“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Or so the saying goes. And then there’s the darker or somewhat funny version: “Today is the first day of what’s left of your life.” There’s the poet, Mary Oliver’s, most beautiful version: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Perhaps the Old Testament version is Joshua’s words: “Choose this day who you will serve!” And Jesus’s version is: “Who do you say that I am?”
As we come out of pandemic with fits and starts, it is this discombobulation of questions that won’t leave me alone. And I feel it chew at me not only personally but for our church, the Episcopal Church, the Christian church, and the world. Who are we as we come out of pandemic? How have we changed? How are we able to choose to be more clearly, strongly, truly people of the living Christ? The layers and possibilities are daunting! Am I praying the way I want to pray, listening for God in all my life? Am I choosing to do the things for ministry that are really helping people and God? Is my worship of God rich for God or simply what I want to do? How do I love my neighbor? How do I love God? How do I love myself?
And for a couple months now, I have waited patiently for God to give me a clear and simple answer, but here’s the thing: in the beautiful complexity of our wild and precious lives clear and simple answers are rare indeed. The closest we come is probably Jesus’ summation of the law: “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” But love is a loaded word. And really so are the words God, neighbor and self. What that looks like today for me is probably different from what that looks like for you today. And neither of us can guess what it will look like tomorrow or the next day! Jesus spoke of following him and living in the way. Long before followers of Jesus were called “Christian” in Antioch, we were called “people of the Way.” Sometimes I fear we are people in God’s way – impediments to the Kingdom. So perhaps that is a signpost for our way forward: how do I/we live in a way that doesn’t get in God’s way?
As we move into this new day, let us examine what we are about as individuals and
as a church. Let us pray and listen for God’s voice. Let us explore The Way. And perhaps we should even spend less time trying to measure just how far down the way we are getting toward success or the Kingdom or God or whatever we imagine is at the end of the Way. Perhaps our task is to live fully on the way. What is it that you and I will do with the precious gifts of life and time and love we have been given in these days?
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
-- Jeremiah 31:33 (with a near exact repeat in Hebrews 10:16)
After those days. We are the people after those days. Or at least we are getting there. As I write this, we have reported no new cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days in Mathews County for the first time in a long time! (See later in the newsletter for news about what we will be doing with worship and ministry in these days.) How have those days – the days of pandemic – changed you and changed our church? Do you feel the law of God more deeply written on your heart? Do you know better than ever that you are God’s own child?
What has changed? And how are you reacting? I know, for myself, the deep importance of relationships with family, friends, and church has been written large. And the rushing from one activity to the next to do something “worthy” seems much less attractive. How will I make sure I have time to be with the people God has given me to love in this life and not feel I have to prove myself good enough by keeping busy? What can I change to be more present to God and God’s people?
For some time now, I have been praying and reading and struggling for an answer. I have been having rich and wonderful discussions with some of you in our Adult Class on Coming out of Exile. So what am I -- what are we – supposed to DO differently? There have been no great epiphanies with clear answers. Change is coming; change has come; but it all is happening at its own pace and in its own fashion. I am not in control. And recently, this is what I discovered: God has written on my heart. God has written in your heart, too. Just listen each day, read your heart as you prepare for every decision you make. And remember that you and all your beloved are God’s people.
As we gather back for in-person worship indoors, I still hold a little fear that we will be part of another COVID outbreak. I harbor fear about how I and we are going to miss many folks who have died or moved away more deeply when we see the empty pews and chairs. I wonder if some of our ministries that have not been happening may not be the ministries we are called to do in this new day. I am sad to know that a few church members have been angry and disappointed that I and our Bishop have held to the CDC guidelines for safety through the pandemic. In a time of political polarities, we have God’s deep reconciliation to work out with fear and trembling, forgiveness, and hope for the Unity of the Holy Spirit.
I could be overwhelmed by the negative now as we come out of pandemic; the exile of pandemic may be ending, but the new world emerging is still daunting and full of possible trouble. There are so many positives as well! We have survived as individuals and as a church! We not only survived, but we have lived out being the church in so many ways – helping the community, worshipping, praying – with flexibility and faithfulness. People have offered their financial support for our work in so many ways; we are not out of the financial woods completely as a church, but your generous faithfulness is an inspiration and will enable us to do the work of ministry in the days to come. We have learned new things, grown in faith, deepened our connections to one another. Even on zoom we have grown community! We have added new members and are finding a new energy to welcome and find more new members. We are a stronger, more faithful church because of what we have been through together. We were faithful in those days and God is doing new things with us now in these days! It is still hard to guess where we are headed and how we will get there, but we have people to love, the poor and broken to care for, and a God to worship and follow. And as we struggled together through those dark days, the deepest truths of all creation have been written with the divine hand on our hearts. May we go forth from those days and into these days as God’s own people!
Living in a time of great transition is exhausting! And exhilarating! I suspect you know what I mean. And church exists incarnate; the Body of Christ is a body of people in the real world, so there’s plenty of exhausting and exhilarating stuff among us just like everywhere else.
One of the transitions we are living through right now is the number of people in our congregation who have moved away. The majority of our parishioners have moved, it seems, into God’s loving, heavenly arms or to Williamsburg. And God is in Williamsburg, too, no doubt. We have all needed to spend some time grieving the loss of these members of our church family wherever they went. And in most cases we weren’t able, because of pandemic, to go by the house the day before moving to send them off with a blessing and a bag of cookies or, if they died, be present at a celebration of their life and resurrection. But here’s the flip side of that coin: there have also been many new people moving into our area. Each empty house goes to a new family. Pandemic has meant we haven’t been out and about bringing them into the fold as much as we used to. We haven’t even been able to have the doors open to invite folks in to our in- person worship services or other events. We have, of course, reached many folks with our online presence. Last week we reached over 300 different people with a couple of our online posts and many of those people stayed for a full worship service or engaged in another meaningful way. And some of those people live far away; still, something we said and did may have brought them into God’s fold. One of the things we are surely called to do by God is bring folks into the fold. Now, we know that not everyone likes the Episcopal way of doing things and they might be happier elsewhere. God still loves them and so should we. But there are likely to be many people – perhaps more since the shake-down of the pandemic which has re- minded all of us of what is really important – who would find life and joy among us at Kingston – both online and in person. How do we reach them? How do we invite them? How can we be neighbors who love our neighbors enough to show them the way to life we value deeply in our church life?
One way to help bring others, is to think for yourself: how did I arrive in God’s loving arms? How did I discover the richness of the Episcopal Church? And why do I keep coming back for more? Why am I growing in my love for God each day? The ways God has touched you among us at Kingston may just reveal how others might be touched by God and find new life.
You might tell a neighbor who doesn’t even know they need Kingston: We have a loving community with great people! And they might reply: “I already belong to the country club and actually I go to AA, which is the best community of loving people I know.”
We at Kingston do lots of great community service and make a difference in Mathews. And they might re- ply: “I’ve been a member of Rotary all my adult life and find plenty of ways to make a difference there.”
We have two new organs and lots of great music programs planned for worship and for concerts. And they might reply: “Oh, I go to music concerts all the time and have season tickets to the symphony.”
So what does Kingston offer that nobody else does? We offer a deeper meaning and direction for life in faith. And we offer that in a way that allows each of us to question and explore rather than expecting us to have all the doctrinal answers. We live deeply into the mystery of living deeply -- which means we do work in the community, but not just to do good, but to love God and neighbor. We are a loving community that looks out for one another when we need help, because God is always showing us how to love. And we have beautiful worship, music, and share other experiences of beauty because we know God is the creator of all joy and beauty and love and these things connect us with the divine.
The trick, of course, is offering this depth without sounding like you’re selling a magic tonic or trying to “save a soul” in a superficial sort way. So often, it helps to know deeply how you experience the mystery of God in your life so you can share that mystery and attending joy with others.
Why do you come to Kingston? And how can you help others find the riches you have? And who is new in your neck of the woods who just may need in their life what we at Kingston have found and share?
Our Crier newsletter this month is coming out just before our Holy Week celebration as we move toward Easter. On the last night of Jesus’ earthly human life, he went to pray and asked his friends to follow him and pray also. So we gather as Jesus’ friends in our own day for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday. We walk the prayer walk with Jesus through these last days of denial and betrayal and what looks like ultimate failure in a violent death on the cross because Jesus wants us there and because there is really no other way to get to Easter and Resurrection. The way is rich and powerful and sorrowful and dark; but it is the only way to the Easter light.
