Monday, January 14, 2013

Wild God of the Living Waters

We put out the hot water, the sweet-smelling oil, a small linen to wipe the child's forehead, a candle. We set them on the rough table made of 2x4s that we had drug up next to the font. We set the Paschal candle next to the font. It is the sixth candle we have burned down to a nub this year --it is an old candle with the date "2008" around a sign of the cross engraved in gold into its body.

The Paschal Candle, with its beadwork to cover the numbers of a previous year.
We usually have a star quilt on the altar.

We lace on the leather and bead work that cover the numbers --bead work of a cross and eagle feathers. The candle was a gift. Prayed over in some place far away from here. Hardly used. We will use it all up. Gratefully.

We prepared the altar, put out the bread and wine and water. I made the announcement that I forgot to hit the double-side feature to print out the readings --and we all laughed and the resulting paper shuffling sounded like wind through dry grass. We sang a hymn.

And still the candidate for baptism had not yet arrived. It was, by the clock --as if that means anything --twenty minutes past --twenty minutes after we were scheduled to begin --but like everything else here, things happen when they happen.... So I asked if anyone wanted to be baptized, the water was warm --and we all laughed. And still no candidate....

So we lit the candles on the altar and began praying to Our Father from whom no secrets are hid --we heard the readings.... I gathered with the children for the sermon, sitting on the step before the altar --telling them their regular names probably have a meaning, and that my name, Margaret, meant 'pearl' or 'wild flower' --and that at baptism we receive a name --a secret name --Child of God, Beloved, Of Whom God Is Well Pleased....

And then I asked if there were anyone who wished to be baptized --more folks had come in. And a beautiful young man --maybe ten, maybe eleven years old stood and said, 'yes' --his grandfather said, 'here he is.' And a new light entered the room --the people breathed and smiled and laughed.

The boy and his family and Godparents came forward. We lit the paschal candle, we confessed the faith of the church, we prayed, I asked the Godparents if they promised to do all in their power to teach this child to live a holy life, to teach him to reject those things that are not life-fulfilling. We poured water and prayed over it, giving thanks for the Spirit that hovers over the water of creation, hovers over this water. I saw the ancestors gathered by the Water of Life --the River of Life that used to meander through the trees and open places east of us --water that now gathers passive behind the dam, the old ways drowned in the thick dark deep. I gave thanks for the living water in this place, placed my whole hand in it and stirred it up, calling out to them without voice, inbetween the words I was already saying aloud....

And they turned leaving their watch posts by the water's edge and gathered round the boy, filling the room at every angle, stuffing the corners with the old stories, filling the rafters with the old ways that he will need, pressing in on us, saying their blessings --this water, the same water that has always flowed from the source of all water, the living rock --and then, like a coup*, I put water on his head, messily, so it dripped down his whole face, fell on those places all around, his shoulders... and we laughed. And then we took the sweet-smelling oil and marked him, Child of God, Beloved, Of Whom God is Well Pleased.

I forgot to ask for the offering --what more could we offer on a bitterly cold day than warm water and the life of a willing child and the humble fire of a candle.... So, we offered bread and wine, first fruits of the harvest and life blood of the vine --we called down the Spirit again, and shared and ate and laughed and sang. And after Deacon was clearing the altar away, the Warden called from the back --Mother Margaret, can you ask for the offering plate now?

And we laughed. And laughed. I said, well, now that God has fed us and assured us of his presence among us, let us offer ourselves, using the money as a sign of life and labor in the world.... And then we sang a hymn of love and the gathering of the saints. Could we sing the doxology, someone asked. So we sang the doxology, in Lakota, and processed out, giving thanks and glory to God.

It was the most perfectly imperfect liturgy, ever.

At prayer this morning (Ephesians 1:1-14 --and more, I couldn't not)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.

In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

Canticle: A Song of Christ’s Humility (Philippians 2:6-11)

Though in the form of God, *
Christ Jesus did not cling to equality with God,
But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, *
and was born in human likeness.
Being found in human form, he humbled himself *
and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Therefore, God has highly exalted him *
and given him the name above every name,
That at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, *
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, *
to the glory of God the Father.

