“I love you, too” by the Rev. Dina van Klaveren, Rector

It is one of the greatest honors of ministry to place the bread into your hands as you find nourishment in Christ at Holy Communion. Sometimes a person has tears welling up, or a peaceful glow, or a furrowed brow of craving. Christ is there, in all of it.

Last Sunday, one child received a blessing instead of the bread because of a new retainer. This was made clear when she opened wide her mouth and pointed at the new hardware! Another child reached out toddler hands to receive, and her hands were speckled with marker color.

Once I placed the bread in the hands of a child saying: “The body of Christ, the bread of heaven.” And the child looked me in the eyes and replied: “I love you, too.” Christ was pouring into the space between us, the bread becoming Christ’s love. What a witness to what is really unfolding in Holy Communion-love bouncing between us, energized by the Scripture story that recalls the great love Christ demonstrated for us in his life, death, and resurrection. What a witness to how Christ is shining through our lives, light bouncing between us to reflect Christ’s love.
I wonder…where in your life is Christ communicating “I love you, too”?

“Holy Blending in Honduras” by the Rev. Dina van Klaveren, Rector

When we prepare our El Hogar team of volunteers for the summer ministry trip, we explain that our Wednesday afternoon visit to the boys technical high school will involve a soccer match. It’s a fun and competitive Honduras vs. USA match, and we’ve always looked forward to it.

This year, things got mixed up.

We had played several Honduras vs. USA games when Mariel, a young person who has traveled three summers to El Hogar, asked if we could mix up teams to blend players from both countries. The Honduran youth looked intrigued, and agreed.

The atmosphere shifted when the teams blended – a profound sense of being one with these students on the field and in the stands, interactions. In her wisdom, Mariel facilitated a holy blending that reveals something important about how we know Christ’s light – it is in unity, an experience of coming together as one.

One of the ways we consistently participate in holy blending is through singing at worship. Just watch Ken and Nichi as they work with the chancel choir, junior choirs and worship band to blend voices and instruments. As we sing, we enact that unity which is the goal of our Christian journey.

This unity shines the light of Christ most brilliantly into the world, and shifts the atmosphere of our lives to one of greater peace and joy.

I wonder…when have you felt as one with other people?

“Shalom” by the Rev. Dina van Klaveren, Rector

When the light of Christ shines in our direction, we have a sense that all is well. We may call it a deep peace, or a shalom experience. It is the deep peace of knowing we are safe with one another that offers a space to grow together. Becky, a member of our congregation, felt this one afternoon during an interfaith dialogue with our Muslim and Jewish neighbors. And, she felt it when she paused to pray with a recently-widowed man who was dropping off his wife’s clothes at the thrift store where she works. The light of Christ is everywhere.

Many of our children and youth experience the light of Christ, that shalom, when they spend a week at Claggett camp. Every activity at camp is carefully planned to keep campers safe – physically and emotionally – as they stretch and grow in faith. In an era of more church abuse scandals, it is critical for each of you to know that, like Claggett, St. Andrew’s staff and volunteers design all activities to keep children, youth, and adults safe from physical or emotional harm. This design effort requires significant financial resources for behind-the-scenes training programs, appropriate staffing ratios, and alterations to the physical plant. We devote many hours to creating a community culture that values self-care, transparency, constant improvement, and deep respect. Thank you for contributing generously to ministries that raise generations of healthy, resilient, faithful servants of Christ that have known the church to be a place of deep peace, true shalom. And let us pray for those have not experienced this deep peace in their experience of church. May the light of Christ shine upon them and draw them into healing and wholeness again.

I wonder…where have you experienced deep peace in your life?

“Real Conversation” by the Rev. Dina van Klaveren, Rector

When I see someone I know from PTA or a kid’s sport team at the grocery store, I might spend a few minutes touching base with them about their family, or their summer vacation. It’s a real joy to live in a community where I see familiar faces when I’m at the library, gas station, or grocery store.

When things go upside down in life, we need more than familiar faces. We need trusted people to go to for a listening ear, reassurance, comfort and help. One of the benefits of being in a church community is having a place to connect more deeply with one another, a way to move past familiarity into real conversation with trusted friends. These real conversations can light the way before us when times are dark, like lanterns set along a path to guide us.

