Seroquel

John 10:11-18

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday, your patronal feast day, when we celebrate the fact that Jesus has proclaimed himself as our good shepherd, and the fact that we have said “Yes” to Jesus’ proclamation.

Now, we could spend the whole morning talking about sheep and how cute those little lambs are, and dispelling the myth that sheep are stupid (they’re not and we know it. Goats are stupid; sheep are smart), and how much we don’t like being called sheep, yadda, yadda, yadda.

But you all know sheep, because so many of you raise them here. For y’all, sheep are, for the most part, a commodity, a way of making a living. And those of you who have been shepherds? Or who know shepherds? You don’t need me to explain sheep to you.

So instead, let’s talk about wild sheep.

I was shocked to discover how many kinds of wild sheep there are out there.

There are the ovis ammon, the wild sheep of the semi-desert regions of central Asia; these are the ones known as Marco Polo sheep

… the ovis vignei, or the urial, the bearded reddish sheep of southern Asia.

… the Dall sheep, also known as the ovis Montana dalli, which are the large, white, wild sheep of northwestern Canada and Alaska …

… the Ammotragus lervia, the Barbary sheep of northern Africa …

… the ovis Canadensis, also called the Rocky Mountain bighorn and Cimarron, which are the wild sheep of mountainous regions of western North America with the massive curled horns …

… and the ovis musimon or moufflon, the wild mountain sheep of Corsica and Sardinia.

That’s a lot of wild sheep. I actually didn’t even think of some of them as sheep until I looked them up. To me, Bighorns are bighorns, not sheep.

And who watches over all these wild sheep?

Well, there’s the Wild Sheep Foundation … the Grand Slam Club … the Eastern Chapter Wild Sheep Foundation, the Idaho Wild Sheep, the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, the Bighorn Sheep Society of Idaho, the Northern Wild Sheep and Goat Council, the Wild Sheep of North America – Bighorn Institute, the Utah Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, and the Washington Wild Sheep Foundation. And those are just the groups that I found. Lord knows how many other groups there are out there, watching over these sheep in one form or another.

Why do these wild sheep need these groups to watch over them?

Because they don’t have a shepherd.

Because while wild sheep are communal … they stick together, they raise each other’s lambs … they have no leader. There is no one ram or ewe to guide them.

There is no voice calling them. No one feeds them. No one waters them. No one guards them against predators.

Wild sheep are on their own.

So on this Good Shepherd Sunday, perhaps we need to pay less attention to Jesus’ proclamation that he is our Good Shepherd (because we’ve already agreed to this), and more attention to his proclamation that there are other sheep out there – wild sheep – who do not yet belong to his fold, and that he’s going to bring them also, and they will listen to his voice.

Today’s Gospel, my friends, is not about us.

It’s about all those wild sheep out there …

… and the fact that Jesus is actively looking for them.

Lord knows, those sheep, those wild sheep, need to hear Jesus’ voice right about now.

Think about all the voices that abound in our society … voices singing their siren songs about getting ahead (and leaving others behind) … that make impossible and irrational promises (does anyone here really believe a car will make you sexier? A car?) … that spew hatred and condemn civil discourse …

It’s no wonder so many sheep are wild these days.

It’s no wonder that the latest surveys show that more and more young people in this country claim to be “spiritual” and not “religious.” How could they be anything but “spiritual and not religious” when the only voices they hear are ones of discord and discontent, of maliciousness and hatred, of vituperative dismissal of anyone who dares to disagree with the speaker?

With all that negativity being spewed about, how is it even possible for Jesus’ voice – the voice of God proclaiming, “I love you” – to be heard?

You all are the Church of Good Shepherd, nestled in this little valley town (town? village?) of Blue Grass, in Highland County, hard up against the West Virginia border. What are you doing to make Jesus’ voice heard?

This is your call, in this time and in this place. This is why you are called the Church of the Good Shepherd – to make the Good Shepherd’s voice heard, above all the babble and nonsense that fills our ears every moment of every day.

It is all well and good for us to say, “Well, we have a good shepherd. We have the Good Shepherd.” But if all we do is rest on our laurels and never do anything with this knowledge, we’re in trouble. Because Jesus is clear: There are others who do not belong to the fold, and he fully intends to go get them as well, so that they, the wild sheep, can hear his voice over the cacophony that threatens to deafen us today.

