November 01, 2017
Last month I shared a reflection on how, even during a seven-week absence, I maintain connection with Trinity Parish. Now, as we are entering our last week away and beginning preparations to return to Greeley, it is time to reflect on reconnecting. Before I do that, there is a subject I’ve mentioned from time to time in the last couple of years, the question of when I might retire.
The answer to that question is that I have as yet no answer to that question. For the last nearly 20 years Dorie Ann and I have intentionally given over control of where we serve to God’s direction. Each time we have moved from one congregation to another it was because of two things. First, the work I was doing was completed. Second, the call to go another place was both unsolicited and unexpected. Beginning with the latter, we’ve had no invitation to go anywhere. And I believe there is more for me to do here. Please note, this is my intuition, not God’s revelation.
Each time God has moved us, we’ve had about three months’ notice before the move. The Church Pension Fund requires a six-month notice before drawing one’s pension so God & the Pension Fund will have to sort that out between them. In short, this means we’re returning from the sabbatical with no plans other than to keep on serving at Trinity pending further instructions from the Holy Spirit.
Now on to reconnecting: while I hope you’ve remembered me fondly while I’ve been on sabbatical, it will soon be time to be re-membered to our common life. We rarely remember that the word member has its origins in the human body. To use it in any other way was to use it analogically to describe profound and intimate connections between human beings. That was long ago. Today the word member has dropped in value. We can be a member of an organization or group with which our relationship is superficial and undemanding. However, there is still one use of the word member that carries the force of the original meaning: dismember.
On the one hand that seems an over-the-top image for being away for seven weeks. On the other, particularly because I continued to hold you all in daily prayer, it did feel a little like being “dismembered.” Even daily intercession is insufficient to maintain the full connection we are to have as one Body. And this sense of disconnect is caused in part by what God has done for us in Jesus.
I do not speak here about reconciliation, salvation, forgiveness or any of the normal things we would list about what Jesus has accomplished. Instead my focus is on that one line in the Gospel of John: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14) There are two things implied in the verse that have significance for reconnecting.
First, the Word becoming flesh is no accident. A wholly spiritual God has entered into a very physical, material world in Jesus. The ancient hymn The Exultet declares that “earth and heaven are joined and sin is washed away.” The late J.B. Phillips wrote: “We shall never know, in the depths of our being, the meaning of the crucifixion, or of the triumph of the resurrection, until we see that this man Jesus was God being a man, and not in any sense God pretending to be a man.” This means for us that community is built from our material interactions. It is important that we see one another face to face, hear one another’s voice. As I discovered many years ago from the initial and ongoing failure to create human community online, if it is not local, it is not real.
The second implication of John 1:14 is in the phrase “dwelt among us.” The word translated as “dwell” is more accurately rendered as “pitched his tent” or more awkwardly “tabernacled among us.” Whichever word we use the image is of someone moving with a mobile community. Wherever we go the Incarnate Word travels with us. To reconnect using this image means me tracking alongside the rest of the Trinity community in the directions God leads you and me.
On Wednesday, November 1 I restart my work among you most appropriately at the celebration of All Saints’ Day at 6:30a with Eucharist in the chapel. It is appropriate because the theme of the day is the communion of the saints or in less religious jargon, the connectedness of our community. I would love to see any of you who can make that early hour then. But in the days and weeks to follow I’d prefer to spend as much time as I can manage chatting with you, whether over coffee or a meal, and reconnect. I look forward to being back in our common life.
In the Holy Three in One – The Rev’d Jack Stapleton, Rector
November 29, 2017
November 29, 2017
November 29, 2017