A couple of weeks ago, after a fabulous birthday party, I was on vacation at my home in the mountains of North Carolina. I spent the week and a half on the side of a mountain in a house that has been in my family since my great-grandfather. The property is surrounded by National Forest on three sides, and an Episcopal retreat center on the fourth side, which leaves a view of God’s undisturbed and magnificent creation.
True belonging that lies not in the same paths we trek back and forth each year, nor in assuming that the generations after us are following close behind. Our salvation depends not on looking backward but on reaching forward, moving ourselves and our world closer to that dream in which no one is left behind. For none of us can fully belong until all of us belong.
Architects, artists, and builders have given reminders all around us to bring us back to the real reasons we are here. When Jesus and God are the purpose and cornerstone for any space, no matter where it is, no matter what it’s made of, no matter if there are elaborate tile patterns on the floor or ceiling, the spirit of the space will never be destroyed. When our foundation is rooted, nothing can separate us from the eternal love that is given from God.
In the Jewish and Christian traditions, the story of Jonah is a popular one. It is often told to us as children because it’s so charming and relatable– there’s action in the storm, humor in Jonah’s preposterous predicament of being swallowed by a giant sea creature, and ultimately forgiveness and redemption for all involved, including the Ninevites who hear God’s words through Jonah and turn away from their wickedness.
This past weekend, I was blessed with the opportunity to be sent on a contemplative prayer retreat in New Hampshire. On Friday afternoon when I was packing my bag to go, I wasn’t feeling too blessed about it though. I was feeling slightly resentful about the fact that I was being highly encouraged to go on a retreat when I had spent the majority of the three weeks before retreating in my bed and getting over mono. I felt that the time would be much better spent working my way through my long to-do list of items that I needed to catch up on in order to relieve some of the anxiety of feeling behind.
A couple of months ago I attended a training in Roxbury and in the first small group session, we were invited to identify a situation in the world breaks our hearts. People mentioned racism, education inequality, loneliness. We were then prompted recall the name of someone we knew who was deeply affected by this issue and to write it on a small candle before us. As we shared our stories around the circle and lit the candles one by one, I found my grief sharpen and refocus. My sorrow was no longer about giant, fearsome, anonymous problems to be analyzed and solved, but people’s very real lives. In that moment, surrounded by flickering candles and unspoken prayers, my overwhelming despair crystallized into a new sense of urgency, an urgency of determined hope.
Will Harron serves as an Emmaus Fellow at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Dorchester. On September 6, clergy and parishioners in many different denominations all across the US preached and prayed about racial reconciliation in solidarity with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Below is a excerpt from his sermon, the full version is available in audio here.
Zach is a Micah Fellow serving at the Harvard Episcopal Chaplaincy.
"God uses this ongoing conversion process to make us who we were created to be, one conversion at a time On an individual level, this can mean many different things – switching from resentment from forgiveness, switching from viewing rivals as competition to companions, owning up to implicit racism and sexism that very few of us avoid internalizing to some degree – and maybe even coming to new understandings of God... "
Mia is a Micah Fellow serving at Grace Church Medford.
"Yes, Jesus comes back. But not permanently, not to fulfill whatever revolutionary dreams the disciples had for him, and not even to erase his death. He comes with a dual purpose. He comes and binds himself to this broken world and its people yet again. He comes and shows us not a way out of grief and disappointment, but a way through..."
Will is a Micah Fellow serving at St. Mary's Dorchester. The following is from a sermon he preached on March 22, 2015.
"Whenever we stand before God and confess our sins - the things that keep us from God's will of Love - whenever we admit our faults of thought, word, and deed, whether out loud, in writing, in the quietness of our heart in prayer - whenever we admit these things, and ask for pardon and the strength to do better, we receive that love. We receive freely and we ought to receive joyfully. Whenever we pray the Our Father, asking to have our trespasses forgiven, we are given the daily bread of forgiveness, that nourishes us to forgive our trespassers, to love them, and to build the Body of Christ with them..."
...On an overnight retreat last summer, I asked a homesick fifth grader, Tania, what her mother does to help her fall asleep at bedtime. From my perspective, it was the most obvious question to ask as I sat there trying to calm her down. She replied simply with, “I don’t know what you mean. My mom is never home when I go to bed. She works two jobs, one that’s an overnight shift.” It was in that moment that I realized my job wasn’t just about teaching Tania how to add and subtract fractions...
Mia is a Micah Fellow serving at Grace Church Medford.
There is a step between saying, “I am a Christian,” and doing the real work of acting like a Christian. There is a step between saying, “I will go,” and working hard in your father’s vineyard. I don’t think we should ignore how important and difficult that step can be, and I don’t think that Jesus does either. It takes courage to get yourself to the vineyard. It takes courage to accept the fact that you might mess up once you are there, that you may not reach the standard you set for yourself, that you will be criticized no matter what you do.