Ihloff 05-21-2017 Confirmation
Sabbath is that uncluttered time and space in which we can distance ourselves from our own activities enough to see what God is doing.
As the dawn of my sabbatical is on the horizon starting Monday, I find myself beginning to reflect about the upcoming reality. This will be a new experience. I have not taken a sabbatical before….ever. I am reminded of one of my favorite prayers in our Book of Common Prayer: This is another day O Lord. I do not know what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words and give me the spirit of Jesus. Amen
While I do not know exactly what this time “will bring forth”, what I do know is how grateful I am to David and the Vestry for this gift of time. I feel fortunate to be entering this period that all is well with my mind, body and spirit. That sense of well-being will be a affirmative foundation on which to navigate how I spend my days, focused on being vulnerable to and curious about deepening my relationship with God. Leading up to my unexpected call to ministry 17 years ago, I had chapters of passion that included gardening, photography, painting and building stone walls. (Yes, you read that right!) During those periods I became aware that they were not just ‘pastimes’ but rather experiences of the spiritual. Claiming them as “holy” and not “hobbies” at the time was a huge insight for my personal faith journey. Therefore, I want to return to those areas (well maybe not the stone walls!) in order to reengage with that which gave roots to my pilgrimage. In addition I plan to spend extended quiet time at our cottage in Tidewater Virginia. The view of the Chesapeake Bay is my sanctuary which provides a tranquil sense of being.
I want to thank you, this wonderful congregation, for all the support I have received since my sabbatical was announced. Your well wishes, your enthusiasm, your prayers have meant so, so much. Being on sabbatical does not mean I will leave ‘you’ in my office until I return. For me, it means holding all the relationships in my heart. It reminds me of a mother who goes on a trip away from her children….she does not put away her caring for the children….they are always right before her….and so will you be as well.
I end with the following quote that seems so fitting:
Sabbath means to cease not only from work itself, but also from the need to accomplish and be productive, from the worry and tension that accompany our modern criterion of efficiency, from our efforts to be in control of our lives as if we were God, from our possessiveness and our enculturation, and, finally, from the humdrum and meaninglessness that result when life is pursued without the Lord at the center of it all.
—Marva J. Dawn
I look forward to reuniting with you all during the 2nd week of August.
A parishioner shared a blog entitled “Grow Christians” to pass on to the families who receive our Children and Youth weekly e-mail updates. The title is intriguing, and perhaps so are the images that it conjures up for you. The blog is directed at how families go about living out their faith in their homes in our challenging times. But what exactly does it mean to grow a Christian?
From the Children’s Ministries perspective…I have found the members of the Redeemer community of all ages to be an important part of that growth for me – I hope that it has been that for you as well. Less than a year ago, Paul and I were given the opportunity to grow even more by taking on the challenges of the roles of Director of Children’s Ministries and Director of Youth Ministries. It has been and continues to be a powerful experience. Every day I get to think about how to share with our children in some small way the love of Christ and the richness of our tradition, as well as opportunities to think about how to be their best selves. Right now, our Sunday School classes are looking at the story of “Joseph and His Brothers.” What a compelling story! It is full of opportunities to talk about families, feelings and forgiveness, how God acts through all our brothers and sisters and how we can choose in any situation to be our “best self”.
And from the Youth Ministries perspective…While many of our families with older youth are feeling overwhelmed by the culmination of school, sports, extra-curriculars, and all the other events that seem to pile up in May, we encourage our youth and families to embrace the chaos together. Redeemer will contribute to the number of activities by celebrating our children and youth this weekend, by welcoming our confirmands into the church next weekend and then sending off our RYG seniors!
Speaking of seniors, a coach I worked with early in my career shared a nugget of wisdom that has stuck with me through the years, which was, “Players never get another senior year.” I’ve aspired to uphold that standard and the accompanying responsibility when leading youth. I’m excited that our youth programming is becoming more and more engaged with our own community, as well as greater Baltimore, and that our youth are making the connections between faith, action, service and love.
Our hope is to continue to grow these ministries, and we also hope that the families of our parish will find them to be a help as they go about “growing Christians”. If you agree about the importance of this task, we would love to talk more with you – there are so many opportunities to volunteer!
The latest “Grow Christians” blog by Rachel Jones begins, “You know that old saying about how it takes a village to raise a child? It doesn’t just take the hands and feet of the village – it takes the love and prayers and best hopes of a village to raise a child, too.” This Sunday at 10:00 during our Children and Youth Service, we will acknowledge and celebrate the youngest members of our parish. Let’s also celebrate the village of Redeemer – all those who love them and pray for them and place their best hopes in them. We look forward to seeing you there!
As we reported at the Annual Meeting last Sunday, 2016 was a strong year by almost every measure. We saw dramatic increases in mid-week events and measured increases in weekend attendance; generous 2016 financial support and careful stewardship resulted in a $155,000 surplus, which will be directed toward the endowment; relationships with the wider community were deepened through a shift in perspective from “outreach” to “engagement,” and regularly gathering parish leaders for mutual support and information-sharing; adult education programming significantly widened our reach, attracting hundreds of people to hear speakers, meet authors or enjoy a silent retreat, and many of the participants we’ve welcomed are brand new to Redeemer.
Thank you for your good questions on Sunday: Is there similar growth in Sunday School families… How are we doing with children’s programming… What kind of resources do we need sustain our parish growth and build on it? What does Redeemer look like in 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, and how are we charting our path to get there?
