"We Are Vessels of the Holy Spirit, The Dwelling Place of God." - 03/24/2017

For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self. Trees and animals have no problem. God makes them what they are without consulting them, and they are perfectly satisfied. With us it is different. God leaves us free to be whatever we like. We can be ourselves or not, as we please. We are at liberty to be real, or to be unreal. We may be true or false, the choice is ours. – Thomas Merton

At a time of crisis in her teens Jessica Abdelnabbi, who was raised Christian, went to a mosque that she’d visited many times with friends who were members. She longed to pray with the community but the leader was praying in Arabic. She turned to the woman beside her and asked for help. The woman said, “You don’t have to understand the words. Just listen. Would you like a scarf?” Jessica said “yes” and covered her head, closed her eyes and leaned into the illusive words that filled the room. There among strangers sharing the same longing, Jessica was filled with a deep peace and a profound awareness of God’s love. This was the moment she knew where she belonged. In the years that followed she studied Islam and learned Arabic, but her study was a way to give her brain a chance to catch up with what her heart already knew- she was a Muslim. So far, Grace has welcomed a Conservative rabbi, the founder of the first mission to LGBT people in the Episcopal Church, a Sensei and a Christian convert to Islam to share their faith stories at our “Welcoming the Stranger” Adult Forum. The speaker’s differences have been pronounced but I’ve noticed at least one experience they all share: when they described the moments they felt closest to God they all came to a deeper understanding of who they were. Often enough in Scripture when someone comes before the presence of God they’re given a new name. Jacob is renamed Israel, Sarai becomes Sarah, Simon becomes Peter. Maybe getting a new name doesn’t so much signal a change in identity as it does God’s revealing to the renamed person who they were all along. We spend so much time thinking about ourselves and what others think of us. Am I smart? Do I measure up? Am I as awkward on the outside as I feel on the inside? I don’t know about you, but every time I take off down one of these roads I wind up in the weeds, lost and spinning my wheels. But when I pray beside you in church, or when we are singing, or when I’m receiving the bread and wine from Jesus’ table I get myself back. We are vessels of the Holy Spirit, the dwelling place of God. Discovering what that uniquely means in each one of us is holy work. Let’s learn together. See you Sunday, Rev. Laurie

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Grace Church Van Vorst  | 39 Erie Street  |  Jersey City, NJ 07302  |  Phone: 201-659-2211  |  office@gracevanvorst.org