As one of my favorite theologians says, “This is part of what it means to be the Body of Christ – to remind each other of God’s promises and speak Jesus’ message of love, acceptance, and grace to each other … [so that] we’ll find the courage to [speak Jesus’ message of love, acceptance, and grace] to others in our lives as well.”[1]

And we are the ones who are to be his voice … in this time, in this place.

We who already belong to the fold are to stand up for Jesus always, to invite others in … sometimes by speaking Jesus’ words of love, sometimes by living Jesus’ life of love.

We have to live our lives in such a way that others who have not yet heard Jesus’ voice can hear it through us and say, “I want what you’ve got.”

With all that we are and all that we have and all that we say and all that we do, we are the ones called to love in truth and in action, every moment of our lives.

Bringing in the Sheep by Ted DeGrazia

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday, y’all’s patronal feast day. It is a day – the day – to celebrate the fact that we have the Good Shepherd in our lives, who knows us each by name, who calls us, guides us, feeds us, waters us, loves us.

It is also the day when we are called – specifically – to go into the world, to find those wild sheep who are hearing a plethora of voices but not the voice, and to be that voice to and for them.

Because believe me – there are wild sheep out there. Jesus is looking for them. And he’s counting on us to bring them home to his fold.

Amen.

• • •

This sermon was created via discussions with my friends The Rev. Laura Minnich Lockey, Betsy Heilman, Amber Parsons-Zack, Laura Lynn Batelli and Kathleen Merrill Jackson.

Sermon preached on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, 29 April 2012, Year B, at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Blue Grass, Va.



[1] David J. Lose, Marbury E. Anderson Biblical Preaching chair, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN, “Abundant Life,” http://www.workingpreacher.org/dear_wp.aspx?article_id=581

 

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Ventolin side effects

Romans 12:1-8

A few weeks ago, I read Katheryn Stockett’s beautiful novel, The Help, which came out a couple of years ago and just this month debuted as a movie.

It’s a beautiful book, my friends, telling the story of women, white and black, in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1963 and ’64, at the height of the civil rights movement. Despite the darkness of the story – and there was a lot of darkness at that time in the history of our country – it was so well told that when I finished, I simply … sighed … with satisfaction.

And then I heard that the movie was coming out and thought, “Hmmm. I think I want to see that.”

Until, of course, the movie actually came out, and the criticisms began to rain down as if from on high.

Yet another movie about white people telling black people’s stories, the critics said. Why do black people always need white people to speak for them? they asked. Don’t people realize that black people have voices too?

When I heard these critiques, I stopped for a moment and wondered: Have any of these people actually read this book?

Don’t they know that this book – I don’t know about the movie; I haven’t seen it yet – that this book is not just about a white woman telling the stories of black maids? That it is, in reality, a story about transformation?

Because that’s what the book really is, my friends. It’s the story of women – black and white – who in telling their stories realize that they are not bound by the story that formed them from before they were born.

It is a story about women – white and black – who realize they do not have to conform to the world in which they were born and raised.

In the telling of their stories, these women are transformed by the renewing of their minds – by the setting aside of prejudices and hatred and fear – so that they indeed can realize what is good and acceptable and perfect.

The Help is the story of transformation from evil to good, from mistrust to love, from silence to bold proclamation.

And isn’t that what it means to be a Christian? To be transformed? To have our whole lives turned upside down and inside out so that we can then go out into the world and by our very lives, transform it?

Of course, you all don’t have to read this book or see this movie to know about transformation, do you?

For the past two-plus years, you’ve had Cynthia Gilliatt here with you as your priest, and if ever there was a person who refused to conform to the world, it was Cynthia. Like the women in the book, Cynthia refused to conform to a world that wanted to shut her down and shut her out.

I know the news of her death this week came as a shock to all of you, as it did to all of her friends and acquaintances around the Church. We had not known she was ill. We were not prepared for her death.

At Cynthia’s funeral yesterday in Harrisonburg, The Rev. Grace Cangialosi, a good friend and colleague, talked about Cynthia’s refusal to conform to the world., about her desire instead to not only be transformed by the Gospel herself, but to transform the world around her through the love of God in Christ Jesus.

