Rector’s Note 9-9-21
Twenty-five years ago last February I was ordained in a little Southern Baptist Church in Buckeye, Arizona. Three years earlier I had gone down front in the church to dedicate my life to ministry as a high school senior. It was then an act of trust that God had called me into something larger than myself and mysterious.
It was that same call that I was answering on my knees before Bishop Robert Shahan in December of 2003 as I was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church, down the road at All Saints.
I am still following that call today as Amy and I head out to South Carolina to see if that mystery takes us there. It is the same call, and after all these years it is still a mystery.
This entering into mystery is always new, and it always involves a deep sense of trust that is renewed as we place our lives into God’s hands.
There is this little book by Carlo Carretto called I, Francis begins with this introduction where Carretto, following his call into the Sharan desert, writes that Francis of Assisi teaches us that when we leap into the darkness, God catches us.
Where is God calling you? The beginning of a spiritual faith is in a morning prayer that says, “God, I trust you. What do you want me to do today?”
The Benedictine tradition has been my touchstone for decades, but a dozen years ago, I could not get to a Benedictine monastery for my retreat, so I went to this massive Saint Francis Retreat Center in Dewitt, Michigan. The place was empty the week I was there except for a Catholic women’s group one morning, a cook twice a day to cook for yours truly, and a single Franciscan brother left while the others were on vacation here at the Casa.
The grounds were filled with Stations of the Cross and a certain familiar style of Roman Catholic art. But way on the backside of the property was a trail that went into a forest where there was this little C. S. Lewis gate covered in ivy that opened with difficulty into a massive urban wilderness park.
I spent that week praying, reading, studying, writing, and running barefoot through the woods. My only conversations were with God, the cook, and the monk who once a day would smile and ask me, “Are you talking to God?”
“And is he talking back?”
At this he would laugh quietly and walk away. Until late in the week, when he suddenly replied, “Don’t make God talk out loud. Who knows what he will ask then.”
It was hilarious and profound. We live our lives either listening to God and following as best we can, or we do not. When we follow God’s voice, we find ourselves in the protection and provision of the Great Shepherd of our souls. We find ourselves beside the still waters and in green pastures, eventually.
We also pass through the valley of the shadow of death and along pathways through wild places.
This moment of discernment has us back in the wild a little bit, but we can trust our Lord to lead us and keep us safe if we follow where he calls.
Keep us in your prayers as you are in ours.
The Very Rev. Daniel Paul Richards
Christ Church of the Ascension
Paradise Valley, Arizona