This year, we will do a hybrid of online worship mixed with a few opportunities to worship together out- doors. We do all our worship with safety precautions for ourselves and each other and our community, be- cause that’s what Christian people do, living for the larger community. But we also do so without the safe- ty net of just “going to church.” We go – online, in-person, and in our private prayers – to be with Jesus through difficult days. We seek to pick up our own cross and follow him. We recognize our place in the crowd that calls out “crucify him!” We allow ourselves to know the agony of Jesus’ mother, Mary, at the cross. We know we can get too busy to risk the full presence of our lives at the Last Supper or in prayer in Gethsemane or even at Golgotha. Part of us would like the happy ending of Easter without the challenges and darkness that gets us there.
I hope you will find the deep desire in you to be present with Jesus through all the days of Holy Week. When you find yourself overwhelmed with the sorrow and hatred, find a friend or loved one to walk with you. And when the time comes, courageously stand with Mary and the Beloved Disciple at the cross as our God dies in love for us. The more you and I can experience this, the more we will know what it means to stand at the tomb and have Jesus, resurrected, call our name.
Earlier in the pandemic the English comedian Michael McIntyre offered a skit in which he went to visit a fortune teller before March 2020. The fortune teller (Michael in a turban and mustache) tells Michael (who just looks like Michael) that a year from now he won’t be a comedian any longer; instead he will be an amateur hair cutter and substitute teacher. The fortune teller uses words that mean nothing to Michael in his life like “lockdown” and “social-distancing.” When the fortune teller sees in his crystal ball that Michael and his wife are excited about a trip, Michael lights up. He and his wife had been hoping to take a trip abroad for years now. But the fortune teller shakes his head and says, actually you’re just leaving the flat to run errands ... with masks and hand-sanitizer.
Like much of Michael’s comedy, this is both funny and painfully truthful. And I find myself wondering (with delight and perhaps a little fear) what might be Michael’s skit a year from now after visiting the fortune teller again “before March 2021.” Where will we be a year from now? What new words will we have to add to our vocabulary? Will we still be excited when we can do an outdoor worship with 12 people in attendance as long as we mask and social distance and use hand-sanitizer?
Our scientific fortune teller, Dr. Fauci, has said two things this week to both get my hopes up and then turn then to dust: 1. We should be doing something like normal by Christmas. And 2. We are likely to still be wearing masks in 2022. After hearing the first, I allowed myself the dream image of us all gathering with candles at church, being close together with great joy, and singing Silent Night in a way that would make life full and rich in a whole new way. Then, two days later, Dr Fauci said #2, and I figure we will be wearing masks and perhaps not allowed to sing at all yet! Still, like Michael’s excitement about leaving the apartment to run errands, just having Christmas services would be something to celebrate!
All of this is to say: we are in a strange place. This wilderness of forty days that is Lent didn’t quite end with Easter last year in 2020 and it doesn’t look like it’s going to end with Easter in 2021 either. Or maybe even Christmas! Who knows?
So what do we do? We can sit around and be sad. Or we can try to find someone to blame: Dr. Fauci, the Bishop, the Governor .... Or we can look for the angels ready to meet us in the wilderness. This year, it’s hard not to notice that when Jesus ends his fast in the desert by returning to “civilization,” he discovers immediately that his cousin, John the Baptist, is in prison. Yet, met with this difficult news he says: “The time is fulfilled! The Kingdom of God is near! Believe the Good News!” (See Mark 1:12-15.)
What resilience and adaptability! Jesus comes out of the wilderness famished and worn, hears of John’s arrest, and still dances with the Gospel, the Good News! And we are called to follow this one.
As we move towards whatever this year ahead brings, let’s use this month’s motto: March! March, know- ing that the normal that we miss wasn’t ever really all that normal. March, remembering the history of the people of God who make it through flood, leave home, leave slavery, wander to the voice of a burning bush, are exiled in Babylon, and brought low by the Romans. And that only gets us through to the Acts of the Apostles and the birth of the church! The church has been born and reborn, formed and transformed through 2000 years. It’s not the institution or trappings that is holy and unchanging; it is the people called to march in the Good News of God. What the church looked like to me when I first heard my call to priest- hood about 36 years ago is thoroughly different from what the church looks like today. And these days, between pandemic and everything else in the world, the church is changing so fast it’s hard to keep up. We are called to march in these days with the Good News. We are called to march grounded in the un- changeable Truth of God. But the ground we are marching on is changing by the minute and will keep changing. We may be wearied by the changes and chances of this world, but the miracle of God’s love marches on. God has planted us as individuals, as a congregation, and as part of a larger church marching in these very peculiar days. We cannot ignore these changes or we won’t know how to bring the Good News to them.
