Cyan on Good Friday

I am sure that clergy the world over could collectively write a book that contains equal parts of great joy, and great sadness.

Today of all days!

Good Friday, has to be the day the printer runs out of ink.  In every congregation I have served there have been gremlins at work in the photocopier or printer the very day of some large church celebration.  Call it Murphy’s Law, call it the devil, call it God’s will.  Whatever you want to call it – it seems to happen on the stress filled days of a lone clergy person with no office staff.

So here I sit, fingers dripping with Cyan.

The people that designed ink jet printers, are I believe, a special breed, that will stand alongside the same people who designed the cheap coffee machines that take coffee ‘pods’.  The machines are inexpensive – the pods, or ink, are worth small bricks of gold!

Cyan smudges my fingers. How much is this one thing worth?

So while the rest of humanity seems to be in hiding on Good Friday, as the newspapers have warned against celebrating parties or playing loud music on a day of prayer and fasting; I sit pondering how a small machine has become the sole focus of my day.  Small red lights glow from full tanks of ink, and Cyan winks back teasingly. Knowingly.  Who knew that you need Cyan, a bright blue, in order to print in a Black and White setting?!

A hammer sits by the door so that at least the gathered community will hear the sound of nails being hammered in later today at the Good Friday worship service.

Cyan marks the handle now.

An early childhood memory comes to mind – my father bent over the rear of an old white Volkswagen Beatle with engine exposed to the tinkering of a ball-peen hammer.  Would it work now on my plastic printer?

The seasonal struggles with technology mishaps, I know, are small compared to other sufferings.  A collective shout from the audience – ‘FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS!’.  In my upset mood I hear my own parenting questions echoing back from my children: “Has anybody died? Is there blood? Well then, don’t worry about it.”

I’d like to reply sarcastically, Yes, someone did die.  There is no blood, but my fingers are stained with Cyan! I’ll try not to worry about it, but that is not to say that it hasn’t greatly changed me.

Today of all days, my hands are smeared with…

Cyan.

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The Church as a Tupperware Cupboard

Over the years I have amassed numerous volumes of books on the subject of the church. As large as the self-help section is in any given bookstore, the religious book trends give equal footing to what I might call the self-help-for-the-church section.  While there are certainly some gems on how to be / do / become church; for the large part, anyone who seems to be able to string a sentence together could market a book about doing church better.

Doing church better written by pastors, for pastors, to make them feel that they are never good enough, that the church congregation that they serve is not good enough, that the grass is always greener on the other side of a denominational fence.  All these things lead to some very destructive thoughts about ourselves and the church.

Besides the piles of books on the church, another thing that seems to pile up in our household (and I am sure yours too) is the kitchen space devoted to food storage containers.  Be it Tupperware, Lock’n Lock boxes, IKEA Förtrolig, or old margarine containers; there is a drawer, or shelf, located in the kitchen where we keep all these lids and containers.

Sometimes I think that the church is represented in that shelf of containers.  While seeking harmony feels like the most pleasurable thing to imagine in the church, it is often frustratingly absent much of the time.  The church is a lot like that drawer of tupperware for a few reasons.

  1. We start off well intended, but soon find it a mess.51UiNsrVRhL._SL250_
  2. We really want to savour the moment, but it usually comes back days later as a fuzzy mess.
  3. We have all the right stuff, but sometimes things don’t click.

We start off well intended but soon find it a mess: Let’s say it is a new school year and you’ve gone out an bought a set of storage containers. Our hopes and dreams of having a nice orderly school career are almost religiously symbolized in the new displayed and neatly stacked set of storage containers.  However, with in a week (and often times sooner) you find that lids are missing, that the base of another set has shown up and it even has a sticker with some other persons name on it. I pretty sure that these storage containers reproduce all on their own when they are left in the cupboard in the dark.  In fact, storage containers are the opposite of socks.  Socks disappear in the wash, whereas containers multiply in the cupboard – so much so that the neatly organized system becomes a hodgepodge of lids and bases which now need to be crammed into a small shelf so that the door of the cupboard barely closes anymore.

