Sunday, January 31, 2010

Call: It's Not Just For Prophets Anymore

Fourth Sunday After Epiphany – Year C (RCL)
Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Luke 4:21-30
Sunday, January 31, 2010 –
Trinity, Redlands

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jer. 1:5)

In these words from our Old Testament lesson, we hear God’s calling of Jeremiah to be a prophet at a most critical time in Israel’s history. The Northern Kingdom of Israel has already been decimated by the Assyrians. And now the Southern Kingdom of Judah is facing similar troubles. Someone is needed to for the difficult work of delivering God’s warnings to Judah in the run-up to the Babylonian Exile. And God chooses Jeremiah.

But Jeremiah is reluctant to accept God’s call. “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But this is not about age. Jeremiah resists because he doesn’t think he is up to the task, that he does not have what it will take to do what God is asking. But God sees what Jeremiah does not see. God sees that Jeremiah has the requisite gifts and talents to carry this off. First and foremost, Jeremiah is from a priestly family. He has grown up steeped in the story of Israel and the centrality of its relationship with God. This will allow him to convey God’s message to the people in ways they will hopefully understand – relating it to the unique position that Israel holds as God’s Chosen People. Jeremiah does not see this, but God does. Hence God’s response: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.”

Because of God’s insistence, because of God’s assurance that He will provide Jeremiah with what is needed for the task at hand, Jeremiah acquiesces. And with the help of God, he goes on to become one of the greatest prophets in Israel’s history. He is able to prophesy of the paradoxical power of God – the power that plucks up but also plants, the power that destroys but also builds up, the power of death but also life, the power of judgment but also of salvation. But even so, Jeremiah did not have an easy time of it. He first prophesies in his home town of Anathoth, provoking the anger of his fellow villagers and his family. He then moves on to other areas, in hopes that someone might hear God’s words and heed their warning. His prophecies are of judgment, yet containing seeds of hope. Indeed his prophecies turn to portents of hope as the Exile eventually nears its end – hope of a return of Judah to its homeland, hope of reconciliation with their God. While Jeremiah’s initial prophecies are not heeded by the people, his latter prophecies help them get through the remainder of the Exile, keeping the hope alive.

While Jeremiah’s story is extraordinary in many ways, in other ways, his story, particularly the story of his call, is also our story. We are tempted to think of call, of vocation, as something reserved for the great figures in the history of our faith – Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, and Isaiah; Mary, John the Baptist, Peter, and Paul. Or at most, we might expand the concept to include “professionals” in matters of religion – people who make their living doing churchy stuff – people like monks and nuns, bishops and priests, people like me, like Father David. But that’s not the case. We don’t have exclusive rights. We don’t have a corner on that market. You see, we all have a calling. It may not be to Holy Orders. It may not be as a prophet. But we all have some sort of calling, something that God is inviting us to do for the service and fulfillment of His Kingdom. And the key to that, I believe, is in God’s words to Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.”

These words from the Book of Jeremiah have always spoken to me, although I have not always known why. But about ten years ago, I was required to do something that helped me figure out how God’s words to Jeremiah apply to me. When you begin the process toward Holy Orders, you are required to write a “spiritual autobiography,” that, at least in part, traces your sense of call. I used, as the opening for my spiritual autobiography, God’s words to Jeremiah. As I reflected on these words and reflected on my life to that point, I came to realize that, while what God was calling me to do may or may not have begun in the womb, it was at the very least evident (in hindsight) from early in my life. It felt as if this was what I had been consecrated to ultimately do. I can’t help but believe that the same is true for every person in this room. There is a calling – something special that God wants of you; something only you can do. Maybe you’re already doing it. Maybe you have no clue what it is – yet. Maybe you’re struggling with discernment, trying to get a clearer picture of what that calling might be, what form it might take.

