As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
This past Sunday we expressed our deep appreciation for all the faithful, long-time members of our community of faith, most especially those who have been members of St. Simon’s, including time at St. John’s and St. Hilary’s—local parishes that have closed—for thirty years or more. While some couldn’t make it, the collection of those who did, standing in front of the altar was truly marvelous. They embody much wisdom, faith and faithfulness. And we are grateful for their witness and dedication, which undergirds who we are today and lends strength to our future.
That evening, at our Spooky Spaghetti Dinner, I was given a beautiful book, signed by all the children present, filled with expressions of appreciation written by many members of our community. Apparently October is Pastor Appreciation Month—who knew such a thing even existed?!? I have been so touched as I make my way through the book. I’m honored to be your rector, your priest, your friend. I am blessed to stand with you in times of profound pain and in times of great joy, and to support you in your desire to grow both individually and as a community.
One of the notes began with the recognition that ‘we don’t always take the time to express our appreciation.’ That struck me as so true in life. The larger society’s discourse is intensely critical of pretty much everyone and everything. We humans seem hard wired to find fault, to critique, to focus on the problems, and it seems to be getting worse not better. When I think of the amount of hatred, the amount of venom, directed at people, groups, cultures, I truly feel sick to my stomach. And yet, I know that at times I feel the rising of that impulse of criticism within me, and it is not always easy to choose a different way.
But that is exactly what we are called to do as Christians. It isn’t always easy, and it is counter-cultural. In the letter to the Colossians, it is put this way:
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
In truth, we don’t get it right so much of the time: we do hurt one another and let others down, even when we don’t mean to. And it is easy, out of our hurt, to lash out and seek to inflict hurt in response. But the escalation of hurt and pain leads only to more hurt and pain. Jesus invites us to have the courage to live differently, allowing the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts. One way we affirm our desire to live into this way (even though we know we fall short) is through the practice of appreciation—intentionally sharing with others how we are thankful for them, focusing on what good is present rather than on whatever it is that might be lacking. We all have ways we fall short. We yearn for harmony and connection, even as we know and experience pain. When we choose to clothe ourselves in love, we discover that we are home, cradled in the oneness of being the body in Christ.
We are called, over and over again, to seek a different path, the path of forgiveness and transformation. How do we support one another to respond to this radically different way of living? What might our world, our community, our families look like, if we did so?
Hope to see you Sunday!