Saturday, June 15, 2013
Goodbye~A Prayer at the End
At the end of my time with the good people of St Gabriel's in Douglassville, PA, I told them "Goodbye", an ancient English prayer.
My dear friends, the moment has come for me to say to you; “Good bye”. As I told you in the last Messenger, so I say to you now; to say “Goodbye” is not to say I’m leaving you; it is to ask a prayer.
Look at the word. Study its etymology; its source and derivation. It comes to us from an older English word which we can trace back to around 1470AD; the word is “Godbwye” or to spell that out more completely, it means;
It does not mean I’m leaving you. It means “God be with you”. It is my prayer now. Like the time I left David or Michael at their college dorms, knowing that never again would it be the same, just like that driving those many, many miles home again with my eyes full of tears; as I said to my sons, whom I love with all my heart, so now I say to you; “May God be with you.”
This is my prayer as we now come to this last Eucharist and this last Baptism during my time here with you. John Dodson and his family have become close to me. We have shared many a chuckle, and many a perplexity, and a few tears. All of which is called life. I have likewise come close to many of you, yes even in this short 15 months together.
So too, I must say to you and your family; “Goodbye” which is to say, I pray for you in exactly these terms; “God be with you”.
What better way to be with you on my last Sunday here than to Baptize these Children?
I pray that God may be with them too.
But let me hasten to add what I mean by that. I mean this for you as parents, you as Godparents and Sponsors and you as the gathered of God in this place today; I mean this:
You must love these children with all your hearts, all your souls, all your mind and all your strength. That is who God is. God is Love. You cannot say you love God unless you love these children and unless you love one another. And if you want to love God, then begin by loving one another.
Note that the scripture recognizes the many difficulties in the business of love.
In the Gospel we heard just a few minutes ago we heard of the sinner woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her hair while weeping from the very crest of sorrow. What wondrous love is this! Yet the Pharisee questioned in his heart why this Jesus would allow such an outrage. Certainly if he knew what sort of woman this was and that she was a sinner, he would have prevented her from touching him in so intimate a way as this. Instead, Jesus told the woman she was forgiven. Then those who were at the table with Jesus got all bent out of shape again; “Who is this who thinks he can forgive sins? Only God can do that.” True enough, but Jesus did not tell the woman he forgave her. He told merely her that her sins were forgiven.
Yes, “Its complicated”. I know its complicated. Love is complicated. Forgiveness is almost incomprehensible and impossible were it not for the presence of God in our lives. But then loving God with all of our heart and soul, and mind and strength...that takes everything we’ve got. And loving one another takes a little more. So get on with it. That’s the work of the people of God; to love one another. This is our “liturgia”, literally, the public work of the church.
We also heard in the first lesson of Jezabel and Ahab and their plot against poor Naboth the Jezreelite. Not much love there! That Jezabel and her husband the King were in cahoots to steal away Naboth’s vineyard, an ancestral inheritance that had been in the family for hundreds of years. How could Naboth let that go? So the King just took it.
Oh well, we’re all sinners in one way or another. There is much we’ve done and continue to do which, if we really loved Jesus would bring us to our knees where with our tears, we too would wash his feet with our sorrow.
This my last message to you; at the foot of Jesus and at the foot of the cross let us love one another like we love these children
I know you folks love me. You know I love you. Therefore you must love God. You must therefore love one another. Oh and, one more thing, you must love your new priest too. Just to make sure I go on record; you must love your new priest with all your heart all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength. Got that?
And Goodbye. Remember what that means? It is a prayer; how does it go?
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.