And Grace talked about how Cynthia had paid the price for not conforming: About how the Church that ordained her would not let her serve fully as a priest for a long time, because … well, because, sometimes, the Church is stupid. Sometimes, the Church gets so caught up in the politics of the moment that it misses the person right in front of it.

Which is why, Grace said, Good Shepherd was so important to Cynthia – this place became a place for Cynthia to call home, a place for her to fully be priest, a place where you all were blessed to baptize two children, the grandchildren of parishioners, in a strong show of support for a couple who were concerned they might not be accepted everywhere by everyone. Those baptisms were holy for Cynthia, transformative, and she reveled in them.

•  • •

For the past five days, I have seen nearly 100 messages from people all over our Church, from all over our nation, through that lovely piece of social media, Facebook. All of the people talked about how Cynthia had transformed them by her presence, her courage, her grace. Cynthia, they said, lived what Paul wrote in this morning’s Letter to the Romans:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Peter Gomes, the late preacher at Harvard, called this passage “perhaps the most dangerous verse in all the Bible.”[1]

Paul, Gomes said, “is telling his readers not to do that which comes naturally to them. An invitation to nonconformity is a dangerous thing, and thoughtful nonconformity … is all the more dangerous because nonconformity is an intention … [that is] likely to get one into trouble.”[2]

Cynthia didn’t conform – and it got her into some trouble. She knew that. She knew she could have gone along to get along, but that’s not who she was.

Instead, she chose to not only be transformed herself, but to devote her life to transforming others, so that the will of God would reign on this earth.

It wasn’t easy – and Cynthia knew that.

But faithfulness isn’t always about “easy” – it’s about doing what is right. And that is what Cynthia did – what is right, no matter how much resistance she met along the way. And she did meet resistance, when the Church was being stupid, and she paid a price for living her life with integrity. But she never quit, and she never conformed.

• • •

I have to tell you, there’s a new acronym in the Church these days: TAWWADI. It stands for: “That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It.” It’s a phrase some Church leaders are beginning to use whenever they run into resistance to change, resistance to new thinking, resistance to transformation.

TAWWADI’s cousin is But We’ve Never Done It That Way Before – which makes for an unpronounceable acronym but means the same thing. It doesn’t matter which approach the resisters take – we’ve always done it that way, or we’ve never done it this way – the fact is, that kind of resistance most often is rooted in conformity, in going along to get along, in refusing to take the chance that perhaps – perhaps – God has a better way.

Cynthia knew that God had a better way – for her, and for all the people around her. She knew she was called to priesthood, and that as a priest, she could live out a sacramental life, a Gospel life, and thus transform the world.

Theologian Paul Hiebert could have been talking about Cynthia when he wrote:

“The gospel is about transformed lives. When we bear witness to Christ, we invite people to a whole new life, not simply some modifications of their old lives. This transformation is radical and total. It involves changes at all levels of their culture, including their worldviews. It also changes them physically, biologically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. This is the transformation that God works in them if they follow him.”[3]

Doesn’t that sound like Cynthia? Didn’t she invite people – didn’t she invite you – to a whole new, transformed life? She didn’t go along to get along – there was no TAWADDI in her life!

Because Cynthia was a Gospel person. She was transformed by it, and through it, she transformed others. And that’s quite a legacy to leave behind.

As you move forward, in these next weeks and months, with different clergy who will come to lead your services and care for you pastorally, I ask you to remember a few things:

First, I want to reassure you: Your bishop, your convocation dean and all of the leaders of this Diocese will be here for you. They will support you, they will care for you, they will love you, and they will help you move into the next stage of your transformed lives as children of God.

And second, please, I ask you – I beg you: Do not forget what it means to be transformed. For the last two-plus years, Cynthia Gilliatt has been with you, transforming you by word and deed. If you want to truly honor her, be as bold, as loving, as she was. Let the Gospel transform you, and then go out into the world, and transform it.

Tell the stories – tell your stories, tell Cynthia’s story, tell the story of you and Cynthia together.

