Last week, my letter talked about how joy often coexists with grief. When I wrote that, I was imagining facing our first Sunday without Liz. And Sunday did carry its share of joys and griefs, but not quite in the way I expected.
There was all the sorrow and uncertainty and just plain strangeness of Liz's absence. And there were all those small joys that make up our weekly worship: children leading us in song and dancing in the aisles; beautiful harmonies and a ukuleleing vestry warden; visitor-welcoming and van-loading; bread and wine and sending our problems to the cross.
But Sunday also brought the unexpected grief of Saturday's mass shooting in Buffalo by a self-proclaimed white supremacist. On Sunday we held silence for the victims, prayed a special collect from the Book of Common Prayer, and cried out for justice in our prayers of the people (thank you Grant!). Sadly, by Sunday evening there was news of another shooting, this one targeting a Taiwanese church. And so we continue to grieve, continue to ask "how long?", continue to cry out for God to uproot the evil and violence in our society, and in ourselves.
Sunday's gospel reminded us of those challenging words from Jesus' farewell discourse: "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." In my sermon, I talked about how small and weak this love mission can feel in the face of such enormous hatred in the world. And yet God has chosen to reveal his glory in what seems small and weak. There is true power in living Jesus' command to love one another in small, ordinary, faithful, generous ways; power that disrupts evil and announces the kingdom.
This Sunday offers us an invitation to ground our faith in small acts of love. The 6th Sunday after Easter is called Rogation Sunday, and begins a short period called Rogation Days in our liturgical calendar (I wrote more about Rogation Days a few years ago here). This is a time set aside for asking God to bless the land and people and industry of the geographic area of the church. It's just the kind of small, earthy, local celebration that we love here at Incarnation — a church full of gardeners, bread bakers, birdwatchers (ok, maybe that's just me), and neighborhood-lovers.
And so, I invite you over Rogation Days to do something small. Water houseplants. Fill bird feeders. Weed flower beds. Go for a walk around your neighborhood and look for signs of life and hope; ask God how you can tend those. Find practical ways to support your neighbors and local businesses. Pray blessing over the place you are planted. Another idea: help our neighbors at RILA!
Our worship for Rogation Sunday will feel appropriately collective (think: barn-raising, but liturgical). Katie Foran will lead us in a simple congregational hymn sing; come ready to add your voice loudly to our collective praises in familiar hymns. Katie Hamlin will lead the service and I'm delighted to worship under her warm and peaceful leadership once again. (There's no unspoken liturgical rule that only people named Katie can lead Rogation Sundays — but it certainly doesn't hurt!)
A COVID note
Cases are once again on the rise in our area, and many of us are adjusting behavior accordingly. At this stage of the pandemic, I'm particularly grateful for the good tools now available for mitigating COVID's severity and spread, and for our space at Randolph with its excellent air filtration and plenty of room to spread out.
I actually had a COVID exposure earlier this week, so I'm moving meetings online, monitoring symptoms, and following the CDC's quarantine/testing guidance. I am hoping and praying to be with you Sunday (masked for a change!) — but if not, I'm thankful for solid backup plans, flexible clergy colleagues in David and Katie, and wonderful volunteers.
If there's anything you want to discuss, pray, ask, grieve, or celebrate together, please don't hesitate to reach out. I love hearing from you!