By Charles Rush
September 27, 2009
2 Timothy 1: 3-7 and Psalm 100
(mp3, 7.5Mb) ]
st week, I was watching Vivie Guida during the children’s sermon [slide #2] and I got to thinking about the way that community really works and how the blessing falls down the generations.
I knew her great
grandmother for whom she is named, Vivian Wadmond. [slide 3] By the time that I
knew her Vivian had not only retired, she had retired
from her retirement, and was mostly just involved with her family. I saw a
picture of her when she was young. She was a classic from that era. She must
have been in her thirties and the picture looked like it was from the early
60’s. She had one of those great looking evening dresses, was smoking and
holding a Martini. This was the era when women could still wear fur and not have
to worry that someone would spit on them. She was quite a socialite and looking
at that photograph brought back a whole era in an instant.
Vivien was also
community builder and that is what she did. She was very involved at Overlook
hospital not only helping them to raise money, but she also organized
volunteers to staff a lounge so that family members would have a place to go
and re-group, get something to eat and drink, while they were at the hospital.
And she was involved at the church as well in a variety of different ways over
the years. That was that generation. [Slide 4] This is Vivie
with her grandmother Marin
Right around the
time that she Vivien died, her granddaughter started coming back to church,
Meredith [slide 5].
Meredith was all grown up. I remember her wedding to Andrew Guida. They had a
couple boys, rambunctious boys, and Meredith migrated back to a pew, like most mother’s with that muted cry of ‘help me with these boys’.
Pretty quickly she started volunteering with the homeless, coordinating meals
and volunteers. I would see her every once in a while out of the corner of my
eye checking on something in the kitchen.
She would have
that blonde hair pulled up in a bun, as casual as her grandmother was formal,
but her grandmother wore her hair up in a bun from time to time as well. It was
just a kind of sober blessing to think that the Spirit of Vivien was being
carried on through the generations- different style, different accents, but the
same spirit of service.
there watching Vivie in church thinking about the way
things come full circle. She has her blanky doll,
named for a woman that she will never really know, but the funny thing is that somehow
through everything that we do here as a community of faith, through everything she
does with her grandparents, Marin and Chuck Mixon, everything that she does
with her family, I’m certain that the spirit of her great grandmother Vivien
will bless her too. That is what we do.
St. Paul would
write to Timothy and say, ‘that faith that I first saw in your grandmother, and
then in your mother, I can see in you’.
I was at the
opening of the Cornerstone School a couple weeks ago, so much good energy, all
those parents out front taking pictures on the first day of nursery school. All
that nervousness about whether everything will go well or not. I’d been so
focused on just getting the paperwork turned in for the Fire Department and the
State that I’d kind of forgotten about this spiritual dimension that is really
why we do what we do.
You know how
these things go- Out of the corner of my eye, I see my granddaughter coming
into school with her Mom holding her hand. In an instant, I remembered her
father, Ian, making that same trip at 3, carrying a big load of blanky that he had to part with for the first time in his
And then comes [slide 6] Sequoia
Pilgrim, Barry and Kyla’s daughter, Frank and Penny Bolden’s granddaughter… and
they are in the same class. Right after her, Sara Bolden, Ian’s daughter, and
Frank and Penny’s granddaughter, aged 4. [Slides 7,8,9,10, 11]
I get a cup of
coffee and here comes Lyla Weckesser, Olaf and
Suzanne’s daughter [slide
12] and Sally Weggland’s granddaughter, aged 3
Finally, I see
Rex Fisk, almost 4, [slide
son of Donna and Brandon Fisk, granddaughter of Stephanie Fisk. This is
starting to look like a movement.
And suddenly it occurred to me that
13 short years from now, Frank Bolden, Chuck Mixon, Sally Weggland,
Stephanie Fisk and I could all be standing with the Police Chief- trying to
sort our what happened at a weekend party [slide 14]… and let me
say right now, it was Rex’s fault. I’m sure those Fisk boys have some lead role
here. I can smell it.
We’ll have a few other families
rolling it over for three generations shortly too. The Rosoff’s,
the Buntings, and we join a bunch of other families that are already into three
generations of involvement, the Bland’s, the
Noonan’s, the Hales, the Flannery’s, the Ross’, the Radutzky’s,
the Baker’s. And I know there are many others that I could mention.
That first day of school, I came in
here for a moment to pray, not any particular words. I just had this image of
Frank and Penny, Chuck and Marin, Sally and Layne, Stephanie, Kate- all of us
joining our Spirits together, blessing the next generation and the generation
after that with the best of what we know and have lived, purging some of the
worst we have know or inherited- wow, it was just a very healing, hopeful,
grounding image. It is a privilege to know you, to be in spiritual communion with
you, and to raise our families together.
This is really what the Church does
on its best days. We channel the blessing and pass it on from one generation to
the next. And if you could actually envision it, see it,
you would witness this long tradition going back over decades, centuries,
millennia. About some things, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. We come to
this place to remember what God has taught us about love, compassion, accepting
one another, learning the life of forgiveness, turning again to the way of
reconciliation, how to be ambassadors of peace. We keep this teaching alive
when we worship together and if you could zoom out, not only the breadth of our
connection around the world, but also our connection down through the
generations, what a profound vision it would be.
I was in Italy this summer and I went
to mass in Sienna. The church there is 800 years old and it is built on the
foundations of an older church. The floor has inlaid marble over all of it,
rather like waves when you walk on it because it was a main church on the
pilgrimage route, so literally tens of millions of Christians have worn the
stone floor into grooves, each coming to pray in this place.
The Mass is in Italian, of course,
but I’m always surprised how much I get out of it, even though I only know a
few phrases in Italian. I recognize all of the Lord’s Prayer, most all of the
reading of scripture, most of the Eucharistic prayers. We’ve all been shaped by
the same worship over a long period of time. Sunday morning they run the
tourists out of the Cathedral in Sienna, so it returns briefly to a place of
prayer. That Sunday, there happened to be a family christening a baby. The
father was so proud that he was walking around thanking everyone who was there,
a surprising number of people from Sienna, but he was also greeting people he
had never met, Christians who had come to worship literally from all corners of
the earth and thanking them for their prayers and good wishes for his son.
After the Mass was over, everyone shuffled
outside, through those massive inlaid doors. Kate and I were walking down the
road towards the Roman gate, the Porta Roma, and you
just try to imagine the pilgrims making this exact same walk, day after day,
week after week, year after year just like we were making that walk… just about
like ours, invoking God’s blessing, pledging ourselves to live out of the
higher part of what we know to be true… And that is not quite half way back to
the beginning of our faith. It is no wonder there are grooves even in the
Sometimes when I am at those ancient
Cathedrals in Europe, watching a wedding or a funeral or a concert, I try to
envision the long march of history as a kind of continuous procession of the
Mass. It is an exercise in humility as you place yourself in that teeming
cortege across twenty centuries and well it should. There is a fairly sturdy
tradition behind us with plenty of resources that structure us to access and
actualize the higher spiritual reasons for which we live.
We know that we will need them
because we are sending our children into a future that is largely unchartered,
where the unknowns exceed what we know in most of the critical areas that
matter. In perspective, we are not that different from Abraham and Sarah, when
they first discerned God telling them ‘Get you to a land that I will show you?’
And where would that be? How will we know when we get there? Like them, we send
our children out by faith, with hope that we will figure it out when we
actually get to the challenge.
How the world is changing… you
couldn’t help but reflect on that at the celebration of the 400th
year of the founding of New York. At the time it was discovered, Amsterdam was
the financial capital of the world. 150 years later, London was the financial
capital. 100 years after that New York was the capital. Who could have ever
imagined from the Old World of Europe that this would be the future?
And neither can we.