As Hermann Hesse writes, “There are many types and kinds of vocations, but the core of the experience is always the same; the soul is awakened, transformed, or exalted so that instead of dreams and presentiments from within, a summons comes from without; a portion of reality presents itself and makes a claim” (Beckmann, 94-95). The response to that call from without, to that portion of reality making its claim, requires that we spend time examining how that call might take shape. It requires reflection – reflection on who we are, reflection on our roles in the world, reflection on the inherent gifts that we can give back to the world. For our call ties in with where we are right now, with what we are already doing. Our life to this point, our life from the womb to the present, has been preparing us, leading us, to what God is ultimately calling us to do. God prepares us to live out the vocation He calls us to, the calling for which we were born, through each step we take, through every role that we take on. Even if it doesn’t seem like what you are doing in your life right now is a calling from God, I would say, “think again.” Reflect on your life as it is and see just how you are living God’s call. As one commentator noted, “It is the invitation to every Christian to witness to the gospel by investing with radical grace whatever worldly roles God opens to us.” Whatever role. No matter how grand, no matter how small. After all, “as Martin Luther so famously said about parenthood, when understood as Christian vocation, even changing dirty diapers is done for the glory of God!” (Davis, 292).

And of course, as we reflect, as we pray, as we discern how God’s call is prompting us to move into new areas, to engage in new activities, we may have a sense of uneasiness. Jeremiah shows us that fear, anxiety, self-doubts, resistance, even resentments, are natural and understandable reactions when God issues a call to engage in His work. But as is also shown through Jeremiah, both the calling and the capacity to fulfill that calling come directly from God. God uses who we are. God uses what we already have – our gifts and talents. And when necessary, God provides what additional resources we may need. So while it may be scary or uncomfortable, we can rest assured that when God calls us, we do not go it alone. He will be with us to guide and aid us as we fulfill that calling.

And sense of calling does not just apply to individuals. God also calls groups of people collectively to specific vocations. We are seeing that process at work here at Trinity. Our Strategic Planning process is one of on-going discernment as to what God is calling us to be and do, where God is calling us to go. Just because the Strategic Plan document is done does not mean we can stop. It’s just the beginning of the discernment process. In fact, the first few objectives to be tackled specifically deal with discerning our mission, both within Trinity and in the broader community.

This may be a little uncomfortable for some of us – having to step outside our comfort zones and engage in ministry out in the world. But that’s what God is calling us to do. In fact, that’s what the Gospel requires of us. In today’s Gospel lesson, we see the people of Nazareth getting all riled up and upset at Jesus. Why? Because he was pushing them outside their comfort zones. The Jewish people had always believed that God’s grace and blessings were reserved for them, God’s Chosen – for those inside their borders. But Jesus is telling them that God’s grace extends outside their boundaries. He cites examples of how and where God has worked to the benefit of outsiders: the feeding of the widow of Zaraphath, the healing of the widow’s son, the healing of Naaman the Syrian. The people of Nazareth don’t want to hear this. They don’t want to accept this. They want to keep God’s blessings for themselves.

Now I know the people of Trinity are not like the people of Nazareth. We are willing to share God’s grace, God’s abundance, with those outside our boundaries, outside our walls. We don’t fly into rages when such things are suggested. But we may be a little fearful about the prospect. It may be a little uncomfortable. But we know there are very real needs out there – needs that we can help meet. There is a hunger for God’s word out there, a hunger for tangible experiences of the presence of God and of Jesus Christ – a hunger that we can help fill. We’ve seen that in recent months. We perceived a need to provide a worship experience for those who find Christmas a difficult time. So we gave Blue Christmas a shot. And people from outside our walls came. Not a lot. But they did come, and they were fed, experiencing God as they had not experiences Him before. We perceived a need to join with other churches and do a community Las Posadas. We didn’t think a lot of people would join in. But they did. Hundreds more than any of us expected. As a result of our initiative, 500 people were fed with the experience of God’s love, and with tamales and empanadas. Was it uncomfortable doing these new things? You bet it was! But what we saw was that when we were called to something in particular, God gave us what we needed. He showed us people in our midst who had the talents and gifts needed to pull it off. He moved people from outside Trinity to offer their needed services. God provided what we needed to fulfill the calling. And God provided in abundance.

