We were having lunch at Princi Italia in Midtown on Tuesday.
The waitress refilled my water glass and overheard me say to Benno,
“the little square cards we have that say: ‘bring your dog to church’”. She turned to walk off with her water pitcher, then turned back to offer enthusiastically, “If I could bring my dog to church, I’d go to church!”
Naturally, I dove in with directions to Highpoint and a hearty invitation. And then we talked a bunch about dogs. I risked suggesting to her what I suggested to y’all on Pentecost, about how dogs are a part of creation that make us know what the Holy Spirit is like.
We tend to think we’re in the dark about the Holy Spirit.
~Jesus? Yes. We know him. Something like friend or fellow.
~God? Yes. The Grandfatherly creator type. Maybe with some lightning bolts thrown in.
~the Holy Spirit? Not so much. Strangely other.
Except for this living with dog-love, because
they make us know about this Holy Spirit thing. . .
they make us know. . .
that we are loved unconditionally.
And like the Holy Spirit they incarnate joy. (yes – Joy is a fruit of the Spirit)
Sometimes they make a mess of things.
And sometimes they chew.
They invite you to play with a universal sign that even cats understand (read proverbs 8 if you wanna see about the Holy Spirit at play!)
They walk in devotion, watch with intent, companion us in all things no matter what the things.
They do not abandon.
Like the Holy Spirit they are wild creatures, wholly different from us, and yet, we learn a shared language and develop a mutual trust.
They want our attention and live for our affection. They follow us around.
They snug up as close to us as we will allow.
They are intuitively sensitive to our emotional terrain. And. . . well, you get the idea. . . I digress!
I did not say all of that to the waitress!
Suffice it to say, that sacramentally speaking, dogs are an “Outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual truth”.
But at the mention of our dog-life as a way to understand the Holy Spirit, her eyes got big and she was all over it! Knowingly. More stories rolled out.
One of her Holy Spirit stories was about how her dog is her intuitive radar about another person’s character and trustworthiness, because of how her dog may or may not warm up to them, or look askance, or growl, or wag.
And how that makes her feel protected.
I sometimes like thinking of Holy Spirit as guardian, so I knew what she meant.
I love stories.
I love dog stories too, and I’m thinking about sitting at a table down by the sidewalk in front of the church on High Point Road with a shingle that says:
“Tell me a story about your dog”.
It came home to me in a profound sense on St. Francis’ Day, that people love, love, love their dogs.
They’re proud, they tell stories about them, they’re devoted and indebted, they’re companioned and by living a life with them, they walk in love.
They love. We love. We simply love.
I had a funny thought about one of the Offertory Sentences the other day. Not ‘funny’, like ‘haha’, but funny as in a joyful little thought that made me chuckle. The Offertory Sentence I’m thinking of is the one I use most often.
Most clergy use it most often. You know it, it goes like this:
“Walk in love as Christ loved us, and gave himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God.”
As I sat in my studio visiting with a parishioner, I could see out the window toward the woods in the front of the parish house. In the matter of a little over an hour,
I saw no less than 5 people walk through, at least 3 dogs and 2 strollers.
It tickled me to suddenly think, “Well there ya have it! That’s it! right in front of me: People ~ walking in love.”
. . . out there with dogs and babies, walking.
That’s what it means, that’s what it looks like, that’s how we do it.
We tend. We treat. We set aside our own comfort.
We take care. We delight. We put up with shenanigans.
We companion. We feed. We play.
We walk. . . in love.
And then I thought, with the view outside my studio window, that’s why the pet blessing was so much fun, that’s why everybody left happy and joyous because we had all been immersed in love!
We filled the room with it. We drank a deep draught.
We feasted on it! On love!
Sure, the animals are cute and everything, but it’s the love that’s so compelling.
So life changing.
Love keeps us alive!
The worship and music team and the outreach and community life team have been conspiring together ~ and roped in the building and grounds team, to plan another pet friendly Sunday.
This time, taking it a little bit further and planning a pet and people social after church.
Outside, with biscuits for both.
Dog biscuits and British biscuits, too.
Dog play and Coffee and Scones!
And so we will begin this adventure, this experiment in love, on November 18th!
Just 3 weeks time!
So we’ve got to pick up on the big efforts
Roger Loney has already begun and do some grounds work of our own, right along with him.
One of the “takeaways” from our study group for church growth (which was a word of advice given to Roy Wright by the national church representative for church growth) was about love.
When Roy asked, “Are there some immediate things we need to do right away?”, he answered, “Yes. Fall in love with your neighborhood.”
