December 9th, 2016 by Carl Buffington
Originally sent to the parish via email 11-11-16
Holding hands is huge, isn't it? From the reach atop the Sistine Chapel to two lovers walking down their lane, to symbols of unity, caring, victory: holding hands means a lot, conveys a lot, says a lot.
The other Sunday morning our grandson Emmett reached out for hands on the first note of the Lord's
Prayer. Barbara saw it and later shared it with me. We both thought it was huge because we saw it as an outward and visible sign that the Sunday morning liturgy was shaping, training, forming, and "recreating"* his soul. And that is huge!
Here's a quote saying a bit more about this: "This is the reason why worship and praise are so crucial. They give opportunity for us to tell the truth about ourselves and God. In worship a community recreates its own soul..."
*(From Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life.)
Since holding hands during the Lord's Prayer is not likely a part of other Anglican Church liturgies, it's worth knowing how it came about at New Covenant. Fr. Colbert Norville, deceased husband to Vilma, and uncle to Deacon Ruan, now celebrating with the Communion of Saints, was a new priest in the Diocese when I was a new Rector at New Covenant. He says, as I recall, he was first invited to celebrate communion at our altar. When it came time to say or sing the Lord's Prayer, he simply invited us to hold hands. And the Lord must have liked it so much that He has had us do it ever since!
One day, long ago in Madison, IN, I came upon a motorcycle accident. A parishioner's son was lying in the street. Terrified, when I got there and knelt next to him I took his hand and heard him praying the Lord's Prayer and so joined him. He did survive.
Another day, even longer ago, my first year in ministry, in Bridgeport, CT, I was visiting a parishioner at St. Vincent's Hospital. A nun, who had called me to come to the hospital, related to me how just moments before I got there they thought she had passed on, and how when the Sister took her hand she heard her begin to pray the "Our Father" as she put it. The patient had had an After Life experience and said as a result, that she had absolutely no fear of death.
Handholding and the Lord's Prayer is: a good thing, a big thing, huge!
I've had a number of people over the years, one just this past week, tell me they have felt the Lord hold their hand. Scripture tells us that He intercedes for us, well, putting the two together adds another dimension to holding hands and the Lord's prayers.
Here's another quote, this one by Abraham Heschel, that has blessed me this week:
"Prayer is our humble response to the inconceivable surprise of living. ... Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder, for the gift our unearned right to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great."
(Quest for God: Studies in Prayer and Symbolism)
All this to say, that our Sunday morning liturgy, which is called THE GREAT THANKSGIVING, is designed to integrate, saturate, us with gratefulness, prayer, and worship, so we can endure, keep on, when the rough days come as foretold in the gospel for Sunday. Our Sunday worship trains us from the inside out to endure. It is 'huger' than, but not other than, even holding hands! It's an issue of life.
As Jesus put it, "By your endurance you will gain your lives."