Friday, August 14, 2015


This week (and its not over yet,) I have logged more than 400 miles on my odometer making my way around Central PA for various meetings and gatherings.

 Six different folks have made their way to Pine St. to meet with me, racking up an additional 528 miles on the road, and, as I’ve been able to keep track, the diocesan staff has logged more than 700 miles on the road visiting congregations, clergy and lay leaders this week- and that’s a conservative estimate that doesn't include the normal miles of commuting to work.

For those keeping track, that’s about 1,628 miles of travel for the sake of the Kingdom… and… it’s only Friday morning. (I’ve got a few appointments today, a wonderful Meet & Greet on Sunday with the Lancaster Convocation, and I know that the staff is busy this weekend, too.)

I knew when I signed on for this job that I’d be behind the wheel. A lot.  I’ve been given the use of our “company car-“ a wonderful, safe, economical Subaru Forrester. And I like to drive.  It gives me time to think, to pray, and to roll around ideas in my head in a more relaxed and creative way than when I am sitting down at a computer or with pen in hand to “work.”  The use of fossil fuel and paying close attention to our carbon footprint is vital in all of this, and it gets at the point that I’m wanting to make:  sometimes, we need real-time, face-to-face gatherings.  We can talk on the phone, burn up cyberspace with voluminous emails and use more modern technologies like Skype, Go-To-Meeting and other tele-conferencing mediums, but sometimes, in this biz we call “Church,” we just need to gather…. to be in the same room… to hear the subtle raising of a voice in tentative questioning at the end of a sentence, to see the shifting of bodies in chairs that signals that it’s time to move on, to catch the sparkle of an eye in affirmation and to pay attention to the furrowing of a brow in disagreement or wonder.  

There is something about praying together in a group that is different, too. The silence that wraps itself like a mantle around a quiet group is a comfort. The timbre of voices joined in prayer speaks at once to our diversity and our unity. The touching of hands while praying in a circle invites a spiritual connection that cannot happen from a distance.  Have you ever prayed with someone over the phone?  On the few occasions in which I have (both as the one offering and the one receiving the prayer,) it has felt awkward and stilted, as best.

And so, we gather.

The gospel lessons in our lectionary in the past few weeks have focused on the eternal life that we receive when we enter into relationship with Jesus.   The  evangelist John and the creators of our lectionary back us into the idea of eternal life by beginning with a feeding story- the Feeding of the 5,000. (John 6: 1-24)  Jesus physically – and miraculously- feeds the masses on a few fishes and loaves.  The next few weeks of readings develop this idea of feeding and sustenance with Jesus telling us that he is the bread… the Bread of Life…  and the theme reaches its climax this week with Jesus’ pronouncement: 

"Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day;for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them." (6: 54-56)

There is, in this, an unmistakeable intimacy that some might say borders on cannibalism … but that, in its symbolic sense, underscores a profound connection between two individuals- in this case, Jesus and… us.   

In the Anglican tradition, we talk about something called “real presence.”  In the eucharist when we gather to pray-  to offer thanks for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ and to bid his presence among us at the table - we believe that he is with us, as we share that holy meal.  The fraction anthem: “Be known to us, Lord Jesus, in the breaking of the bread,” sets the aspiration of our hearts to song, and, as we pass the bread and tip the cup, he is there, at the center of our circle.  “Whenever two or three are gathered, I will be among you,” Jesus promises, in Matthew (18:20)  I know that I have felt this mystical presence at the altar, and it is my priviledge as a priest to share this moment as I make my way down the altar rail, dispensing Jesus to the gathered faithful, in bits of a crusty loaf.

Ours is a tradition that places a premium on the incarnation.  On the fleshiness and presence of God-with-us. Emmanuel. We live it out by gathering for  worship and, as we build the Church, we live it out by jumping in our cars and coming together.  Because we need to.

Here’s an invitation:  In your gatherings this week- both in the pews and elsewhere, with your friends and neighbors- pay close attention to the idea of “presence.”  Notice the subtle gestures of those with whom you gather. Pay attention to the fluid movement of the group. And look, in the center of the circle, for Jesus.  He’s promised to show up.

This morning, I am lucky to have my first meeting at  St. Thomas Coffee Roasters just a mile from our house. I’m going to ride my bike.

1 comment:

  1. But you have to admit, driving around Central PA is just beautiful! You will be a great blessing to them (well, in theory, I'm still one of "them")!