We really want to savour the moment but it usually comes back days later as a fuzzy mess: “Wow, that supper/lunch/desert/food brought by guests/ was tasty! Let’s keep some for later, maybe for lunch tomorrow.”  You’ve said these words, only to find that either the food never makes it from the refrigerator to the container and after some time gets gently sorted to the back of the shelf with several bottles of half used salad dressing only to be discovered next time you give the fridge a good cleaning.  OR, that yummy food goes into a container and is packed away for school/work/picnic and maybe you realize when you open up your storage box that the food doesn’t look as it did before, or that the only thing cold the next morning that really has any taste is a cheese pizza as you look at your now limp salad that you enjoyed so much the night before.  The food get’s tucked away, unfinished in the bottom of the school bag, office briefcase, or on the floor of the car where after some months and seasons of sliding back and forth it has become lodged under the seat and we blame the dog for any strange smells whenever a guest rides in the car with us.

We have all the right stuff but sometimes things don’t click. You know the feeling of being on your hands and knees as you search for all the parts of your container system.  Why is it that it is always the bottom shelf that these things go? You have all the parts: you have food, you have a base, you have a lid.  Sometimes you can only find a huge base that is far bigger than the amount of food you need.  Blue berries, and that cheese sandwich will bounce around for hours before lunch until you have your own (unwanted) smoothy.  Or your box and the lid are a different size or shape.  How many people knew that margarine containers are not universally shaped, but can be loosely (and ineffectively) held together with a rubber band? Then there is the real challenge that you think you have all the right parts, but they somehow don’t magically click together.  That pudding desert has managed to find the crack in the seal and is partially pooled at the bottom of your bag, and you may wonder how you are going to put it all back together again in a nice presentation so that it can sit on the table amongst all the other items of food that were brought for the shared lunch.

What then do we make of this when we compare it to the church given that so many want to write books that make us believe that we can be better, do it more wisely, or be more effective.

In a multicultural setting we may have in theory the desire for harmony, but what we must be willing to live with is much more chaotic.  We start off well intended but soon find it a mess.  We need to learn to live with the mess.  Money, sexuality, politics, and religion are all issues we want to find harmony in discussing or sharing, but culturally we come from diverse understandings so we should be prepared to find it a bit unclear.  We may start off with a simple church activity only to find that like the multiplying tupperware, we are now dealing with different issues and perspectives.  We may even be surprised that some unknown item has appeared and we don’t really feel that prepared to begin discussing it, or how to answer.

We really want to savour the moment but it usually comes back days later as a fuzzy mess.  It is nearly impossible to copy a method or system of being church and reproduce it to everyones delight.  The church self-help book market is great at making you believe that if you just follow these 3, 7, 10, easy steps then you too will be the pastor of a mega-church. Yes, it might be great, like that Tiramasue cake, but when we take it home with us and open it up the next night the colours look a bit off, and it seems the coffee has started to separate from the rest of the cake.  Maybe we are surprised when what looked (or tasted) great, has grown into something else mysteriously.

We have all the right stuff but sometimes things don’t click.  Here I think that there is the biggest area to frustrate as it seems like we have all we need, we are so close, but it doesn’t go like planned.  If we take the parts of any kind of church event we have high hopes for having it all work out, but in reality, we may have all the right parts, but something has failed to ‘click’.  People go to great amounts of effort to dream up, and provide that pudding that will be out for others to share.  Some blame may get passed around as to what part didn’t live up to expectations – that lid should have held together, and it didn’t!  Each of the parts of the package have been designed with the best of intentions, but when we mix a Lock’n Lock with an IKEA Förtrolig the design (and cultural) differences make it more challenging to ultimately what was desired in the first place – to share in the enjoyment.