I have a feeling this is going to be a very fruitful year for Trinity – both as a faith community and for the individuals who comprise this parish. We already see the Holy Spirit moving through the community, stirring things up, prompting individuals and this parish as a whole to explore new ministries. And I see the Spirit moving more and more in the coming weeks and months and years, as we implement our Strategic Plan. We will continue to discern God’s calling, pushing us, but all the while, providing what we need when we need it. God is going to be very busy in this place. And so are we, as we accept his call. And we will rise to the occasion, as individuals and as a community. Because this is what God has formed us to do. This is what our lives have been leading us to. This is what God has consecrated us to do.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Beckmann, Kim L., et al. New Proclamation: Year C, 2009-2010, Advent through Holy Week. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009.

Davis, James Calvin. “Jeremiah 1:4-10, Theological Perspective.” In Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C, Volume 1, Advent Through Transfiguration. Edited by David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

You Are My Beloved Child, With You I Am Well Pleased

First Sunday After Epiphany: Baptism of Our Lord – Year C (RCL)
Isaiah 43:1-7; Psalm 29; Acts 8:14-17; Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Sunday, January 10, 2010 –
Trinity, Redlands

Just a few days ago, we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany – the manifestation of Jesus Christ to all humanity. But the epiphanies do not stop there. During the entire period between Epiphany and the beginning of Lent, our Gospel lessons continue to present epiphanies regarding Jesus. He has been revealed to us as our Savior, but as this season we call Epiphanytide unfolds, Jesus as Messiah is disclosed to us in a number of different ways, revealing a number of attributes of this Messiah, giving us a more complete picture of what this means. The first of these epiphanies, which we explore today, is the Baptism of Our Lord.

Now, the whole subject of Jesus’ baptism seems to present a theological conundrum. All three Synoptic Gospels tell us that Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptizer. Mark’s Gospel specifically tell us that John’s was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Well, if Jesus was the Son of God and was without sin, what could he possibly have had to repent? Why did he need to be baptized to have non-existent sins forgiven? The short answer is that he didn’t need to be baptized. But like so much of what Jesus did, he did not need to do it for himself, but rather needed to do it for us. And of all the accounts in the Synoptics of Jesus’ baptism, I think none provides for a better explanation of this than Luke’s portrayal, which we just read.

The irony is that while Luke says less about Jesus’ actual baptism than do Matthew and Mark, Luke actually provides the best answer to our theological conundrum. Matthew and Mark specifically tell us that Jesus came to John to be baptized and provide some detail about the baptism proper. But all Luke says, almost as an aside in the midst of John’s preaching about the coming Messiah, is “when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized . . .” What Luke is really saying is that a whole bunch of people were baptized by John, and, oh yeah, one of them happened to be Jesus. Despite seeming to be an afterthought, this statement speaks volumes.

No, Jesus did not need to be baptized. However, he was born into a system, into a world, that was tainted, fallen, broken, even though he himself was without sin. Though fully divine, he was also fully human. Being born into such a broken world tainted with and by the affects of human sinfulness, he could not have helped but be affected by it – by its presence around him – not and still continue to be human, experiencing life as we ourselves do. So while baptism would not have removed sinfulness from his person and soul, the way it does for the rest of us, Jesus’ baptism would have made a point about the very need for a salvific act to remedy the affects of a sinful world on our lives. Not that his baptism was just for show. If anything, Jesus’ baptism is not so much symbolic as it is an acknowledgement of the affect the world has on all of us, himself included, and the need for reconciliation as a result. It calls attention to the fact that there is a better way, and that that way is provided through the coming of the Messiah, sent by and of God, to provide us with new life.

Rather than just calling attention to a broken system, and pointing to a way that will ultimately redeem and heal such a system, the seemingly passing reference to Jesus being baptized along with “all the people” also conveys a sense of solidarity. The term solidarity carries two related definitions. One is being united around a common goal or against a common enemy, and the other is having a willingness to give psychological and/or material support when another person is in a difficult position or in need of affection.

Jesus’ baptism, in the context of “all the people,” conveys an act of solidarity with a world of sinners. He identified himself with the many broken and weary people who were turning to God for new life. In this act, he was uniting with them in the common goal of seeking reconciliation with God and against the common enemies of sin and evil. And he was, because of his unique situation of being both human and divine, in a position to provide support, spiritually and emotionally, to the myriad of people who feel they are in a difficult position – those struggling with sin and its affects in their lives and upon their spirits and psyches. And providing support to those who are in need of affection – need of the assurance that despite being sinful creatures, they are loved by their God nonetheless. In short, it’s all about belonging. Jesus is saying “you belong to me now.”

