When I was in seminary in Chicago, I took an intensive class with a small group of people from all different faith backgrounds. One of my classmates was finishing his studies to become a Catholic priest and a monk. He used to describe the monastery he was going to live in to us. It sounded beautiful, but the one thing that most stuck with me was his description of the communion rail around the table. They had a polished wooden railing – like a lot of sanctuaries do – that ran all the way around the chancel in a big semi-circle. All the brothers could fit around it together as they gathered for communion. Outside the sanctuary, on the other side of the chancel wall, the circle was continued in stone, and it came together to make one big ring around the table. On this side of the circle was the monastery’s cemetery. Every time they gathered for communion, this circle reminded the living brothers of the monastery that they were also gathered with the dead brothers of the monastery. And they remembered that no matter which side of the wall they were on, they were all part of the one, same community.
One summer, many years ago, I drove through a terrible, terrible storm. It was the fourth of July. My family and I had driven down to Norfolk, about an hour from my hometown, to go watch the fireworks. The show ended up getting cut short by a tornado warning, so we decided to hightail it out of there to try to get out of the storm’s path. By the time we finally got out on the highway, the rain was pouring down in thick sheets and the wind howled around us as it ripped through the darkness. It was pitch black and almost impossible to see anything, even the road. It felt like all I could do just to keep my car between the fog lines. But up ahead of me, I realized I could just make out two little red lights in the darkness – the taillights of my dad’s SUV. As I gripped the steering wheel of my car with white-knuckled hands, I kept my eyes on those lights and followed them all the way through the darkness to home and safety.
Today, we mark the beginning of Lent, the long, slow march toward Christ’s death on the cross. As I’ve been reflecting on these texts once again this week, I’ve found myself noticing just how many words we encounter this time of year that start with “re-”: repentance, regret, reconciliation, remission, return. Among these words, one word in particular grabbed my attention: the word “remorse.” When I read the word in Spanish – remordimiento – it occurred to me that the literal definition of “remorse” is actually “to bite again.” As it turns out, much like my cat, Lent is a season that bites. Continue reading “Sermon: Bitten Again”
I brought some of my own saints with me today. This is one of the most precious pictures I have. This is my great-grandma Martha, my mom, Becky, and my grandma Orpha – we always called her Grandma Ziggy. And that’s little, tiny, baby me in the middle. I’m so grateful to have this photo, because all three of these women died by the time I was ten years old. Continue reading “Sermon: Saints and Citizens of the Kingdom”