Tara Brach writes
“the spiritual path is not a solo endeavour. In fact, the very notion of a self who is trying to free her/himself is a delusion. We are in it together and the company of spiritual friends helps us realize our interconnectedness.”
There is something special that happens when we come together. That special something revolves around the notion that we are community. We are designed to embrace the interconnectedness that comes with being a party of the human race. That is often hard for us to see, let alone embrace, in a world which preaches individualism on a regular and ongoing basis. Every now and then we are given glimpses of what Kingdom living looks like. Each of those glimpses seem to revolve around people coming together. Each of those instances involves loving, sharing, and taking on the common joy or the common sorrow that comes with being a child of God on a journey of faith. Scripture says to us:
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their hard work. If either should fall, one can pick up the other. But how miserable are those who fall and don’t have a companion to help them up! Also, if two lie down together, they can stay warm. But how can anyone stay warm alone? Also, one can be overpowered, but two together can put up resistance. A three-ply cord doesn’t easily snap. - Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Today was RAY DAY at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. Today the community honoured the life of Ray Hinton by embracing the notion that we are better together than we are apart. Ray Hinton was an integral part of the community of faith in general and a wonderfully devout parishioner at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. When he died so unexpectedly in March we were all saddened and we were all concerned for Marion. The Parish Council, under the leadership of Warden Christian Paulton, chose RAY DAY as a way to show Marion how much love we have for her as well as giving the people of God in this place a way to come together to and be present to one another in their grief. RAY DAY was a day to clean out the gardens and ready them for the spring and summer months ahead.
It is not uncommon to see Marion Hinton tending to the church gardens. It was not uncommon to see Ray, assisting her in the gardens. Ray has gone to his glory. So today 35 or so of Marion’s church family walked into the church garden with Marion and helped her the same way Ray would have if he were here. My Dad always said, ‘Many hands make light work.’ I saw that come to life today. It was awesome to see all of those people today supporting Marion and supporting one another. We had to leave for a wedding this morning and it was a wonderful feeling to drive away seeing so many of the people that we have grown to love so dearly tilling the soil together as they remembered Ray Hinton. The group cleaned out all of the gardens and they constructed a new tiered garden at the main entrance to the church/hall offices. The Ray Hinton Garden is highlighted by a beautiful stone that says, ALL ARE WELCOME – In Memory of Ray Hinton.
It is an awesome new addition to the property here. All of the gardens out there are amazing after today. There were bags and bags of yard waste prepared as they trimmed out that which is no longer needed and allowed new life to spring forth.
Watching them trim this morning I was reminded of the words of John 15.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit.
Judging by the amount that was trimmed away LOVE SPRINGS ETERNAL at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. There will be many fruits of love, justice, compassion, and healing to be harvested at our church because of the willingness of this community to embrace each other, and to reach out to one of its dearest members and hold her in prayer and in action as they tended to pruning that which no longer has life, to embrace the fullness of new life.
When I returned to the church at 5:15 pm it came as no shock to see that there was one person left in the garden…
You guessed it – Marion! Her smile, even through the tears, was tremendous. She was so very loved and honoured today. I am so humbled to be a Priest among many faithful priests of the faith at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. I would like to say thank you to all who came and assisted today. You were a diverse group of all ages and you made the church look great – more importantly – you reflected well the Light of the Gospel. A day like today is a sobering reminder of what a special church community St. Mark’s by-the-Lake is. You never cease to impress me with how well you can reflect the hope that comes with being a Kingdom people.
We Will dedicate the Ray Hinton Memorial Garden tomorrow morning after both the 8 am and 10:30 am liturgies. Please join us.
You can see more pictures of today’s activities by clicking here.
On Tuesday evening I got in a ball game at Comerica Park. It was a great night with three great guys. Thanks Mark and Dan and Rob for a good night – with special props to Mark for the wonderful seats. It was a wild evening.
So much happened — well everything happened but the Tigers winning. I will miss getting to the Tiger games. It is so much fun to be at Comerica with friends. Not to say I won’t make the trip down the 401 after July 1st to get in a game or two – especially if our Tigers make the playoffs. I enjoy the games and I enjoy meeting new people each time we go.