The tragic thing is that we in the church sometimes get the whole solidarity thing mixed up. We tend to think that the church is filled with a bunch of nice, respectable people, which it is. But because that becomes the ingrained notion, the prevailing assumption under which we operate, we sometimes come to think that when we feel particularly wracked with guilt over something we have done, when we do what all humans do at one time or another, sin, that we are not worthy of being called Christian. We are not worthy to be in the company of all those nice, respectable folks in the church. When such feelings set in, many people slip away. They don’t come to church until they get things worked out, until they can once again feel they are worthy of being with those nice, respectable people. And only when they think they have gotten their act together, do they return.

That’s not what being a Christian is about. It’s not about always being nice and respectable, about being perfect. That may be the goal, but we are not always going to be that way. But we are still Christians nonetheless. After all, Jesus did not get in line to be baptized with a bunch of respectable church folk. He got in line to be baptized with a bunch of broken sinners. Jesus’ baptism did not set him apart, but rather incorporated him into the larger group of repentant sinners, incorporating us into God’s unfailing grace. We are called to follow his lead. We are called to fall in with a bunch of repentant sinners and to support one another, just as Jesus did by stepping into that river to receive a sacrament he had no need of. But he did it anyway because we needed him to.

The act of Jesus’ baptism as portrayed in the Gospels also has a lot to tell us about what this sacrament really means from God’s perspective. None of the Synoptic Gospels say a whole lot about the details of Jesus’ baptism, but Luke says even less. For Luke, it is not so much the baptism that is important as God’s declaration of what this act of going into the waters a sinner and coming out a redeemed child of God means. This is manifested in two ways: in sign and in word.

Luke is the only Gospel to make it clear that the dove was seen by all, a certain sign of the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Both Matthew and Mark tell us that only Jesus saw the Spirit descending like a dove. But in Luke, everyone present saw the sign of Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove. In all the Synoptic Gospels, this receiving of the Holy Spirit is an important aspect of the sacrament of baptism. And we specifically incorporate this aspect into our present-day sacrament. In the consignation, following the act of baptism, the newly baptized is anointed with oil blessed by the bishop, and the priest says “you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own for ever.”

According to Luke, this receiving of the Spirit is not a private matter, but is very public, for all to see. This is significant. John the Baptizer describes Jesus as the one who will “baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Jesus would eventually pass on his Spirit to his disciples to enable and equip them to do the ministry God had called them to do in the world, in the absence of their Master. And in our baptisms, we too are given the gift of the Spirit. This lets us know that we are not on our own, but have the strength of the Holy Spirit to enable us, to aid us, to equip us for the work that God has called us to do in the world. And by being given in a public act, all those witnessing this act know that this newly baptized person is indeed a child of God, and are thereby charged to support this person in his or her ministry as a member of the Body of Christ. For this ministry is most effective when done in community with our fellow Christians.

The other aspect of God’s declaration received at the time of baptism is in word. All the Synoptics tell us that upon emerging from the waters of baptism, God declared “you are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” This affirmation helped sustain Jesus during his 40 days of temptation in the wilderness and on into and throughout his public ministry. So too, in our baptisms, God says, “you are my child, my beloved, with you I am well pleased.” As with Jesus, this is an affirmation that sustains us in the day-to-day trials and temptations we face. It is God’s assurance that He is with us; that the Holy Spirit is ever-present, ready to guide us; and that Christ is our constant companion.

Because we are called by name, because at baptism we are marked with the name of Jesus, we are in return free to call upon Jesus’ name, God’s name, with the assurance and confidence in God’s faithfulness toward us. And we are free to call upon the Body of Christ, the community of fellow baptized. Here again, it is the community of faith, those witnessing the act of baptism, that have a part to play in the support and further development of the newly baptized.

This is why we don’t do private baptisms any more. We now understand, as demonstrated in Luke’s portrayal of Jesus’ baptism, that baptism is a communal affair, because we as the Body of Christ have our ongoing part to play. And today, we will once again share in that communal affair as, in a few minutes, we witness and share in the baptisms of Eleni Christopherson and Marin Cummings. As we baptize these newest members into the Body of Christ, of which we are all a part, they are the ones receiving the sacrament, but we are the ones charged with helping them live into the fullness of what that sacrament means. We are charged through our renewal of our own Baptismal Vows; we are charged though our witness of them going into and rising from the waters of baptism; we are charged through our witness of them receiving the Holy Spirit, to be fellow travelers with them on their faith journeys. And that charge is first and foremost to continually echo the voice of God – to say to them, “Eleni, you are God’s beloved, and with you He is well pleased. Marin, you are God’s beloved, and with you He is well pleased.” Just as God says to all of us, over and over again, “you are my beloved daughter, you are my beloved son, with you I am always well pleased.”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Gift for the Infant King

The Epiphany – Year C (RCL)
Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7,10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12
Wednesday, January 6, 2010 – Trinity, Redlands

Today we come to the end of the Christmas season, with our celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany – the commemoration of the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Magi in Bethlehem. Throughout the last 2,000 years, much effort has been made to attach significance to the Magi – to who they were and what they represent – and to their gifts – to what they represent and even portend. But much of it is probably historically inaccurate.

We don’t know exactly who the Magi were, other than the fact that because of the term used, they were scholars, probably astrologers, from the east, from the area of present-day Iran. We don’t know their names – Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthasar were the names the Venerable Bede attributed to them nearly 800 years after the fact, but he would have had no way of knowing for sure. We don’t know for certain that they were of various races as is often portrayed in Christian art. We don’t even know how many there actually were – we just assume there were three because they brought three gifts. And the gifts they brought – gold, frankincense, and myrrh – may or may not have been chosen to represent such things as royalty and divine authority, and as a foreshadowing of the death of the Son of Man. These gifts may have had different meanings to these people from a far-distant land. Maybe they just brought what they had on hand. The fact is, we just don’t know. The only remotely reliable information we have is what is recorded in 12 verses in the Gospel According to Matthew. All else is pure speculation.

Actually, any modern theologian will tell you that the important thing about Epiphany is not the specifics, but rather the overarching meaning of the Magi. They clearly represent the revelation or manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles – to non-Jews. After all, we are told in the second verse of today’s Gospel lesson that Jesus was “born king of the Jews.” And Luke’s account of his birth clearly has the angels proclaiming that the child born in Bethlehem is the Messiah –indicating the Jewish Messiah foretold by the prophets. The Magi were the first Gentiles to recognize the coming of the Messiah. But the really important thing is that their recognition of Jesus as Messiah exemplifies the comprehensiveness of the kingdom this Messiah would one day proclaim. Their recognition and paying him homage tells us that Jesus is not just King of the Jews, but is the Messiah, the Savior, of all people.

In addition to this revelation extending Christ’s salvation to all humanity, this story of the coming of the Magi contains another all-important element – gifts. We are told that they brought expensive gifts with which to pay homage to this new king, this Messiah. I think the giving of gifts is critical to the overall message. Because implicit in this act is the message of generosity. The Magi seeking the Messiah gave of their generosity, in response to God’s generosity in giving humanity the gift of his Son, the gift of God himself made flesh, the ultimate gift of salvation.

I think the perfect illustration of the importance of gift is from one of my favorite Christmas stories, which is in reality an Epiphany story. It is the story of Aaron, the Little Drummer Boy. You’ve all heard the popular Christmas song – “Come, they told me, pa rum pum pum pum. A newborn King to see, pa rum pum pum pum,” etc. Perhaps some of you might remember that this song was the basis for a Rankin-Bass Christmas special first aired in 1968. Admittedly, it was a pretty crude stop-action animation production, particularly by contemporary standards, but it is still one of my favorites nonetheless.

