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  • The Rev. Barbara Ballenger

Rector's Note: The Balm of Wednesday Eucharist-3.28.24

Wednesday morning worship at St. Peter’s is like a little island of faith and community right in the middle of my week. It takes place at 9:30 am in the St. Philip’s Chapel, where seven or eight ring the tiny room. It starts informally as we arrive with news of our day, things we want to pray for, people who need healing. Connie sets the table and makes sure I don’t forget to put on my stole. Shirley always reads the first reading. As a group, we read through all the names on the ongoing prayer list, which is a lot longer than the one we include on Sundays.

Perhaps my favorite part of the liturgy is the conversation that we have after the Gospel, our shared sermon time. I learn a great deal from the personal stories, the observations, the Scripture study that our tiny assembly shares. It’s good theology.

Yesterday was particularly moving, as we wrestled with Isaiah 50:4-9. At one moment the servant of the Lord is recognizing the blessing of a trained tongue to sustain the weary with a word, and the next, the servant is suffering the consequences of sharing that good news: “I gave my back to those who struck me and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.”

Why does the good news so often get met with the vilest kind of pushback, we wondered? It wasn’t long before some strong feelings surfaced – in these deeply troubling days, it seems like the worst sort of actors are getting the upper hand.  What do we do with the feelings of deep anger and disgust that the news awakens in us? How do we make room for common ground and change of heart, when we’d like to come out swinging?

It struck me that what our little group was expressing were the deepest feelings of Holy Week, a taste of what might have been boiling in the hearts of Jesus’ friends as they saw his ministry destroyed and their own dear friend arrested, tortured and executed -- hearts laid bare, lament rising to the surface, the need to have a sword at hand, just in case. Our fury at the injustices that fester around us is a good match for the week and its dire stories. In response, we told one another personal stories of hope, of hearts that did change, of people that did come around. Together we reached into the mixed bags of our lives, laid it all on the table, and found ways to make some sense of the mess, with God’s help.  If we can’t get it all figured out by Easter, we agreed, we would use the time to make ourselves ready for the Holy Spirit to make things a bit clearer at Pentecost.

And then we prayed for our parishioners and community members who are in pain and mourning, we blessed one another with hugs of peace, and we shared Eucharist – all acts that moved us from the sting of Holy Wednesday into the everyday balm of our practice of communal faith.

This island of Eucharist, prayer and conversation in the middle of the week helps me to remember what God has empowered us as a church to bring into this weary world – the power of honest stories and gentle listening, the power of Bible lessons juxtaposed against the scriptures of our lives, the power of grace that takes over when we reach the limits of our understanding or our hope. It’s the power of God flowing through the simplest stuff – our limited lives and our bits of bread and tastes of wine. Small stuff, but strong. That’s what I put my hope in this week, in thanksgiving for those who brought it with them to worship yesterday morning.

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