A Good Word from the Rector: Seeking Constancy Amid The Chaos
Dear Parish Family & Friends,
Last Sunday evening, my wife and I took our children to Half-Price Books for one of the franchise’s “50%-Off-The-Highest-Item-In-Your-Cart” sales. We look forward to these Sundays that come a few times each year, but the first store we visited did not have anything that got our motors running. Rather than returning home disappointed, we pushed propriety (and bedtimes) and raced to a second, far-flung HPB. Fortune smiled on us at this more distant outpost, and everybody (with their own cart, of course) found a fun, half-priced treat to steel us for the return from Spring Break.
I had scored with a special edition of George Harrison’s 1971 Concert for Bangladesh, and during the return drive we all sang along to the live version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” While we headed northbound on MoPac, a line of police and emergency vehicles roared down the opposite lanes of traffic. We wondered aloud what might have happened, prompting a discussion of the weekend’s news.
Once at home, my daughter parked herself in front of the den television, and, from the kitchen, I heard her let loose an, “Uggggggh! Why are they interrupting my show? It’s just like you and Mama when we were listening to The Beatles: Do we always have to talk about what’s real?!” No matter our shared preference for distraction, reality soon did catch up to her and to us. We watched together the coverage of the fourth bombing, this one in Travis Country, and the gravity of the events happening in our community settled further into our psyches. We talked to our children about being careful, and, until further notice, we limited their roller-blading and scootering around the church parking lot.
The next morning, I prepared to gather with our faithful flock of early-risers for our daily 7:00 A.M. Lenten Eucharist. Walking the breezeways of the campus in the dark, I shined my phone’s flashlight along the path with an eye for tripwires. I made a pass through the church and did the same – looking for anything out of place – before returning to my more usual routine of lighting the altar candles and marking the readings. During the sermon, that congregation, likewise, began to grapple with “what’s real:” that while we assembled for prayer, within a five-mile radius of our chapel altar, members of our parish and their neighbors sheltered in their homes at the requirement of the ATF and FBI, because law-enforcement officials could not assure them that their driveways, sidewalks, and yards, were free from explosives.
As a congregation, yesterday we celebrated a birth in the morning, and we presided over a burial in the afternoon. We greeted families arriving for school, made plans for a men’s retreat in the fall, and discussed a pilgrimage for next summer. We shared Communion at dawn and at noon.
Late in the afternoon, my family headed to a local field to watch our son play baseball. Our daughter took off her shoes under the bleachers, and, with three other teammates’ younger siblings, she ran light-hearted sprints in an open space nearby. The evening sky was cloudless, and by the time the sun went down, the light breeze turned cool.
This morning we awoke to reports that the bombing suspect committed suicide when approached by SWAT officers. While APD closed sections of I-35 to survey the crime scene, at today’s 7:00 A.M. Eucharist, I invited members of the congregation to share one word in reflection on this news and our recent experience. Before we could take even a breath of silence, the words came in a rush: sadness, disorientation, unity, prayer, frustration, confusion, peace, justice, safety, anger, hope…
…and all of this in just more than 48 hours.
While news of this suspect’s discovery brings relief, there remains no ultimate victory: another person has died, another has been injured, and so many questions and concerns remain.
This Sunday, the Christian Church marks the beginning of Holy Week and celebrates Palm Sunday. The shape of that morning’s worship challenges us to reconcile disparate experiences: the triumphal procession of Jesus into Jerusalem, when his disciples lift their hearts in hope; and the wrenching procession of Jesus toward the cross, when his family and friends alternately follow and abandon him to Gethsemane, to Golgotha, and to the tomb. As in our nearer Austin this week, the Palm Sunday experience reminds us of life’s beauty and its pain, of our loves and our fears, and in the midst of the unreconcilable, dares us to await Resurrection.
In this context and as our search for meaning persists, I invite you to lean into your church community and to seek constancy amid the chaos. In preparation for Holy Week, we will continue our Lenten Eucharists, not only on weekdays, but at 7:00 A.M. in the chapel this Saturday, March 24, as well. That and every morning through Maundy Thursday, we will gather as the sun rises, and we will keep our watch for Easter.
Whether you have made these Lenten services a daily devotion this season, or whether school or work or sleep has kept you from attending; whether you plan to march on City Hall Saturday afternoon, or knot palm crosses in the Parish Life Center that morning; I hope you might find peace and center one early morning soon.
Between now and then, let us pray the collect appointed for today, Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Lent:
Almighty God our heavenly Father, renew in us the gifts of your mercy; increase our faith, strengthen our hope, enlighten our understanding, widen our charity, and make us ready to serve you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Rev. Morgan S. Allen,