Wednesday, October 24, 2007

For Hope

St. Andrew's Episcopal School - Upper School Chapel

Tyler Christopher Varnado, a member of the senior class, died two days earlier in a car accident. I did not have the opportunity to meet him, for which I am aware I am the poorer.

Isaiah 40:28-31; Romans 8:26-39

Our readings this morning, like our hearts, are full of questions. Have you not known? Have you not heard? Isaiah asks, wondering if we know that God does not grow exhausted by our need for help.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Paul asks, wondering if we know that God does not ever leave our side.

Why did this happen? Why Tyler? Can’t this all just be a joke? we ask, wondering if, wishing that we could wake up and find it all a very bad dream.

There are no easy answers – perhaps no answers at all – to the difficult questions we ask. There is nothing that can undo the terrible tragedy that has been done, nothing that can rationalize it, nothing that can excuse it, nothing that can justify it.

And so we are left with one question. How do we go on from here? we ask, wondering if there is any reason to hope. Friends, if we asked Tyler this question, how would he answer it? What would he say?

I did not have the privilege of meeting Tyler, but I have heard so many of your stories about a person who loved life, who loved his friends and family, who loved this school. I have heard stories about a person who laughed well, soared well, studied well, and slept well. I have heard some colorful “Tylerisms,” at least those that folks are willing to say in front of a priest. I have heard about passion, loyalty, genuineness, and courage. How do we go on from here? I believe Tyler’s life gives us a really good answer.

I also believe the answers we heard in our readings can help us. Have you not known? Have you not heard? God does not grow exhausted by our need of help and comfort and strength. In this is hope. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Nothing, Paul says. I am convinced, he says, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God. In this is hope.

How do we go on from here? Just as life has not ended but is changed for Tyler, so is life not ended but changed for us. Just as he goes on from glory to glory, in the words of his faith, so do we go on from here one step at a time, crying one moment, laughing the next, wondering, wishing, believing…in this is hope.

The first to hope so freely, so fully, were those who in the early morning light of Easter discovered that not even death would not hold God back from us, or us from God. And so we can with confidence give thanks for life that is not extinguished but that instead burns bright with Easter hope.

On our altar this morning are candles for our Saint Andrew’s seniors, one for each, including Tyler, whose light will always burn bright in their hearts. We would like to invite you, seniors, as you are comfortable and beginning with the front row, to come forward and light a votive from our Paschal candle, the light that is kindled on Easter morning, the light of life. Our tears, our laughter, and our lives will burn brighter for having known Tyler. Tyler has shown us, as does the light from a single candle, that light is never diminished when it is shared. Instead it grows and lights the way for us to go on from here. In this, friends, is hope.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Meditation #1

Meditation #1 - The first in a series of three meditations for the ECW Quiet Day at Trinity Episcopal Church in Natchez, MS.

Yesterday, at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School where I serve as chaplain, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the school’s founding. “Six Decades of Stars Rising” was the theme of our campus-wide worship out by Lake Sherwood Wise, nestled behind the observatory, where stars were visible not in the sky above but rather in the procession of students and faculty that wound its way to the lakefront.

“It’s like we’re the stars, right?” a third grader asked me earlier in the week. “For six decades the students have been like lights rising up in the sky?” So much has changed in the 60 years since students first gathered in the fellowship hall at the parish of St. Andrew’s. They have twice outgrown their space. Headmistresses and headmasters have come and gone. Textbooks have been introduced and become worn and outdated. Laptop computers have taken the place of notebook paper.

So much has changed in 60 years, but my third grade friend is correct – the students have always been the stars, lighting the way for succeeding generations, so that yesterday morning the campus was positively radiant. Through six decades of stars rising, the light of learning has been overshadowed only by the yet more brilliant light of Christ shining through the school’s founding as a community of faith and service. The light continues to shine.

