Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
Summer is certainly here! Do you remember the last time 90+ temperatures arrived early in mid-June? It was five years ago, when we gutted the church for renovations and the schedule said we would have the air conditioning back on by the 4th of July. We were suddenly in the 90s in June preparing for one of the hottest summers on record…we were in the 100s in July…the air conditioning didn’ʹt come back on until September. All we had were the little portable air conditioners that put out more noise than cool…
This past weekend I was remembering this as it seemed pretty hot in church. They haven’t invented yet a system that can figure out how to go from empty to 650 people in 10 minutes on a hot day. But we are constantly fine tuning! Please be patient with us. We didn’t have air conditioning as children, and my dad had prophetic words for this: “a family that sweats together, sticks together.”
Speaking of sticking together, I’ve been thinking a lot about the things that can quickly threaten our families. Families aren’t unlike church communities: the first thing that breaks up families is when we value our individualism above our relationship with the people that God has placed in our lives. When the family or parish becomes the place to do for me what I want, then the whole idea of community is turned upside down. We are placed here for those around us, those around us aren’t placed here for us.
It has huge impact on the spiritual life, too, because God can become just another one of those things that exists to serve the individual. Then we don’t get what we want, God seems “distant,” either we get frustrated or bored or even angry. Many Christian churches have turned to the Gospel of prosperity or drum kits and entertainment or have become communities requiring no obligation whatsoever to try to coexist with this destructive individualism rather than trying to change it. The reality is, no matter how much modern churches are trying to become “relevant” to the individual, that is not really the job of the Church. The question is: How relevant is the individual to the life of the Church?
Down deep, I believe everyone is seeking to be relevant, but we have bought the whole selfish social ideal that it becomes a struggle too complicated to solve. Both can’t exist at the same time it is like matter and antimatter. It is easier to be served than to serve, but Jesus came to serve and to be the example for all those who follow as his disciples. It is service that we find our relevance; it is in love that we find our purpose, both in his love for us and in our love for one another. Ultimately it is all about love, and love can’t exist in an individual alone, because at some we realize that loving myself just doesn’t go anywhere.
The key is when we realize that we did nothing to deserve anything that we have received. Life, gifts, hopes, relationships, grace, salvation, perseverance, courage, reconciliation, God. Nor is there anything that we can do to earn or merit any of it. It is not false humility to say that I am not worthy of any of this. None of us are worthy, yet God chooses to love us anyway. Only when we get to the point that we truly realize that
God freely gives all these things to us who don’t deserve it will we understand the sentence, “God is love.” And “God loves me.” And in this fact I find my identity. And that identity is everything.
God bless you.