Thursday, March 27
"Our compassionate efforts toward justice guarantee a deepened faith and prayer life. They will lead us to disciplines of the spirit and of the heart. By engaging with suffering, we learn true joy. By touching despair, we discover what it means to embrace hope. By coming to know Christ crucified, we participate in his resurrection. By pouring ourselves out, we gain our lives."
Joyce Hollyday, "Then Shall Your Light Rise."
Larry and I met for our Pastoral Team meeting Wednesday and I said to him: "It *feels* like a whole new season!" and he said: "It is! So that works out." and we laughed.
I like it when I register change internally as well as externally, when I feel in synch with the revolving seasons of the church and/or nature. The calendar says it's spring, but hmm....another snowstorm yesterday. The liturgical calendar says the Easter season has begun, and that it has. He is risen! (even if the flowers aren't).
Holy Week was a remarkable experience at Immanuel this year, as it usually is. All of the services of the Triduum, The Great Three Days, were markedly different from one another, each one uniquely beautiful. On Maundy Thursday we followed Jesus's commandment that his disciples wash one another's feet, as he washed theirs, and his institution of communion in asking his disciples to eat bread and drink wine together in remembrance of him. It was a joyful service that ended on a solemn note as we stripped the altar of its furnishings. On Good Friday we remembered Jesus's passion and death in a darker service. We brought our brokenness and desire for wholeness to the cross, and strove to see it as tree of life as well as place of death, knowing that new life comes from what is passing away. At the Easter Vigil, we heard stories of salvation, the Scripture stories that are part of our heritage as Christians: the Creation, Noah's ark, the Exodus,and others. We danced our way to the baptismal font, where we remembered our own baptisms, then danced into the sanctuary, bright and bedecked with lilies -- we sang and clapped and the place rang out with Alleluias. When it was all over there was a champagne reception and teenagers from Sweden singing gospel music in Swedish and English. People ate right in the sanctuary. (This is not your parents' church!) :-) The entire evening was a feast for the senses. On Easter Sunday, the place was packed. It was a very joyful and festive morning, with trumpets and communion and a sermon about rolling away the stones in our own hearts. It was a marvelous four days.
One of the joys of doing these shared worship services with Immanuel and St. Elias -- the other two congregations with whom we share space -- is having people of different traditions and backgrounds come together harmoniously. Children were welcomed as worshippers and participants in the services. Lessons were read in Arabic. People of all ages served at the altar and were present in the congregation. There was diversity of gender and ethnicity and orientation.
One of our joys and challenges, as followers of Christ, is to remember Jesus' openness to the foreigner and the outsider, and to have that same spirit of inclusivity within us. As human beings we often tend to gravitate toward our own kind, those we perceive as like us. And yet Christ continually went beyond the boundaries of his own kind to reach out to the Samaritan woman at the well, the Syro-Phonecian woman who asked him to heal her daughter, the leper, the blind, the lame. As we at Reconciler experience growth and prepare to start a Search Committee for a new Baptist pastor, we do well to keep in our minds and hearts that same openness, and the knowlege that if we are to grow we have to be open to change and difference. All churches struggle with simultaneously wanting to grow and wanting to stay the same, and we are no exception. It's comfortable to see the same faces each week, even while we feel excited about, and hospitable toward, newcomers.
In this season of Easter, let's remember that Christ came for everyone, not only his own, and strive to embrace that spirit of inclusive love for which he lived and died and lived again.
Alleulua, Christ is Risen!
The Rev. Laura Gottardi-Littell
The Pastoral Team
The Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler
Laura will be out of town March 29 through April 7. Please contact Larry for pastoral care and emergencies.
The Rev. Jacki Belile will be our guest Baptist preacher on March 30.
Also, on March 30 from 1:30 - 4:30 p.m. Melissa and Wes Browning will host a benefit at their home for Amani, the women's sewing co-op in Kenya with which they have worked. Kenyan coffee, tea, and treats will be served, and there will be wonderful items for sale (clothing, handcrafts) to directly benefit this organization that fosters positive change in the lives of Kenyan families.
On April 15, Laura, Larry, Monte, and Gabi -- the four pastors on the Immanuel "Campus of Discipleship" -- will be speaking at the National Workshop on Christian Unity, about our experiences of being three congregations sharing and working together in an ecumenical context.