And things continue to change. This year there are some forty new women and men added to the constellation of faculty and staff, and a search is underway for a new head of school. A new schedule has been implemented, based on some unintelligible mathematical formula that concluded six days of the week would be better than five, and that classes should be rotated from day to day, so that if this Monday were an A-day, you’d start with 1st period and go through 7th period, and then next Monday would be an F-day, starting with 6th period and working its way around to 4th period… And there is a new chaplain this year, still a little blinded by the light, still a little confused by the schedule, still in the process of learning how to read the stars, how to read the students…

When I accepted the call to serve at St. Andrew’s, not long before the start of the new school year, the old but familiar anxieties started surfacing… What would I wear the first day of school? How would I find my way around? What if no one talked to me? Would I be cool enough? Funny enough? What if no one liked me?...

According to Webster, anxiety is “a state of being uneasy, apprehensive, or worried about what may happen.” It is almost a poetic definition, I think, imbued with the very uncertainty that makes us anxious, for what may happen, of course, may also not happen… When worry whispers what if, what if, we find we are not as sure of the way forward as we once were, and we become anxious about what may happen.

According to theologian Reinhold Neibuhr, anxiety is the state of being within 24 hours of delivering a sermon or, say, a series of quiet day meditations. According to the new chaplain at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, anxiety is the state of just having realized that she is required to prepare no less than three sermons every week. My anxiety rose as my star sank into a sea of what if’s. What if I’m boring? What if they laugh? What if they don’t laugh? What if I don’t have anything to say? What if I do, and they don’t listen?...

I know, of course, that our lectionary dictates the annual appearances of passages from scripture and prayers from our tradition, but I can’t help but wonder whether God was casting stars my way not long ago when I opened my prayerbook (anxiously!) to begin preparing a sermon and read this collect assigned for the Sunday on which I would be preaching.

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to that which shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

We hear this collect every year on “the Sunday closest to September 21,” the Sunday closest to the beginning of fall, the Sunday closest to the beginning of that season when earthly things burn orange and red and yellow and gold and then fade and pass away. We hear this collect on a September Sunday when the air, still warm with summer winds, is beginning to stir both leaves and lives with a sense of uncertainty about what lies ahead.

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, or in its more traditional form, not to mind earthly things, but to love things heavenly. Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious, not to mind Another piece of poetry for me, when now in my work I ask children to mind in class, to give their attention, to be obedient. Not to mind earthly things, then, is not to give them our attention, not to be obedient to them, but instead to love things heavenly.

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about, not to mind earthly things. What if, I wondered, what if I did not give the what if’s my attention? What if I did not mind them? What if I was not anxious about being cool or funny or profoundly inspirational? What if I didn’t worry about what may, or may not, happen?

Today, in community and in quiet, in word and in sacrament, I want to invite us deeper into this poem-prayer, this collect that accompanies us at the turn of a season and through the changes and chances and challenges of life that does not often stand still. I want us to rustle playfully, like children not minding, in the leaves and stars it casts at our feet.

I started first grade not at an Episcopal school but, rather, at a public school in the most Episcopal place on earth, in Sewanee, Tennessee, perched high up in the Appalachian Mountains as near to heaven as one can get. I remember walking to school past buildings that looked like ancient castles and cathedrals. I remember listening to the tower bells ringing out hymns I knew as well as my nursery rhymes. I remember the giant tree in our backyard that offered its roots as a playhouse and its leaves as a carpet. I remember hiking with my family on long afternoons when the air around us and the leaves underfoot were crisp and filled with the fragrance of fall. I remember not being anxious about anything.

So much had changed years later, when we returned to those mountains a little further north, and made our way one autumn day along a favorite path around a mountain. I was in junior high school, at an age when the changes in our bodies and hearts and minds reshape us daily, it seems. I was a teenager at a new school, with new friends, and a new desire to fit in. Childhood was ending, and I was anxious. As we crunched along the wooded path that afternoon, we began to notice and then to pick up and carry with us some of the leaves that had fallen. Orange, gold and brown surrounded us, lovely leaves we would press later on between the pages of our encyclopedia. But we were determined to find that one elusive perfect red leaf, with no blemishes or tears or any other imperfections. I do not remember if we found it. I do remember relishing our time searching together.