In the end of it all, the whole desire was that something good was made and there is an equal desire to share it, or have it continue.  Sometimes, however, our expectations are not met and we don’t have that harmony.  In these kinds of moments it is like God trying to tell us something.  Maybe it is not so much about the system, the containers, the organization, the desire to preserve, the desire to have it all come together; but that we have something truly good to share.  We enjoy our enjoyment.  Forcing things to harmonize can be a frustrating experience, but if we take a look at what God has given us and let things work out, maybe as God intends, and despite ourselves, we find that there is a lot of good stuff to celebrate.

Well intended.  Savour the moment.  God provides the right stuff.

 

via Daily Prompt: Harmonize

To Loiter with Intent

I cannot remember who it was that gave me this piece of advice as I started off in my journey of priestly ministry, but I have a suspicion that it was the bishop who ordained me to the priesthood.

No matter who it was, it has been advice that has stuck with me, and as such, has presented many unique opportunities to reach beyond the walls of the parish church.  A friend recently asked me why I write this blog.  I had to think about this, as I believe, my initial intentions for the blog have changed and developed overtime – an excellent time to reflect.

Many in the english speaking world will be familiar with George Herbert, a Church of England priest famous for just about everything under the sun, from poetry, The Country Parson, the look, feel and presence of an Anglican clergyman.  George is a favourite image of what a great many people hold as the stereotypical Church of England vicar.  I’ve had a rough go with the image that George portrays, and that stereotype, but I do admire his writing abilities.  Perhaps, the gentle idyllic reflections were what I initially hoped to capture for the blogging audience.

The world, and the purpose of my blog, are ever changing things, so much so that I do find it difficult to set time aside for any creative input.  Schedules, demands of an active parish, the loneliness of being geographically distant from neighbouring Anglican clergy, and even, the busy family demands, are completely foreign to the life of George Herbert, who in a sense, rented out the parish to other clergy so that he had the time to write and bumble along.

In 2009 I picked up a copy of a book with the exciting title: If you meet George Herbert on the road, kill him, by Justin Lewis-Anthony.  The book proved to be a worthwhile read in that it helped to disprove the myth of the man, George Herbert, and of the myth of the  clergy role which many still hold on to and envision as the gold standard for all other forms of ministry.  If you want a taste of what the book is like, the Guardian article written by Lewis-Anthony summarizes it all very nicely. 9780826424204

As much as I have a dislike for the attitude set by many inside and outside the church with this fascination with George Herbert, I must say that some of what I feel to be my most creative ministry experiences are when I just bumble along as I imagine good old George having done.

Which brings me back to loitering with intent.  Occasionally…well, frequently…I found myself preparing sermons in different neighbourhood pubs.  Maybe the pint of beer helped with the creativity of the sermon writing process.  I’d almost always sit at the bar because it was uncomfortable.  Uncomfortable in that you really didn’t want to stay too long like you would if you had that nice seat at a table that was tucked away close to the wood fire on a cold winter day.  Uncomfortable also because it is usually the lonely people, or the ones with issues and great needs that sat at the bar.  So loiter with intent meant that in my clergy shirt, with a notepad and an open bible I would sit with one hand on the pint glass, and the other clutching a pen as I made my initial notes on the upcoming Sunday’s bible readings.

The man in black clericals at the end of the bar was to many people like a shiny fishing lure to the trout.  “I just gotta ask…”, or “My friends and I were curious…”, were the typical ‘pick-up lines’ of what would turn out to be some curious, and lonely people.

The best people, as I may have mentioned before in another post, were the bartenders themselves.  While there isn’t (to my knowledge) a book that is the bartenders equivalent to the clergy’s George Herbert; it is the standard belief that as people fill themselves with alcohol, they will eventually pour themselves out to the bartender.  So loitering with intent meant to avoid the easy joking conversation of a small clutch of tourists, or hardcore drinkers, that were at one end of the bar, and sit alone and wait for the bartender to unload the problems of the world in the sacred moment with the highly polished wood bar top, and brass taps separating us like the dutifully polished screen of the confessional in a Roman Catholic church.