I was pleased to be seated next to a lovely young couple name Pheape and Anthony. (Note: this couple has allowed me to blog about meeting them). They are a delightful couple from West Bloomfield who are engaged to be wed on April 7 of next year. They seem excited to be getting married and told me all about the church where their wedding will be held. We really got to know them when shortly after we sat down a foul ball was headed our way. I have never had a foul ball come near me in over 13 years of attending Tiger games. Sadly, my first thought was, “How will I ever preach at St. Mark’s or St. Aidan’s if I have a concussion.” So I put my arms over my head and I ducked. Yikes…Anthony (sitting right next to me) caught the ball! The one time I have a chance at a foul ball and I was crouched over in the fetal position. Terrible!
I got to know this young couple a little over the next few innings and it turns out they knew, somehow or another, that they would be on the new Jumbo Tron in the sixth inning. “Would it be possible for you to take our photo when we are up there?” she asked. “No Problem!” But that was without thinking too much about it. You see it never occurred to me that I would be on that Jumbo Tron too as I was sitting next to them as they kissed for the kissing cam. So taking a look at the photo, I am the guy in the red jacket holding a iPhone and taking a photo while the lovely looking couple next to me smooched. I have never been on the Jumbo Tron before another big first. From what the boys say, I have never been so vivid either!
Anthony and Pheape are a good example of how you can have a lot more fun if you are willing to engage with those you encounter on a daily basis. Our conversation was interesting. They were quite surprised that I was a priest in the Anglican Church – I cannot imagine why? But then I flashed my St. Mark’s by-the-Lake jacket and they knew for sure that I was not foolin’. Each opportunity we have to bear witness and speak freely about the fact that we are people of faith is a gift and I was pleased to share that gift last evening. They had many questions about the Anglican Church and how it compared to Chaldean Catholicism. Chance encounters are also a good opportunity to bear witness to the fact that even clergy enjoy a good ballgame. Well ok — the ballgame was not great but it was a great time. Albert Schweitzer said, “We cannot possibly let ourselves get frozen into regarding everyone we do not know as an absolute stranger.” I could not agree more. Many of us, in urban settings especially, could spend many days among many people who are unknown to us become fixed into the idea that we are all strangers. But most are not absolute strangers. A Conversation with ‘the stranger’ often allows to us see very quickly that we have much more in common with strangers than we think. I try to live by notion that strangers are just friends that I have yet to meet. There are not many days that pass by that I do not meet someone for the first time and engage a conversation. You never know who you might meet when you reach beyond yourself welcome the stranger into conversation. Hebrews 13:1-2 says, “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
I am grateful for having had time with strangers to talk, to learn, to listen and to laugh. Who will I entertain tomorrow? Who will you entertain tomorrow?
Genocide is defined as “the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.” It is a term that has become synonymous with the Hitler’s Germany, and with Rwanda. Often forgotten is the first genocide of the 20th Century – The Armenian Genocide.
Just last week we marked Yom Hashoah which is the Remembrance of the Holocaust. I was honoured to take part in a wonderful prayer service at the Shaar last Thursday as we remembered the struggles and the pain for those who were victims of our world’s most recognized genocide. I really took the day to be an opportunity to remember all who have died at the hands of hatred and systemic annihilation. Although he was ruthless and wicked, Hitler was not the first to attempt to exterminate a whole group of people in the name of hatred of a people. The venomous hatred that Hitler displayed toward Jews had been seen before in leaders who also sought to advance their own cause by destroying the lives of others.
Today is Armenian Martyrs Day or Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day. On this day in 1915 The Ottoman Empire rounded up and imprisoned 250 Armenian intellectuals. This began a systemic effort the eventually lead to the death of over 1.5 million Armenian. They died due to starvation and exhaustion in Death Marches, poisoning, drowning, gassing, and mass burning. Talaat Pasha was the Interior Minister in the Ottoman Empire who was the architect of the Armenian Genocide.
On this day people in tens of thousands of Armenians will visit the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan. There they will remember the atrocities of the past. They will remember the suffering and pain of their people.
Sadly, President Obama, today failed to used the word genocide to describe the massacre of the 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire. It is a sad fact that Turkey still does not acknowledge the sins of the past. Turkey refuses to acknowledge the genocide and has been critical of any nation that dares to suggest that what Armenians suffered so long ago was genocide. In the interest of good relations, President Obama has taken a softer stand on this issue than Senator Obama did just a few years ago. Jake Tapper of ABC blogged today that Senator Obama was quite critical of previous Administrations on this issue. In 2006 Obama said, “I criticized the secretary of state [Condoleezza Rice] for the firing of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans, after he properly used the term ‘genocide’ to describe Turkey’s slaughter of thousands of Armenians starting in 1915. I shared with Secretary Rice my firmly held conviction that the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence.”
