Gracious is the Lord and righteous; our God is full of compassion. (Psalm 116)
Dear St. John’s,
The fate of 5 people in a submersible watercraft that descended to view the wreckage of the Titanic has dominated the news this week.
Some have questioned why this received so much more coverage than the death of hundreds of migrants after a boat capsized in the Mediterranean. Others wondered whether the passengers should have used the $250,000 fee they reportedly paid to go on this dangerous adventure for charitable works instead.
These are legitimate ethical debates. But we should never lose our compassion for these individuals and others who experience tragedies.
Compassion is not a zero-sum game. We do not feel less compassion for the dead migrants and their families or for those killed in a mass shooting and their loved ones just because we also feel compassion for the 5 people killed in the Titan submersible and for those who are grieving their loss.
It is like Easter Vigil, when the Pascal candle is lit from the kindled fire and then spreads, candle-to-candle, throughout the church. Lighting one candle from another doesn’t extinguish the first candle; it spreads the light.
This is how God’s love and compassion work, spreading and growing from person to person. Let us continue to share and spread God’s light throughout the world, just as God shines it upon us.
Have compassion on those who suffer from any grief or trouble;
That they may be delivered from their distress.
Give to the departed eternal rest;
Let light perpetual shine upon them.
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 387)
Dear St. John’s,
I recently heard a talk on “Sisters, not Strangers” at a women’s spirituality event. The speaker was a Muslim woman who, among other things, serves as an elected official in her town and assists a refugee-resettlement agency. She also raises sheep.
When breeding sheep, she chooses mates based on their diversity because this produces stronger, healthier lambs, she said. Diversity is a strength – for humans as well as sheep. It reminds me of a friend’s comment that, when she dies, she’ll know she’s in hell if everyone is exactly like her.
We’re currently observing two events that celebrate the value and strength of our diversity: LGBTQ Pride Month and Juneteenth.
On Saturday, June 17, St. John’s we participated in the Boonton Rainbow Pride celebration at Grace Lord Park.
Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in this country. June 16 was the state holiday and June 19 is the federal holiday commemorating the day federal troops informed slaves in Galveston, Texas, that they were free – 2 ½ years after the civil war ended.
I hope we all can join in celebrating these events and each other, giving thanks for the wonderful diversity of the human race and all of God’s creation. For we are fearfully and wonderfully made, each of us unique, each of us in God’s image, all of us beloved children of God.
P.S. – Don’t forget to bring groceries on Sunday for our monthly collection for the Boonton food pantry.
Dear St. John’s,
I’ve been thinking a lot about breathing during these last few days of smoky haze and dangerously high levels of air pollution.
I suspect most people most of the time don’t spend much time thinking about breathing. It happens automatically. We take it for granted.
That changes when we’re bombarded with unhealthy levels of tiny particles in the air from distant wildfires or when we catch a respiratory illness like the flu or COVID-19 or we suffer from a chronic condition such as asthma or emphysema. Our breathing becomes labored. We realize how precious and vital it is for our existence.
In Hebrew, the word Ruach means wind, breath, spirit. Ruach, the Spirit of God, is there from the beginning, hovering over the waters at creation in the Book of Genesis.
Like the air we breathe, the Spirit of God may be something we ordinarily don’t think about too much. But it, too surrounds us, moves within us and is vital to our existence. The Spirit strengthens and guides us, if we only will pay attention.
As our skies finally begin to clear, let us give thanks for the gift of clean air to breath. And let us continue to remember and give thanks for the Spirit of God that envelops us in God’s love and remains with us, even when our earthly breath subsides.
Dear St. John’s,
June is a month of celebrating milestones. It marks the end of another school year and, for some, graduation ceremonies. In this favorite month for weddings, many couples mark the milestone of entering holy matrimony or celebrate their anniversary of “tying the knot.”
It’s a celebratory month for me personally as I mark the 4th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood and my first anniversary as priest in residence at St. John’s. I continue to give thanks for my call into this vocation and to this wonderful parish and community.
This morning, I attended another milestone, a celebration of life for the Rev. Deacon Kathleen Ballard, who died last week at age 98. Deacon Kathleen was a woman of deep faith and dedicated service who spent much of her life as an educator. She served many roles in her church and this diocese and was ordained at age 80. I particularly knew her through our diocese’s prison ministry, where we worked with the children of incarcerated parents. She was ever kind, joyful and eager to serve – a true example of someone who answered God’s call.
This Sunday’s Gospel is “the Great Commission,” God’s call to all of us to spread the good news and make disciples of all people. As we mark our own milestones in this life, let us continue to listen for God’s call to us and live out our commission wherever we may be: in our schools, our jobs, our families and friendships, our church and our communities. Let us follow the example of Deacon Kathleen, who never stopped learning and loving in God’s service.
Articles are posted by the Communication team, Rev. Sharon and others.