A Note from Jim: March 31st, 2023
One cold gray day back in late January, your staff were sitting together in the Houston Room, putting our heads together about what we might do with the oncoming season of Lent. I’d been reflecting on that question for a while at that point. While I’m always deeply aware of the need we all have for self-examination and repentance—to quote the Liturgy for Ash Wednesday—I was also aware of the need at St. Martin’s in this particular season to be able to connect the examination we and I’ve been doing since I arrived late last November to another profound truth that’s often marked my own periods of self-reflection: the deep joy that can accompany the serious endeavor of self-discovery.
I hope that’s been your experience as we’ve passed through this latest Lenten time. At that staff meeting, I suggested we try to do some self-reflection and discovery in the community that might point to, and maybe even end in joy. I felt sure then, as I do now, that there’s the deepest, most profound kind of human joy at the heart of our faith and in our confession that Jesus Christ is our purest connection with the joy and love that is the heart of God. If a Christian community is absent that joy, something is amiss.
So we decided that morning to move ahead with the theme of Lent and joy. It was Laura Palmer who came up with the hallmark of our season: Lent+Joy.
And so it has been. Lent at St. Martin’s has brought all kinds of rebirth, each following on sometimes difficult self-examination, and even occasionally determined repentance. Several of St. Martin’s venerable ministries—Stephen Ministry, Refugee Resettlement, Climate Action, the Chorister program, St.Martin’s connection with the arts as a way into the life of the spirit, our Community Engagement team—all are today enjoying palpable signs of joy and rebirth or reinvigoration. Under God, focusing on our response as God’s sacred children to the nation’s increasingly punitive ways of side-lining, marginalizing, and victimizing women—especially those seeking abortion—and demonizing and outlawing others of us on this society’s sharp edges (book bannings and even burnings both echoes and augers of perilous times) is growing in energy and much needed outcomes every day.
On Wednesday nights, we’ve shared some of those journeys, each Wednesday revealing new energy about a ministry, surrounded by good food and time to meet and hang out with friends and fellow members across the range of demographics that is St. Martin’s current magical admixture.
On Sundays, we’ve heard a series of powerful sermons, each stylistically and even theologically different and yet each offering ways into the powerful hope and joys inherent in the shared faith of this increasingly diverse community. The music that surrounds these Eucharistic celebrations has been just plain stunning. What a gift we have in our choir and our music and arts director, who channel so much of God’s love into our common life!
I have also been grateful for the sound of sometimes raucous laughter and so much interactivity and connectedness and wonderful meditative and joyful music that’s characterized our evolving 9:00 Sunday service for children, youth, and families of all ages.
Then this last Wednesday came one of the holiest times I have experienced at St. Martin’s. In a night filled with incredible artistry from many members of our community, beautiful music of all kinds, totally slapstick humor, moving prayer, and not least great food and the voices of all God's children, I and others felt like we could see one version of what St. Martin’s might be becoming.
Becoming beloved and joyful community is never accidental, of course. That growth requires deep commitment to the enterprise, a daily determination to move out of the habits of gloom (which are very hard habits to change) and to live into the fullness of Christ’s love for us, their invitation in baptism to honor and support the dignity of every human being.
There is no better time to reaffirm those vows than Holy Week, as we accompany Jesus in their last days on earth. Mounted on a donkey (not the humble beast of our imaginings it turns out, but in Jesus’ time a major steed, a sign of power and wealth) entering Jerusalem in triumph through the darkening light of life together (Tenebrae), a last meal with close friends, the long nights of taunting and torture, through a mob we can now all recognize, to a mock trial, and out of the city to be nailed to a cross to die (surely the cruelest of human derived execution methods), and finally, mercifully, to a tomb hewn from a cave, Jesus leads us and invites us into this annual journey through desperation and despair to where we will end, as we begin the resurrection story next Saturday evening.
I hope you will join us for as much of this holy time as you can. In it you will find, I promise, recognition and acceptance, mercy and love, and invitation into the new life and joy promised to us by the ever-living always-loving Holy One.
Tags: Clergy & Staff