But we might lay aside what the world leaders are doing, or perhaps, ‘not doing’ and ask ourselves what we are doing. Today provides opportunity for us. Today, Yom Hashoah, and others days of Remembrance give us opportunity to seek to be people who speak up for peace, speak up for victims, and speak up for the truth. The denials of Turkey are in some strange way, another kind of violence against the people of Armenia and the descendents of the genocide. When we fail to acknowledge the sins of the past we are bound to repeat them in our future. When we deny the hurt of another, we deny any opportunity for healing and reconciliation. Let us not forget those who suffer unspeakable violence in the name of hatred of peoples. Let us find a voice to cry out for justice for those who are victims of such violence. And let us act in such a way that we might convict ourselves of any malice we have in our heart toward people who may be different from ourselves. Days like today, are a perfect opportunity to lament our human history of separation and violation and embrace a future hope of the embrace of peoples as God intended.
In Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Thomas Merton Writes:
In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation…I have the immense joy of being man, a member of the race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrow and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize that we are all one. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun….There are no strangers!… the gate of heaven is everywhere.
As Christians, we believe that God cared enough to become one with us. This incarnational truth means that we must find a way to respect the ‘other.’ Let us look back to that which was with a heart for seeing what we might be if we only have the courage to speak truth and live love.
Today is the Feast day of St. George the Martyr. A Big day for someone with the surname George! The day is made all the more special for me because I grew up in the church of St. George the Martyr in Whiteway Newfoundland. What a wonderful little church it twas! Well … is….It is still there and people still worship there weekly. This small church, whose patronal feast is today, would seat about 40-50 people. It has no running water or facilities. This meant that from time to time as a little boy you would find the side of the church that was ‘in the lun’ or out of the wind in order to ‘go pee.’ This gave new meaning to the term ‘sprinkling rite.” The lack of running water also means that if you are on altar guild you bring a jar of water when there is a baptism.
In the words of a good tv advert…. “but wait there’s more!” I also attended St. George’s High School. What is there not to love about the name George?
The Saint is often depicted slaying a dragon, saving a lady from certain peril. It is said that the lady is God’s truth and that the dragon is evil and wickedness.
This great saint is also the patron saint of England and his cross features prominently on the English flag as well as on the Union Jack. As much as the Irish venerate St. Patrick and Scots celebrate St. Andrew, the English strive to celebrate St. George. This is also a great day for Scouts everywhere as they celebrate their Patron – St. George!
On this feast day I ask myself about dragons that need slaying in my life. Can I call on blessed St. George to give me strength to face those things that are threatening my spiritual life? What are the issues in my day-to-day journey that should be slain so that the love and truth of the God who loved me into being might be set free to shine in my life? Can we all ask ourselves these difficult questions? It is difficult to acknowledge to others that we have dragons that need slaying. It feels better to have the world believe that we have it all together.
Today I pray for the courage to recognize the need to see myself in others. I pray for the courage to slay the dragon of pride that allows me to forget my interconnectedness to the world around me. We are all members of the one body. When we forget this it is easy for us to judge and condemn those who are different that we are. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov prayed; “Teach me to search for the fine qualities in others, to recognize their immeasurable worth. Teach me to cultivate a love for all Your children, for no one, no one is without redeeming value. Let the good in me connect with the good in others, until all the world is transformed through the compelling power of love.”
I think I would like to slay the dragon of negativity. The good Rebbe had it right. If we could but focus of the good in ourselves, in others and in this world, the compelling power of love could take root. It is difficult for that seed of love and hope to grow in soil that is often loaded with the toxins of hurt, judgement, shame or guilt. So may God grant me the strength to seek to lay aside judgement and embrace hope and love. God grant us all the courage to slay the dragons of hatred of others and pride in self that keep Peoples divided and enslaved in a state of darkness. In celebrating the feast day of St. George we pray for the ability to recognize dragons in our own lives that need to be put down.