(Also, Mark 1:1-13)

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 
Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Wilderness awaits us all --in faith. We cannot follow a Wild God of the Living Waters and not enter the wild places.

Sunrise, Eagle Butte, SD January 14, 2013
with the three utility poles I call 'Calvary' 

It is exactly a year this week since we packed and left Richmond....

--who knew? I would have never dreamed this.... !!!

*among the Plains Indians of North America, a brave or reckless deed performed in battle by a single warrior, as touching or striking another warrior without sustaining injury oneself.

Details of the beadwork on the Paschal candle (Joel and I purchased this in thanksgiving for our 31rst anniversary)

The beadwork conveniently covers the numbers and designs of a previous year.
The colors of the Four Directions surround the cross, eagle feathers hang from the hoop.

The beadwork is laced on the candle --and then I pin it in place too....

Side detail
There we are.


Ann said...

Love this -- liturgies that fill us and make us laugh- yes. Is the beadwork done on a loom?

it's margaret said...

Yes --I believe he did use a loom. It's about 2 inches wide and at least five inches tall and is entirely backed with the leather.

it's margaret said...

No --it is more than 2 inches wide --maybe three --but I am forgetting now!

susan s. said...

So lovely! All of it. I love your writing, and the stories you tell. It's wonderful that even out of order, it all gets done. I'm sure God enjoyed it all.

When I first went to St. Mark's, we had an interim priest. We also had a Mistress of Ceremony and Bells(she trained all acolytes and played bells and timpani, ruling with a firm hand). We were doing a procession for Palm Sunday starting outside. The choir had been given strict instructions as to how to process, but the interim wanted us to just join in with the congregation and be a bit chaotic. He pointed out that that was probably chaotic when Jesus rode the colt into Jerusalem. One of out Tenors piped up and said, "Yes, but Jesus didn't have 'A' to plan it all."

Anonymous said...

More pictures for your scrapbook!
I'm going to keep on at you, Charlie Farns-Barns.!

it's margaret said...

susan --love that story!

Charlie! --I hear you!

Prairie Soul said...

Beautiful beadwork--and I especially admire the lacing.

This is such a great story. Will you write it down for the boy? The memory will be a touchstone for him.

it's margaret said...

I thought the lacing quite a clever solution to putting the beads on the candle!

Giving the story to the boy is a great idea --thanks Prairie Soul. I forgot to mention two things --he stood at the altar with me --and, at lunch he used the candle he was given in a somewhat wrong way shall we say, and broke it! Joel is going to fix it --so maybe I can give him the story when we return his candle!

JCF said...

A thousand blessings on this newest Royal Priest of God!

...and a million thanks for you and your ministry, {{{Margaret}}}.

A question:

"It is the sixth candle we have burned down to a nub this year" [I assume you mean the year you've been in Dakota]

This is because?

it's margaret said...

Yes --the year I have been here, since Feb 1 of last year.

We burn so many candles because of the number of funerals and baptisms we do!

Ann said...

Do you need more -- I think there are many churches who toss them or recycle the wax when they get down to about 2/3 or less. We could put out a plea

it's margaret said...

Ann --I am saving the new ones you sent me for the Easter Vigil. I still have about four used ones left --was going to send out a plea for some more old ones when the season to retire the old ones comes around!

Ember said...

Hiya. A friend who reads my blog says that your church would welcome altar candles, even part-used candles. I said I'd draw attention to this on Facebook, and I'll also write it up on my blog with a link where folks can reach you, if that would be helpful.
If you could write a concise post describing your ministry situation and explaining how we might be able to help, I can link to it from my blog and from Facebook.
Please forgive me if this is intrusive/unnecessary/unwelcome. x

Pa said...

I've shared your candle situation with others. I never would have thought of it myself. (Quakers don't use candles.)

it's margaret said...

Ember --thank you for considering our situation. But, it's not the altar candles that we need --it is the large Paschal candles that we burn at baptisms, funerals and for the duration of Easter. The Paschal candles are 2 inches in diameter and over three feet long!

PS --neither intrusive/unnecessary nor unwelcome! Thank you!

it's margaret said...
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