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly;…even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away. We might see in autumn, with its falling leaves and lengthening shadows and long, slow drain of green warmth and life… we might see in autumn a reflection of those seasons in our lives when things that have fostered contentment and happiness and wholeness in us change, then fade and pass away and leave us in the cold. What may happen to us when these changes occur? What may not happen? Of course we are anxious.

At least we are in good company. Over and over in our scriptures, we read about women and men of faith who nonetheless struggled when life as they had always known it burst into flame and then faded away. In fact, it very literally happened that way to Moses. We know well the story we heard this morning, about the day when Moses stood before a burning bush and was never the same again. Everything had already changed from the comfortable life he had known as a child in Pharaoh’s household; when the truth of his Hebrew heritage came to light, he had fled, and was now content to live as shepherd in the hills of Midian.

On as ordinary a day as this one, upon ground that Moses walked every day, the angel of the Lord appeared in a flame of fire out of a bush…Moses, Moses! God called to him…The place on which you are standing is holy ground. In a flash, Moses understood that his life was passing away, changing beyond his ability to measure, and for two chapters he pleads with God to let things remain as they have been. Pharoah won’t listen, Moses insisted. The Israelites won’t believe me. I’m not as powerful as the Egyptians. And I can never think of the right things to say. Who am I that I should go to Pharoah, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?...What if…

Moses, Moses, God said, I will be with you. And in the end, that’s what Moses would cling to, and not for the first time and not for the last, God changed everything, and life passed away, and a new life began.

On another ordinary day, upon ground that she walked every day, Martha saw Jesus and his disciples going by. Something in him compelled her to invite them in, a bold and reckless move for an unmarried woman to make. But the flame she had kindled in her kitchen sparked a fire in her when she realized her sister, Mary, was sitting at Jesus’ feet rather than helping her prepare a meal for their guests. Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.

Martha, Martha, Jesus said, You are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. And in the end, that’s what Martha would cling to, and not for the first time, and not for the last, Jesus changed everything, and life passed away, and a new life began.

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly;…even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away. Life on this earth is constantly passing away, isn’t it? We know of course, because both scripture and experience teach us, that such earthly things as wealth and success and status, and even beauty and health and skill, are only temporary. But far less measurable things also fade – things like life and love and hope and dreams and traditions and relationships and security. We don’t usually call these things earthly, but I submit to you that even they take on an earthly quality when we make them the center of our world.

In the same way, things that are of the earth can take on a heavenly quality, even though they, too, may pass away with time. Writer Molly Wolf explains, “A Maserati is one sort of thing; beef stew with Merlot is another, especially when the purpose of the stew is to express one’s delight in God’s creation and one’s love for those to be fed…Earthly says, ‘Make these things your God’; earthy says, ‘God is here in God’s extraordinary creation, give thanks.’ Earthly says, ‘We can make and control, and suffer for and make others suffer for, things we declare to be beautiful and valuable.’ Earthy invites you to pick up one single fallen leaf from a scarlet maple and be clonked cross-eyed by its sheer glory.”

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly;…even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away. So much has changed since first grade, since our first encounter with God, since Jesus first came into our lives. There is so much to be anxious about. There are so many what if’s. As we move, in our own lives, through seasons of transition and uncertainty, how is God calling us? How do we respond? Like Moses, perhaps, making the case that we just can’t change? Like Martha, maybe, complaining that the change isn’t fair? As we move, in our own lives, through seasons of transition and uncertainty, how is God calling us? How do we respond?

We are now going to enter a time of quiet reflection (for many of us, this is itself a big change!). I invite you use this space, if you wish, for prayer or meditation, for journaling or drawing, or simply for sitting in silence. There are pens, pencils, paper and other art supplies in the front pews. You are also welcome to find another space on these lovely and holy grounds, to walk, or to rest. When you hear the bell ring, about thirty minutes from now, please return to the church.