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter
This weekend was incredibly hard for very obvious reasons but it was also very liberating. I had been carrying around a lot of worry for a few weeks and that is never easy. So standing before a congregation that I love so dearly and delivering the news that I would leave St. Mark’s in July was difficult, but it feels so much better to have ‘the news’ out there.
One of the reasons that it is so much better stems from the first part of Lao Tzu’s quote above. Being deeply loved by someone gives strength. I could not imagine being more loved and feeling stronger than I do at this time. Like most at St. Mark’s, I have no clear vision of what the future holds. I know a little about the Christian community that I will be joining. Presumably, they know a little about me. But collectively we really do not know a lot about each other. So I am preparing to set out on a journey with Jesus as my Compass and my Guide. But make no mistake; I cannot be certain about where that journey leads. Judging by what I have seen so far, I suspect it will lead us to wonderful places of discipleship with a community that shares a zeal for mission and an interest in the transformative power of living the Gospel. Setting out on a journey with limited knowledge of where it might go requires strength and I am drawing that strength from being loved by so many. The people of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake responded so well to the news of my departure. In fact, when I finished my announcement that I would be leaving, I got a standing ovation! What does that mean? – kidding! The love and appreciation mean so much. We have received countless messages via Twitter, Facebook, email, and this thing called a phone – so much so that it is overwhelming. Then there were the messages sent by homing pigeons – kidding again! We have also been so surprised at the messages from across Windsor Essex from outside the church community. Also touching was the messages from those people of St. Aidan who await our arrival. It means so very much to be so very loved. Catherinanne and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the care and love that you have all expressed. I also want to express my gratitude for the messages that I have received from clergy within the Deanery of Essex and to the Clergy in the Deanery of Medway who sent messages in anticipation of my arrival in July.
The second half of the above quote is also instructive to what I am currently feeling. Loving someone deeply gives you courage. While it may difficult for some people to understand, the decision to depart from St. Mark’s at this time is not simply about what is best for Kevin or for Kevin and Catherinanne. This move is also about what is best for St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. I love this church and the people in it very deeply. That love for you is what gave ne the courage needed to decide to answer the leading of the Spirit and be stirred from my complacency and to allow this church to be stirred from its complacency. There comes a time when a church needs its leader to have the courage to make change happen. If the church leader is sitting in the comfortable pew that decision becomes a very personal choice. Coming to the conclusion that the Spirit was leading me to acknowledge that new leadership will be necessary for St. Mark’s by-the-Lake was tough – it is hard on my ego to acknowledge that a group of people who I love so much need a change in leadership. But loving so deeply has afforded me enough courage to heed the leading of the Spirit.
The parish response to this challenge is wonderful. I never really doubted that it would be any different. Winston Churchill said that “the pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” St. Mark’s by-the-Lake has always been a church of optimists. Over the last 14 years I have marvelled at the ability of the people of God in this church to find opportunity in every challenge. the Parishioners of St. Mark’s have been through leadership changes that have been less than pretty. In each and every challenge this church has faced, the people have come together and found great opportunity. I see these the months ahead no differently. The strong and dedicated people of this church will come together to make the best of this opportunity that has been presented.
Now we forge ahead together toward July 1, 2012. We will have many worship opportunities together at St. Mark’s and I encourage you to come out so that we might enjoy each other in the sacredness of liturgy and in the joy of community fellowship. There will hopefully be an opportunity to formally say farewell in the weeks ahead. Please feel free to come and see me with any questions or concerns that you have. Feel free to stop by the office and reminisce about the last thirteen plus years. I would welcome hearing from you.
We have just celebrated our fourteenth Easter Sunday at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake as priest and parish, as co-leaders in ministry. Each celebration of the Resurrection here has been special for me and for Catherinanne. Liturgy, outreach, pastoral care, hospitality and your attention toward each other, are all lived well in this church. These gifts have served to remind me on a regular basis that the promise of resurrection and the promise of new life that we proclaim in this Easter Season, is not some far of dream. It is a reality that can be made new with change and with a church’s willingness to embrace change. New life and change is integral in a community of faith. That being said, we know that change is never easy. Significant change takes a lot of prayer, discernment and reflection.
