In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Last Sunday was New Year’s Eve, remember? And when I gave the blessing at the end of the service I framed it as a fervent wish for us all that even though we could count on hard events and joyful events over the next year, that we would know that God is still with us, no matter what we’re going through.
Fine irony that was. Just 3 days afterward my husband Barry suffered a terrible skiing accident at Hunter Mountain in New York State, and shattered his femur, his thigh bone.
He was lifted by helicopter to the Albany Medical Center where he was assessed and treated in the emergency room. The next day he underwent a 7-hour surgery to repair his right leg. The call came to me from the first aid people at Hunter that he was being air lifted. Honestly, when you get a call like that, you have trouble thinking straight.
His leg was pretty gruesome-looking. And I probably will never forget how the traction device looked—like something out of a medieval torture chamber.
But there are other things I will never forget, and those include the kindness of the Emergency Room nurse who came into the room in the wee hours and asked me how I was doing. And then she came back with a glass of water and some warm blankets—for me. I’ll always remember the kindness of the ICU nurses who were not only compassionate caregivers but also patient teachers. I’ll remember the kind Vietnamese man who worked at the salad bar in the hospital cafeteria and urged me just to point at the veggies I wanted instead of trying to croak it out over the laryngitis. I’ll remember the kindness of each of our bishops who called me on different days, and I’ll remember putting Bishop Ahrens on speakerphone to say a prayer over Barry.
And from here in Redding I’ll remember very fondly the care and love we received from our wardens. I’ll remember the volunteers who drove 2 hours up and 2 hours back to pick up our car that was stranded at Hunter.
And as Barry goes through his very long convalescence and learns to walk on a reconstructed leg, we’ll think back on all the goodness and kindness we experienced when we were at our most vulnerable and needy. What a blessing it has been in its own strange and difficult way.
Goodness and kindness: they are 2 of the nine so-called fruit of the Spirit listed by St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians. What are the fruit of the Holy Spirit, you may ask? Here they are: love, joy, peace, and a package of figs. Huh? Let’s do that again. Love, joy, peace. PKG: Patience, kindness, goodness. FGS: Faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
These fruit of the Spirit are implanted within us at our baptisms as the Holy Spirit enters into us and begins to make her nest. (And there’s the tie-in with today’s general theme of baptism…we got around to it eventually!) So these fruits are there as seeds when we’re baptized and they grow more sturdy and more beautiful as long as we live the Christian life. They mature and bear their own fruit…so that when we REALLY need them—whether it’s a major accident, a painful loss, or even a minor annoyance—there these fruit are, blooming and helping us handle what is not very lovely or very easy.
There they are: love, joy, peace. Patience, kindness, goodness. Faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Now, these fruits are nourished and fertilized in Christian community as we have plenty of time together to learn from each other and to grow from the spiritual blessings of the sacraments. Our relationships with other people encourage the growth of these fruits—whether our relationships are easy or difficult. They all bear fruit when encountered in the environment of the Church because in the Church there’s the constant atmosphere that we call the Mind of Christ, urging us to BE better, as Jesus would have us be. Urging us to DO better, as Christ would have us do.
The Church—the Parish—the Body of Christ in Redding—can be like a gracious mother or a loving father, with arms around us when we really need divine support.
And this little lesson is apropos to us as a parish as the rector makes ready to depart.
The parish isn’t leaving. The parish remains. And the parish—YOU—are very well equipped to continue to remind each other and to teach each other about those kind and loving arms around us at ALL times. Especially the tough ones.
The parish urges us to mature in our behaviors with each other, and the parish takes us to GOD.
So remain here and continue to grow. Help our parish to flourish. Continue to give to keep Christ Church strong. Love each other, and love God.