That my joy may be in you
It was Saturday night at a confirmation retreat at Kinasao, north of Prince Albert.
We gathered in a wondrous cathedral: a floor of beach-sand, a ceiling of moon and stars and clear night-sky, a folding table for an altar, with a loaf of bread, a chalice of wine, and a Bible. Behind the altar a wondrous picture: the lake covered in a layer of ice. The congregation gathered: a hundred teenagers and a dozen adult leaders, each holding a small red candle; bearing a light in the darkness.
Together, under the stars, we were reminded in the Word that Jesus had called us to be a part of a special community, a revolutionary community: a community that commits itself to love God with our heart and soul and mind; a community that commits itself to see in every human face—the poor, the wealthy, the cool, the not-so-cool, the young, the old, the neighbour, the one who is strange to us, the Christian, the Muslim, the Hindu, the agnostic—the image of a good and loving God. We were called to do this as a community up against our own broken inclination to see faces in the world as winners who ‘made it’ or losers who could not.
Together, under the stars, we were drawn into that community as our foreheads were marked with the sign of the cross with the coldest, cleanest lake-water gathered from a portal in the ice.
Together, under the stars, we were drawn into the presence of Jesus, in the breaking of bread, in the sharing of the Cup of wine.
Then something quite odd happened. As the last were communed, a warm, warm, wind blew across the icy lake, blew out the candles on the table-altar, blew through the community. In little circles around the beach, teenagers and adult leaders huddled in small circles to keep their lights aflame, laughing together at the unexpectedness of the wind. Over the warm wind, the presider called out, “GO IN PEACE. SERVE THE LORD!” Over the warm wind the people called back, “THANKS BE TO GOD!” The service over, we extinguished our candles and in groups and pairs, and individually, we made out way to our cabins.
It was years ago, this night of worship and wind and laughter. But the pictures of that evening continue to speak of the day to day life of communities of faith.
The Water on the forehead: the call from Jesus to live as the baptized people of God. “You are the light of the world”—in a world so in need of light.
The Bread and Wine by the lake: the call of Jesus to come to the table, just as we are, to be fed in a way that no one could ever explain but can only be received with wonder.
The Creator’s Great Cathedral. “And God said ‘It is very good.’” Indeed it is.
The Unexpected Wind blowing over the ice. The Spirit’s presence is like that isn’t it? “The Wind blows where it wills,” says Jesus, even though you don’t know where its coming from, and you can’t always know where its all going.
But somehow it is The Believers Huddling Together, sheltering each other, keeping lights aflame together that keeps coming back to me. And even more, the laughter under the night sky. Believers gather to worship and to work to be sure, but at some deep level, believers quite simply, gather in joy. “I have said these things to you,” Jesus would say, “so that my joy may be in you.”
So, sisters and brothers, “GO IN PEACE SERVE THE LORD.” And the believers say. . .