Monday, January 9, 2012

New Beginnings, and Streaching our (Spritual) Muscles

In the last 24 hours I have had several experiences which have caused me to reflect a bit. The first was the outstanding sermon given by our departing Priest Associate for Evangelism, Julie Nelson, at the service yesterday morning. No, it wasn't a triumph of exegesis or a particularly new or surprising interpretation of scripture--it might be best described as a testimonial about what being at St. Edward's has meant to her and the power of God for new beginnings. Reflecting on the beginning of the creation story in Genesis and the story of Jesus' baptism at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, Julie talked about her experience of being at St. Edward's as her own "new beginning" and invited us all to reflect on the power of God to speak into being new beginnings all the time.

This morning, I joined Doris Martinez's "Feel Good Exercise Class" in Hallstead Hall and we stretched muscles that many of us had not worked on since before the holidays, or even longer than that! I know I'm going to feel it tomorrow, and not in a good way, but I also know that parish ministry is not a highly active occupation, and the opportunity to support an outreach of the church and get some much-needed exercise is a "two for one" that is hard to pass up.

Finally, a little while ago, I ran across an article that said, in part:
Finding ways for people to share their stories wasn’t about investing a lot of time researching the best curriculum or purchasing supplies. I relied on something that already flowed freely and found its way into nearly every gathering of the church. Coffee. The large percolator coffee pot was started before worship every Sunday. During silent pauses of a prayer, we could hear the pot entering its final stages of brewing. After the benediction and handshakes, the worshipers moved from the sanctuary to the parlor, where they filled their cups and shared with one another the stories of their week.
I've heard many jokes about our weekly Coffee Hour being "the third sacrament", but it really does serve as a time for people to grab a cup of coffee and a treat and have some conversations about what is happening in their lives, a story of the past, of a prayer for the future. People often share quite naturally, much like walking is quite natural.

What is not quite as natural as sharing snippets of stories is sharing more deeply with one another. Sharing our spiritual stories has a power that taps into that "new beginnings" power of God. As we speak, God speaks new things into being. This is very much the "witness to God's grace" part of our stated mission. Like our muscles, our ability to identify and witness God's grace in our lives atrophies if we fail to exercise it. So, one of the things we'll be doing in the next few months is looking for opportunities to share our stories of God's grace and power in our own lives. I'd love to hear your stories, and I'll do my best to weave my own (or particularly good ones from others, anonymously) into my sermons as well. Stretch!

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