This morning on the way to work, I was marveling at the beauty of the morning. It was one of those rare fall days that was dark and gray to the North, but to the South-East, the clouds were broken up and sparse; the sun, not quite up yet was casting the most beautiful salmon/pink cast to the back and underside of the clouds, with the purple/gray of the front of the clouds in clear contrast with the pale blue of the sky behind them.
The amazing colors of the sky created this wonderful glow that had the red berries of the Mountain Ash standing out against the deep gold of the leaves remaining on the trees. It was in the midst of this reverie that I began to do some serious contemplation and thoughts about the people that I have been called to minister to.
There is a common misperception among many people that residents of nursing homes are non-productive, that they have no life and that they are just there waiting to die. One of the greatest joys I have at my job are those rare moments when I have time to sit and be present with those people that are often considered outcasts by much of our society.
Through the years that I have been working with the residents here in Seward, I have seen so many demonstrations of care and concern residents have shown for staff and for each other that I am often overwhelmed and brought to tears by the depth of the human soul.
One of the most incredible things that I have seen through the years is the response of our elders when I am saying Mass. Most of the elders that come to the weekly Eucharist’s are not Episcopalian. They are primarily Roman Catholics or Russian Orthodox, but since they do not have the option of attending the Eucharistic celebration in their own tradition they join us.
It is not the religion that in important to these residents, it is the ritual and the relationship that is important. Even after all these years I am surprised when I see a resident that is typically non-participatory say the Our Father with the rest of the group. I am reduced to tears when I see a non-verbal resident follow my hand movements as I celebrate that most intimate and sacred thing that a priest can do. I am humbled when the elders thank me for providing this very important part of their lives for them.
I think that the sunrise this morning was a reminder to me that God is bigger than the limitations that we place on the name of God. A reminder that God is, that God works in ways and places that we as humans can not begin to imagine, and that God calls each and every one of us into communion with each other, regardless of our religious affiliations.
Next time I see a sunrise like this, I will remember these holy people that I have been called to minister too, and I will be grateful for the many lessons that the elders have taught me, and I will once again be humbled.