Taped to my wall above my desk at home is a tattered piece of paper with words of a prayer written by Methodist pastor Ted Loder. Those who have been in my offices (at church or home) know I collect things in these spaces- and many of them are like sacred talismans to me- reminders of people or places or, as is the case with this prayer, an aspiration of who and how I want to be in the world. Here are the words to Loder’s prayer:
Empower me to be a bold participant, rather than a timid saint in waiting, in the difficult ordinariness of now; to exercise the authority of honesty; rather than to defer to power, or deceive to get it; to influence someone for justice, rather than impress anyone for gain; and, by grace, to find treasures of joy, friendship and peace hidden in the fields of the daily you give me to plow. Amen.
The words, like an old friend are now very familiar to me and each time I read them I feel renewed and pulled toward the place inside of me that wants to strive to be my best self. What was surprising today was the small inscription on the very bottom that I had all but forgotten- the name of a dear friend from seminary I had not heard from for over two decades. But as I read those words I thought about her and the gift of her friendship during a significant time in my discernment about ministry.
Laura helped me remember that listening to God’s call was not just about figuring out what to do in the world, but perhaps more importantly, first figuring out who God was calling me to be in the world and then, from there, take the gentle next steps to “align my doing with my being.” I had forgotten her words and this beautiful truth, and how well they harmonized with Ted Loder’s words.
And now both her advice and this prayer resonate with fresh new meaning when held up next to the gospel lesson we will hear together on Sunday:
Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. (John 15:12-15)
Sunday we will celebrate the Feast Day of Absalom Jones. In a letter to the diocese about this important celebration our bishop, The Rt Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr writes:
The annual Absalom Jones service is an important event in our common journey toward Becoming Beloved Community. It is an opportunity both to remember the Rev. Absalom Jones, ordained by Bishop William White to the diaconate in 1795 and the priesthood in 1802, and to affirm our commitment to racial reconciliation and the disassembling of racism. Born enslaved in Delaware in 1746, Absalom Jones founded the first African American congregation in Philadelphia, The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, which exists to this day, and was the first African American ordained a priest in our church. His courage, dedication, and deep faith can inspire in us the same spirit necessary to heal the racial divisions and injustice of our own day.
Come home this Sunday to be fed and inspired by the life of Absalom Jones as well as to be reminded that we are called to be bold participants, rather than timid saints in waiting ready and willing to love one another as we have been loved by God.
May you never forget that you are loved.