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A Theological Memoire

A Theological Memoire

written by Phyllis J. Everette

 

“We celebrate the memorial of our redemption . . . “ 

 

As a musical sort of person I hear those words and inside, deep inside where you are not subject to listening to my particular rendition, I burst into the CATS anthem, “Memory. . . all alone in the moonlight”.  I am passionately singing out the story of a forgotten, bereft, and forlorn creature who is recalling the glory days of life. Begotten, bereft, and forlorn. . . indeed. However, not entirely. 

 

Sustaining me, the Eucharist draws me toward it. In the presence of my church family and household of faith I indulge myself and wrap myself in the mystery of it all. I am a choir member. I have a bird’s eye view of the celebrant elevating the host. Our choir loft is up in the back – with the grand Organ. Now, granted, the choir loft isn’t always the most reverent place to observe this event. There are a variety of necessary and unnecessary distractions. And, to be honest, sitting through two services of identical sermons can be cell-phone inducing. However, when I am in the first service, I typically move to our choir loft steps. 

 

I move to those steps for focus, but for more than that. I move to that space because there, I can smell the incense wafting over the heads of the people. I can see, because of a certain slant of light that comes onto the altar from our high clerestory windows, the clouds billowing high above toward the soaring star-spangled ceiling, taking our prayers with them.  I can take in the expansiveness of the space; notice the head’s of friends with whom I am worshiping, recall their trials, their happiness’s, and their smiles. I hear the cries of infants and children. I can look down on them and smile and thank God their parents have them in church. I stand, on the alto/tenor side steps, next to a magnificent, colorful stained glass image of Jesus walking on the water. Jesus calling out to Peter to come to him . . . and Peter’s struggle with the process. It gives me hope that, contained within the life of the Eucharist, my own struggles might be the life I’m called to live. 

 

In the year 2020, the Sunday before Palm Sunday, I am in an entirely different place. It’s quiet. There are three scented candles lit on the credenza to try to duplicate the smell of incense.  The emblems that are in front of me on my grandmother’s Depression Glass plate are broken tortillas and the top of a cocktail shaker full of port wine. I am alone. However, there is still light streaming in through my garden from a beautifully clear, sunny spring day. I have a small wooden cross and a local artist’s pencil drawing of my beloved St. Anne’s. I am sitting in the tininess of my corner living room where I have prepared an altar and I am preparing to go “off-script”. 

 

You see, the liturgy stops just prior to the Eucharist on a live-streamed version of church. While I know that I am not liturgically authorized to administer the sacraments to myself, I blithely choose to ignore that. Celebrating and remembering the sacrifice of Jesus, who bought my redemption with His life, is life-giving to me. Ignoring all proscribed practices, I know that I need to be with Jesus in His self.  

 

Often, during the Eucharist, I have the words of old songs, learned in my non-denominational youth, playing through my head. The words of, “On Christ the solid-rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand” have echoed through my soul through the past three weeks. I hold onto, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness . . . and wholly lean on Jesus name.” 

 

The bigness of Christ is there but the need to touch a personal Christ has invaded my life and my soul. That need has always been there, but it seems to me that there is something immediate now about needing to know the personal Jesus inside me – to remember him for who he was to Peter – a personal Lord who calls me to try to walk on these waves with Him. All I have to do is try – and He catches me before I sink. I need His immediate promise of redemption. Not a future promise – not a past promise – His immediate redemption of me, now, and my situation, now. 

I will celebrate this memorial of my redemption . . .my redemption from loneliness, my redemption from despair, my redemption because Jesus, the solid Rock, loves me personally. I need a Rock right now, immediately – and that Rock comes to me, immediately, in the memorial of His Redemption. 

 

Jesus is present. Jesus is present in all of my time – backward, current, and future. Jesus encompasses all in His redemption for me. Jesus will redeem my time, this time,  and sustain me, even now. . . I remember. 

 

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bruce cornely

Thank you for sharing in your article. I am amazed at what we have in common.
I, too am a musical sort.... organist, still playing but retired from directing (my arms hurt!!) 😉

I, too, love the mystery of worship. I guess there are "two" of me. One likes the divided choir in the chancel, the other sits on the back row when not in the choir.

I love incense and bells, stained glass and noticing the light-play on the walls and organ pipes, and picking out special friends in the congregation. I'm a tenor. The image of Jesus walking on the water is a very significant childhood inspirational memory. We were Presbyterian at the time and the large window next to our pew (front row!) was Jesus pulling Peter from the waves. I have since acquired a picture of this window and have it in my home chapel along with the Good Shepherd and Jesus in the field with arms extended in invitation.

My worship since mid-February has been online (St. Thomas NYC and St. Mark's Seattle), and like you I have my wine and wafer ready. Both churches broadcast the entire Eucharist, St. Mark's with a choir of four socially-distant people in the gallery with the magnificent Flentrop organ. Although somewhat austere because of the empty pews, there is warmth and I feel included. I wrote here recently about bread and wine being blessed "in absentia" but have received no responses (bomb threats or kudos .. hahaha). It is great comfort to me and there is a very special closeness when I partake of this Sacrament. There are even mornings when I awake and my first thought is "Communion."

The words to old songs often pierce my prayers -- "The Solid Rock," "I love to tell the story," These I refer to as my "chicken songs" since as Presbyterians we had "service men's" lunch monthly with the guys who came in from Mayport. We sand hymns from the Upper Room Hymnal while waiting for the serving to start, so these hymns developed in me a Pavlovian response which has remained throughout my life.

I feel that personal touch of Christ in conjunction with the window picturing Jesus extending His hand to Peter. As a child we spent great deal of time on our small sailboat and Dad often pointed out the rough waves and encouraged me to see Jesus on them. It is a beautiful and comforting image. And in this time of trial (which I call Virustide) Jesus is present for me with arms extended.

I am organist for Penney Memorial Church, Penney Farms FL, a retirement community with a wonderful chapel and Holtkamp organ https://penneyretirementcommunity.org/activities/churches-activities/ Our doors have been closed since mid-February, but services will resume the first Sunday of May. My prelude will be Herbert Howells' Psalm Prelude St 1, Op. 32, No. 3 (Ps 23 vs 4 - "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil..."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=23&v=TeNQ0gzMFt0&feature=emb_logo and the offertory will be "There's a Wideness in God's Mercy" tune by Maurice Bevan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QW22YSEkyX4

If you would like to chat or pray, I'm here.

Bruce

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