Whatever comes, I am glad to be marching beside you all and behind Jesus. And I plan on believing in the Good News through it all. The trick is going to be, figuring out our marching orders in the world that moves faster and in ways we can hardly imagine. We cannot just fall back on habit or what we used to always do. We aren’t in Egypt any more. And once we get through this wilderness of pandemic, we are going to arrive in the promised land with our God marching along with us the whole way.
Here’s another dream image I have. Instead of Michael doing his comedy skit, I hope that in March 2022, I am standing, preaching beside you all and pretending to be a fortune teller talking about all the ways the people of Kingston Parish have lived with all the chances and changes to bring Good News to a community and a world nearly overcome by un- certainty. I want to be able to say that the faithful- ness I see in you all this year has blossomed in new ways to meet new days in 2021 so that the Kingdom of God is nearer, and more and more people have discovered the Good News that not only survives masks and social distancing, online worship and closed church offices, but that has discovered the way of Christ to make of these changes and chances, these days, God’s fullness. Let’s march!
The Gospel for the Sunday we elected new vestry has a strange line in which Jesus seems to respond to the news of John the baptizer being arrested by saying: the time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has come near! How do you get that good news out of the bad news? But then, that is what Jesus is about. He will eventually take a brutally evil form of savage killing called crucifixion and make it life and forgiveness and Easter joy.
We live with some present darkness these days. Pandemic, economic and political upheaval, racism in our nation. And at church, we have some darkness, too: most especially we are a largely older congregation in a largely older community with too many of us dying or moving away to find a new life in a “retirement community.”
Where is Jesus going to bring light and life in the midst of this darkness for Kingston Parish and for each of us and for the world? It would be easy to freeze up and expect the worst. John is in prison. How long can it be before they will take Jesus too? Woe is us. Or we could jump into optimism and say that out of these ashes there will be wonderful success, and we will all live happily ever after. Neither of those is particularly the Christian perspective. Sure we need lamentation. Remember there’s a whole book of Scripture called Lamentations and Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. And we do know that everything will work out to the glory of God in the end, so some optimism isn’t bad either.
But we also need active prayer with God. We are apt to rush into new programs and ideas at Kingston to “fix” our fix. If we just bring more people who have wealth (in terms of ministry gifts and finances) to share, we will be successful again! Here’s the thing: I’m all for a vibrant and full congregation as you might guess, but the way to get there is not to try to be successful, but to try to be faithful. If our goal is to have more bodies in church and more dollars in our church bank account, we have already failed. If our goal is to serve Christ with worship and study and outreach and pastoral care and evangelism, then we will live in Christ, and that is true joy.
John in prison is going to send a question to Jesus: are you really the one? Isn’t this all supposed to look more “successful?” And Jesus responds: the deaf hear, the hungry are fed, and the poor have good news preached them. Of course, I’m the one! As we begin a new vestry year and begin to see hope of a little light at the end of a long pandemic tunnel, we need to seek God’s success and not our own. “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and God’s righteousness, and everything else will fall in place,” Jesus tells us. We have dreams to dream and hopes to fulfill in the days ahead. Let’s dream with God and work with God.
We have come to the end of 2020 and are about to begin 2021. Most everyone seems ready to be done with 2020. But here’s the thing. January 1st is really just the day after December 31st. In our Christian calendar which does not really acknowledge the “new year,” January 1 is the 8th day of Christmas after the 7th and we remember Jesus especially on the 8th day because little Jewish boys are circumcised and given their names on the 8th day after their birth. Jesus wasn’t even named Jesus yet when the shepherds met him, in other words.
All this to say, time is a strange thing. And the only time we have is the present. Sure we can and should remember and learn from the past. We should anticipate and hope for the future. But the only time we actually live in is the present. or Christians, this present takes on even more meaning by becoming eternity or what the theologian Paul Tillich called “the eternal now.” The present is not just a moment, but our life with God. And that eternity doesn’t start when we die, but is now in our living in this world and in the next, as we say.
Many if not all of us are ready to put this pandemic stuff behind us. We want racism to end. We would like everyone to have enough. But the truth is, God comes to us – Emmanuel – in the imperfect present. We won’t leave behind the challenges of 2020 by stepping into January 1 as if it were a different universe. Instead, we live out our faithfulness in the days God gives us, in the eternal now. And there is much to appreciate these days. There are many people to love. There is work to be done. People are getting sick. Our world is sick. Racism is clearly so deeply sown into our souls that we can’t just forget it and imagine we are done; there is more work to do for us to love our neighbor as ourselves no matter what they look like. And there are many folks who are suffering anew in this time of economic upheaval with too little and maybe even no work to do. How do we reach out and help?
