Monday Matters (July 3, 2023)


The Collect read in church on July 2

 Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

These days, Monday Matters offers reflections on the prayers we say in church on Sunday, the collect of the day. We do this based on the conviction that praying shapes our believing, that what we pray forms us. We do this hoping that the prayers we say on Sunday will carry us through the week.

Standing on shoulders

Over the years, as I served as parish priest, I would chaperone lock-ins, events by which any number of rambunctious young people spend the night in the church. These events were wildly popular. Emphasis on wild. Sleep was apparently not on the agenda. I recall that each time I led one of these things, about 3am in the morning, I thought about alternative careers. Starbucks barista looked pretty good in those early morning hours. My role in this event was to make sure that everyone was safe, that no laws were broken, that the church was still standing in the morning.

In the course of these events, I made efforts to bring some spiritual component to the gathering, which sometimes was met with eye rolls from the teenagers, along with other forms of resistance. These efforts were not always successful.

One particular lock-in was held on the weekend closest to All Saints Day. I gathered the young people for a midnight eucharist. Because that was way past my bed-time, I invited the young people to offer the homily, answering this question: Who has been a saint in your life?

As we went around the circle, young people again and again cited a grandparent as a saint, a role model. The stories were sweet and powerful. I was impressed that I didn’t hear names you might expect: Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi. I mostly heard about saints who never gained fame. But they had shaped these young peoples’ lives. They had provided a foundation for these young people to grow spiritually. It made the lock-in effort totally worth it.

Spiritually speaking, we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, who have modeled for us what it means to put faith to work in the world. That goes all the way back to the characters in the Hebrew Scriptures. (For instance, Abraham has always been a teacher and guide for me.) And throughout the centuries, saints have shown us what courage looks like in the face of great opposition, resistance and persecution. Some were world famous. Others, not so much. I wonder which biblical characters, which saints throughout church history, have been that kind of guide for you.

The collect heard in church yesterday speaks of the foundation of apostles and prophets, folks who have paved the way, shown the way, lived the way of love. The collect continues to use the metaphor we noted last week, making reference to a foundation, a holy construction project. We find ourselves living our life of faith in a great communion of time, a great global communion. Yesterday’s collect asks that we’ll do so in a spirit of unity (even if it’s not a spirit of agreement or uniformity or unanimity). We’re asked to recognize how others have helped us grow in faith, how others have helped us build our faith.

Take time today to think about who those people have been in your life. On whose shoulders do you stand? Offer thanks for them. If they are still around, you might want to send a note of thanks for their help along the way. I’m certain that would be well-received. It might be a source of great encouragement.

Then think and pray about how you might be part of this building process, how you can help someone else. Who might that be in your life this week?

As I write, I’m waiting to hear about the arrival of my third grandchild. I hope and pray that I can help that person build a life of faith. I hope and pray they will have people in their life who will do that. And I hope and pray they survive any future lock-in, and that they will show mercy to their chaperones.

-Jay Sidebotham

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