Clergy Corner: Hands Across The Hills

This is the name of a program created between two, very diverse communities.  A group of progressive, Democratic voters in Massachusetts and a group of conservative, Republican voters in Kentucky reached out to one another in order to create a “working dialogue.” 

Hands Across The Hills

This unique and promising innovation was borne out of the 2016 election.  These two groups have felt and seen the divisions experienced across our country.  They feared for their children and their livelihood.  They feared that if civil conversation did not take place, tragically, this nation would get to a place of no return.  

So, the two groups have traveled, to and fro, between the rural and rolling-hills of Kentucky to historical and quaint Massachusetts.  There was initial trepidation and reservations.  This should have come as no surprise.  These were strangers meeting and willing to discuss matters of such grave importance.  And talk they did!  The Republicans voted as they did because of the promises made of reopening the coal mines in Kentucky which, virtually, was the lone employment source for many in this area.  Theirs was a single, lone reason to vote as they did.  Conversely, the Democratic voters chose their candidate based on promises of better gun restrictions, a “green energy” plan and health care.  Interestingly, both groups, after much dialogue discovered they had much more in common with one another than any differences they had, aside from their particular, presidential candidates.  Their efforts were not meant to persuade one side of changing their political tastes.  This was not a tool to “bring anyone over” to the other’s side.  This was meant as a means of opening up channels that had been turned off and shut down.  This was a tool to help break down the walls that have been built and bridging two varying sides closer to one another.  

The groups, by their own admittance had fallen in love with one another.  The friendship that had blossomed was remarkable.  The Kentucky contention openly wept and jokingly, yet perhaps with as much seriousness, wanted their new “family” to stay with them in Kentucky.  Meanwhile, the Massachusetts group have all but adopted their new friends.  Truly, a beautiful bridge has been built and we pray, all of us, that this bridge is but the beginning of more such, loving construction.

My sisters and brothers in Christ, Advent is a time of waiting:  we anticipate Christ’s entry into our world.  It has been over 2000 years and now, we await His return, in stunning glory.  However, we are asked, while we wait, to do those things viewed and considered as “good, right and holy.”  Loving our neighbors including those who we may not be in agreement with; forgiving those who have wronged us and seeking forgiveness from those whom we have wronged; settling long, held disagreements and healing old wounds lest they are allowed to fester even longer.  We are called upon to be “Christ like,” Christian in our demeanor and behavior.  Waiting does not have to be a dark and trying ordeal.  Certainly, waiting tries our patience.  However, what we are waiting for, He, whom we are anticipating certainly is well worth our time, our effort and our patience.  Let’s take a good, learned lesson from our Massachusetts and Kentucky friends…let’s reach out and help bridge the divisions that we live amidst.  Let us talk and let us listen, carefully and with our hearts as well as our ears.  And in these conversations, let us be mindful of the loving voice of our elder brother, our Jesus, who says, repeatedly, “love one another as I have loved you.”

Let us pray: 

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  

Vicar’s Corner: A Metra Train Ride Can Be Quite The Adventure

A Metra train ride can be quite the adventure.  Depending upon the time and line, the ride can be a quiet journey or a nerve rattling encounter.  Wednesday afternoon, a semi-express from downtown out to Cary and I had a corner seat upstairs right next to the engineer’s room.  Perfect!  Plenty of room to stretch out, enjoy my coffee, read or simply close my eyes and relax.  Ah yes.  A nice, quiet and easy commute was in the making.

Then, of course, there is the possibility of an extended conversation which is exactly what I choose, or rather, what was chosen for me.  The gentleman directly across from me, earphones in and seemingly alone in his world was wearing a Detroit Red Wings cap.  We looked up at one another, I pointed to his hat and gave him a “thumbs up” sign.  He took out his earphones and asked if I were a “Wing Nut,” too. I knew what he meant.  (fans of the Red Wings are often referred to as a wing nut…don’t ask me to explain it any further than that, thank you.) We leaned in closer to the rails and began a conversation that lasted from the Clybourn stop to Cary.  

First off, we talked sports.  I knew we had a common bond what with the Red Wings and all.  Found out Kevin was born and raised in Metro Detroit.  Another common piece to our individual puzzles.  He was suburban raised and me, inner city just outside downtown.  We knew the local ‘hot spots,’ popular watering holes, greasy spoons and the better dining establishments, too.  We talked about our world class Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Historical Museum and of course, the city’s long and distinctive history of rock and roll, Motown and Techno music which was born in Detroit.  Then, he ventured into the arena of politics and religion, which today can be quite risky.  Well, again, he and I were on the same page.  No harsh words or demeaning comments were expressed toward any individual politician or church leader.  Rather, we talked openly of our disappointment with regards to the state of our country; the chasm that has been created due to partisan politics, and a seemingly, ineffective Church hierarchy that has allowed years and years of abuse against children and women to go unchecked.  The conversation went back and forth.  It was lively, honest and possessive of a tone reminiscent of two, long-time friends, let alone two strangers on a train. 