Looking with hope and anticipation for the year ahead, there is a vaccine coming. There will be rebuilding and starting anew. Sometime in 2021 I hope we will again be meeting as the people of Kingston Parish in our church buildings for worship and doing all the wonderful outreach things we do together. Finances are tough for the church these days too. And we are sadly saying goodbye to many of our beloved members through death or their moving on to retirement facilities. I have recently been joking that we may need to open a satellite congregation in Williamsburg where a number of our folks have moved. There are things we are learning these present
days that will be invaluable in our rebuilding and starting
Our days are challenging and sometimes just plain diffi-
cult. And they are glorious and full of God’s Grace and
Love. Let us face the challenges of each present moment
with the eternal Grace and Love our God gives us.
Here we are at the beginning of a new liturgical year. And we begin our preparations in Advent for the coming of Christ – both as a babe in Bethlehem and as Divine fulfillment at the end of all time. It seems like a good moment to look at the whole story and think about the grand arch of God’s love.
It all began, remember, with God saying “let there be light!” And creativity and the loving of all creation came into being. Soon there was a garden in which God pulled up some of the earth and breathed the divine breath into it to create human beings in the image of divine love. In Eden there was justice, love, life eternal, walking with God. But human beings wanted something else; they wanted their own power and, frankly, love was not enough, they thought. So they sought to grasp at what you cannot grasp and the justice, love, and life eternal were lost, cheaply traded for easy control, blame, pride, and all the rest. Again and again God called out people to walk with God and find love. And again and again, we chose something else, something that looked to us to be better, but turned out to be so much less. Eventually the people of God are enslaved to sin and to the Egyptians, living in a place that was not home. God sends freedom and takes the people out into the desert to learn how to love and find their way to the promised land. God gives us commandments and food and water ... and love. It doesn’t take long for us to create a golden calf god we can control and define that is easier than God’s love. Still, God leads us to the promised land where there is hope of Eden yet again, hope that all will have food, no one will be enslaved, that all will know the love of God. And we find the little local gods and take them up. We enslave the poor. We gather wealth instead of creating the community of God’s love. And God sends the prophets to remind us that this could be the promised land and instead we are making it something so much less. In our selfishness we separate from one another, the northern kingdom of Israel from the southern kingdom of Judah, and in our weaknesses separated from our shared strength we are overcome by Babylonians and Assyrians, killed, enslaved and taken into exile – just as the prophets had warned. We return, a faithful remnant, to find our way again with God, only we are so broken that there are different factions and none of us seems to really know the way, although we all believe we know the way. The Essenes (the Dead Sea Scroll folks) separate out from everyone. The Pharisees know how to get it right; and they also know everyone else gets it wrong. The Sadducees are the opportunists who will do what they have to do to keep the people of God afloat, surviving. And in this dark time, controlled by the Roman occupation, God sends one more hope of Eden. God comes as a human being, Emmanuel, God with us, or as the Gospel of John puts it: the Word was made flesh and dwells among us. As Christina Rosetti will put it in her poem made Christmas carol: Love came down at Christmas. And here’s the thing about Jesus, God’s love incarnate: the Grace of Jesus doesn’t depend on us building Eden in the promised land or being good enough not to trade divine love for something less. In the cross, Jesus brings the love of God to face, straight on, all the evils we can muster, and he
transforms them into life and love, into resurrection.
As we prepare for the coming of that baby in the manger, what do you need that baby to bring to you and to God’s world? Ultimately the gift of Christmas is Eden, justice rolling down like waters and the full perfection of God’s love. But we seek it so often in the baby in our own baby steps. What baby steps will you take this year of all years? One gift, for sure: we all would love the promised land of a vaccine this year. In that poor refugee child born in a stable to unwed parents from far away, we find the hopes and dreams of all the years. And they are not only our hopes and dreams, but somehow even God’s hopes and dreams. May you see the everlasting light of God’s love in this season. Let us say with God: “Let there be light!”
Here we are at the month of giving thanks. We begin by giving thanks for all the saints who have come before us and the chance to follow them into God’s holiness. At the same time, we will give thanks for all the gifts of life and dedicate ourselves to God by making our financial pledges and promises for 2021. Ten days later, we give thanks for
all those veterans who have given of themselves that we might have more peace and freedom than we ever would have had without their work and sacrifice. Then, later in the month, we will celebrate Thanksgiving itself when we give thanks to God for everything.
And this year, Thanksgiving will be a little different. As most everything has been a little different this year. Most of us won’t be making long journeys to be with family. Many of us will not be able to have a table full of family and friends. And we won’t be able to have a parish hall full of people gathering to receive our thanksgiving meal and share in our fellowship. Like other times this year, we will be creative and find ways to zoom together, make and take meals to those who might otherwise not have one safely, and keep in contact and communion in ways that keep us all safe in the face of a pandemic.
How will you give thanks? What are you thankful for this year? It may just be me, but I think I am hearing folks say more and more “when we can be together again, I’ll ....” Someday we will be past the dangers of this pandemic and be able to be together in ways we have missed for over 7 months now. And there will be much to give thanks for
then! But God is also blessing us now. There is much to give thanks for right now in the midst of the pandemic. Here are a few new things I am thankful for these days:
There is always so much to give thanks for to God. Always. And this year is no different. I haven’t even begun with my list. What are you thankful for? How can you show God your thanks? And how might your gratefulness bring a richness to these days of pandemic, bless them and bless us all? We can expend our energies complaining that the cup is empty because of the pandemic, or we can fill it with all that God gives us today. Then we will discover that actually even now our cup overflows.
God’s Peace, Fr. Gary
In recent weeks in worship we have been reading the story of the Hebrew people freed from slavery in Egypt wandering the desert in the hope of eventually finding the promised land. In the desert wilderness, some of them rely on God, but many become frustrated and fearful and rely on their own ways. When Jesus is in the wilderness for 40 days to prepare for his ministry, his life is reduced to very simple struggles between the voices of angels and wilderness creatures which offer hope and comfort and the voices of evil which call him to take control, find easy answers, care for personal needs and let the world go. Jesus, we know, took the more difficult road of living through the wilderness without easy answers, with no power, and making his personal needs secondary to a life of love for others.
We are in our own wilderness these days. Between pandemic, racial tensions, political and economic upheaval and whatever else you might personally be dealing with, there are plenty of things to bring us as individuals and as a church body to that simple place where we live out of very basic beliefs and needs. The priorities that we choose to live by in these days say everything about the kind of people we are. Just as the way Jesus lived in the desert was his foundation for the rest of his ministry.
What have you let go of in this wilderness? What have you realized to be a major priority perhaps that had been lost in the shuffle of your previous ways of living? This wilderness time is a gift to explore who we really are, and how we will come out of this wilderness as people of God – or not.
The wilderness is beautiful, but it is not without its dangers. The Hebrews get tired of waiting and build their own God, a golden calf, to do what they want God to do rather than what God is already doing. They complain to Moses and decide he is to blame. It is a role of strong leadership to listen carefully to the people and face being the lightening rod for frustrations and angers without taking the blame for things beyond anyone’s control. I know a few of you are frustrated and angry with our bishops, with me, and with your vestry. There is certainly plenty to be frustrated and angry about. And I can vouch for the fact that your leaders, including yours truly, are one-hundred-percent human and capable of mistakes. But I can also vouch for our bishops and our vestry to be leaders of such faith and deep concern and compassion that they are people for whom I give thanks in this wilderness. I could not do my work without any of them. They are the angels in my wilderness and perhaps also in yours, certainly angels helping our Kingston Parish to live faithfully in these days and flourish.
There are hints that this wilderness is going to go on for quite some time (much more than Jesus’ 40 days but not nearly as long as the Hebrews’ 40 years), but there are also hints of the light at the end of the tunnel. May we strive to get there, but not just to get by until then. For it is how we live today that will be the foundation for our life in the years to come – as individuals and as a church. May we rejoice in the gifts God gives us today. May we look not for devils that will give us easy answers to deal with today’s challenges, but may we live as angels for others in the wilderness.
When Paul finds that the church family he helped give birth to in the far off city of Philippi is struggling in the wilderness, and he is in his own wilderness in prison in Rome, he writes these words: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). We are in the wilderness, but there is so much good in us, at Kingston, in our Episcopal Church, and in all God’s gifts to us. Let us not only think about these things, but celebrate them, cultivate them, and share them with the world with God’s generous love.
The Very Rev. Gary Barker