I’ve been thinking a lot this week, leading up to my ordination to priesthood, about blessing. I have thought about being blessed by others and ways I might become a blessing. I have thought a lot about my placement here at St Peter’s, and the many ways the people of this community bless me.
In my time here, I have received many gifts – abundantly, unexpectedly, and beautifully. I have received avocados, bananas, persimmons, and starfruit on my desk ; I have received saved plates of food from coffee hour; I have received notes and cards of encouragement; I have received homemade pumpkin bread and curries; I have received lei; I have been blessed by the people of this place.
Alongside those tangible things, those things so generously given and shared with me, I have also been the recipient of less tangible things.
There is an older parishioner, who, when she is wheeled out of the sanctuary, blesses me by taking my hands in hers, raising them to her face, and kissing them. There is an acolyte, who, when passing the peace, raises his hands and says, “praise the Lord!”. There are people who, despite how random my Adult Forum topic may be, show up and are ready to discuss and go with whatever I throw out. There are parishioners who, week by week, faithfully come to Bible study, often giving me something to think about for my sermon.
The church is made up of these individuals, yes – but it is also a place of community. The community here has blessed me with warmth, laughter, and smiles. Last week, I was blessed by the children who came up for the chidlren’s message – I had a message about Elf on the shelf, and two of our kids brought up their own elves – their participation and willingness to go with me in the message I gave was a blessing.
Last week, I went to sing some Christmas carols at one of the rehab centers, with the Hospice Hawaii Choir. As I sang, I smiled – and I noticed some of the residents smiling back at me. I think, sometimes, that is a small way to become a blessing – simply to smile. To allow light to shine, not necessarily from you, but through you – allowing yourself to become a vessel for God to become incarnate again in this world.
I have been blessed, gifted, with many examples of this God-bringing by those who I serve – I hope I can manifest it for others.
This week in Adult Forum, we began to talk about evangelism – each of us confessing, in our small, cramped education room, that we are not as comfortable as we feel we “should” be with the idea of sharing our faith – myself included.
What is it about evangelism that is so scary?
For many of the parishioners I hear from, and for myself, sometimes it is fear of being “one of THOSE christians”. I am scared of sharing words which feel threatening, or empty. I DO want to share the good news, and want to talk about the relationship I have with Jesus which has transformed my life – but I sometimes don’t exactly know how to enter that conversation – or, more specifically, how to come to it with an open heart.
I realised, as we talked about it on Sunday, that part of what I find so scary and so threatening is that being an evangelist means being vulnerable. It means opening up a part of myself which is sweet, and tender, and so close to my heart. And, not knowing how that open-ness will be treated, or received.
This Saturday, I went to my friend, Chris’s ordination service. He was ordained in the same class of deacons, and he asked my help in his service. I was a little early to the church, and hadn’t had time to get him a lei – so I thought I would go over to the Foodland which is close, and pick one up.
On the way out the door, I saw someone walking in – a man who was decked out in Christmas gear, with a christmas-tree hat. He caught my eye, and said, directly, “Merry Christmas!” I said it back, and walked to my car smiling.
He’s stayed with me – this man, whose mission it was to spread Christmas cheer that day. He was open, and vulnerable, and in some ways he was wearing his heart on his sleeve. And, it softened me. I saw this guy, being so authentically himself, and it made me smile.
So, as I was thinking about evangelism, and being vulnerable, I thought about him – I thought about how, when you actually ARE vulnerable, and open to the world, not knowing the response – sometimes, the response can be joy. Sometimes, you can influence a conversation you’re not even part of.
I am being challenged this week, and every week, to wear my heart on my sleeve – to be visible and open about the Love I have received, and the Love I’d like to share.
Most people will tell you, I am not a very patient person. I am a planner – I like things to be prompt, and reliable – I don’t like surprises. And yet, Advent is my very favourite church season of the year. I love Christmas, of course – the actual arrival of baby Jesus, this long expected Saviour – the knowing that Jesus came down into the muck and the dirt of our lives, and began the story of redemption from that place.
But, however much I love Christmas, I love the buildup more.
Last weekend, I stopped by Central Union Church with my cousin to get my tree, a tiny tabletop which smells deliciously fresh, and is now siting atop my windowsill. Yesterday afternoon, I went to Target to get some twinkly lights for my tree, and hung them (somewhat haphazardly). I’ve been enjoying working in my office to Christmas carols playing in the background. I notice that people are more likely to look one another in the eye and wish each other a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”.
All of this builds the anticipation, and gives me time to prepare. My excitement builds and builds, as I chip away at the projects and work I have in the meantime.
Advent teaches me patience, but it also gifts me, over and over again, with great joy in the waiting. I am not waiting in a still way – I am actively engaged in preparation, actively in the world and working.
I hope your Advent gifts you with the same joy.