Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


It's the most wonderful time of the year. Or so the song lyrics of the same title go. However, though, in the fullness of time, I wonder if that is indeed true of some others' experience of this season. Is it really all the time all that wonderful for all?


I had a conversation recently with a friend whose family has had many experiences of grief and loss over the years. In sharing with each other about some of our common, similarly emotional moments of remembering loved ones who have passed on to eternity, they made mention of sometimes having mixed feelings about holiday, anniversary and/or birthday celebrations.


There seems to be for some a bittersweet sense of joy and manifest pain of loss present at the same time that characterizes such celebrated life events. Questions unanswered, even such unspoken thoughts rise to the surface of our conscious being. Where might we be now, if not for…? What might this Christmastime be or have been like if they were still here with us today?


One person offered that, in their experience, not necessarily the first, but the second or third subsequent holidays, birthdays or anniversaries become particularly difficult over time. And yet, life truly does and has to go on, doesn't it? There is, as the hymn that ascribes of God's steadfast loving-kindness goes, strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. Because of the Lord's great compassion we are not consumed. We, above it all, experience mercies renewing every morning. Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us of God's great faithfulness unto us amidst the challenges in and through which the Lord identifies with us.


One colleague in ministry says that during times when we may find ourselves at a low point emotionally or otherwise, s/he finds it helpful to give oneself to and for others. Whether it is unto those in need or not, the act of giving in the service of others for their greater blessing actually lifts up our own spirits for our betterment as well.


In and through the wonder of it all, we experience God's grace for us and for our loved ones both living and also on the other side of eternity. In this case, I do resonate with certain themes in the romanticism of the tune.


It is the most wonderful time of year. It is a time of year filled to the full with wonder and awe at the God of wonders who came to be born to us in awfully humble surroundings. That is certainly worth celebrating most wonderfully, even throughout the whole year.


May this holiday season be for you and yours entirely filled with joyfully fulfilling holy days of yuletide reverence to the glory of the Holy One of Bethlehem. Blessings at Christmas for the New Year to come!


In the Spirit of the King,

Rex Espiritu

Pastoral Perspective—On the Charge and Benediction of Joy inPrayer and Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


The words continually ring true. The charge and benediction of my pastor at the end of Sunday morning worship services from my childhood and teenage years even now resound throughout my very being, and maybe especially so in the deep recesses of my heart and mind. I had the honor and privilege of reciting the very same words as a pastor and guest preacher six weeks ago in the sanctuary of my old home church in Mount Vernon, New York. I cannot even imagine growing up and going through life without a regular charge and benediction on a regular basis, particularly at the end of each service of worship. There may be varied incantations but the general gist of it goes something like this:


"Go forth into the world in peace! Take hold of that which is good. Do not pay back wrong for wrong. But support the fainthearted, and help those who are in need of help, for you thereby show due honor to every person. Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus our Lord. And may the love of God the Father, the grace of God the Son, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you and those whom you love this day and always. Amen."


It was a heartfelt moment. It was an emotional event. To have a sudden, immediate, keen awareness of God's hand upon you as your life seemingly flashes by before you. When things appear to come full circle in the unity of all things past and into the present future, one cannot help but stand in reverence and awe at the wonder of the Lord's providential grace in one's life. Still before the Holy One, there is a sense of speechlessness amidst the experience of the eternal presence.


Thomas Merton writes on the Feast of the Dedication of Gethsemane's Church, "Nothing could be more beautiful, nothing could make me happier." Tears of joy, peace everlasting, grace abounding. Such gladness of heart with gratitude to God. "And yet it raises again the unanswerable question: 'What on earth am I doing here?' " Yes, I hear the charge to go. Yes, I heed the exhortation to receive and live the good word. But what exactly am I doing here for God's sake? For what purpose have you and I been called?


Merton goes on to write, "I have answered it a million times. 'I belong here,' and this is no answer. In the end, there is no answer like that. Any vocation is a mystery, and juggling with words does not make it

any clearer. It is a contradiction and must remain a contradiction."


It's like that saying, "The more you know, the more you realize the less you know." Even when questions may be answered, they beget more questions. And so, it is enough to surrender in awe with great thanksgivings unto the One Who is worthy of all our praise.


Therefore, beloved, this Thanksgiving through Advent and always: Go in peace! Do good, not wrong. Support, help, honor, rejoice, pray, give thanks each and every time! We belong here together. This is our lot in life. Let it be so.


To God be the glory,

Pastor Rex