Then tell the story – the story of God who loves you from before you were born, who loves you every moment of your life, and who will love you to the ages of ages.

Because in doing so, in telling these stories, you, like the women in The Help, and like Cynthia, will be transformed.

Amen.

Sermon preached at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Blue Grass, Va., on 21 August 2011, the 10th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 16, Year A, in honor of The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Gilliatt, priest-in-charge who died on 16 August 2011.

 

[1] Peter J. Gomes, The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus. (New York: HarperCollins e-books),  Kindle Edition, 45.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Paul G. Hiebert. Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change (Kindle Locations 4598-4600). Kindle Edition.

 

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Haiti, get up!

The Fourth Sunday of Easter, 25 April 2010, Year C, St. Jacques le Juste, Petion Ville, Haiti

Today’s reading from the Book of Acts is actually a parable about Haiti. It is a parable that speaks of who we are and what is happening in Haiti right now. I know that might not make sense, but bear with me and you will see: The story of Tabitha is our story.

In Acts, we are told the story of a disciple of Jesus named Tabitha, a woman who did many good works and who cared for those in need. Tabitha took ill, and then she died. As was the tradition in her culture, she had to be buried before sundown. So her family took her body, washed it, laid it out on a table, and then they sent for Peter, who was nearby. Come quickly, they said. Tabitha has died.

Peter came, made everyone leave the room, prayed over Tabitha and then said to her, “Tabitha, get up!”

And she did. She opened her eyes, saw Peter and got up. Because of her resurrection, we are told, many people believed in the Lord.

This story is a parable our own lives right here and right now because it is so similar to everything going on in Haiti. The earthquake came; many died; more were injured. The world saw this and said, “Ah, Haiti is dead.” Many in the world rushed here to help; others gave generously. But still, there was the thought, a thought sometimes said aloud, that Haiti was dead.

I know this. Bishop Duracin has me working in both the United States and Haiti, so I hear what is being said and I read what is being written. There are many who believe that Haiti cannot recover from this tragedy. There are some who say that Haiti should become a commonwealth of the United States. That the government of Haiti should be removed. That the constitution should be rewritten. There are those who claim that Haitians cannot direct the recovery, that “they” know better what needs to happen, that “they” should be in charge.

These people – they don’t know Haiti. They don’t know Haitians.

Because what they are saying is not true! Haiti is not dead!

It is not dead because Haiti and its people are listening to God, to the Good Shepherd who knows them each by name, and whose voice they know. Haitians are paying attention to the one voice that is calling to them.

And what is God, what is the Good Shepherd, saying to us here?

“Haiti, get up!”

“Get up!”

• • •

Three weeks ago, the Diocese of Haiti held its Synod, the Synod that had been delayed by the earthquake of Jan. 12.  Many of us went – priests, deacons, lay delegates – and at the Synod, we were given a message by Bishop Duracin:

“Haiti, Leve Kanpe Pou Ou Mache!

“Haiti, Stand Up and Walk!”

Haiti, get up!

And we are getting up and we will get up, because we do listen to the voice of God. Haiti is one of the most God-fearing countries I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been in a lot of countries. Haitians are Christians. They know God. They love God.

So when God says to us here in Haiti, “Get up!”  that’s what we need to do.

Get up!

No matter how hard it seems, no matter the difficulties we encounter.

And yes, there are difficulties.

The Psalmist this morning speaks of walking through the valley of death.  That is certainly true here right now. Just look out the door. Look at your own homes, at your own lives. Every single person in this room has lost someone, many of you have lost many people, more of you have lost your homes. You are walking through the valley of death.

But the Psalmist also is clear: We have no need to fear evil, because God is with us.

God is the one who is calling us, who is telling us to get up.

God, the Good Shepherd, the one we all know by name, the one whose voice we have heard before and are hearing now and will hear forever, is speaking to us right now.

Haiti is not dead.

Haiti is alive, and its people are alive, and its faith is alive.

Those of you who are here to help Haiti are here because you, too, hear God calling to you: Get up! God says.

That is our mission now: Not just to get up ourselves, but to help Haiti get up. The Church is leading the way, but we can only do so if we listen to the voice we know best, the voice of the one who loves us.

Get up!

Get up!

Get up!

