Reflections to start the week
Monday, April 20, 2015
The rector was out of town. I was in charge of the parish on that hot August day in Manhattan. Walking across the parish hall, the lights went out. I blamed a faulty electrical system in an aging building. I stepped onto the busy city street and noticed people pouring out of office buildings. Must be our block. Then we began to get phone calls from other parts of the city and suburbs telling us that the blackout was a bit bigger than we thought. Lots of folks would not be using the subways or trains, so on this hot August day, we would make the church available to any one who needed a place to stay. “Let me run upstairs and print out signs (in preferred typeface) to welcome folks into the formerly air-conditioned but still cool space. Oh, right. No computer. No printer. No copier.” I found big pieces of newsprint, grabbed a marker and, as if publicizing a high school dance, made simple signs to post all over the place. They message was succinct: The church is open. Many Manhattanites were surprised by that. For whatever reason, they didn’t expect the church to be open. Some confessed that they had always wondered whether they were allowed to go in (which broke my heart). I saved one of the signs as sacramental, outward, visible evidence pointing to inner aspiration for the church: Openness. What does it mean for the church to be open? More precisely, what does it mean for the church to be opened? How does that happen? Zoom in: What does it mean for me to be open? How have I been opened? How does that happen?
This Monday finds us several weeks into the Easter season, a period of 50 days offering ample opportunity to share accounts of the resurrection. With four gospels each proclaiming that death could not keep Jesus down, there are many ways the story is told, many ways that folks realize Jesus is alive. Again and again, gospels speak of how the disciples had hearts and minds opened to understand the news that Jesus is alive. Mary comes to the tomb, her heart and mind closed to any future until Jesus speaks her name and she is opened to a new possibility. Disciples are closed behind barred doors when Jesus appears. As they recognize the resurrection happened, their lives are changed. Their eyes were opened. Discouraged disciples on the way to Emmaus have eyes opened when the risen Jesus joins them for dinner and breaks bread. Their discouragement, their sense of defeat had closed them to Jesus’ lively presence until he opens their eyes.
The prayer offered in church yesterday asked that our eyes would be opened to see Jesus’ grace at work in our lives. It makes me inquire, O Monday morning reader: How in your own journey of faith have you been opened to faith, perhaps more specifically, to the news of Jesus’ relevance and liveliness? How did that happen? Asked another way, how have you come to see that Jesus is alive in your life, that God has a future for you, that grace happens?
It can often come through other people. On a personal note, today is my 30th wedding anniversary. I’m made mindful of how my forbearing and graceful spouse has opened her heart and mind to me and in so doing has opened me to God’s gracious activity. With deep and abiding love, she has been companion, role model, teacher, coach, counselor, friend and advocate, not to mention yoga teacher. I am blessed.
Allow me a few more questions: Where do you see a greater need for openness in your life? How are you closed off from God’s work ? Pray today to be opened.
And if you can bear one more question: How might you grow in your openness to the activity of the risen Christ in your life? How might you be open to showing and sharing grace to those who need it, offering forgiveness, learning from others who might know something you don’t?
On a good day, the church is open. When that happens, it is God at work. We as individuals are called to be open to the creative and graceful activity of God in our own lives. If we don’t feel it, we’re called to ask for it. With that openness, we’re then called to let an open spirit be an outward and visible sign of grace, in a world that is way too often closed to that possibility.
- Jay Sidebotham
The Collect for the Third Sunday in Easter:
O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.