Today I want to affirm the need for change and renewal at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake and the need for change and renewal in my ministry. To that end, after an extensive period of prayer and discernment, I am now announcing that have accepted a call to be rector of St. Aidan’s Church in London, effective July 2, 2012. My last Sunday at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake will be Canada Day, Sunday July 1. I realize that many of you will be shocked by this news and saddened to see us move. While I am excited for what the future holds for me, and for you as a parish, this was an incredibly difficult decision. My heart breaks for what Catherinanne and I are leaving behind. At various times over the past eight years of my incumbency here, I have said no to invitations to interview for other parishes. I said no to other opportunities because I felt that there was work that we could yet accomplish together. I felt that I still had some of me to give to you and that you still had some of you to give to God in response to my leadership. Upon reflection, I now know that I have given all that I can to you, and you deserve a priest who will be able to bring you a fresh, energized approach to ministry – and you must trust that you will find that priest.
I want you to know how very much I love you all. I am very comfortable here and I have grown to love being part of the wider Windsor-Essex Community. This is a tremendous community and has been home for us in every sense of the word. We are proud to be residents of Tecumseh and to have had these many years in Windsor-Essex. Unfortunately, discipleship is not about being comfortable and the time has come for you and for me to be stirred from a collective complacency.
Nearly fourteen years ago I came here as a young priest who had a little more hair but had very little experience in ordained ministry – I had only one year in fact. At that time, St. Mark’s was hurting. Having had a poor experience of ministry in my first year, I was hurting too. I remember being very worried that you needed something so much more than I could give and that I would let you down. It never occurred to me how much I needed you. You have been fertile soil; in which has grown a community of faith. Catherinanne and I have been humbled to be a part of your great ministry. And I have been privileged to work as priest in a garden of faith and hope that you have cultivated. You have grown a church in a time when churches are simply not growing. I realize that leadership is an important part of that growth and I am proud of the leadership I have offered here for over 13 years. But I did not lead alone. I was fortunate to work alongside such strong lay leadership and to be the beneficiary of strong mission minded parishioners.
Please know that there is more growth ahead for St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. I pray that when the pain of this news subsides, you will realize that this affords you a great opportunity to step forward on the next steps of your growth. This parish now needs a new leader, with new ideas, and a new vision for the next steps on that journey. A new rector will help you move your ministry to the next level and embrace the new challenges that you face. While I would love to believe that I can do anything, I know that I have my limitations and I am praying that God will raise up the right leader for your bright future. I am proud to say that the next priest in this church will inherit strong lay leaders, a first class facility, and a parish strategically situated to meet the challenges of being church in this new millennium. He or she will be the envy of many priests who would covet the storehouse of gifts and talents that reside at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake.
Allow me to address some of the speculation that I have heard of late:
Over a year ago Catherinanne was hired as Director of Campus Ministry at Brescia University at UWO in London. At that time she also assumed the role of Chaplain to HMCS Prevost in London and Central Regional Chaplain for the Royal Canadian Navy Reserves. Many began to speculate that I would leave. A year ago I was appointed a Canon of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul. Many of you speculated that I would leave. In March I finished my doctor of ministry program. Again there was speculation that I would leave. For many these dots will no doubt all add up to this announcement – the truth is that these are simply unconnected events in life that have been instructive to my faith journey. This move is not because of Catherinanne. I am glad that we will be under one roof soon, as we have not relished being apart. I am not moving because I am a Canon or because my schooling is complete. I am moving because I am a priest of the Church and I am being called to be present now to another corner of God’s Church. I have come to this decision now because it is time for you to have new leadership and it is time for me to accept a new challenge. It is time for us to practice what we preach about resurrection and new life and about change. It is time for us to be renewed.
Catherinanne and I cannot thank you enough for all that you have done for us in these past fourteen years. You have been family to us. We have watched your children grow, we have said goodbye to many friends and saints of the church, we have celebrated many weddings and we have baptized many babies. You were so wonderfully attentive and pastoral to us when we suffered great loss in our families and for that I will never be able to say thank you enough. Together, we have journeyed through pain and sorrow – through joy and jubilation. We have survived two building campaigns together. We have built a house where “Love can Dwell.” I will be leaving this parish in July, but I will not be leaving you. I bring so much of you with me as I continue on my journey. I hope that you will bring some of me with you on your journey.
