I wouldn’t say we go to an experimental church. But, yesterday our church had an experiemental service. They offered their first annual Maundy Thursday Family Service. I would call the experiment a success. The only thing they should change would be saving the nice towels for the adult service. More on that later.
Here at St. Mary’s, and at countless other Episcopal churches, we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis on the Sunday closest to October 4th with the blessing of animals. While stories of Francis preaching to the birds are more likely legend than fact, Francis did believe humans are meant to enjoy nature and to be faithful stewards of God’s creation. Over eight hundred years after his death, there is no question that our pets are tremendously important to us. I remember during a Lenten program I participated in through campus ministry at the U of O decades ago, a desperately shy student commenting in response to a question having to do with expressing affection, “Well, I could say ‘I love you’ to my cat.” Indeed, many of us feel free to say all kinds of things to our pets that we wouldn’t dare say to another person.
Years ago I remember Deacon Tom English, who has worked with the family members of murder victims, among others, commenting that these people have taught him that forgiveness is not a feeling, but a decision. Once made, it is a decision that must be remade again and again, until over time the heart finally accepts what the head decided was right. Even though most of us are never faced with forgiving another for causing the death of someone close to us, be it through murder, accident, or an act of war, deciding to forgive when we really don’t feel like it is extremely challenging for most of us. How fortunate we have all of Lent to meditate on the first sentence of the Ash Wednesday collect.
As a child, I was pretty clear what money was. It was the pennies, nickels, and dimes I put in my mite box. It was the nickel it cost to buy a popsicle on a hot summer day. It was the bills Mom pulled from her wallet to pay for groceries. Once, on a frightening night on the highway in the Georgia swamps, it was a whole envelope of bills Mom tossed at me in the back seat, fearing we were about to be robbed, telling me to hide it. For want of a better place, I stuffed the envelope under my sleeping six month old sister, figuring nobody would look there. Nowadays, it’s a whole lot less clear to me what money is.
Partisan in-fighting, economic uncertainty, natural disasters, personal tragedies... Is it any wonder that a deep-seated malaise seems to have settled over the land? It is impossible to pick up a newspaper, turn on the television, or go online without encountering bad news of some sort. The wonder isn’t that so many people are chronically depressed, but rather how anyone can manage to be upbeat. Don’t they have any problems? Are they stupid? Perhaps they simple view the world from a different perspective.