After taking a break from posting while being on what has been a whirlwind trip in Great Britain, I found myself on a bus this morning (heading South from Scotland toward York for one night before returning to London) thinking about my beloved colleagues, who are having a much different kind of day than I am. Today is the first Good Friday in eighteen years that I haven’t risen early, tired from the season of Lent, weary from leading multiple holy week liturgies and preaching so-so homilies, stressing out about the unfinished reflections that would stumble from my lips in a matter of minutes or hours, all whilst trying to forget that the “Easter sermon” was still very much in the grave. A prematurely Happy Easter (Monday) to you, Geoffrey and Emily.
After I was awarded a Clergy Renewal Grant from the Lilly Foundation my very funny boss Geoffrey joked when announcing the news to our congregation: “Jim is giving up Lent for Lent!” As funny as that is, when applying for the grant (which included a proposed timeframe that wasn’t determined by the desire to skip Lent but by the timing of the six-week sabbatical program that I attended in Jerusalem) I didn’t realize what a gift it would be to do just that. After spending six weeks in Jerusalem, where all kinds of orthodoxies cling to their ancient practices and doctrines as if it’s still somewhere between the second and fourth centuries in the common era, when arriving in England, a place that I swear I got to by plane, but now, obviously, in a DeLorean, and despite visits to the British Museum, the Royal Academy of Art and the National Portrait Gallery (visit the Tudor rooms), I quickly joined the multitudes who have also given up Lent for Lent, and the church in its entirety, this year… I had gone from Jerusalem Back to the Future.
As many as ten years ago I had heard stories from friends about the churches in Europe that were no longer churches but it was different to see them for myself. On the first night of my “seeing England, Scotland and Wales in six-days time” tour, I asked the guide if her taking our group to “The Chapel Bar & Restaurant” (a converted church) was a place she booked as a reality check for me. While in Richmond, where my brother lives, most of the churches I saw are now Yoga studios, community centers and flats.
We arrived in York just a short time ago and walking through the old medieval city (fascinating) towards York Minster this Good Friday was like being in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. A very good Good Friday for everyone here! But just as in an earlier post when I wrote about “a funny thing happening on the way to the desert..,” a funny thing happened on the way to York on this good Good Friday. After a break from the bus and time for lunch in a little town between Edinburgh and York, I returned to the bus, made my way to my seat and picked up my computer case to continue writing this post. Under the computer was a small read leather-bound book. Hmm. At first I figured someone had left the book on the seat accidentally but I had “that funny feeling.” I opened the cover and here’s what was written on the endsheet:
When I left off for this trip I felt the Lord impress on me to bring an extra copy of this devotional to give away. I have been praying, I believe this copy is for you.
I sense the Lord is going to confirm some things that have been on your heart. That only you and he have discussed. He is going to show you marvelous things. Isaiah 25:1.
ABUNDANT BLESSINGS! Be renewed, refreshed + restored.
Sister in Christ,
So the Lilly grant, as mentioned above, is a grant awarded so that priests can find, dare I say, Renewal. Funny how it is.
I return to London tomorrow and will rejoin my brother for Easter day and a picnic in Kew Gardens where we’ll see a luminous display of glassworks called Reflections on Nature by Dale Chihuly. On Monday I leave for Johannesburg where I’ll meet my daughter Morgan for about a month in South Africa. More to come from La-vav, and from the church… I hope. So long from York Minster.
…So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4.16
Have a Holy Saturday and a Happy Easter,