Some Pastoral Reflections from Pastor Duncan:
*****Last night I caught an episode of “How Weather Changed History.” This is an interesting show on the weather channel that presents how various weather conditions have impacted important historical events. Last night’s episode was about the Revolutionary War and it was really quite fascinating to hear the story told from that perspective. Watching this comes on the heels of seeing another show where a comedian went out to the highways and byways and questioned random people about various topics – mostly history and geography. It was, I suppose, funny at the silly answers that some folks came up with to questions like – Who was the first president of the United States? But on the other hand it is also very sad and distressing. If we are to be complete citizens of this great nation we need to know our nation’s stories; we need to know the people and events from the past that have shaped our present; we need to know and understand the story of which we are a part. George Washington, the crossing of the Delaware, the battle of Trenton, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, all of these are a part of our own story.
*****In the same way we as Christians are a part of the long story of God’s involvement with God’s creation and of salvation history. This story goes back to the patriarchs and matriarchs of Genesis: Abraham, Sarah, Issac, Rebecca, Jacob, Esau, Leah, Rachel, Joseph – these are our ancestors of faith. The kings and prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures are our ancestors of faith. The disciples – Peter, John, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Thomas, Paul – these are our ancestors of faith. We need to know the stories, because they are our stories; their struggles are our struggles. If we loose a sense of these stories we loose a part of our identity as Christians.
*****There are a variety of ways we can continue to immerse ourselves in the stories of faith. The two most important ways are through worship and through Christian Education. In worship we hear the stories recounted in the readings and the sermon, but we also enter into the story of God’s saving action through the crucifixion of Christ through our regular participation in the Holy Eucharist. As we receive the bread and wine we are there in that upper room, at the foot of the cross, at the empty tomb. The liturgy itself is filled with references to the stories of faith: The Agnus dei (Lamb of God) comes from John the Baptist; the Sanctus (Holy, Holy Holy) comes from Isaiah (and the entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday – that is the Benedictus – Blessed is He….); the Magnificat (My Soul Magnifies the Lord) comes from Mary; the Nunc Dimittis (Lord now you let your servant go in peace) comes from Simeon; the Gloria (Glory to God in the Highest) from the song of the Angels….. and so on. These canticles, these liturgical experiences bring us inside the stories of faith, the stories of God’s salvation action through Christ.
*****Marva Dawn in her book “Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down” has written specifically about this issue in the chapter entitled “Discovering Our Place in the Story:” What a rich web of witnesses we call to mind when we enact the liturgy!... “The liturgy becomes no longer words, but a testament for real people of faith lived out by real people. We strengthen our ties not only with the faithful of the past, but with all others alive now, and those yet to come.”
*****This is why regular experience of worship is so vital to our Christian journey; this is why Sunday School and Christian Ed experiences are also so important. This is how we pass on the stories to a younger generation and how we ourselves are reminded of the stories. As we prepare to enter into Lent let us all remember that we are a part of God’s salvation history, and this remembrance brings with it both responsibility and renewal.
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