Amen.

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My people will not be forgotten

On Wednesday, I said a Requiem Mass for 14 of my parishioners at St. Jacques le Juste in Petion Ville, Haiti, who died in the earthquake on 12 January. I still don’t know who they are; I know only that 14 people, with whom I celebrated the Eucharist and life every week, are gone. I have been living with this painful unknowing for more than a week now, ever since I learned of their deaths. I have been living with the grief of not knowing the fate of more than 125 other friends. Are they alive? Did they survive? Are they injured, lost, alone? The unknown is frightful place to be, and it is where I, and so very many others, have lived for three long weeks now.

When a dear friend, The Rev. Larry Packard, rector of Good Shepherd in Burke, Va., learned about my parishioners’ deaths, he immediately offered me the pulpit and table. “You need this,” he said. “You need to do a Requiem for your parishioners, even if you don’t know who they are.” I accepted, with a trembling heart. We planned it for Wednesday, at the regular noonday service. I knew about it all week. I knew I needed to put together the service, to choose the hymns and the lessons, to prepare a sermon.

But every time I thought about it, tears welled in my heart and in my eyes. I wanted to say this Mass. I wanted to honor those who have died. I wanted so very much to be faithful. But the pain of this loss seemed too great. So I would approach it in my heart, then back away, approach again, draw back again … Finally, on Tuesday night, I realized: I couldn’t draw back any more. It was time to enter into the grief fully.

My friend and assistant, Matthew Lukens, helped me choose the readings, the prayers, even the music. I wanted something simple, with readings that addressed the grief, hymns that praised the Lord, prayers that wrapped all of those who died in God’s loving arms. I wanted Isaiah’s comfort “for those who mourn;” Paul’s profound statement of faith that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus;” John’s promise of a better dwelling place for my people. I chose hymns we sing in French at St. Jacques le Juste: I come with joy to meet my Lord; Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy; Humbly I adore thee.

Wednesday morning, it snowed in Northern Virginia. For a short time, I thought the service would be canceled, and a part of me drew back and said, “Good,” because I was afraid of this service, afraid of the pain. But then the sun came out and the snow started melting, I knew: We were going to pray for these people, for my people.

Taking my shower, I wept as the water splashed across my face. I begged God for the strength to do this, because even in my fear, I was determined – determined – that my friends, my people, were going to be honored. I may not know for whom I am praying, but God does. And God honors them. Ah, I thought, feeling a small sense of peace …

I changed the first reading to Ecclesiasticus: Let us now sing the praises of famous men … (who) made a name for themselves … Some of them have left behind a name, … but of others there is no memory; … But these also were godly men … their name lives on generation after generation. Even though I don’t know their names, God does, and their names live in God from generation to generation.

Almost as soon as I arrived at Good Shepherd for the service, I began to weep anew. Friends came and stood with me, hugging me quietly, sharing my pain, giving me strength. Standing at the back of the church, vested with a white stole, I sought comfort in the looming Good Shepherd stained-glass mosaic above the altar. This is the parish where I was ordained a priest, where I said my first Eucharist, where I baptized my first child, officiated at my first wedding, buried my first parishioner. At this altar, under this portrait of the loving God, I have found peace in the past, and I sought peace there this morning.

It was not an easy service. The readings pierced my heart, the hymns pierced my soul. I barely was able to read the Gospel; I wept throughout the sermon.

I don’t know, I said, if those we mourn this day are famous … was it Nancy, whose husband founded the symphony orchestra, or Ghislaine, who gave me my first French Bible, so that I could read the Gospel in French on Sundays? Or are those we mourn the little girls who helped me translate We Are Marching In The Light Of God into Creole, and then marched around the church with me, singing at the top of our lungs? I don’t know, I wept, but God does.

Paul got it right, I said. Every single Haitian I know is telling me: Nothing, not even this huge earthquake, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The faith is strong in Haiti, I said. I’ve never seen such a committed, joyful, open faith. The people know God has not abandoned them.

Most of my parishioners at St. Jacques are not poor, I said. But most of my friends on the street are. And those who died now have, for the first time in their lives, their own dwelling places, and they are magnificent places indeed. And I know that my friends, I said, are having one hell of a party in heaven right this second, secure in their new homes.