The television show provides the supposed back-story for the popular song. Aaron is an orphan, who, because of the murder of his parents by bandits, is an incredibly bitter boy, hating all humanity. His only possession is a drum his parents had given him. And his only friends are three animals – a camel, a donkey, and a lamb. During the course of the story, Aaron has a chance encounter with three kings who are following a star. When an unscrupulous character takes Aaron’s camel, Joshua, and sells it to the three kings, Aaron sets out in search of them to try to get his friend back. Aaron’s only lead is the knowledge that the kings are following a star. So, he too sets out, following that same star. Upon arriving in Bethlehem, tragedy strikes. A Roman chariot runs over Baa-Baa, Aaron’s lamb. Baa-Baa is in critical condition, near death. Aaron figures that surely the three kings, who have great knowledge, will be able to save Baa-Baa. He continues following the star and finds the three kings. One of them tells Aaron that they do not have such power, but there is one who does – the infant king lying in the manger ahead of them.

Aaron reasons that he cannot approach this infant king and present his supplication without a gift worthy of a king. After all, the three kings brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh – gifts of great value. But Aaron has nothing. “I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum. That’s fit to give a king, pa rum pum pum pum.” So Aaron gives the only gift he can think of. He takes his drum and beats out a song for the newborn king. Aaron gives the only gift he had – the gift of himself. And when he’s finished, the baby Jesus smiles for having received such a precious gift. And in the glow of that smile, Aaron receives a gift as well. In the beauty of that infant, in the glow of his smile, Aaron sees that humanity is not something inherently evil, to be despised, but something beautiful, to be cherished. His heart softens and he experiences a sense of love and joy that he has not felt since his parents’ death. By God’s grace, Aaron is healed of what had been burdening him. And Baa-Baa? He too is healed, further adding to Aaron’s joy.

While Epiphany is about Jesus being revealed to humanity, an equally significant aspect is how he is revealed. As indicated in the Gospel lesson, Jesus is there in the manger, available to us. God provides the star to point the way, to guide us. But we have to take the initiative. It is up to us to set out on the journey in search of that which the star illumines. As such, Epiphany is even more about humanity, about us, making the journey to the manger. It is about us moving toward Jesus and recognizing for ourselves that he is our Messiah.

We journey to the manger by many different roads and out of many different motivations. Some come out of a sense of intrigue. Some come out of a sense of longing. Some come out of a sense of need. Some come out of a sense of hunger. Some come with a sorrow that needs to be cheered. Some come with an illness that needs to be healed. Some come with a burden that needs to be lifted. Some come with an emptiness that needs to be filled. Some come seeking love. Some come seeking joy. Some come seeking peace. Some come seeking hope.

No matter how we come, no matter what we seek, we are assured, by the grace of God, that we will find it in the smile of an infant king. And in addition, we will find something quite unexpected. There, at the manger, we will find total love, total acceptance, total grace. There we will find fullness of life. And the only thing we are asked to do is to give a small token in homage to the infant king. It doesn’t need to be gold, or frankincense, or myrrh. In fact, we are asked to give the only thing that is truly ours to give. We are asked to give ourselves. And while that may not seem like much, to the infant king lying in the manger, that is far more valuable gift than all the gold, frankincense, and myrrh on earth.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

"Alleluia! Christ is Risen!"

Today at the 10:15 service, I committed a liturgical faux pas. At Trinity during Christmastide, they start the services with the presider saying “Alleluia! Christ is Born!” to which the people respond “Come let us adore him! Alleluia!” Because the opening acclamation is so close to the Easter acclamation (“Alleluia! Christ is Risen!”), I was worried that I might mess up. So during the opening hymn, I kept reading and re-reading the opening acclamation so I wouldn’t mess up. But sure enough, I said the Easter acclamation instead, to which the people dutifully responded “The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!” (the proper response to the Easter acclamation - they are so well trained) and then started laughing. I immediately realized what had happened. When the laughter died down, I said “okay, let’s try it again” and managed to get the right acclamation out. The people gave the correct response and then chuckled a little more and we went on with the service.

As I told David after it was all over, "Theologically, it works. After all, you can't have one without the other" (you can't have Easter without Christmas and without Easter, there would be no need for Christmas).

Then during the Peace, one of my favorite little old ladies said to me, “One of the things I love about you is that you are so human.” I told her I thought that was one of the best compliments I have ever received.


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