by fr. ben maas
Nearing the end of our Shrine Mont retreat, I grabbed a cup of coffee early Sunday morning and headed into the woods to walk a bit and gather my thoughts for the impending service in the shrine. I passed the labyrinth and the stations of the cross and decided that I had enough time to reach the cross (located atop a tower on the mountain’s peak). It’s not a long hike, but you get high enough to look over the tree line at the valley below. Reaching the summit, I enjoyed a gentle breeze and the last sip of now barely lukewarm coffee, looked over the valley, and was struck by juxtaposing revelations.
First, I had not wanted to be there. With everything we had going on that weekend in Warrenton, with all the others who were unable to make it this year, and with busy weekends as far as the eye could see, it would have been easier to stay home. Second, I was struck with how much I needed to be there. For me to just stand still, amidst the quiet, breathing deeply, I felt a remarkable calm and connectedness within myself, with all I was taking in, with God, and with the people at the bottom of the mountain. I realized that down below connections were being made that would likely not have happened apart from a weekend like this or a church community like Saint James’.
I pondered a fascinating exchange that had occurred the day before and that I only heard second hand. During an art class led by Bonnie Zacherle in which the age of the participants spanned at least six or seven decades, two of our remarkably bright young people, one with a clear bent toward the analytical and the other far more toward the creative, began discussing how infinitesimally small our planet and this moment in time is in the whole scope of the universe and what that means for our theological understanding. Then a retired engineer and historian weigh in and the conversation bounces around from there. What a connected moment, a kingdom moment!
As I began my way back down the mountain, still reflecting on how I would preach about the Holy Trinity (hardly a favorite sermon topic for most clergy), the little moments from the weekend kept flickering past, moments from the kickball game where the children again prevailed, the hike up North Mountain, and the less choreographed parts of our retreat. At the core of our understanding of the Trinity is the perichoresis, the relationship or dance between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is not just loving; God is relationship, connectedness. God is LOVE! The images of the trinity reflect that notion of three distinct parts connected, moving toward and in relationship to one another… dancing together. I cannot help but think we draw our hearts closer to God when we take the time to just dance together!
I realize that summer always takes us on great adventures, long and short, but sometimes the season can also provide opportunities inhibited by the busyness of the rest of the year. I encourage you to take the time to stay connected, be with us on Sundays, swing or cheer at the softball field, volunteer at Vacation Bible School, partake in formation here or in a home group, take time to pray for youth and adults on our mission trip, try out the “informal” choir, or give a few hours to serving the broader community.
Connections are at the heart of the Jesus’ ministry. Behind every miracle is physical touch, engagement, gentle encouraging or empowering words, binding broken lives to the divine. Jesus does not just teach but he breaks bread, washes feet, is filled with compassion. Never do we read “but Jesus was too busy to listen, to heal, to share a meal, to let the children come to him, to dance.” So please, keep your dancing shoes in plain sight, find the time, and I will see you on the dance floor.