Yesterday, I went back to Redeemer.
God! What a statement! I had some idea of what I wanted
to say, why I wanted to write; but I had not formed any words in my head until
my fingers hit the keyboard. This is what came out, unannounced, a total
surprise to me. I have often spoken of writing as letting my pen speak to me,
and I am bowled over by what it has said.
The simple words are what I intended to write about. I made a visit to worship with the congregation of the Church of the Redeemer, Episcopal (Houston) yesterday. I had heard through Facebook that the Rev. Dr. Israel Ahimbisibwe had received a one year appointment as vicar. I think the presence of Fr. Israel (now if THAT is not a name to live up to!) and his delightfully gracious and wise wife Dorcus shows the goodness of God towards that congregation as much as just about anything I can imagine. I found myself nearly ecstatic with joy, and I resolved that I must go celebrate this Sunday (the 17th). They are currently sharing space with an ELCA church in the neighborhood, also “Church of the Redeemer” with their beautiful building, and meeting at 4:00 pm on Sunday. With allowances for that digression, I intended to say how pleasant, and how healing my visit was. That was my intent.
But it was not the intent of my pen. It knows more. I of course do not believe in the phenomenon sometimes called “automatic writing” considering it primarily occult (or semi-occult) trash. But, our enemy having never had an original idea, there is perhaps an original of which automatic writing is a silly imitation; and it is probably more akin to prophesy. God knows what I need to say, what I wish to say, what I need to hear, even what I need to hear my self say. Sometimes He can break through my outline, and write it for me.
And so I wrote “Yesterday, I went back to Redeemer.”…
I could save a lot of words by editing the sentence to say what I intended to mean. But I would do better probably to ponder what it is I in truth mean, and why these words get such a reaction from me, and why I wrote them.
In previous posts I touched on my thoughts and experiences from my 20 years there. There has been much to ponder. I think my experience of the last service in the old building (February, 2011) helped me finally release the past, but in a new way. A few years back, at the funeral for EH (one of the great saints of God), I experienced a release. The pain and struggle was behind. It was good. BTW, that experience seems so appropriate for EH, that I understand that even as God receives her into His nearer presence, He is by no means through with her. Her good work and good influence continue.
One day I may see how widely, and truly rejoice in astonishment.
The struggle was gone, the tooth was pulled, the pain was over. But there was no future. Redeemer was part of my past.
The further healing was on that closing weekend. As I have said, the point that caught me from the excellent sermon was that the events of the previous 40 years at Redeemer could every one be assigned to one of two categories:
1) They were amazing gifts
demonstrating the goodness of God, and His Glory
Or else, they were
2) Events brought about, and
steeped in human sin and brokenness… redeemed by the goodness of God, and for His Glory.
Like Joseph in Egypt, well or ill, by God’s purpose, or by His redemption, all is brought into His Glory. Including my years at Redeemer, the bad as well as the good. I could see my time at Redeemer, all of it, and own it not with just passive acceptance, but with joy and gratitude.
OK, that brings me to yesterday. What happened?
There is not perfection in liturgical worship. There are some practices I find really annoying. They are by no means wrong, and are done to the glory of God, not to the “taste of Eric” and that’s as it should be. But they don’t draw me. There was good, plain and simple worship guided by the Book of Common Prayer, and the Hymnal, but not ruled by them. There was other freedom in music, and the “work of the people” was really that; ruled by neither the clock nor the agenda, although served by both. The sermon was plain, but direct to the needs of the parish. People listened and responded.
They spoke of it during the service, and afterwards.
In short, I suppose I would say that this serviced was not a “polished up” wonderful exposition and exploration. It came across as a natural outpouring and receiving, a breathing out and in, of a people who really care about God and His work in this world and in their lives.
There is much brokenness.
I sense large undercurrents of “who are we, now? Now that “the vision” is gone” where is our place in God and this world?” And I sense a plaintive anguish in that cry. But it is real, and even more, it is a plaintive cry of anguish that fully and actually expects an answer. It is a cry of faith.
And I found myself wanting to be a part of it. Partly, I suppose because it so echoes my own cry. I will not say what God is doing. He may well have an entirely different path for me. A happy Sunday is not God’s leading.
But for the first time in some 20 years, I could entertain a question about a future at Redeemer, not with dread, but with something of a lively curiosity. We shall see.
Yesterday, I came back to Redeemer.