In many ways, bumbling does not reproduce fantastic results in a culture – a church culture – that wishes to see the pews fill-up with new members.  However, the ministry always felt creative, vital and in some ways, maybe a little bit like a golden piece of poetry in amongst the commonness of ordinary life.

Looking back over time at what has been creative ministry, and in the case of this blog, some creative writing, it is on one-hand, an outlet, and on the other hand, a way that I, and others, may reflect on what I do, and how God is present – be it in Canada, or in Germany; be it in a church, or at the end of the bar.  While I highly doubt that my writing, either the content or the style, will ever be compared to George Herbert’s poetic prose, at least like the Country Parson I’ve got the name that fits the role.

 

via Daily Prompt: Bumble

Just One Star?!

Rating systems and pollsters have hit some new lows, yet we remain surrounded by subjective public ranking. The church Facebook page gives the ability to any user to rate the church. Equally, hotels, restaurants and even a public washroom can have star quality. In some news there’s been reports of the famous Michelin Stars being granted to a Canadian highway rest stop because of the quality food they sell. The same star rank was given to a food truck in another country.
There is some debate about the levels of quality, nonetheless the stars are there along with the opinions. Do they really matter? I believe they do, and they don’t. Read on and I will try to explain.

In the church there are a couple of tests, quality controls, or plain simple observations that can offer constructive feedback – at least that’s the ideal. One such test is the “mystery worshipper” who, like the commercial equivalent of the mystery shopper, has a list of check points to cover. If you’re still not clear, think of the mechanic giving your car a 21 point inspection. I’m not sure if the Anglican Church in Freiburg folks are aware, but they’ve been reviewed by a ‘Ship of Fools’ mystery worshipper. You can find the review online.

In past congregations I have brought in mystery worshippers to give some evaluation. It helps me to get another point of view. I try to alternate between a Christian reviewer and someone who is Spiritual but not religious (SBNR). The reviewers have different points of view: someone of a different church or denomination makes comments that are, well, ‘churchy’. They have a bit of a critical eye towards form and function. For example, they might suggest that ‘you say baptism declares full participation in the church, but then only adults do the major rolls of service in worship’. The non-religious, or the spiritual but not religious person usually has a very different report that is no-less important. The SBNR person usually has some powerful insights about belonging, and some that are so basic that they are invisible in plain sight. Here’s some comments as examples – ‘do you really think that everyone knows when to sit stand or kneel? I felt foolish as the only one mumbling along to a prayer everyone else seemed to know. I couldn’t find the front door.’
Another test that I have done personally in churches that I might visit is the ‘Coffee test’. Esenially, the coffe test is a test to see if the community ‘walks the talk’. They’ve been in worship, now what do they do afterwards? Grab a cup of coffee and see who talks to you. What do they talk about? Is God mentioned in the conversation?

Travelling with my own small children we found a local church to go to for a Sunday morning. It was a disaster! The online presence was nothing like the actual experience. Admittedly, I was only there for one Sunday so I can say it is a limited survey, but the impressions were long lasting.

I felt lied to. Pictures of a young active church online was replaced with the reverse. Apparently everyone was on holiday. We were forced to stand and introduce ourselves. The congregation was small enough that we were easily recognised as ‘others’. Worship was standard. The children were children and the adults did their bit by making ‘ssshhhhing’ sounds at us. I felt like crawling into a hole. I was just glad we made it to church as the online directions actually brought us to another neighbouring building and the only door with a sign said ‘Ancestry research library open Tuesday to Friday.’ I nervously explained that we were at the Jehovas Witness’.

At coffee I was told the pastor would come and introduce herself. She was nowhere in sight. I was given a ‘visitors mug’ to identify me as a visitor (as if standing up and publicly stating this fact in worship had now slipped the minds of the regular worshippers).
Needless to say, I had a cup of coffee and ate several doughnuts. Maybe I’m a nervous eater, as nobody ever came to speak to me. I was upset. I did however, fail the church as I never gave any polite comments about my feelings. How would they ever know if I didn’t tell them? How would they ever try to make changes or corrections when I had never expressed my own perceptions and needs? Of course I didn’t think that they would automatically change things just for me, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t be the last to feel this way. We are not consumers of religion, yet rankings somehow make us fall dangerously into this model.