The conductor announced the next stop, Barrington, followed by Cary.  This set Kevin in motion as he gathered his papers together while I took advantage of the lull in the conversation to take a long desired sip of my coffee which was now tepid at best.  He asked if I were married and I said yes, I most certainly am.  I talked about Douglas, how we met and how long we’ve been together.  He looked at me, smiled and said, “Now that’s cool.  Good for you.”  I knew he meant what he said; that he truly was sincere.  There’s no mistaking a smile like that as being anything but sincere. He said he and his wife have been together for 26 years, too.  Another ironic twist in a series of coincidences.  Then again, I’ve long held that there are no coincidences, rather unique moments in time when things line up just so with God being the “Prime Mover.”  I mentioned St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, extending an invitation to come, bring the family, visit and see what we’re all about.  He said he may do just that, though truth be told, I would be quite surprised if he did make good on the invitation.  Then again, who knows?  Once the train come to the Cary Station, we both hopped off, shook hands, he headed to the east parking lot and I began my walk up Main Street toward home, sweet home.

My sisters and brothers, make good use of the time we have to reach out, open up to others and share a little about ourselves with the people around us.  We need only divulge that with what we are comfortable while we respect the privacy of others. Silence may be golden but shared conversations and open dialogues are platinum and priceless and may lead to an exchange that could well change someone’s life.  Kevin may never show up at St. Nicholas.  However, and perhaps more important, he knows we are a pretty friendly, welcoming and an all inclusive faith community.  This my friends, makes all the difference in the world.

“Just Call Out My Name”

“When you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand.  And nothing, whoa, nothing is going right.  Close your eyes and think of me and soon I will be there.  To brighten up even your darkest nights.”   
Carol King originally put these words to music and entitled her piece, “You’ve Got a Friend.”  This was way back in 1971 when both she and James Taylormade recordings of this song.  We’re all pretty familiar with it, that is, those of us of a certain age and particular, musical appreciation.  Nonetheless, it is a piece of music we can all relate to because all of us at some time or another are in just, such a position; needing a friend to pull us out of the darkness and into the light.
We know to whom we ought turn when darkness overshadows, weighs us down and brings us all but to our knees.  We have Jesus, a friend to all, Savior and Redeemer, brother and ally.  It is in our beloved Christ Jesus we find solace, strength, guidance and unconditional, unquestioning and unequaled love.   
“You just call out my name.  And you know where ever I am, I’ll come running to see you again.  Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call.  And I’ll be there, yeah, yeah, you’ve got a friend.   
Sounds pretty simple, does it not?  Just call out Jesus’ name and He will come running to see us, again.  Well, it doesn’t always work quite that way, now does it?  That is, Jesus never abandons us, but the response we desire may not arrive as quickly nor in quite the manner we desire.  We don’t always get what we want, though more often than not, we do receive what we need.   
My sisters and brothers, it is in one another, in each and every one of us, that we gain and receive the support, the friendship and guidance we seek.  When we’re feeling down and out and we need a friend, it is in our faith community we find that which we need.  Welcoming shoulders upon which we can lean.  To find such security in our church family who are there to lift us up and share a friendly smile.  We all have our flaws, shortcomings and crosses that weigh us down.  Yet how fortunate are we to have others who understand and buoy our spirits with words of encouragement, selfless love and hands that help lift those painful burdens.  When darkness blinds and confuses, seek the light that our sisters and brothers in community can provide; an illumination that guides us to a better, more comforting and reassuring place.  It’s all possible because Jesus is here, alive and well and ever so willing to give of Himself for our betterment and happiness.  Jesus the Redeemer who resides within us and shows Himself through our words and deeds. 
We are all entrusted with responsibilities that at times, get the better of us.  There are occasions we feel powerless, consumed by a hungry world that seems to feed on us, leaving us exhausted, beaten and abandoned.  It is at such times as these that we need, more than ever, to be in the company of our church family, if for no other reason than to have friends to help ease the burden, to uplift and enlighten our soul and spirit and tear down the veil of darkness and let in some reassuring and welcoming light.  And of course, there is Jesus to be shared in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist: food for the soul that blesses us with strength, comfort and grace.   
There is a wind behind us that leads us to where we are to go.  That wind, the blessed breeze is Jesus and He wishes us to be at a place where all are welcomed, warmly embraced and allowed to laugh, to sing, to cry, to worship and to simply ‘be’ with one another.  For us, that would be our St. Nicholas Church and her church family.  To paraphrase yet another song, which, no doubt we are quite familiar: “what a friend we have in Jesus.” A true friend indeed.  In our church family we have a blessed abundance of friends, who care.  Make good use of the Lord for He enjoys and savors our company just as all of us here, truly desire and savor spending time with another.