(Editor’s Note: This poignant message was written shortly before Father Rob’s death. We thought it was a fitting final message to the parish.)
November has many significant events on the official church calendar. We start with All Saints' Day, then conduct our Annual Stewardship Campaign, observe Thanksgiving at our Annual Parish Thanksgiving Feast, and close out the season of Pentecost with Christ the King Sunday on November 26th. (We also have another treat I shall mention at the close of this article, so keep reading!
What do all of these events have in common? Gratitude and celebration. God continually does great things for us, his children. Every Sunday is a wonderful participation in that truth.
All Saints' Day reminds us of our sainthood. We tend to be hesitant to accept our saintly status, but it's time to accept the truth. You are a saint! We also remember the saints who have gone before us. These may be folks who helped raise us in the faith or the "official" saints who have days named in their honor. Regardless, sainthood is a gift from God, and we give thanks for it and celebrate it!
Our Annual Stewardship Campaign and our observance of Thanksgiving are also times of celebration and gratitude. We contemplate the many spiritual, financial, and material gifts that have been so kindly and wonderfully given to us by God. We are not worthy of such benevolence, and we certainly have not earned it. God is good, and we respond by being faithful, thankful stewards of the bounty.
Another wonderful aspect of our identity is that we are inheritors of the Kingdom of God. Again, this is a gift. It came at great cost as Christ sacrificed himself for our place in that kingdom. One day we will be joined with our king in paradise forever! We contemplate such with humble thanks and joy!
Now comes the extra treat: Another opportunity of celebration and gratitude in November is the baptism of Clara McFarland on November 12th. She is the granddaughter of Tony and Mary Jane McFarland and the daughter of Matthew and Sarah McFarland. She is another gift from God in so many ways!
The days may be shorter, and the season may seem somber with the leaves falling in November. In the church........and at St. James'.........it is a different world. It is time for gratitude and celebration! RSC+
Forward Movement, a ministry of the Episcopal Church, grew out of the determination of the General Convention in 1934 to counter a period of anxiety, distrust, and decline in the Episcopal Church with a "forward movement" charged to "reinvigorate the life of the church and to rehabilitate its general, diocesan, and parochial work." Daily meditation is available online by clicking HERE.
Last week I hit the wall. I first learned about hitting the wall back in my jogging days. You “hit the wall” when you are in an endurance sport, and you experience a sudden loss of energy, and you are not sure you can do what needs to be done. I never ran far enough to worry about hitting the wall as a runner, but I certainly have hit the wall in my spiritual endurance race.
Here is how I know I am spiritually hitting the wall. I begin to feel a vague sense of depression. I’m not really interested in doing things that I usually enjoy. I begin to want to avoid people. For example, I don’t look forward to going to church on Sunday as I usually do. Rather than thinking “Oh my God, I get to preach!” I’m thinking “Oh my God, I’ve got to preach.”
So, I hit the wall. Then I got sick. I’m not sure the two things were related, but they might have been.
Make no mistake. The spiritual life is an endurance sport. There are times when it is a continuing joy. Yet, we are in it for the long run and we will be tested—again and again. Looking back on it, I’m not surprised that I hit the wall. Both personally and as a community we have gone through some serious trauma over the past weeks. Father Rob’s death was a blow. Losing Mary Elizabeth, who many of you have known all of your lives, was hard. On top of that were the difficulties inherent in change. Oh, don’t forget that it was the holy days of Christmas, which we all enjoy but which also can be times of sorrow and loss. With all that, it’s no wonder that we might hit the wall and want to retreat into our shells.
I did what I usually do when I hit the wall. I tried not to be too hard on myself. I resisted the urge to hate myself for being human. I prayed. Although this felt like a waste of time, I have learned that weak prayers are often the most effective prayers. I slowed down in order to give myself some time to heal. And, perhaps most importantly, I showed up. By that I mean I continued to put one foot in front of the other and follow the spiritual principles and practice that have brought me this far. Who was it that said, “Ninety percent of the battle is just showing up.”
I did have to cancel our small Saturday 5 PM service due to sickness. However, I really enjoyed the Sunday Advent 4 services and, especially, our Christmas night Lessons and Hymns and Holy Eucharists. I am thankful for the peace of God and for the presence of my church family. I am looking forward with expectation to Sunday.