Saying this: the rankings do have a role that the church needs to be aware of in its service to the wider community. I therefore see both the good and the not so good power of rankings. If we put all our hope on one system it will sadly let us down. If I go to church strictly for the top quality raking I might be disappointed. Fortunately, I have found that no matter how great, or how terrible the worship was, I’ve still been able to meet God in the experience.

Let me propose that God is always calling us for better, but at the same time we live with the brokeness, the complex relationships and the fragility of the world knowing that God has already declared it Good.

Now, let’s see how many stars I get for this post!

(Editorial Notes: I pounded out this article the other day while I was waiting for my language exam to begin – that’s another story.  Typing with my thumbs on my smartphone keyboard was less than ideal, but at least my nervous energy was directed toward something constructive.  

What I would like to add is, there are, and will be times when the congregation does not pass the coffee test.  Perhaps a ranking of one star will show up sooner or later, however, this is no reason to fret.  Conversely, if we always get high rankings, 5 stars, can’t we then aim for a sixth…just one more star?  As Advent will begin soon, the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany will soon follow.  Upon reflection, this long article might be left as ‘all thumbs’ if we just follow the stars.  The Magi certainly follow the star, but it is not what they come to worship.  As communities of faith being aware of the rankings is one thing, but forgetting who we really worship is a much more risky and damaging game to play.)

Promises

Julie Andrews acting as Mary Poppins talks of ‘a pie crust promise’ in the Disney movie of the same name, and describes the pie crust promise as: “Easily made. Easily broken.”

At its simplest, a promise is for an individual.  One person can promise to do things for ones self.  In the more complex, a promise is an oath, or pact between one person and many.  In another, a promise is between a person and God; and God and his people.

I make those famous ‘pie crust promises’ to myself a lot of the time.  I’m not one for New Years Resolutions, but I do promise to myself that I will do something and that usually works…for a while.  My newest promise to myself is to take more time for physical fitness.  I’ve found that living in the land of beer and pretzels has changed my features so exercise is something I need to do.  Self-care is a phrase that is thrown around among church leaders, yet our track record is pretty dismal.  Self-care phrases are surrounded by the words of expectation and guilt, namely, “would’a, could’a and should’a.”  “I really should exercise more!”,  prompts me into doing so under duress.  The excuses for not finding the time to exercise are rampant, as there always seems to be some more pressing issue, or meeting in the calendar to look after other than ourselves.

In the church congregation I have managed to pull a ‘Jephthah’.  What is that? Well Jephthah is mentioned in the Old Testament book of Judges and in his pride he publicly proclaims that as God as his witness he will sacrifice the first thing that comes out of his house to give God glory.  Tragically it is his loving (and only) daughter that runs out of the house first to meet her father.  Promising to do something and then not doing it comes with the speaking before thinking type of personality.  I’ve promised to do some things in the church and have not acted upon them with the speediness I had promised.  For this I am sorry and these things hang about on a long To Do list like some spectre of Christmas Past.

While the above promise mentions God, it is more a statement of oath that is a public one.  The promises, or oaths, that I made as a priest, are also in the context of community, but have a deeply personal relationship with God, and with God’s people.  Like at a wedding when one party makes oaths to the other (to love and cherish in sickness and in health) so too does the person being ordained priest make those similar statements to God and God’s Church.  “Will you be diligent in prayers, and in reading of the holy Scriptures, and in such studies as help to the knowledge of the same, laying aside the study of the world and the flesh? Answer: I will endeavour myself so to do, the Lord being my helper.” (Book of Common Prayer pg 576-577)  Judging from my bookshelf I read a lot of books about the world in which I might find God present.  Of course I study my Bible and attempt to pray the daily offices of Morning and Evening prayer, but the big word is attempt.  Does this count as endeavouring? I think that a lot of people do endeavour as these questions of promise and fulfilment are perennial discussion topics in a congregation.  It is in the struggle that we meet God, not in the giving up and walking away.

