Lurching from one crisis to another emergency to another hospital visit is no way to enjoy a life journey with Jesus! Since my return in mid-July from a wonderful, life-changing sabbatical program we have conducted 10 memorial services, more than any other time in my ordained ministry. We enjoyed weddings every weekend from mid-July into early October except one. We’ve fit a few baptisms in there also, traveled to Washington, D.C. once and Austin, Texas twice, fed thousands of Front Range flood victims through the Salvation Army canteen, and taken our local youth to various retreats outside the valley.
One recent Sunday we celebrated Ann Repetti, a Vail matriarch who relocated to Houston for health reasons. In Edwards that same Sunday 16 children received their First Communion following superb teaching about the Eucharist. They flanked the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer, wine sloshing in chalices as they literally crowded around the altar to watch the bread and wine mystically transform into the Body and Blood of our Lord. I have rarely felt more privileged to be a priest than that moment! After both services Pastor Mark pulled my aside, his eyes tearing up, to say “this is parish!!”
Mark has such a wise way to teach Gospel truth! Not “a parish,” like my customary usage. In his wisdom Mark highlighted our profound Sunday experience of witnessing God’s amazing grace unite and energize a congregation, transforming us into the Body of Christ. Our church at that moment, and in a thousand moments this summer and fall, became “parish“….a true community of believers tethered to Jesus in unbreakable bonds of warmth, respect and love.
Mark stopped me in my tracks with his statement. I might have missed it without his gentle, wise and energetic reflection. In this iWorld of iPhones, iPads, iPods, iTouch and iClouds we are so tempted to live iLives, tossed about from one demand to the next with no ability to see God’s grace transforming my iLife into a beautiful weLife! Parish is nothing about myself alone, but about us together. And us together is always beautiful and life-giving.
As we rocket into the holiday season with fervor pitch, God invites us to stop. Savor. Appreciate. Reflect. Slow down. Turn aside. Watch. Listen. Breathe. Breathe again! Pray. Receive. Quiet down. Lurching from one crisis to the next is no way to enjoy a life journey with Jesus. Enjoying true parish as we celebrate the mysteries of the birth of Jesus is much, much better!! A blessed Advent and Christmastide to you from all of us at Transfiguration!!
Your brother in Christ,