The staff debriefed the meeting on Tuesday, and along with Vestry leadership, we will use your questions to shape our work going forward. As I said on Sunday, we have room to grow in the numbers of children and teenagers, young families, un-partnered adults, and millennials we serve at weekend worship services, but we are very excited about the large numbers of those folks we are attracting to our other offerings… and all of that is Church! Important questions remain about how best to nurture those relationships and facilitate Redeemer’s mission to build the broadest possible community in Baltimore.
Thank you for your patience, too, since the service was longer than intended! Next year we will print more information for you in the service leaflet, tighten our meeting agenda, and move the time for questions and discussion to a Rector’s forum following the service.
I also reported that 2017 pledges are not yet where we hoped they would be. The shortfall as of April 30 is $80,000 (the overall goal for pledges is $1.275 million), and the gap is due primarily to the deaths of several long-term parishioners. Churches like us which are growing in mission must consistently build their base of contributing members, inspiring visitors to become members and long-time supporters to become even more engaged. I ask you to return thanks to God through your robust support of Redeemer.
The good news is all the ways that Redeemer is thriving today. Our challenge is that the church we are called to build is for the future: for children and neighbors and strangers that we do not yet know. That exciting task will require leadership gifts from all of us, in time and talent and treasure. Ahead for us is a continued focused mission that draws Redeemer more deeply into Baltimore, inspired programming and worship that nourish an evolving community, planned giving that enables the current generation to support the ones that follow, and inspirational annual support that responds to the Biblical call.
I am inspired and nourished by you, thankful for you, and so blessed to be on the journey with you.
If you were attending an event in a room full of people and tables and food, and the electricity suddenly went out, what would you do?
Would you ever think of pulling up the light app on your cell phone, placing your cell phone light underneath a water bottle and … voila! … basking by the unique glow of an “instant”, “hybrid” cell-phone-light-water-bottle-lantern?
Now imagine walking into a darkened sanctuary-turned-ballroom, filled with tables and people and food … and these 21st century lanterns glowing at each table …
That was exactly the scene yesterday at Mobtown Ballroom (https://mobtownballroom.com/) on Washington Boulevard in Pigtown, where Jayna Powell, Volunteer Coordinator at Paul’s Place (https://paulsplaceoutreach.org/ ), greeted and thanked a host of people who have volunteered and served at Paul’s Place this past year, making casseroles, serving hot lunches, working in the Market Place, helping someone find just the right outfit for a job interview, teaching another how to play chess, showing yet another how to create a resume using Word …. The opportunities to serve and be engaged at Paul’s Place are endless. The spirit is the same: to care for and treat one another with the same dignity and respect that you, yourself, would like to be treated.
As people feasted by lantern-light on lunch, which included fresh salads made by Paul’s Place “Kids in the Kitchen”, Jayna told the story of a woman, “Cheryl”, who someone from Paul’s Place had bumped into the other day. This person happened to notice the boots that Cheryl was wearing. As it turns out, Cheryl had actually been given these boots 3 years ago from someone at Paul’s Place, boots that in turn had been donated to Paul’s Place through Redeemer’s own Boots for Baltimore ministry. 3 years ago, Cheryl had just been released from jail and had no place to go. “Go to Paul’s Place”, she was told. She did, and there she received boots, clothes, warm meals, guidance, support, direction. There she was met with dignity and respect. There she felt hope. Today, Cheryl is employed with a steady job and still wearing her boots around Baltimore. As Jayna finished telling Cheryl’s story, the electricity and lights came back on.
There is power in light. There is power in caring. There is power in hope.
Believe it. Live it. And spread it around!
A day after the crucifixion, the disciples lock themselves inside a familiar meeting place, reeling from their leader’s death. No wonder they are hiding: I imagine they are worried about what to do now and who could be next, where they might go and how they can make sense of it all. And suddenly, Jesus is with them. Their old friend joins them inside their makeshift prison, in the midst of their questions and grief, offering peace, but no explanation about how he got there. Interestingly, the disciples don’t know who he is, so he identifies himself by showing them his wounded hands and side. “Look at this,” he says. Absent that day, Thomas will insist on touching Jesus, too, to believe that he is the one he says he is.
This lack of immediate recognition is a common thread throughout the resurrection stories. Mary Magdalene mistakes Jesus for the gardener until he calls her by name. The two disciples on the way to Emmaus don’t recognize their companion until the end of their journey, when they share a meal. And Peter and John don’t put two and two together about the stranger on the shore directing how they might improve their angling until they haul in an astonishing catch of fish.
In some sense, engaging is believing.
“I hear your words. I see your face. I smell the rain in your hair, the coffee on your breath. I am inside me experiencing you as you are inside you experiencing me, but (we) don’t entirely meet until something else happens… Through simply touching, more directly than any other way, we can transmit to each other something of the power of the life we have inside us. It is no wonder that the laying on of hands has always been a traditional part of healing, or that when Jesus was around ‘all the crowd sought to touch him.’ It is no wonder that just the touch of another human being at a dark time can be enough to save the day.” (Fredrick Buechner) The kingdom of God is literally in our hands.
After Michelangelo died, someone found in his studio a piece of paper on which he had written a note to his apprentice: “Draw Antonio, draw Antonio, draw and do not waste time.” Now your hands may not be made for drawing, but they are certainly fit for touching, created to heal and help and hold. And your heart finds its purpose by envisioning sacred space: for loving the unlovely, for supplying encouragement, for offering forgiveness, for extending peace.
We can be like the disciples in the fearsome hours after Jesus’ death, locking ourselves away from our best selves and the people who so desperately need the touch of God’s love and care. Or we can bust out of every prison that the world or we have made. Courageous loving frees us, for giving and engaging and healing. And when we go to the places in us and around us that are wounded and weary, instead of hiding from them, we will find resurrection precisely there.