Perhaps I have now come full circle in my list of promises as I have, in the past, trained to run races and proudly remember making a very good time in one gruelling mountain race. I have not always run, neither have I always prayed the daily offices.  Perhaps it is the enduring of the promise that is the place of grace.  Rather than looking at a promise as a quick way to find a solution, or the fast track to complete a goal, a promise is an enduring relationship between me and God, just as it is a relationship between me and a community.  The promise is not the thing that will change us, it is the continual wrestling with ourselves, with the words we speak, and the work we have left undone.  The promise will rear its head again and again because we are cannot complete all that we have promised.  That is God’s work of promise that is completed for us, and so we continue to wrestle with our own promises and shortcomings and we end up being changed –  a people who run with a limp.

 

via Daily Prompt: Promises

Open-Minded & Open-Bags

It is strange what you find when you aren’t looking for something.  One occasion was spotting a small handbag under a shopping cart which held 400Euro’s in cash.  There was no identification.  A single shopping cart was left near the bike parking at a local grocery store and underneath the cart on the ground was a palm-sized handbag.

Maybe it is from reading, and watching Sherlock Holmes that one starts to piece together the owner in ones mind.  The thought was that it was an elderly woman that had most of her entire weeks worth of money in one bag.  It turns out we were right, as the son called us to thank us, and wanted to know if we would like a reward.  Knowing that the item had been returned was reward enough.

There are times when distraction makes us forget the things that are essential. I know one reader will recognize that it is easy to leave, bags, books, wallets, and keys when a crisis strikes.  I do it all the time.

The other find was not actually much of my doing, as I walked the dog in the early morning before it gets really hot.  Wandering our way through the corn fields the dog has a pastime of jumping into the long grass at the side of the dirt roads.  He jumps around as if he were on springs; all in the hopes to catch a field mouse.  (He’s already encountered a Hedgehog and found them a bit prickly).  It was in one of these hunts that the dog strayed into the corn and was intent on sniffing something.  By the time I caught on that this was not a mouse I found a green shoulder bag.  There was a train stop, and paved road nearby, but again the deductive reasoning kicked in and started me thinking how a bag that is the same colour as the corn stalks got here.

This time around there was no money, but lots of ID cards, bankcards, and a very new looking iPhone that was dead.  The police have yet to find the owner, so I wonder,  “what will the owner think?”, or “What they are like?”  What happened to make the bag fall so far into the corn field? Who is this person, besides a young black man who has a student ticket for the train?

Everyday we meet people, but rarely do we ever see inside their purses, wallets, or bags.  Everyday we meet people and yet do we really get to open up and truly meet them.  Part of the mystery in finding the lost articles makes me wonder about keeping an open mind about who the people are behind the possessions.  In the same way we could think of the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by a cover”.

The church, when it works well, provides a place where people can open up as they find it a safe place…a sanctuary.  Open-mindedness is a practice when we meet people.  Naturally we find ways to place, judge, and identify people. However, some of this is surface material and only when we are lost and vulnerable do we find that we are spread open.  We see the fragility of an elderly woman with a wad of 50Euro bills.  We see the important items, the treasures, in bank cards, and student ID.  There are always surprises when we become vulnerable.

Some people shock us in their behaviours, their attitudes and their appearance.  Yet I know that when we look a little deeper, as uncomfortable as that may sound, we often find a lot of the same issues.  Loneliness, hurt, pain; as well as, joy, ambition, and longing.

Jesus meets his friends on the road as they are confused and filled with the anxiety of crisis.  In the venerable moment of sharing a meal with ‘a stranger’ they find the risen Lord.  “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Luke 24. 45

This Child of Ours, this Miracle

This is a sad story.  It is a sad story because it is true, and the truth is often hard to understand at the best of times.  It is a sad story because it challenges our hopes, dreams and expectations.  Some of you may already have heard via social media that two year old Emiliya died yesterday.

