Saturday, May 19, 2018

Easter 6B, I have called you friends...

Lectionary readings can be found here

Friends

St. Clement’s is a place which values all people as full and equal members of our community with unique gifts to offer and spiritual lives to be nourished and tended. This is something that I do not take for granted and, as we prepare to welcome Bryan Bliss, our new Children, Youth and Family Formation Director, to St. Clement’s, I’ve been thinking about how grateful I am for St. Clement’s prioritization of multi-generational community.

And, so with gratitude I want to share with all of you one of the reasons I felt called to St. Clement’s…

It all started with a dinosaur.

Actually, two dinosaurs.

A triceratops and a styracosaurus.

Clutched in the hands of my then three-year-old, they accompanied him to church most Sundays.  Perched on the top of the pew, held tight at the altar rail, raised aloft at the dismissal.

They went everywhere…including to parish suppers.

And, one Wednesday night, early in my time here. We went to one of those suppers and as we entered, we were stopped by a parishioner.

A parishioner who was drawn to us, but not because of me—but, because of the small boy who looked up with eager eyes.

“Hey, a triceratops and styracaosaurs! Did you know that the largest triceratops fossil in the world is at our science museum?”

And, the conversation began…

I wasn’t part of it, I was just witness to it. To this moment in which two individuals with a shared interest in fossils bonded over 8-inch-tall plastic figures of dinosaurs.

I’m pretty sure that this particular parishioner was not thinking about the 12th century saint, Aelred of Rievaulx’s when he addressed my son. However, seminary paid off, and those are the writings which come to mind as I reflect on this moment.

St. Aelred, a Cistercian abbott from the 12th century, was inspired by the Gospel of John and wrote extensively about the centrality of friendship to our lives of faith.

Aelred sees in the words, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”, an action that can be lived out by setting aside our own interests for those of another. Aelred writes, “if a relationship is not between equals, then the stronger or wiser of the friend will seek to diminish himself/herself before the other. “(Aelred, Spiritual Friendship, I.65-66,70 p.47)

Bending a knee, not to bow to a ruler, but to bend to a child. Pulling up a chair, to sit with someone who cannot stand. Lifting up, bowing down, settling, soothing, caring, grieving, laughing.

The young, the old, the somewhere in between. Together.

The gummy smiles of infants met by the toothsome grins of teens.

Friendships between 40 year olds and 90 year olds.

Middle Schoolers taking a turn as guest “experts” at adult forums.

Here we all are—in this body called the church.

Seen. Known. Loved.

A young adult raised within this community speaks to some of the “why” behind this gathering of generations.

“When I did Godly Play training, I was told that when I see a child at church, I should look at them, and say “I am so glad you are here!”

I am so glad to see you. To be with you. To share this space, to break this bread, to sing these songs…

With you.

I am so glad to be with you.

Within these walls, where people who would never have met in any other way are brought together. Brought together to share our stories, to listen to each other, to eat and drink, to pray and laugh, to rejoice and to grieve.

Together.

And, this is where we meet the Gospel together today. Together…

This Gospel addresses an “after the resurrection community” trying to figure what it means to be the body of Christ in the world. Some of the major themes of the Gospel of John, themes we hear in this passage, include "abiding" in God's love, the commandment of love, and laying down one's life for friends.

Seen, known, loved. By each other. By God. By the body of which we are an inseparable part.

And, the Gospel of John becomes a love letter. A hand reaching out, a knowing look, the kiss of peace, a covenant of love.

A covenant of love...

With us. Amongst us. Between us.

Aelred felt that “He who abides in friendship abides in God, and God in him”.  And, so we abide.

In faith and love. Mutuality and respect. Dignity and equity.

And, our church becomes a place in which we seek to create a space in which all can be seen, be known and be loved.

A worthy mission is it not?

Last week, the governing board of St. Clement’s—what the Episcopal Church calls the vestry met for a retreat.

The goal of the retreat was to spend time exploring what it means to create an ethos of welcome here at St. Clement’s.

We studied scripture, we shared our stories—we made organizational charts!

And, in the midst of our stories and our study and our charts…something happened.

It wasn’t in the plans.
It wasn’t on the agenda.

It emerged in conversation and came together as a gift.

A mission and vision statement that sets our hearts, sets our course as a community, as a place which strives to see, to know, and to love each and every one who comes through our doors.

The Spirit spoke and we listened—and so I have a gift to share…

This is God’s table,
All are welcome,
All are needed.

Our presence, our stories, our true selves,
are welcome here.

We see each other with a grateful and open heart.

Together, we are the body of Christ.


Once more,

This is God’s table,
All are welcome,
All are needed.

Our presence, our stories, our true selves,
are welcome here.

We see each other with a grateful and open heart.

Together, we are the body of Christ.

This is who we are and this is who we aspire to be.

Together, called as friends. We aren’t perfect, we aren’t without fault, but we are called anyway.  

As we try to live into the love that we have been so freely given.

Amen.

Prayer cards…instructions.

In your pew, you will find slips of paper with the mission and vision statement printed on one side. Please write your name down on a slip. When you come forward for communion please place the slip in the basket provided. Following this service, as you depart, please take a name from the basket. I am going to ask you to hold that person in prayer this coming week. If you are not able to write your own name, or are with someone who cannot yet write a name, please write their name down on a card for them and help that person get a card when they leave.


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