But in between writing, editing, and picture-gathering, I've been continuing my prayer life, particularly Morning Prayer and regular participation in the Eucharist on Fridays at noon at St. John's. And that's how I've encountered several readings that continue to challenge and push me along the path toward wherever I'm going. I've had so many conversations with priests and bishops lately that I am tired of talking. Everybody has an opinion. Everybody has wisdom. Everybody needs to understand that, at this point, I'm asking, "Where are you, God? Why did you think this was such a good idea for me?"
Paying attention, the answers I've seemed to be getting are coming to me in the Scriptures. I've been reading, marking, learning and inwardly digesting over the past few days many words that feel as though they were written to address where my mind has been. It started with St. Luke's Day on October 18th, with an epistle lesson that should look strangely familiar to anyone planning a sermon for this Sunday:
As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of
an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. As for me, I am already
being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the
Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not only to me
but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
And then, Morning Prayer on Wednesday, which happened to be St. James Day, we had this passage from Matthew:
See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
That brings us yesterday's Eucharistic reading from Luke:
He also said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, “It is going to rain”; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat”; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
I've been asking for God to direct and guide me, and this collection of readings feels as though I'm not only getting direction, but I'm also being reminded that this path is not the easy one, or even the nicest one. In fact, it's lonely and fraught with many moments of mind-boggling frustration. It probably doesn't help that Mercury is moving backward right now, which in astronomy lore means communication is made difficult at best. And perhaps that's why I'm preferring to enter into a period of silence on all matters of my call right now.
I feel as though I have poured myself out, and it's time for me to depart. I need the wisdom of a serpent because this all definitely feels as though I'm being sent as a sheep into the middle of wolves. When I'm asked to define my call, there's a real part of me that's stumped. This wasn't my idea, y'know! It was only six years ago, I was happily ignoring the church; now, I feel God asking me to make the church real and accessible to the people like the old me who are happily ignoring the church. That's no small feat! As I look at the present time, what I hear from those around me is that they see the church as a quaint institution for the dying instead of a force for bringing the kingdom of Heaven closer to earth through real outreach to those who are the undesirables, the left-behinds, the untouchables. We keep telling people how welcome they are to join us; what are we doing to invite them in?
I don't have any great answers here, but I think this is part of God's purpose for me to wrestle with that as I continue to pour myself out. And I know there is nothing I, Susan, can do on my own . God help me, and give me the strength and courage, not to mention the words, to keep dancing with you.