Today we heard that the disciples were locked into the room for fear in the wake of losing their leader. Thomas was not. His uncertainty was lived out openly as he forged ahead seeking Jesus. I realize that this news leaves many of you feeling uncertain in these moments. Let’s not be locked up in fear. We can strive ahead, even with feelings of uncertainty. As surely as Jesus penetrated the fear of the disciples and the uncertainly of Thomas, he will also penetrate your fear and uncertainty and be present to this community.
Catherinanne and I wish you every blessing as you begin a new phase on your journey.
I close with these words of HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW:
Turn, turn, my wheel! All things must change
To something new, to something strange;
Nothing that is can pause or stay;
The moon will wax, the moon will wane,
The mist and cloud will turn to rain,
The rain to mist and cloud again,
To-morrow be to-day.
We love you all – it has been a great ride ….God Bless you all!
Paraskevidekatriaphobia is the word of the day. Great Scrabble word. The word means “fear of Friday the thirteenth.”
There is a lot of discussion just about everywhere today of today being unlucky. For those who are superstitious this is a horrendous day to do just about anything. But you ask, is there anything behind this at all? UrbanLegands.com cites a 1993 English Study as saying that “Friday 13th is unlucky for some. The risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52%. Staying at home is recommended.” The study published in the British Medical Journal, studied the number of vehicles on the same highway on Friday April 6th and Friday April 13th and the number of motor vehicle accidents resulting in hospitalization on those two days. Paraskevidekatriaphobics will not be surprised to hear that while there were fewer cars on that same highway on Friday the thirteenth, there was a higher rate of accident and hospitalization. And here I have been suggesting that this stuff was just silly — a real ‘honest to God’ scientific study seems to refute my ‘this is just silly’ response to Friday the thirteenth! But wait a minute….what if you are Italian and driving on that highway? In Italy, thirteen is a lucky number and folklore around Friday 13 is not nearly as prevalent. So the moral of the story is…. if you are going to drive on the highway today, do not drive in England…. take a nice drive in Italy instead.
Here is some more interesting lore about 13 from UrbanLegends.com
Legend has it: If 13 people sit down to dinner together, one will die within the year. The Turks so disliked the number 13 that it was practically expunged from their vocabulary (Brewer, 1894). Many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue. Many buildings don’t have a 13th floor. If you have 13 letters in your name, you will have the devil’s luck (Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Albert De Salvo all have 13 letters in their names). There are 13 witches in a coven.
I sort am freaked out now — but glad to report that my name has only 11 letters. In the meantime, I had a rough start to today. The family of Greg Lambden (read my last post)called me at 10:30 am to let me know that they were at the cemetery waiting for me to do an internment. I was so upset. Somehow through a communication error I had the date for this all wrong. Thankfully the Lambdens were patient and understanding and we had a beautiful last farewell to Gregory. That being said, as I was rushing to the cemetery, I was thinking maybe there is something to this Friday the 13th business. I mean I am driving to excessive speeds and got trapped behind no less than three, ‘let’s go for a drive in the county’ drivers, a cement truck, and a road paint crew that had closed a road. Maybe this day is in some way jinxed….then I remembered that I am religious, not superstitious and decided checking scripture might be helpful. The Lectionary is a tool used to set different scripture to be read for each day as a part of praying the office. Here is the Epistle reading for today:
Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
‘Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.
What is most interesting and chilling for me about this reading is the fact that Sandie and Danny chose this as one of the readings for Greg’s Memorial this past Wednesday. WOW! I read this and thought, ‘this is unbelievable.’ Perhaps this day is just meant to come together as it has. What are the odds that the reading that the family choose for Greg was appointed in a daily Lectionary the day of his committal two days later?
So on the Friday the 13th, I am pleased to have had opportunity, late as I was, to be reminded of what each and every day (Friday 13th included) promises us. While some worry today about bad luck or what they should and should not do, we a s a people declare that death, darkness, superstition and even bad luck have no dominion over us. No matter the challenges of each day we leap forward confident in the God who tells us to be immoveable in excelling in doing God’s work and being a people who bring joy, light, hope, healing and forgiveness. Everything on this earth is perishable — even our superstitions. But the unwavering Love of God is eternal and will sustain us in all things.
Thank you Danielle, Sandie and Danny for being so understanding on this Friday the 13th. Greg was obviously loved very much and cared for so very well by a family that fully understood that there is victory in living and victory in life that death will never be able to destroy.