Talk about walking in love!
He recommended that we fall right in it!
We don’t have much money, but we have resources: beautiful wooded acreage (especially now that God gave it back to us, and we’re not trying to sell it).
Gently rolling hills, a splendid community garden, and spectacular sky-scraping trees.
A peaceful landscape in the middle of a cityscape (even 400 begins to sound like a stream worthy of the pacific northwest if you close your eyes and imagine it).
The Offertory Sentences are on p. 376 in the BCP. There is a list of sentences (all from scripture) with which the priest transitions the congregation from the ministry of the word to the ministry of the table, at which point we all make our ‘offering’; we bring ourselves, our souls and bodies, our God-given gifts.
So I’m thinking, what a beautiful theology of stewardship, to Offer our God given gifts our natural resources, to create a habitat of love.
To make our offering, of all that we have, to God, for the love of the world, an oasis of kindness,
And to walk in love, by the doing of it, to be in it, ourselves, to be in, the love.
We don’t have much money, but we have resources and a lot of love. And we can use our resources to fall in love with our neighborhood, by making this offering. We are already oriented toward neighborhood, always have been! That’s who we are ~ just like we will open our doors this afternoon for the Civic Association’s Fall Festival.
But honestly, I’m craving the big love.
The walking in love.
The falling in love. Maybe it’s a little selfish to think that if we open our space, our parish house and home and backyard too; open our land in a big way, to the people who walk in love, because then we will be continually immersed in it!
Surrounded by love.
Out around the whole circumference of our property, just burning with love.
Out from the nave and onto the wooded hilltop, one fork leading to the community garden, the other to the sidewalk trellis that marks the trail head,
and leads through the wooded trail from west to east, across the grass land over the pipeline, around the dumpster and the pig roast flat lands, up and into the fenced woods,
and through the half hitch gate into the memorial garden.
All of it like a wrap, a mantle of love, us, garmented in love.
All of the neighborhood and people in condominiums and apartments, coming out for a breath of fresh air and green space, and to find love and human community, and
Walking in love all over our property, and surrounding us in love, because that’s what they do:
They walk, in love.
They walk their dogs, for love
They stroll their babies, for love,
They hike around with companions and partners, for love.
They walk. . .
I want the big love.
Love is a good thing, so I’m absolving myself of the selfish want of it.
“God is love, and where true love is, God himself is there.” (I John 4)
Think of it, even the vagabonds with spray paint will be blessed by it. And maybe they too, will fall in love.
18 months ago, I said to you in a playful sermon:
“I see that you have clear glass windows”, and I shared things that I deduced about you because of the clear glass.
Rather than stained glass that removes us from the world and cloisters and protects us,
I was wondering and guessing, because I didn’t know you well.
I surmised that you were free thinking and not cloistered.
Not afraid to look.
Not afraid to look out onto the world
to embrace the world,
to stay connected to the world
because you are brave and full of love.
And that to be connected to the Creation was intrinsic to your spirituality.
During worship you gaze with holy sight and contemplation on bare branches in winter,
Rain, wind, lightening and dark cloud,
Or bird life on the window ledge on the cross beam of the cross.
Your clear glass windows suggested to me, that you are always ready.
Expectant to find God, through all matter, every bit of creation,and in the human form and all of humanity.
18 months ago, I said that you are outward facing and that I would have to think a congregation with clear glass windows is a congregation with vision and courage.
Because as they look out on the beauty of the world, they also see its brokenness.
And know themselves to be called out, into that brokenness with love.
That’s what I said 18 months ago, just as an outside chance, a guess.
I think those things are more true, than ever.
At the essence and heart of who you are:you want to see
The younger you, an earlier generation of yourself, said these things about you by designing this place with clear glass windows, which are actually doors that open the nave in six places!
The younger you wanted to see.
I hear in today’s gospel, Jesus asking you if it is still true for you now, in this day. The gospel today is the healing of a blind man.
Jesus asked him, ‘what do you want me to do for you?’ He said
‘Teacher, Let me see again.’
I think we’re on the brink of something. And that Jesus is saying to us, what he said to him:
“Go. Your faith has made you well.”
Reverend Ruth Pattison
Rev. Pattison serves the people of Highpoint Episcopal Community Church as the Parson, exercising her gifts for collaborative leadership through preaching, liturgy, and the pastoral arts.
Sunday Worship Service 10:30 am - Christian Formation 9:30 am
4945 High Point Road, Sandy Springs, Georgia 30342
Gallery 4945 hours:
Wednesday through Saturday, 12:30 to 6 pm