Meditation #2

Meditation #2 - The second in a series of three meditations for the ECW Quiet Day at Trinity Episcopal Church in Natchez, MS.

Fall in New York City is not much like fall in the Appalachain Mountains. Oh, the trees in Central Park change color, along with the occasional tree or two growing in planters along the sidewalks. But no sooner do the leaves fall, than they are caught up in the whoosh of the street sweepers or raked into bags and thrown out with the trash.

Still, early in my first autumn spent in the city, only a few weeks into my first year of seminary, I set out on a walk through the paved pathways and towering buildings. The air was crisp, but no leaves rustled underfoot; even if they had been there, the noise of Westside Highway traffic would have covered up their crunching.

Everything about the city was new to me, a tremendous change from the relatively rural southern towns I had lived in my whole life. The constant pace, the rich diversity of skin colors and languages, the sheer numbers of people, the daily trips to the grocery store, because you can only buy as much as you can walk home with, the ever-present hum of traffic and subways and airplanes and millions of conversations happening all at once, the smell of ethnic dishes mingling with the smell of sewers and steam, the trapeze school on the Lower West Side…

It’s right there on the side of the highway where I was “hiking” that fall day. I was caught completely off guard when I saw for the first time the swinging bars and swaying nets perched so close to the Hudson River it seemed the trapeze artists could sail right across to New Jersey. For quite a while I stood and watched them, learning only later that these brave souls were not professionals but students, just ordinary people like me, swinging high above the ground so many people walked on every day. That part looked like fun, I thought, as I watched a student leap from one platform and swing in a wide arc toward an empty trapeze that had been released from the opposite platform. That swinging part looked like fun. It was that letting go part, though…that letting go…

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast…hold fast…don’t let go… As we move, in our own lives, through seasons of transition and uncertainty, as we swing through the air in a wide arc toward the unknown, our survival instincts kick in and we tighten our grip, we hold fast for all we’re worth to what is familiar, to what we know. Even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, we hold fast…

Walking back to the seminary through the streets of Manhattan that crisp fall afternoon, I remembered bits and pieces of a poem, aptly titled “Fear of Transformation,” in which the author begins, “Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings…” What if that were true, I wondered, looking around me at all the people on the sidewalks, in taxis, running up or down the stairs to the subway. I think I smiled, imagining all of us swinging through the streets toward our different somewhere’s.

“Most of the time,” the poem continues, “I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life. I know most of the right questions and even some of the right answers. But once in a while, as I’m merrily (or not so merrily) swinging along, I look ahead of me into the distance and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It’s empty, and I know in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it.”

Seasons of transition can move so slowly, as when the leaves turn gradually from green to gold and brown and red and the shadows lengthen a little earlier each afternoon. We can see and feel the changes happening around us and we are able to anticipate what changes may yet come. Other times, we are clonked cross-eyed by a trapeze bar that appears out of the blue and we have only a moment to decide whether to reach for it or to let our trapeze bar swing us back to safety. And still other times, we are so content upon our walk through life, or perhaps so discontent, that the world changes around us and we don’t notice it at all.

Peter, James and John were clonked cross-eyed, I think, when on an ordinary day they went up with on the mountain to pray with Jesus. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white…and they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. The disciples were desperate to preserve the moment, to hold fast, to not let go, and so they rushed around the mountaintop looking for sticks and vines to build a dwelling place. When the blazing glory faded and the moment passed away, Jesus marched them right back down the mountain and went back to work along the roads that he walked every day.

The world seemed a much different, much darker place when Mary Magdalene stood weeping in the garden, desperate to preserve the crucified body of Jesus, to hold fast, to not let go. And while she was weeping, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying…turning, she saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus, supposing him to be the gardener. Mary held so tightly to her grief and anxiety that she could not see how everything had changed until Jesus spoke her name. When the blazing glory of recognition faded and the moment passed away, Jesus marched her right back out of the garden and back to work along the roads she had walked with him every day.