I think I can address the community by saying that we are all shocked and deeply saddened.  In what seemed a tiny life full of health struggles, the community was encouraged by how God provided the necessary money for the specialized operation.  God seemed to have cleared a path as donors opened more than just their wallets – they opened their hearts to assist a family.  When so much was seeming to go right – when we felt God was listening to our prayers – we had so much hope.

Now we are left with a huge hole as Emiliya quietly passed away surrounded and held by her parents and close friends.

Questions certainly arise.  Pain and suffering are perennial issues in the life of a Christian. Anger and grief are also valid forms of expressing our surprise, and the Bible is full of personal struggles in the Psalms, Lamentations and the book of Job.

But why? Why, O Lord does it have to happen this way?  In our intercessions and personal prayers I have found it useful to reflect on what Bishop John Pritchard has written knowing that we live out our lives in faith.

“One person lived; the other died.  Why?  The short answer is of course that we do not know.  And that is not unreasonable.  After all, we are Macbeth, not Shakespeare, the creature, not the Creator, and it is not surprising that the characters in the play cannot understand the mind of the author except by ‘best guesses’….

…When a couple experience the massive privilege and responsibility of producing a child they find they have created another human being which has its own radical independence. They can care for the child, love, encourage, persuade, and eventually reason, discuss, even argue with the child, but they can never start again and  make this into a different child.  She has her own way of being herself, and the parents have to recognize that they have limited their absolute power in the very act of creating her.  Now we the have this child and not that child.

We can pray to [God] with confidence, knowing that he will use our prayer in ways which are good, just and kind.  We may not know precisely what will happen, but if God is unequivocally with us, then in some significant respect the situation we pray for will be changed.”  pg 14 The Intercessions Handbook, Pritchard.

Emiliya was a very strong and courageous child having struggled with her health.  Her parents are equally strong and courageous as they cared, advocated and persisted in hope.  Emiliya brought together a lot of people.  Friendships have formed because of this little girl.  As well the church gathered together for prayer and support.  We have, in faith, recognized that Emiliya is in God’s care and comfort.  That all of us, despite our strong desire to be independent, are ultimately God’s.  At the moment it is difficult to make some conclusions of how our prayers are to be worked out.  Looking deeply and knowing assuredly that God has heard our prayers and that we have all been changed by this action.

Do we fall into guilt? We need to tread carefully here as prayer that doesn’t seem to go the way we had prayed it to often ends up with a dreadful feeling of guilt.  We should take care not to pass blame upon ourselves.

The entire Sunday morning worshiping community surrounded Emiliya and her parents with prayers for healing.  I believe that we have been gifted by God with having Emiliya in our community, and God has gifted her parents with Emiliya in their lives.  She has helped us to draw closer to each other in prayer, and closer to God in faith.  In Baptism, where we symbolically die and are raised anew in Jesus Christ through the waters of baptism I have often used a song called, “This Child of Ours, this Miracle” by David Haas. Notice the way the parents, the community, and God are woven through the lyrics singing ‘this child of ours, this child of Yours’.

1. This child of ours, this miracle –
You have a dream and plan for it. You wash it clean.
You cradle it. You bless it and You call it Yours:
this child of ours, this child of Yours.

2. This child of Yours, this miracle –
reborn of Water and the Word.
The Book of Life records its name. You smile and angels celebrate:
this child of Yours, this child of ours.

3. This child of ours, this miracle –
whom Christ would die for, we may love and train and raise,
and teach and praise, and watch the Spirit mold a life: this child or ours,
this child of Yours.

In the coming days, weeks and months, we keep Ilgar and Nigar in our prayers.  Some of us who are close to the family are able to offer support.  And for those who have put so much effort and worked so closely with the family in raising awareness we will also pray for during these difficult days.

God, this child of Yours, we commend into Your care, and her family into the arms of Your gracious comfort.  May she rest in peace, and rise in glory.