the gift of love

IMG_0796I’m having a hard time accepting that this is my final e-reflect as priest-in-charge at St Elisabeth’s.  It seems like just a short time ago I was describing the year ahead as our sunflower season.  And what a sunflower season it has been.  I am deeply thankful for the incredible journey we have shared over these past nine months.One of the most amazing gifts of the year has been the sharing of stories.  Back when I was applying for a sales position at Xerox Corporation just out of college, the District Manager nearly refused to hire me.  Why, he said with some distain, would I hire someone who was an English Major?   “Well,” I scrambled to respond even while wondering that very same thing myself, “because all of life is story.  It is about listening deeply to the story of the other and seeing the ways different stories overlap and intersect.  Sales is about creating a story that connects and responds to the yearnings of others as expressed in their stories.”  I’m not sure where that came from….but I was hired.  Not long after, however, I realized I was far more interested in the story sharing and listening aspects of my job than I was to the selling part of the equation!

Being here at St Elisabeth’s this year has confirmed the importance of story for me, and I have heard many others in the community confirm how meaningful the deep sharing has been for them as well.   You are, as Chris mentioned in his sermon last Sunday, extraordinary story-tellers and story-listeners.   Recently, parishioner Carla Arnell shared with me this quote by Muriel Rukeyser: “the world is made of stories not atoms.”  Indeed!

Inspired by the Easter person adult forum series this spring, Carla also wrote an article about the power of stories and their relationship to the practice of hospitality which is linked here and available on the reflections page of our website.   In it she draws wisdom from Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey which

places the desire to know another person’s story at the heart of true hospitality.  In Homer’s culture, it is the height of courtesy to ask the stranger who he is and invite his life story.

Carla explores how rare this is in our culture and how many factors combine to actually prevent such deep and meaningful sharing to occur.  I commend her excellent article to you, and to her insightful list, I would add one more reason we human beings sometimes resist inviting the stranger to share their story and to offer ours:  the anticipation of pain.  The more deeply connected we are, the more painful it is to say goodbye when the time comes.  Part of the reason I’m struggling to write this reflection, is that I know it is my last.  And I know that I will miss journeying with all of you as we have this past year.  But in the end, I know it is a good pain, a precious pain, pain that reminds me of the deep love we’ve shared.  And I know that we will share communion always, rooted as we are in the Holy One.

From the beginning you made room for me and for my family, embracing us, and our story, with warmth and openness and grace.   And from the beginning, I have been honored to receive your stories.  I’m truly blessed by the gift your rector, Daphne Cody, gave me by entrusting you to me and me to you for this sabbatical year.  Know that you, the marvelous people of St Elisabeth’s, are forever a part of my story, and of our family story, and for that I rejoice and give thanks always.