Sunday, March 09, 2008

Unbind Him

I was on a panel yesterday at conference in the city. The panel was on sexuality, spirituality, and worship. I was really struck by what one of the panel members had to say. He spoke to the readings that we have been hearing in Lent. He mentioned the gospel for this Sunday, the story of Lazarus.

He mentioned the call to come out, which given that the context of the whole conference was a theme of celebrating courage - past and present - was a pretty powerful statement. It was at the College of Education and spoke to the issue of human sexuality in the context of education. So the call to come out had real meaning and power for a number of young people there. The panelist then went on to speak of Jesus' command to unbind Lazarus and related that to the church being commanded to help unbind those who have answered the call to come out so that they may have the full life that is promised to us. (Yes, you can see there is an influence of this in the gist of my sermon, which I mention in the post below.)

I found this man's talk very inspiring and enlightening. As a member of the Church, I have recommitted myself to the unbinding of the things which hinder all people from experiencing the full and abundant life that Christ has promised us. I'm not sure what my next step will be or if my steps will even be any different than what I was already going to do. But I have been inspired to continue.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Jesus called to Lazarus - Come out.

Today was a major day in the life of my parish. We had to make a decision that would affect our future.

For the last few years the writing has been on the wall. We have been dipping into our savings in order to make ends meet. We figure we have between 5 - 8 years left.

In January we entered into visioning with the Luterans and Presbyterians as I have mentioned before. Today we dealt with the motion that came forward from the last joint meeting. It really was a make or break decision. Yes, it was only for worship on a trial basis over the next 9 months or so but if we voted no, it would most likely make the next few visioning sessions a little stressed and break the trust and relationship we have been building over the last two years. There is a lot of history behind this that I won't go into.

I spoke on the readings today. For the last few years we have been preparing for death - afraid to move forward, at times preparing to close our doors in a few years. In a way, we have been living in a death mentality, in our tomb, afraid to face the life to which we are being called. Jesus is calling us to come out of that tomb - to enter into life and light. Lazarus made the decision to come out even with the things that still bound him to death - the grave cloths - and made is entrance into life more difficult. When the decision was made and Lazarus was committed to it, Jesus turned to the people there and told them to unbind him. Jesus has given us the gift of the people around us to help us unbind ourselves from that which holds us to the path of death, to that which restricts us from being free to live the abundant life that Jesus promise. Not that I really thought the sermon would determine the outcome of the vote but it did allow me to express my hopes and frustrations for the congregation.

Anyhow, the result of the vote was unanimous. All voted in favour of worshipping together weekly with the other two congregations for a trial period till the end of the year. We will revisit the question then to see if it will become permanent.

How this group of wonderful people has grown over the last few years - ready to look beyond themselves to other possibilities, ready to embrace life, to trust in the Spirit. Not that we haven't had moments where we have slid or where we have become frustrated. Five or six years ago, they had a similar decision to make and voted against it. Even those who were so hesitant back then were strong supporters today, speaking out in favour very well and encouraging the others. I was so proud to be a member of this congregation today. I have to admit that if you had asked a year and a half ago if I thought we would be where we are today, I would have serious doubts.

What thrills me the most is that it is not all about money. It is about worship and relationship. Yes, our financial fears play a role but listening to the conversations over the last few weeks, I have heard the people talking about how energetic, how inspiring, how life-giving it is to worship with the other two congregations. It is the support of the larger numbers, the support and care of the other two communities, and the music that has reached those who regularly attended our joint worship. I have listened to members of the congregation talking on coffee row about the life in our church and the life with the other two congregations.

I think about what is going on in the wider Anglican Church and all the talk about doom and gloom. Here in St. Paul's, our life goes on. We have chosen to answer Jesus' call to come out of the tomb, to come out of death into life and light.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie