Pastoral Letter: January 5, 2021
Note: This is normally the spot for the weekly "Letter from Liz." Amy and I will be writing these weekly pastoral letters while she's away on sabbatical.
Chalking of the doors from 2016.
Amy’s homily this past Sunday invited us “to go home by another way”; to not just simply return to our old ways of thinking and being prior to the pandemic, but to let this season and all its discomforts transform us into Christ’s likeness. Amy’s reference to going home also reminded me how much time most of us are spending at home these days.
We do everything at home now. We eat most of our meals at home, we work at home, we exercise at home, we meet with friends and family from our homes, and we even attend church from our homes. If you are anything like me, all this time at home can feel grating and constricting. All I want is to be away from home. Then this week I was reminded of the wise guidance of Randolph Somerset Ward, an Anglican priest and spiritual director who wrote a handful of books on the spiritual life. I think he offers us a helpful way of approaching our days so that they draw us closer to God and others. He says this in To Jerusalem: Devotional Studies in Mystical Religion,
To our normal mind, if we trouble to think about it, our daily life presents certain similarities to a prison. It is limited by certain conditions, necessities, and rules which seem to prevent any great or marked change. We have to get through a fixed amount of work at definite times, to be present at certain meals, and to get a regular amount of sleep. What opportunity is there in such an environment for adventure? Our mistake lies in thinking that the three dimensions in which we live are the only dimensions. There is a fourth, that of the Spirit, in which the opportunities for exploration are endless. We have to get up and come down to breakfast every day, but the state of mind and attitude towards life with which we do so is capable of infinite variation…. Each conversation is a potential adventure, capable of momentous results. All through the day which seems so fixed and so ordinary, avenues are continually presented to us for a journey into a far country…. I cannot learn charity, that is to love my neighbor as God loves him, unless I make daily experiments. If I limit my efforts to what I have always done, my charity will be what it has always been…. I cannot learn humility, that is, to see myself as God sees me, unless I am prepared to make and to take opportunities in each day for new points of view, new insight into my motives and thoughts.
There is an Epiphany tradition of “chalking the doors”. This year if we were chalking our doorframes, we would mark them with 20+C+M+B+21. The letters have two meanings. First, they represent the initials of the Magi — Caspar, Malchior, and Balthazar — who came to visit Jesus in His first home. But perhaps more importantly for us, they are an abbreviation of the Latin phrase, Christus mansionem benedicat, which means “May Christ bless this house.” At this turn of the year, a year in which we will undoubtedly be spending lots of time in our homes, I invite you to pray that God would bless and hallow your home so that in the midst of the activities of your day, it may become a place of adventure with him. And maybe go ahead a find a piece of chalk and mark your front door as a visual reminder that this year, this space, and all those who live in this home are dedicated to the God who is leading all of us home to himself.