What happens in that space in between? In the distance between mountaintops? In the space between death and new life? The trapeze-swinging poet writes, “I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar, and for some moment in time hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar. Each time I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing, I have always made it. Each time I am afraid that I will miss, that I will be crushed on the unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between bars.” In our seasons of transition, we find ourselves staring into the space between how life has been and how life will be (or might be).

In the autumn of my last year of seminary, my class went on retreat in the mountains of Connecticut. Surrounded once again by fall’s fiery foliage, we were aware of how much our lives had changed in the three years we had been together. We were different people. The world was a different place. The church was a different place. For a little while longer, we would still be soaring through the streets of the city, but a new trapeze bar was approaching and we would have to make the leap into the ministries we had been preparing for.

Our chaplain gave us the assignment of writing a prayer to use daily during our time of transition. After a weekend of reflection, conversation, hiking through the woods, and more than a little rustling like children through the fallen leaves, we came up with this prayer: O God of good graces, to you we turn faces as we now stand in this space between places…

Just as in the season of fall the leaves have no choice but to let go if there are to be new leaves the following spring, so in our seasons of transition do we have no choice but to let go if there is to be new life in us. We have to let go of our what-if’s, our anxieties, the things that glue our fingers to those bars. Otherwise we live today dreading tomorrow, and live tomorrow dreading the next day, and so we miss altogether the experience of swinging and soaring and hurtling. We miss today and every day. We miss the space between places. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear…can any of you by worrying add a single hour to the span of life?...Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

In the city of Amsterdam during World War II, a young Jewish woman named Etty Hillesum kept a journal in which she wrote about the terrible changes happening all around her. But she also wrote about remarkable changes happening within her, about a deepening faith that God was with her and a rising conviction that there was an enduring goodness in the world worth preserving. Etty wrote, “I think what weakens people most is fear of wasting their strength.” In the pages of her journal, we are allowed to witness that breathtaking moment of letting go and soaring into a space between places.

What happens in that space? I believe it is in that space – perhaps sometimes into that space, but always in that space – that God calls us. In that space, down from the mountain, Jesus called his disciples to serve. In that space, outside the tomb, Jesus called Mary to preach the good news. In that space, God called Etty to comfort those whose lives would never be the same again.

In that space is where we now live, as Paul loves to tell, Even though our outer nature is passing away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure. In that space is where we are called to serve and preach the good news and give comfort.

Of course, some caution in life is prudent. At the trapeze school in New York City, you do wear a harness, and there’s a safety net underneath. And some holding on in life is life-giving. That’s why we celebrate things like the 60th anniversary of a school. And yet, in our seasons of transition, the only way forward is through the space in between. “Incredibly rich places,” the poet realizes. Scary, perhaps; disorienting, usually, but rich. “Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out of control that can (but not necessarily) accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives.”

It is time once again for us to entertain quiet, a space for reflection or prayer, stillness or, perhaps, swinging. What in-between spaces loom before us? What if we let go our grip? What might God be calling us to? When you hear the bell ring about 30 minutes from now, it will be time for our noon meal in the parish hall.

Meditation #3

Meditation #3 - The third in a series of three meditations for the ECW Quiet Day at Trinity Episcopal Church in Natchez, MS.

Let nothing disturb thee; let nothing dismay thee; all things pass; God never changes. How faithful are these words of St. Teresa of Avila, a 16th century mystic. Let nothing disturb thee; let nothing dismay thee; all things pass; God never changes.

What if…what if…what if in our seasons of transition, in our spaces between places, we held fast to Teresa's words?

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to that which shall endure.

My life has changed quite a lot since those autumns of my childhood, playing knee-deep in the colorful crunch of fallen leaves, clinging to my parents as we hiked all over Sewanee mountain, walking to school through the crisp fall air. I’m a spouse and a parent now, and although I’m back at school I’m a staff member rather than a student. I’ve lived in New York City. I’m a priest in the Episcopal Church, and I actually listen (well, usually!) to sermons instead of using that time to draw on the service bulletin. I learned to like Brussels sprouts and asparagus and knitting. In these and so many other ways, my life has really changed.