I needed many lanterns along the path of grief when my best friend died three years ago. And you have needed lantern light when you have had a loss, a shake-up, or a major bump in the road. You might turn to me as the rector for pastoral support, or you might turn to a friend in the community whom you have gotten to know deeply. The light of Christ shines through each of us into the life of others- like lanterns for people in the congregation and people who have never walked through the church doors.

I sat with a woman at a community dinner in Kentucky during our work trip in July. She had grown up on the mountain and had a job down in town. We are about the same age, and I loved hearing her stories about growing up with her cousins – playing in the creeks on hot days. She told me how important manners and dignity were to her grandparents, and I could understand her pride in coming from such decent and hardworking people. I marvel at how quickly we got into real conversation about our core values. I attribute our ability to quickly trust one another to being in a holy place- the Outreach Center on Barnes Mountain where God’s people have gathered for generations to do the deep work of living faithfully together. St. Andrew’s is a holy place, too, where we can trust, encourage, support, and help one another as well as receive all the same when needed.

I wonder…where can you place the lantern of Christ’s light along a path for someone this week?

“Persevering Love” by the Rev. Dina van Klaveren, Rector

In the back of the Book of Common Prayer, there are prayers of thanksgiving, prayers for the sick, prayers for guidance. Since being appointed as the Chair of a new Task Force* in Province III of The Episcopal Church which gathers folks around compassionate responses to the opioid pandemic in May of 2017, I have relied on the words of the prayer for the victims of addiction. I’m including it here, with a change from “them” language to “us” language – since I believe we all struggle to face impulses, addictions and attachments that draw us away from God and one another:

“O blessed Lord, you ministered to all who came to you: Look with compassion upon all who through addiction have lost their health and freedom. Restore to us the assurance of your unfailing mercy; remove from us the fears that beset us; strengthen us in the work of our recovery; and to those who care for us, give patient understanding and persevering love. Amen.”

Persevering love-what a powerful thing we ask God to give us! One of the ways I daily witness this congregation shining the Light of Christ in this hurting world is through acts of persevering love. We love others in the face of addiction to alcohol and drugs. We heroically do the hard work of recovery together, which means trusting in God’s power as family patterns are unraveled and healthier ways are formed. Persevering love means facing the stigma and discrimination that accompanies addiction, telling the truth anyways, and standing strong together. It means persevering in the knowledge that nothing keeps us from experiencing the love of God**- whether we are feeling whole and healthy, or hitting rock bottom. God’s redeeming love is powerful and breaks into every part of our lives. Christ’s Light shines this unwavering love, and one of our spiritual tasks is to courageously open the locked doors to invite Christ’s Light to enter in, through prayerful reflection, counseling, confession, fellowship, and recovery.

I want to share what I’ve learned about some “locked doors” with you: the Rev. Jan Brown, deacon at Bruton Parish-Williamsburg, and founding/executive director of Spiritworks***, taught me about process addictions in addition to chemical addictions. I had never heard that term before I met Jan. Process addictions are compulsive behaviors that negatively impact health and productive functioning that do not require an external chemical substance,. These include shopping, sex, work, food and exercise. This opened my eyes to how addictive behavior patterns can enter into our lives and families through otherwise normal, necessary, and productive activities! If we turn repeatedly and compulsively to these behaviors, we can harm ourselves and our relationships with others. Thankfully, it is a part of our practice as faithful followers of Christ to shine the Light of love and healing into our own lives, to regularly examine our behaviors, and be honest about how we distance, soothe, or numb in ways that are unhealthy. By becoming more aware and healthy, we are able to be free of the chains that bind us in order to be healthy for ourselves, our families, and the community.

Shining the Light of Christ is not only about taking our knowledge of God’s love out into the world for others, it is also about receiving it in our own dark places. Wherever there is shame or grief, pain or suffering, addiction or loss, guilt or resentment- open to the healing power of the Light of Christ. Without fear, examine and open to this redeeming Light of Christ, and persevere in loving all who work to regain health and freedom, yourself included.

*Learn more about the Task Force here
**See Romans chapter 8
***Learn more about Jan and Spiritworks here

Photo credit: Trinity Cathedral, Pittsburgh; Overdose Remembrance Service on August 31, 2018.

I wonder… where might I open a door to invite in the Light of Christ this week?