I had to stop numerous times. This wasn’t eloquence; it was, instead, heart-wrenching.  It was a cry from the depths of my soul for all the pain that has descended upon my adopted home of Haiti, for my adopted family there, for my friends, so many of whom are still missing to me, because I cannot locate them, have not heard from them. This was my way of honoring all that pain, of offering it up to God, because this pain is far too great a burden for me to carry alone.

I thanked all those who came to the service and told them: When I return to Haiti, I will celebrate another Requiem for my people there, and I will carry all of you with me in my heart, and at the table in the place where we became family, we will pray for our people, for our family, together. Thank you for being part of this pain.

After the prayers, we did the laying on of hands, Larry and I moving from parishioner to parishioner, saying the prayers over these hurting souls who needed healing for themselves. Afterward, I knelt in the same spot where I was ordained a priest in God’s one holy catholic apostolic church and wept again as all gathered around me to lay hands on and pray over me. At the peace, we all hugged, holding each other close, letting yet more tears fall.

The Eucharist was, I believe, the most intimate I ever have celebrated. I was surrounded by love and could feel the presence of those who, having reached the Omega of this life, have gone on to the Alpha of the rest of their lives. God’s marvelous peace, which indeed passes all understanding, embraced us.

For the past 12 years, ever since I was ordained, I have written the names of those whom I have buried in my Book of Common Prayer. Wednesday, I wrote, in big, bold black letters across the first page of the Burial Service: Requiem Mass for St. Jacques le Juste, 3 February 2010.

Then I took that tattered, well-traveled, falling apart, incredibly well-used prayerbook, which I have had for 18 years and which has traveled with me all over the world, and I retired it. I placed it in a box with the service bulletin for the Mass, and stored it away. It will be kept in a safe place, remembered and honored as my friends are remembered and honored. The entry for my parishioners, for my friends, for my people, is the last one I will make in it. It is one small way I can honor my people.

Out of the depths I have cried, and am crying, and will continue to cry …

My people will not be forgotten. Their names live on generation after generation, in my heart and in God’s.

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Prednisone vs prednisolone

On Wednesday, I said a Requiem Mass for 14 of my parishioners at St. Jacques le Juste in Petion Ville, Haiti, who died in the earthquake on 12 January. I still don’t know who they are; I know only that 14 people, with whom I celebrated the Eucharist and life every week, are gone. I have been living with this painful unknowing for more than a week now, ever since I learned of their deaths. I have been living with the grief of not knowing the fate of more than 125 other friends. Are they alive? Did they survive? Are they injured, lost, alone? The unknown is frightful place to be, and it is where I, and so very many others, have lived for three long weeks now.

When a dear friend, The Rev. Larry Packard, rector of Good Shepherd in Burke, Va., learned about my parishioners’ deaths, he immediately offered me the pulpit and table. “You need this,” he said. “You need to do a Requiem for your parishioners, even if you don’t know who they are.” I accepted, with a trembling heart. We planned it for Wednesday, at the regular noonday service. I knew about it all week. I knew I needed to put together the service, to choose the hymns and the lessons, to prepare a sermon.

But every time I thought about it, tears welled in my heart and in my eyes. I wanted to say this Mass. I wanted to honor those who have died. I wanted so very much to be faithful. But the pain of this loss seemed too great. So I would approach it in my heart, then back away, approach again, draw back again … Finally, on Tuesday night, I realized: I couldn’t draw back any more. It was time to enter into the grief fully.

My friend and assistant, Matthew Lukens, helped me choose the readings, the prayers, even the music. I wanted something simple, with readings that addressed the grief, hymns that praised the Lord, prayers that wrapped all of those who died in God’s loving arms. I wanted Isaiah’s comfort “for those who mourn;” Paul’s profound statement of faith that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus;” John’s promise of a better dwelling place for my people. I chose hymns we sing in French at St. Jacques le Juste: I come with joy to meet my Lord; Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy; Humbly I adore thee.

Wednesday morning, it snowed in Northern Virginia. For a short time, I thought the service would be canceled, and a part of me drew back and said, “Good,” because I was afraid of this service, afraid of the pain. But then the sun came out and the snow started melting, I knew: We were going to pray for these people, for my people.

