Upon hearing about the grief and struggle Grace and the broader Gainesville community is experiencing in these days, our friend the Rev. Martha Sterne sent me a kind message. She shared her prayers for our entire community, noting how quickly we had stepped into this time of struggle since her visit to preach on February 21. I shared with her that this Holy Week—indeed this entire Lent—was one I would never forget. It was a Lent full of more intensity than I had ever known in more than a decade of being so fully involved in church ministry and life. She wrote back a short message that has hooked me, “It’s something when it gets real real real real and it matters.” Yes, indeed, my friend.
It’s something when it gets real real real real and it matters…
I don’t know about you, but it has become painfully obvious to me this year that our liturgy matters. We priesty folks spend years studying about liturgy, learning where every service comes from, which bishop or theologian tweaked which piece of the Baptismal liturgy in which century. We learn where to sit and how to move and what to say and what NOT to do under any circumstances—for deeply theological reasons of course. And, then we enter into spaces when it becomes painfully obvious that liturgy matters.
“The way we pray shapes the way we believe,” a liturgist once said. Think about that for a minute. The way we come together as a community, the rites we share, the intention we put into the creation of spaces and the sharing of prayers, and the fullness of embodied life we seek to integrate into our worship—this matters. It matters because it reminds us that living a life of devotion is really the only way to live, at the end of the day.
This Holy Week will be especially profound for us as a parish community and as a broader city community. We continue to grieve a suicide even as we find ourselves with so many questions and frustrations around the reality of abuse experienced by the vulnerable in our community. How do we make sense of this? We make sense of it by finding a way to embody it—express it—in the liturgical prayer of a spiritual community. When we wonder what it looks like to come together as a spiritual community, we take advantage of Maundy Thursday and the space for washing one another’s feet. When we wonder how we express our anger over rejection and abuse and pain and sorrow, we share in the Solemn Collects on Good Friday. When we wonder how we’re going to get through these times of sadness, anger, and disturbance, we walk side by side down Green Street and mark the Stations of the Cross. When we wonder how hope could possibly be found within a space of such darkness, we gather and kindle a fire at the Great Vigil of Easter…and we turn our eyes toward hope.
If you haven’t noticed by now, our life as a church community is about much more than quaint, comfortable, socially-conditioned routines. We aren’t a club to join and hold a membership in. We are the Body of Christ, called together by the Holy Spirit and empowered with embodying God’s compassion and mercy in a world so often crying out in pain. As our own Archbishop Tutu describes, we are, like the Blessed Mother, “God-bearers” in the world today. Or, as our friend Martha described, “It’s something when it gets real real real real and it matters.
Come share in the rites this year. Come take your place in the community. Come light a candle. Come wash feet. Come receive Communion. Come join in the prayers. Come hold a hand. Come give a hug. Come find hope.
Come and continue to be the Community of Grace.
You are and will remain in my prayers,