Our five year project of stripping woodwork in the hallways and kitchen has finally ended. The wood is beautiful and the new paint sets it off elegantly. So now all we have to do is clean up the residue of dust and disarray and put things back where we want them.
We finished cleaning the kitchen and began to look at the dining room. As I looked over the room, laying out my battle plan, my gaze stopped at the silver tea service we had been given by our good friend, Mary.
I first met Mary just after my ordination in 1970 while at the Cathedral in Albany, NY. We have maintained a connection and friendship ever since. On our last visit Mary stunned us by handing her silver over to us. “You will use it and enjoy it!” she said matter-of-factly. And we do – often.
I stood there looking at this antique tea service but saw beyond it, thinking about the first time I was invited to one of Mary’s dinner parties – an eclectic mix of people; with an array of silver and china setting an elegant tone, yet wonderfully fun, festive and informal. And I recalled many other occasions over the ensuing years – the people she enveloped in her caring and nurture, and of course, her wonderful hospitality that was the initial spark that created this deep bond between us.
What Mary has given us is more than some nice things – she has given us a treasure trove – not just in the beauty or worth of the objects themselves, but it the stories they mediate. They help us to remember and recreate these wonderful times, and inspire us in how we offer hospitality to others.
We in the church have been given the same gift in which we may participate each Sunday. The liturgy is a means of re-presenting the story of Jesus gathered with his friends – and the gathering of Jesus’ friends week after week over the centuries. It is the story of people, of nurture, of crises, of births and deaths, of healings and wholeness, of painful times lived through, and of mostly well intentioned and often supportive faith communities. In theology this gift is called anamnesis. (Literally “not forgetting” that I prefer to think of as: To make alive in the present a past reality.
Every time we look at or use one of Mary’s treasures we recall Mary, and all of the people and occasions with which these objects are interwoven. With each celebration of Eucharist or liturgy in which two are three or more are gathered we have opportunity to re-present and make a present living reality of the two millennia of people’s interactions with God as followers of Jesus and fellow travelers on a spiritual journey. We are enriched, sustained, inspired and renewed.
Thank you, Mary. Thanks be to God!