“Who will do the ministry of those who have gone?” the parishioner asked me. It was a fair question, especially in the light of my article last month.
I didn’t have an immediate answer and even after a few days of reflection I still don’t have one.
At least not a simple one.
Many of you may know that I’m an avid reader of all kinds of things. Recently, I read an article by Parker Palmer who happened to writing about a similar subject. He pointed to two things that are noteworthy as we begin our Lenten journey on February 9, (I’m including Shrove Tuesday) this month.
First, he pointed to the annual New York Times article entitled: “The lives they loved.” If you haven’t ever read it I commend it to your reading. The article contains photographs of loved ones who died the previous year.
But it’s more than that, click the link and you can read a story written by a friend, family, or loved one who knew the person. The articles will warm and fill your heart.
As a part of our own Lenten disciple this year, I want to take a page, to turn a phrase, from the NYT’s and tell a few personal stories about our church community and those who have gone on to be with God. I want to incorporate them into both our Lenten journey right through Good Friday. Be on the look out for both pictures and stories.
After all, St. Paul says “Therefore, since we are surround by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Those who died last year are a part of that great cloud of witnesses.
The second point is this: The loss we’ve experienced, because of the good legacy they have left us, is a good place to start our journey. Parker Palmer writes that because of our pain we are “joined at the heart.” But rather than being sad he throws down a challenge: “What if we spent 2016 focusing more on our shared human condition than on our differences? What if we cultivated the capacity to feel for each other's losses and developed a deeper awareness of our mutual mortality? Surely we'd want to spend more time working with others to bring a better, more beautiful world into being.” (On Being, Wednesday January 6, 2016). Sounds like a Lenten journey to me!
In conclusion what I believe we will find over these next few weeks is God found in grace after grace after grace. It gives me hope and joy for our future. I pray it does the same for you too.
Yours for the reign of God,