A constellation of things, though, have held fast, through all the changes, all the transitions, and all the what-if’s. I have always liked the sound of bells chiming, and I have always liked singing in a choir. I have always liked cats. I have always been an Episcopalian. I have always been afraid of spiders, but not afraid of thunderstorms. And I have always loved the mountains and the fall. These things, and a few more besides, are so familiar to me, like little guiding lights that point me back to myself when I’m on ground I haven’t walked before.

And yet, as I was reminded by another 3rd grader this week, there is only one thing that truly endures. There is only one thing that holds me when I have let go of everything else. How are we like stars rising in the sky? “God is light,” this student said, “and God is in us, and so we become like the stars.”

While we are placed among things that are passing away, may we hold fast to that which shall endure. The spaces between places are not empty, they are not void – they are filled with the presence and promise of God. All things pass – including choirs and cats and churches and mountains and even the seasons themselves. All things pass; God never changes.

Letting go of our what-if’s and our anxieties, releasing our urge to control the rate and direction of our swinging through life, we open our hands to receive the enduring promise of God’s presence that transcends the times and spaces of our individual lives and links us to one another through the open hands of Jesus Christ who called us to be lights in the world. Before we were six decades of stars rising, we were two millennia of saints following, and before that we were counted among the countless stars of God’s promise to Abraham, and before that we were made and called good by the One who moved over the waters of chaos and created the lights and the seasons.

We are not the first to hold fast to our trapeze bars, fearing the leap into the in-between places of life. Moses and Martha, Peter, James, John and Mary and countless other women and men would have kept swinging merrily (or not so merrily) along forever if they could. After all, in real life, there are no harnesses, no safety nets, no guarantees, no insurance policies that can cover our leaps of faith. All we have is God’s promise, I will be with you. All we have is this promise, you are sealed by the power of the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever. And so, with God’s help, we make our leap.

As the last leaves leap from the trees and fall gives way to winter, it looks for all the world like life is lost and death has taken hold. And it is true that we may leave significant pieces of life behind as we move through our seasons of transition. But winter, like grief, is a season in which life has merely gone deep to prepare for a new season of growth. And though we are buried beneath the layers of leaves that were once our playground, we bear that mark of and are held fast by the one who would not be held by death.

While we are placed among things that are passing away, may we hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. We are called in this and every season of transition to fasten ourselves and all that we love to the One who endured death so that we might have life. Holding fast to him, rather than to the trapeze-bar-of-the-moment or to the trapeze bar swinging toward us, is the only life that truly soars, the only life that truly shines.

The poem about transitions concludes, “And so, transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to ‘hand out’ in the transition between trapeze bars. Transforming our need to grab that new bar, any bar, is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens. It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening, in the true sense of the word. Hurtling through the void, we just may learn how to fly.”

Like Moses before the burning bush, like Martha on her doorstep, like the disciples on their way down the mountain, like Mary on her way to share resurrection news, something compels us to let go our anxiety, our earthly worries, our trapeze bars, and to cling instead to God’s promise of care, God’s faith in us that we can fly, that we can serve, that we can love, that we can care. Let nothing disturb thee; let nothing dismay thee; all things pass; God never changes. Teresa’s words echo the earlier 14th century prayer of her sister in faith, Julian of Norwich, who wrote, God, of your goodness, give me yourself, for you are enough for me…And if I ask for anything less, I shall be in want, for only in you do I have all.

I invite you now into our final time of quiet reflection. When the bell rings and we gather again in this space, we will join in a celebration of Holy Eucharist. Our sacraments – those we name officially and those smaller but no less significant outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace that we share whenever we stretch out our hands toward another – our sacraments are in between places where we stand with one foot on earth and the other in heaven, experiencing in bread and wine and water the nourishment of our souls.

Let us enter this time of quiet by first saying together our prayer, which may be found at the top of page 234 in the Book of Common Prayer. Let us pray.

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.