As I sat in our church organist's kitchen, I listened as Owen Fraser played hymns on a digital organ that he built himself. Earlier, we had been standing at the door looking at a deer looking at us, as birds fed and the snow fell gently. He explained the process to me where he had cut and carved the wood from his own property; assembled the pieces into the frame for the organ, and the intentional slight tilt in the keyboard for easier access to the upper keys. He also described the technology that went into it: the touch screens for the console and stops that give the organ sound; the hard drive that stored the programs of the digital copies of the great organs of Europe that have been faithfully reproduced and programmed. And the massive speakers that fill Owen's kitchen and fill it with remarkable sound as he plays two of four keyboards and foot pedals. There's no "can't" in Owen's hymn book of life.
I once asked Doug Bannon what his philosophy was for running his company. And he answered, "I always thought if the other fella could do it, I could do it too."
I am always amazed at the intellect, talent and faith within our congregation. Being a church, we are different from every other organization because our business model is based on sacrificial giving that may lead to death. We trade in an economy of justice and standing with people in their worst hour. And despite all of those holy and good things, we sometimes argue, fight, and don't get along. But here's the thing, a truth once driven home to me by two teachers of the faith: we aren't called to like each other, we are called to love each other.
And that's the gift of faith. Jesus shows us how to do it, moment by moment, day by day, week after week, year after year, until we practice it into our way of living and into the world.
I see the love of Christ in the guys standing in the alcove of the church doors smoking weed and broken in ways we can't possibly see or imagine. I see the love of Christ in the exhausted mom who comes out of church, and an elder asks to hold her baby for a few minutes, giving the mom a much-needed reprieve and the elder a much-needed cuddle. I see the love of Christ in the shut-in congregant who hands me their offering envelope when I leave because she knows that even though she doesn't have much, the church could use some. I see Christ in the people who check off "Mission and Service" on their church givings even though they will never know see the people their money directly affects. I see the love of Christ in the volunteers at the Karing Kitchen who unknowingly serve Jesus in the lineup of people standing there each and every day waiting for some food. Where do you see the Risen Christ in your life?
I've celebrated Easter for my entire life in different ways. I've stood on a beach at sunrise as we cooked fish and broke bread. I've sat in grand sanctuaries with choirs processing to ancient hymns accompanied by regal pipe organs. (I confess that I also skipped church when I was 13 so I could put together a model of a ship that my parents bought me from a hobby shop. God saw to it that I never missed Easter again.)
In his apology to the church, the Rev. Evan Dolive writes,
"The church today is at a crossroads, and there is no denying that. We have a long way to go in a lot of different areas, but for right now the gospel is being preached, the love of God is being shared, and the grace of Jesus the Christ is being given. The sky is not falling, the boat is not sinking, the end is not near. If we go looking for the bad things, we will find them. If we focus on what we are doing for the Kingdom, then we will see the movement of God in our midst."
I pray this Easter that your faith be renewed so that it may sustain you in the time to come.
We will gather together as a church on Good Friday at 11am to remember and reflect upon the events that led up to the crucifixion of Jesus. And then, on Easter Sunday, we will gather to break bread and share the vine with his disciples who have seen and believed, doubted and despaired, and emerged promising to follow him for the rest of their lives. May it be so with us.
On behalf of your church, may you have a holy Lent, a Happy Easter, and thanks for all you do as followers of the way.The Rev. Aaron Billard, Minister