I remember when Alyssa and Jonathan first visited Christ Church. I remember their active involvement in the Young Adults Group. I remember when Alyssa gave birth. I remember Nina’s baptism, in the middle of the pandemic. Unfortunately, because of the same pandemic, she hasn’t been to church or used the church’s nursery where she would have met Drew, the son of Alex and Elizabeth Everett - who were also active in the YA Group with Jonathan and Alyssa, and who now have two children: Drew and Milo.
Looking at Nina with her sippy cup makes me feel her innocence, just like the innocence of every child. Her face lights up with grace - just like every child. In her eyes, I see a life of beauty and grace, which is of God, and which God alone can give to us as gifts. Looking at Nina reminded me of the words of Jesus: Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. The real deal is, you may not be far from the kingdom of God if you can find within you the love of a child.
Sitting on her mother’s lap and sharing the holy space of Old Brick with her parents, she wonders what in God’s name is going on. But the fact that she appears unfazed and unafraid tells of the comfort she feels in knowing the reassuring presence of mom and dad.
Comfort! That seems to be the word. How many of us have that sense of calmness or comfort like Nina? How many of us feel comforted in our grief and sorrow over the many losses we have had to deal with? How many of us feel that reassuring presence that somebody has got our back, and that we don’t have to worry?
Not many of us feel that way. In fact, listening to Jonathan and Alyssa, their love of Christ Church stems in part from our mission to ease the worries of those who are carrying heavy burdens, and our desire to offer comfort and respite to others. The good news is that we have taken on some more because there are more needs within our world.
Christ Church opens itself up to take on some more because each of you believe that to be close to the kingdom of God, and in fact to be a part of the kingdom of God, you have to find within yourself the love of a child. The joy for me is that it is that love that makes it possible for you to see the divine in each other - especially in those who may not be as comfortable as we are. Gregory of Nyssa, a fourth-century mystic, wrote that “In each human soul there exists a divine element, a kind of inner eye capable of glimpsing something of God, for there exists a deep relationship, an affinity between human and divine nature.” There exists a relationship between God and humans, and to see that divine in another makes it possible for you to dare to extend comfort.
Apart from turning her eyes to see her parents, Nina didn’t say a word. But she didn’t have to say anything because the video is worth more than a thousand words. Having been a part of her parent’s life before she was born, I can promise you that the joy of a faithful community, and especially of a priest, is to be a part of a family’s life - to offer comfort in times of distress and to share in their joys. Christ Church stays present in each family’s life because your generosity and kindness make it possible for us to do so.
And so as we inch closer to Stewardship Sunday on November 7th, I want to invite you to prayerfully reflect upon your present blessings, of which every person has many, and with faith, make a commitment to support Christ Church with your time, talent, and treasure.
John Powell wrote that “God sends each person into this world with a special message to deliver, with a special song to sing for others, with a special act of love to bestow. No one else can speak your message, or sing your song, or offer your act of love.”
Thank you, Alyssa, Jonathan, and Nina for helping us to know that we can speak our own message, sing our own song, and offer our act of love to comfort and ease the burdens of others.