The park rangers who work at the Echo Canyon entrance to Camelback Mountain see the mountain differently than the people who walk it everyday.
If you have hiked Camelback Mountain you know the power of perspective. You can feel in turns like you are almost finished and moments later like you will never reach the top.
At almost no point from the Echo Canyon entrance do you ever see the top clearly. The only way to know how far you are from the end is to have climbed it before.
This year lacks perspective for most of us. No one in living memory has experienced a year with these particular turns: pandemic, economic shutdown, police brutality met with protests, riots, presidential election politics.
We have not responded to illness with the shutdown of churches in over a hundred years in the United States.
And so in all of this, we have an opportunity that is unique in our lifetime. We can reflect on the meaning of church and our primary practices of the faith.
While we still cannot see the end of the journey, we cannot consider the journey as a whole, but we can think about how we travel and where we hope to end up. I know that I am more like a park ranger than a hiker as a rector, but I hike too and hope that you will take a minute and pray about where we are and where we are going.
The center of our common life has been the Eucharist, or communion, for a few decades in the Episcopal church, a relatively recent phenomenon in church terms, but for most of us personally it is all we have known or can remember. But what if the center is not the Eucharist?
The true center of our life as a Christian is our relationship with God revealed in Jesus Christ. The true temple of the Christian life is between us as we love each other through honor, charity, generosity, forgiveness, kindness, joy, and suffering. The Holy Spirit is the living person of the Trinity living within us, teaching us, convicting us, leading us, and praying through us and making us a royal priesthood.
The Mountain is life in the Trinity. The Eucharist is just a sacrament of that relationship. It is the campfire where we come to gather, share, be the community, to be reminded and recalled to the Way that we are walking all day everyday. It is only holy when it happens within that whole life.
But it gets hard to keep walking the Way when you don’t gather with others. It gets easier to get lost, to lose hope, to wander off. I get it. I am incredibly grateful that we are finally back together, and I want you to join us as soon as you can.
This journey could be over at the next turn of the trail, just like Camelback. None of us have been this way before, but I learned walking pilgrim paths around the world: you can know the Way even when you don’t know the landscape around you.
You can know the Way, even when you don’t the landscape around you.
Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Nothing replaces life in the Trinity, even the sacraments of that life. So live in Christ and journey with us as we discover where he is leading us.
The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards