Reflection by Jane Doull, , April 14, 2019 Introduction- Our 152-year old church sanctuary in St Andrews, NB had been closed for major renovations all winter – including removal of carpet and pews, rebuilding stage to make it multi-purpose, creation of accessible washroom and galley, repairing stained glass windows, painting everything , building a floor labyrinth and more. We had our “soft re-opening” Palm Sunday 2019.
What does our procession back into this sanctuary have to do with Palm Sunday?
More than you might think!
It’s about sacred space- sacred space reimagined.
That long ago Passover week, Jewish pilgrims were walking or riding to the sacred space of the Jerusalem temple- But that sacred space was imprisoned , occupied, by the force of the Roman Empire-
And so that week there would also be processions for Roman governors and Roman military- Just to remind everyone who was in charge.
On one side of Jerusalem, such a procession would be prancing in with fine horses and with military presence,
On another side, this humble, motley procession,
Forming behind Jesus, riding a colt, his feet dragging on the ground.
This procession was actually a carnival, a wild spoof – the ultimate reversal where the poor, the meek, the peacemakers claimed centre stage.
This procession was anti-establishment, anti-institution.,
Those at the margins, the poor, the peacemakers, those not allowed in religious sacred space, the great unwashed, claim centre stage.
Those thrown out of religious sacred space or never welcome there got to claim their own sacred space.
Jesus was breaking open the old wineskins, giving up the attempt to mend the old cloth, turning the tables, preparing for the day when the veil of the religious edifice was torn in two and all space became sacred.
Jesus on his colt was stepping, step by step away from the way things used to be, the familiar way,
Into a new uncharted ground,
An in between place of letting go, dying and rising again, rising again into a life not yet seen, not yet known.
The Palm Sunday path does not take us to church as we know it. It never did. The Palm Sunday path leads to where the maps don’t work, much less the GPS,
The road may even disappear.
As we find ourselves in an in-between land.
As our whole faith community sheds its skin to become a new body that fits who we we are meant to be,
That moves freely where Spirit would take us.
Such is the Wesley story that brought us here today.
For the last 8 or 9 years, we’ve seen -something had to give. We were moving faster and faster away from the glory days of full pews and full Sunday school classes-
And that wasn’t just us, that was churches like ours all over the place.
Spiritual community was there – spiritual yearnings were there- spiritual passions were there- but somehow we were going to have to break open,
Shedding our skin, freed into a new future.
Many the conversations, many the visioning times, many the promptings of spirit,
Leading us to open the door to midweek spiritual expressions, Small groups,
A story still unfolding in the making of our labyrinth!
We’ve been led into community collaborations, standing up for ocean science , helping sponsor a refugee family, opening our door to the St Andrews Open Door,
Or making room for the Family Resource playgroup.
And even our way of doing Sunday has relaxed into something new, still evolving.
What new story were we part of ?
How could we tell that story better, live that story better?
And how could this Wesley sanctuary open space for this story to keep unfolding, as Spirit invites?
In this building’s 150th birthday , we felt called not so much to look back but forward.
And so it has continued.
And so our people have taken a step forward ,
Not totally knowing where we are heading,
But knowing we need a sacred space open to new ways, new stories,
A sacred space welcoming to seekers, sceptics, dreamers,
A sacred space that supports love of all sacred spaces, including this precious planet.
This is what Jesus was getting at long ago.
It’s not about the way things have been- or even the way things are now-
It’s about a hopeful, expansive future,
In which there is space and safety and sanctuary for all beings, In which hearts and communities and even planet can find healing and consolation and hope.
To walk into that future is not easy.
We take not just steps but leaps of faith , more often than we know, when we learn new things, do new things,
When we enter new relationships,
When we enter new chapters in our lives.
And today we enter not only a renewed space,
A new-to-us space-
We enter a new chapter in the story of Wesley,
A chapter yet to be written.
Today is just the beginning-
The day when we write the first sentence of this chapter.
And it won’t be easy.
There was a learning curve in setting up the worship space today.
Far more learning curves await.
As we live into what this new space invites, beyond our comfort zone.
As we open the door- to what, to whom?
Speaking of doors, do you see- anyone can come by and look in, And we hope they will walk through the doors,
And take a closer look,
Perhaps even find a small part of their heart’s desire.
And so when we’re here we can look out,
Open to welcoming who comes in, and open to going out and making sacred space wherever we are.
Real stories, true stories bear the weight of all our experiences, all our emotions-
Just as the Holy Week story did so long ago.
Just as our Wesley story does,
And so it is with this new chapter.
Joy not without sorrow,
Adventure not without struggle,
Opportunity not without anxiety.
And yet we trust the journey and we trust the Light and Love that leads us on, as who we are and who we will become, Always embraced by a Wisdom, a Mystery beyond our going.
Let us begin to write a new chapter in this new space, A space full of hope, full of adventure, full of possibility beyond what we can yet see. May it be so.