It’s not about the _____________: on death and life in a community of faith
One Sunday in August, Holy Cross’ St. Francis-in-residence (or should I say St. Frances), Robyn, asked for prayers for a good friend who was dying. A friend named Chuck. That same morning she and Tim found that their Madagascar cockroach named Oppenheimer had died. Yes, a pet cockroach! Robyn had been in tears over Oppenheimer and couldn’t figure out why it was affecting her so deeply. I have to admit this was a first, comforting a parishioner mourning the death of an insect. But Robyn is truly like St. Francis in that she spends much time communing with creation. Birds feed from her hand. Wild animals do not fear her. She finds beauty in all of creation.
Well, at least Oppenheimer was a living creature. Why when our blender died today, did I also find myself feeling sad? Perhaps because this appliance belonged to my long-deceased parents since they were married in 1949. It wasn’t a Waring or an Oster, but one of the early Sunbeam models that had enhanced many a middle class kitchen of the post-war era. My memories of this blender include parties where my parents made Brandy Alexanders for house parties; and also the meals that my mother blended for my dad to eat, since cancer of the tongue and jaw took away his ability to chew food. Since we’ve been married, Jerry has kept this blender going long beyond its time. He has replaced everything but the main motor. But today it just couldn’t make the morning smoothie. It gave up the ghost and died.
Within our lives and all around us, losses occur daily. They are too many to name. Some things we are attached to quit working. Beloved pets of all kinds die. Family members and friends move away or we ourselves move from one place to another. Toddlers learn to walk, then before you know it, they go to school…and, whoosh, they’re in college. Older relatives and friends lose independence and die to this life. These losses are part of life. Then others happen without notice. Weather-related disasters claim whole communities. An outbreak of Ebola wreaks havoc half a world away. Constantly the ravages of war and terrorism decimate lives and ways of life.
I can understand why the recent suicide of Robin Williams has affected a number of ordinary people so deeply. His life made this world a better place, his brilliant light shed God’s light in a dark world, and he cared about bringing divine humor to those who needed it most, including active military and children in hospitals. And then he decided he could take no more. If someone as beloved and revered as Robin Williams decides that the weight of living life is too much to carry, what does that mean for the rest of us?
Just like most marital or family spats are not really about which way the toilet paper rolls or how the toothpaste tube is rolled up, I suspect that the sadness we feel at any given time has deeper roots. One of the primary roles of faith community is to share the weight of sadness. To live together in Christ, knowing that we are not alone. We come to Holy Cross, believing that no present sadness is too trivial to pray about, or to share. Against the backdrop of the cross, life’s sadness takes on different meaning. On the Cross, Jesus felt more pain than we can ever imagine. He gives us strength to move forward as we carry the crosses He asks us to bear.
In light of the present work regarding the Future Church Task Force of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, and the collaboration that is being invited among Area IV churches, I’ve realized that no matter what is being birthed (and it may well be something wonderful), something else is being lost. It’s a little nebulous to know what’s being lost when the discernment process for collaboration is just beginning. But I want you to know that I feel the anxiety that this process is introducing for all of us. Like many of you, I don’t want Holy Cross to change or die. But I know that God is working His purpose out in our midst. I pledge as your Vicar to do my utmost to lead us through this time of uncertainty, to invite your sadness, and pray our way through this transition together.
The same morning that our blender died, a man came to the church. No one we had ever seen before. He worked nearby, and asked to see the church. When we got to the sanctuary, he broke down in tears. He had been in despair, and awoke that morning in desperation, praying that God would give him a sign or lead him to a place where he could feel less hopeless. God led him to Holy Cross. This small encounter was an affirmation from God of why the Church matters so much, and why Holy Cross is here. Robin Williams’ light is surely shining brightly in the next life. Let us each do our part to bring hope and light to each other and to all whom we meet.
God bless and keep you,
Top 10 Reasons to be an Episcopalian
by Robin Williams
- No snake handling.
- You can believe in dinosaurs.
- Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.
- You don’t have to check your brains at the door.
- Pew aerobics.
- Church year is color-coded.
- Free wine on Sunday.
- All of the pageantry – none of the guilt.
- You don’t have to know how to swim to get baptized.
And the Number One reason to be an Episcopalian:
- No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.
Gracious God, Who leads and guides Your people in the wilderness, we seek your guidance in the days and weeks to come. Like Abram and Sarai, we have heard Your call to follow. We want to be obedient. But as we think about a different way of being Your Church, Christ’s Body — in Northern San Diego County, in the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, and in the world — our imaginations are limited to what we know and love in the life of Your Church.
As we work together with five sister churches, guide us according to Your will. Grant us grace to trust in You and to find comfort in Your abiding presence among us. Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us; open our ears to hear Your call in the voice of collaboration; and open our arms to love one another as Jesus taught us to do. Lead us out of the wilderness of our imaginations into a place of abundant hope and compassion for all whom You call us to serve. These things we humbly pray in the name of Jesus Your Son, Who gave His life that the Church might live, and who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (written by Rev. Laura and Deacon Allison)
Happy New Year, Congregation B’nai Tikvah!
Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew: ראש השנה, literally “head [of] the year”) is the Jewish New Year. The Biblical name for this holiday is called Yom Teruah (Hebrew: יום תרועה, literally “day [of] shouting/raising a noise”) or the Feast of Trumpets according to the correct biblical calendar of the 1st and 2nd temple period, not Rosh Hashanah. It is the first of the High Holy Days or ימים נוראים Yamim Nora’im (“Days of Awe”) which usually occur in the early autumn of the Northern Hemisphere. Rosh Hashanah is a two-day celebration, which begins on the first day of Tishrei. The day is believed to be the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and their first actions toward the realization of humanity’s role in God’s world. Rosh Hashanah customs include sounding the shofar (a hollowed-out ram’s horn) and eating symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey to evoke a “sweet new year”. (www.wikipedia.org)
Rosh Hashanah Services will be held Wednesday evening and Thursday, September 24 and 25.
Yom Kippur services will take place Friday evening and Saturday, October 3 and 4. A more detailed schedule of services will be available in the Church Office and on the Narthex Table.
Visit from Executive Director of Episcopal Refugee Network
To conclude the July Outreach Donation Drive for Episcopal Refugee Network, Holy Cross welcomed Executive Director Jake Young and Staff Member Katherine Bom. After worship, Mr. Young thanked Holy Cross for our deeply generous and ongoing commitment to providing literally tons of rice and beans, and gallons of cooking oil to refugee families who are making their first home in this country in San Diego. Ms. Bom spoke from the firsthand perspective of a refugee. She said that the food we donate not only feeds families, but provides hope and affirmation amidst the challenges of making a new life after experiencing war and famine in the Sudan.
Outreach totals for the summer donation drives will be provided in the October newsletter. Thank you, Holy Cross, for going above and beyond the call to help. We are one of the primary churches assisting the Episcopal Refugee Network. And we are making a huge difference in the lives of God’s people from all over the world!