples of every language and culture could now become proclaimers of the message, “Jesus is Lord”, in their own tongue and with their own expressions of joy and faith! St. Paul teaches the early Church by using my favorite image of the Body of Christ: “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.”

Now, obviously, not all of us are shaken to the depths of our beings, nor is our world so shaken by the coming of the Holy Spirit. For that reason, I have been praying the following Spirit Psalm which may appeal to you as well. It is inspired by the image of the Spirit rushing upon David when he was anointed King (1 Samuel 16: 13) and it can fit any time or clime:

Rush upon us, O Spirit of God!

From this time on, rush upon us

like living water,

like leaping fire,

like fresh breath through an open window.

For this time, rush upon us, O Holy Spirit,

with wisdom and knowledge,

with understanding and counsel,

with wonder and recognition and awe.

Just in time, rush upon us, O Spirit of God,

in life-giving words,

in songs from the voiceless,

in passion for witness.

At this time, rush upon us, O Holy Spirit;

this hopeful time,

this searching time,

this preparing time,

this coming and going time,

this trusting time,

this new time,

this full time.

All the time,

Rush upon us, O Spirit of God!