Today I officiated at the funeral of Greg Lambden. While I did not know Greg, I know his family and I know how very important he was to his family. Greg was only 35 when he died. His life was way too short. Greg had Spinal Bifida. One doctor gave him no chance at life when he was born. Thirty-five years later, we were celebrating a life of a man who made a big difference in this world. Greg had to overcome much more than most of us can imagine. From all accounts, Greg did not just overcome and survive — he thrived and he loved life. He loved his family and he loved his friends.
I was witness to something remarkable today. Nearly 200 people filled a room and brought their love together to blanket Dan and Sandie, and Danielle a warm support to help them face this incredible loss. I was also so very privileged to hear a couple fo wonderful eulogies to this great young man. Steve Kerr spoke so well and reminded us all that Greg is so very free from any weighty concern, worry or pain and is soaring freely. Greg’s good friend (his brother really) Nav gave an incredible tribute to his friend. He sang, he told stories, he wept, he laughed, he consoled, he encouraged, he reminisced and he gave us a snapshot of a live which was lived with and incredible will and an indomitable spirit. I was so moved by Nav’s testimony of how important Greg was in his life.
As I listened to Sandie and Dan tell me about Greg and as I heard these powerful tributes to Greg, I was reminded of the words of the great American priest Phillips Brooks – “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger [people]! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for power equal to your tasks.”
I often buckle under challenges that pale in comparison to what Greg had to face every day. It becomes easy for me to look at whatever today’s aggravation might be and pray that things would just be easier for me. Then I meet people like Greg who somehow always found the power to equal the many tasks that he had. I get frozen by fear at times, particularly when facing the unknown. Greg set out to conquer with grace so many unknowns. I am grateful to have been a part of this powerful celebration of life today. Thankful because Greg taught me something – even in death. You see the wonder of it all is that in telling Greg’s story – we allow the life that he had not just to be honoured, but to continue to have an impact. Greg’s impact on the world lives on in the lives of the people that he loved and shaped.
The day is coming to a close for me. As I reflect on the events of today, I find myself praying for courage like Greg’s and the for the strength like his — that I may find strength equal to my tasks. Thank you Greg Lamden and thank you to your family and friends for inspiring so many today by sharing his story.
To read Greg Lambden’s Obituary click here
The cross is the main symbol of our faith, and it invites us to find hope where we see pain and to reaffirm the resurrection where we see death. The call to be grateful is a call to trust that every moment of our life can be claimed as the way of the cross that leads to new life. Can we be grateful for everything that has happened in our life – not just the good things but for all that has brought us to today? In the world’s eyes, there is an enormous distinction between good times and bad, between sorrow and joy. But in the eyes of God, they are never separated. Our ministry is to help people gradually let go of their resentment and discover that right in the middle of suffering there is blessing. Where there is pain, there is healing. Where there is mourning, there is dancing. Where there is poverty, there is the Kingdom of God.
What a wonderfully full Holy Week and Easter we have just celebrated at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. How incredibly inspiring it was to, day by day, follow Jesus from the glory of the palms, to the pain of the cross, to the glory of the resurrection. Each liturgy of the church is so rich. We had the fulsome experience of following our Loving Lord with an intentionality that allowed us to experience joy, excitement, service, betrayal, agony, denial, anticipation, and jubilation. We were able to gaze directly into the empty tomb and see for ourselves that “The Lord has risen indeed – Alleluia!”
What is so enriching for me this time of year is the reminder that the via dolorosa is a constant pathway to new life for us. Too often we reduce our life to a laundry list of the ‘good times’ and the ‘bad times.’ It becomes too easy for us, as Nouwen points out, to show gratitude only for that which falls under the list of ‘good times.’ Nouwen is right – with God there is no separation between good times and bad times. God is fully present in the sunshine and in the rain. Part of what makes Holy week and Easter celebrations so powerful for me is the expression of different mood and tonality, all of which proclaims that God is near. The power of the great singing of Alleluias on Easter Sunday is amplified by very visceral memory of the chanting of ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,’ on Good Friday.
Let us give thanks to God for the glory of the empty tomb, the power of the resurrection. Let us give thanks to God for breaking the bonds of death and darkness that we might come to know when we walk through those valleys of deep shadows, that God has already trod the via dolorosa and we never walk alone and we are never far away from the resurrected Christ