Taking my shower, I wept as the water splashed across my face. I begged God for the strength to do this, because even in my fear, I was determined – determined – that my friends, my people, were going to be honored. I may not know for whom I am praying, but God does. And God honors them. Ah, I thought, feeling a small sense of peace …

I changed the first reading to Ecclesiasticus: Let us now sing the praises of famous men … (who) made a name for themselves … Some of them have left behind a name, … but of others there is no memory; … But these also were godly men … their name lives on generation after generation. Even though I don’t know their names, God does, and their names live in God from generation to generation.

Almost as soon as I arrived at Good Shepherd for the service, I began to weep anew. Friends came and stood with me, hugging me quietly, sharing my pain, giving me strength. Standing at the back of the church, vested with a white stole, I sought comfort in the looming Good Shepherd stained-glass mosaic above the altar. This is the parish where I was ordained a priest, where I said my first Eucharist, where I baptized my first child, officiated at my first wedding, buried my first parishioner. At this altar, under this portrait of the loving God, I have found peace in the past, and I sought peace there this morning.

It was not an easy service. The readings pierced my heart, the hymns pierced my soul. I barely was able to read the Gospel; I wept throughout the sermon.

I don’t know, I said, if those we mourn this day are famous … was it Nancy, whose husband founded the symphony orchestra, or Ghislaine, who gave me my first French Bible, so that I could read the Gospel in French on Sundays? Or are those we mourn the little girls who helped me translate We Are Marching In The Light Of God into Creole, and then marched around the church with me, singing at the top of our lungs? I don’t know, I wept, but God does.

Paul got it right, I said. Every single Haitian I know is telling me: Nothing, not even this huge earthquake, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The faith is strong in Haiti, I said. I’ve never seen such a committed, joyful, open faith. The people know God has not abandoned them.

Most of my parishioners at St. Jacques are not poor, I said. But most of my friends on the street are. And those who died now have, for the first time in their lives, their own dwelling places, and they are magnificent places indeed. And I know that my friends, I said, are having one hell of a party in heaven right this second, secure in their new homes.

I had to stop numerous times. This wasn’t eloquence; it was, instead, heart-wrenching.  It was a cry from the depths of my soul for all the pain that has descended upon my adopted home of Haiti, for my adopted family there, for my friends, so many of whom are still missing to me, because I cannot locate them, have not heard from them. This was my way of honoring all that pain, of offering it up to God, because this pain is far too great a burden for me to carry alone.

I thanked all those who came to the service and told them: When I return to Haiti, I will celebrate another Requiem for my people there, and I will carry all of you with me in my heart, and at the table in the place where we became family, we will pray for our people, for our family, together. Thank you for being part of this pain.

After the prayers, we did the laying on of hands, Larry and I moving from parishioner to parishioner, saying the prayers over these hurting souls who needed healing for themselves. Afterward, I knelt in the same spot where I was ordained a priest in God’s one holy catholic apostolic church and wept again as all gathered around me to lay hands on and pray over me. At the peace, we all hugged, holding each other close, letting yet more tears fall.

The Eucharist was, I believe, the most intimate I ever have celebrated. I was surrounded by love and could feel the presence of those who, having reached the Omega of this life, have gone on to the Alpha of the rest of their lives. God’s marvelous peace, which indeed passes all understanding, embraced us.

For the past 12 years, ever since I was ordained, I have written the names of those whom I have buried in my Book of Common Prayer. Wednesday, I wrote, in big, bold black letters across the first page of the Burial Service: Requiem Mass for St. Jacques le Juste, 3 February 2010.

Then I took that tattered, well-traveled, falling apart, incredibly well-used prayerbook, which I have had for 18 years and which has traveled with me all over the world, and I retired it. I placed it in a box with the service bulletin for the Mass, and stored it away. It will be kept in a safe place, remembered and honored as my friends are remembered and honored. The entry for my parishioners, for my friends, for my people, is the last one I will make in it. It is one small way I can honor my people.

Out of the depths I have cried, and am crying, and will continue to cry …

My people will not be forgotten. Their names live on generation after generation, in my heart and in God’s.

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