In the time since I began speaking this morning, 67 children were born in the U.S.. 224 were born in China. 395 were born in India. And…
694,000 songs were downloaded illegally around the world.[i]
Last year, the United States
graduated 1.3 million students from college. India had 3.1 million graduates
and 100% of the Indian graduates speak English. In fact, it is estimated that
by the year 2020, the country in the world with the most English speakers will
When I was 21, all of my papers at
college were written on a typewriter, a machine you can only find today at an
antique store. If you are 21 right now, it is estimated that you have watched
20,000 hours of Television already, spent 10,000 hours playing video games,
spent 10,000 hours on the phone and you have sent and received 250,000 emails,
IM’s, or tweets. Over half of you have actually created some content for the
internet; today over 70% of American 4 year olds have used a computer.
It is hard to remember that the first
internet message was sent in 1992. Today the number sent exceeds the total
population of the world. MySpace, founded in 2003, has enough users to be the 5th
largest country in the world.
In 2005, 1 out of 8 people that got married, actually met on-line. I would venture that number
to be more than double in our area. It is certainly more than double for the
couples married here.
We know we are living through a
revolution of information. I toured the library of one of the colleges at
Cambridge University. In 1500 you had to have 500 books in order to start a
college, and they could be on any subject, as it was a huge feat to find 500 in
the whole countryside of England.
It is estimated today that if you
read the New York Times for a single week, you have ingested more sheer
information than someone who lived a life time in the 18th century.
It is also estimated that the sum total of human knowledge has doubled every 20
years from 1900-1980. From there it has doubled closer to every decade and it
has been suggested that the actual doubling of technical knowledge is closer to
every couple years in the near future.
Indeed, if we stay on track, we may
actually develop a supercomputer whose ability exceeds a human mind before
these pre-schoolers get to middle school.
Something like half of the jobs that
are most in demand for this year did not actually exist prior to 2004. So as
one person put it, ‘we are preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist,
using technologies we haven’t yet invented, to solve problems we are not
actually aware exist.’
We live in an era of complexity and
exponential growth that will rapidly pull the whole world into one
inner-connected neighborhood, for better and for worse.
I was at the beach this summer with
the New Yorker for a little relaxing reading and the author was in Vermont
trying to find out why all of the bats are dying in the caves of northern
Vermont. It is one of those mysteries like the collapse of the bee population
in the United States a few years ago that has the best scientists scratching
their heads for understanding because the simple collapse of a single species
actually can portend catastrophic implications. No one entirely understands it
but the reigning hypothesis is that some lethal contagion was indirectly
transmitted from another continent via international air traffic. I’m picturing
an innocent Vermont farmer vacationing on the island of Borneo… The truth is,
we just never thought about this, because, we were back in the old order,
thinking like the old country. It is true that these articles usually turn out
to be a lot less apocalyptic than originally presented but there are more and more of them
precisely because our rate and concentration of growth outstrips our scientific
and social imagination.
We send our children out by faith to
address a future world that we do not yet understand and they will deal with
social issues we are presently not able to see. We have to trust that the
Spirit of God will rest upon them in the future, in the words of Joel, that
they will ‘dream dreams of a better world’, that they will ‘see visions’ when
they get there and intuit what to do.
Our job is to equip them with
character: we teach them the value of seeking understanding in a world of
complexity; we can model what it means to be a neighbor in a multi-cultural,
pluralistic world; we can exercise their capacity for compassion with our
neighbors far away, all of us citizens of one planet; we can develop in them
the skill of reconciliation in a world of ever more pushy self-interested
parties; we can lift up for them the importance of being humane as we are
surrounded by impersonal forces; we can illustrate how peace will increasingly
be related to imaginative justice; we can support them, surrounding them in a
mature community of love. All of this we know from our tradition, and we have
been handing it on from one generation to the next now for 733, 547 days in a
My brothers and sisters, you stand in
a great tradition, a profound tradition. Through it,
let the blessing of God fill your life with the indwelling of the Spirit. Bless
those around you with the grace and love that you have in our heart. Bless our
children down the generation with the best of what we have known. Lift them
with the gift of creativity that they might dream new dream and see new
That faith that I first saw in your
grandmother, and then in your mother, and now I am sure dwells within you.
Rekindle that light, through the laying on of hands for God does not give us a
spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control. Amen.
From the video series “Did You Know” that has a couple versions 2.0, 3.0. They
are produced by www.ShiftHappens.com.
I am presuming that they are largely accurate.
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