Thursday, October 20, 2011

Psalm 90...Exodus 34

Not quite sure why, but this coming Sunday's lessons put me in a reflective mood. In the reading from Exodus, God takes Moses to a vantage where he can see the whole of the Land, promised to Israel as an inheritance from God. He was allowed to see it, but God told Moses that he would not cross over. That memorable image provokes not only a biblical reverie; it also reminds us in our present age of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's last speech in Memphis. He, too, on the night before he was killed, called to mind that image of Moses on the mountaintop. Makes me mindful, really, that leaders who truly do lead people are folks who are caught up in seeing a vision while too often being called on to hand that vision onto others for completion. It definitely challenges my ego, my pride and my all-too-ready willingness to be mule-stubborn about getting my own way.

I am the 36th rector of this church. God willing, if I and the leaders of this generation do our work well, there will be a 37th, a 38th...a 90th. I am humbled by the legacy of pastoral care and Christian witness that have preceded me in my tenure as rector. I read the history of this parish and see faithful, passionate, brilliant, fallible, stumbling, wonderful priests who in their generations have done their best to care for, lead and support the people of this parish in their life in Christ. Some of them have chosen this church's yard as the place to rest their mortal remains. I pass them almost every Sunday on my way to the sanctuary. Fr. Ward served this parish for decades, and as a priest of the Church for fifty years. Fr. Cornell cared for this parish at the turn of the 20th century. He introduced the church to "free pews," abolishing the custom of pew rents that kept seekers out while saving seats for those who were willing to pay for the privilege. Both rest here, with family, in the midst of the people served in the name of our patron, Peter, and in the name of Christ.

Fr. Cornell's photo hangs in my office, next to one of Fr. Phillips, who came to St. Peter's after the end of the first World War.

What history. What witness, and yet they did not see this age, will not witness this generation's response to the challenges we face...and yet I am convinced that we were in their prayers' as much as our successors are in mine.

As St. Peter's emerges from our season of flood, loss, grief and stress, I am mindful that real care and stewardship of this or any church is one of being willing to sacrifice a measure of our present assurances in faith and hope that one day another will benefit...one whose name we will never know.
The Collect for this Sunday asks God to increases in us the gifts of faith, hope and charity. If the Church is to live on in the light of God's love and in the Grace of the Holy Spirit, we will not only need a double measure of those gifts. We will also need to be willing to let go of them in order for others to Cary a full share a measure of the same into the future. One wise person taught me once that life in Christ is not so much crossing the finish line, but real "success" lies in running the race well. She didn't so much take St. Paul's line, as to simply say, "You can't attach to outcome...you can only commit to being present and ready as both witness and willing tool of God's intent for the moment we are given to live."

God bless my predecessors. Though gone to glory, they continue to teach, form and inform this community of faith.


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