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Reign of Christ

Dreaming Big on Reign of Christ Sunday

“Before I was ordained, I just thought every day was Reign of Christ Day,” the rector quipped. Comfortable laughter wafted through the sanctuary.

I was attending the early service at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown with my husband and our daughter who was a senior at Georgetown University. She worshipped regularly with this congregation, so it was a delight to join her there in her chosen sacred space. The Sunday we were there was the last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Sunday before the beginning of Advent: Reign of Christ Sunday.

Referencing Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann in her sermon, the rector discussed one difference between good and evil. “Good doesn’t like big imagination because it requires us to be too vulnerable, to work too hard. Evil, on the other hand, loves big imagination.”

I wasn’t sure I understood; she continued.  “A wistful mention of the end to local homelessness tends to be met not by enthusiastic support, but by scoffing judgment and wringing of hands. But let Evil mention a big idea. ‘Let’s kill an entire race of people! Let’s fly planes into buildings! Let’s open fire inside an elementary school.’” She listed these real-life tragedies with machine-gun fire rapidity.  “Evil has a preposterously huge idea and gets busy, plotting and planning, seemingly unconcerned with any possibility of failure. Good holds back. Good lists all the reasons this dream is improbable and unrealistic, then Good shrugs its shoulders and walks away.”

It was a valid point and frankly, hit me right in my self-righteous intentions.

“On this reign of Christ Sunday,” she challenged us, “the Body of Christ needs to remember where our center of government is. It’s not in Washington, but in the tender hands of merciful Jesus. Those hands can handle any dreams we can conceive, regardless of magnitude.”

Prayers followed the sermon and then it was time for Holy Eucharist. (What we Baptists call the Lord’s Supper and have monthly or quarterly, the Episcopalians have weekly and then some. If it were a competition, I’d say they are beating us on this count.)

We all filed to the front of the church and circled around the table—there were about 30 of us, maybe 40. The officiants blessed the bread and the cup, then handed one plate of bread to the left, one to the right. The organist began playing a familiar hymn as the elements of communion passed from person to person around the circle.

Let us break bread together on our knees.
Let us break bread together on our knees.

“The body of Christ, broken for you,” said a silver haired man as he leaned over to the caramel colored girl next to him.

“Thanks be to God,” a bespectacled brown man said as he received the bread from a young white man sporting a fresh military haircut.

When I fall down on my knees, with my face to the rising sun.
O Lord, have mercy on me.

The cup made its way around, passing from a teenage acolyte to a tall Asian woman with two children of disparate ethnicities.

“The blood of Christ, shed for you,” a college student said to a young dad who held his infant son, swaddled but squirmy.

A little girl—three years old or maybe four--rocked back and forth, toe to heel, in her shiny Mary Janes; a twenty-something year old woman, her raven black hair plaited in the back, smiled at the fidgety girl. A baby cried. A grown man, eyes glistening, shed a tear or two himself.

Let us praise God together on our knees.
Let us praise God together on our knees.
When I fall down on my knees, with my face to the rising sun,
O Lord have mercy on me!

What a holy and blessed time of worship. A challenging proclamation by a gifted and engaging pastor, sacred communion celebrated at the foot of the cross, and a rich foretaste of God’s kingdom: an eclectic, multi-generational, international collection of believers who came together for this one moment of connection. For me, it was like a glimpse of a dream come true.

Oh Lord, let me dream big and act with bold conviction that it is You who reign in my life.

What about you? What’s YOUR dream?

Published originally November 2015

Easiest Button

The Easiest Button

momandgirls

Saturday, my daughters, mother (aka Gangi), and I took a little downtown shopping trip in Asheville, NC. We planned to visit several shops but wound up spending all of our time at Virtue, the (and this is not an opinion, but a fact) absolute hands-down best dress shop in Asheville. The girls found great deals on adorable dresses (deals made even better by the presence of Gangi’s credit card) and we left with smiles on our faces, clutching our adorable daisy-print Virtue bags.

This is always great fun for my mother because she and Daddy had such a limited budget when I was little that Mother made all of our clothes. Easter dresses, cowboy suits, neckties, bathing suits, all of it. She’s still the one the grandkids go to for needed mending and alterations. Anyway, now Mother truly enjoys shopping with us and treating us to the little extras she couldn’t afford years ago.

As soon as we got home, we began sorting through our goodies. Among other things, Gangi had gotten Trellace a lovely goldenrod cable knit sweater, embellished with buttons larger than 50-cent pieces. She removed the tags and modeled it for Gangi who oohed and ahhhed.

“Oh I love it Trellace! It looks just great on you,” she said, her glasses perched on her nose as she examined it with her seamstress eyes, looking for stray threads and fabric flaws. “Here’s an extra button,” she said, clipping the little zip-lock baggy off the sweater’s tag. “Don’t lose that!”

Trellace looked over her shoulder at her grandmother and then down at the proffered notion, tentatively accepting it. As she looked at it, clearly uncertain of what to do with such a thing, she handed it back to Mother saying, “Umm, can’t you just keep it Gangi?”

 

Episcobaptist or Baptipiscopal?

“First Baptist of Weaverville,” I said, answering the wife’s question.

We’d just been at the same meeting when we saw each other at the bank. I’ve always had a soft spot for octogenarians; so naturally, I stopped for a quick chat with them.

“St. John’s Episcopal,” the woman responded, gesturing to herself and her husband.

“Episcopal? My daughter attends an Episcopal church,” I told them. I explained that she’s in college in D.C. and, not finding a good fit among the churches of Baptist heritage, she chose a small Episcopal congregation within walking distance of her school.

The couple shared briefly about their life in ministry, alluding to the joys and frustrations common to all denominations. We exchanged other niceties and said our goodbyes.

“Oh one more thing,” she said, calling me back. “Tell your daughter, that we have found that Baptists make the very best Episcopalians!” She pointed out that in general, Baptists have a great grasp of scripture; once they learn the liturgical traditions of the Episcopalians they have it all. “Really,” she repeated, “They have it all!”

I chuckled as they walked away. And that, I thought, is why we think Episcopalians make such great Baptists!

"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism . . . "     Ephesians 4:4-5 (NRSV)