Last Saturday I attended a lovely Eucharist honoring my friend and fellow deacon, Vonnie Hubbard. She was being honored by the City of Newburgh, New York, for her work in the community. It was a packed, un-air-conditioned church (in case you forgot, last weekend was wicked hot and humid). Bishop Mary Glasspool was the celebrant and preacher and I was assigned as “Bishop’s Chaplain”.
So, what does that mean? Well, it’s usually a pretty easy gig and you basically lead the Bishop around, holding the Bishop’s crosier (that’s that shepherd walking stick they carry) and at times during the service, the mitre (the big fancy hat). In we processed and, so far, I was doing okay with the big stick, and as the service progressed, juggled the big stick, the fancy hat, and the service leaflet.
Often there’s a stand for the crosier and you would simply pop it in there until needed. There was none such item available nor was there any other appropriate spot for me to put it. So, I just held it…and held it…and held it. It got heavy and it was unwieldly and I needed to be sure it remained in the proper position with the curved part on top facing forward. I almost lost it a couple of times (the crosier, not my temper). I was hot and I was tired and my arm was aching. But hold it I did, until we processed out after nearly two hours.
The following day we had our glorious Homecoming Sunday here at Incarnation. As we were fussing behind the scenes pulling last minute changes and details together, it seemed we needed someone to carry our banner. I volunteered “I can carry the banner!” (Can someone please remind me never to utter these words again?) And carry it I did! I had not anticipated how awkward the thing is or that I would not be able to see where I was going with it in front of me. And I had to ask myself “How am I once again toting a large, heavy, gawky item?” I felt a bit dizzy as it seemed to sway with its top-heavy-ness. At one point, I was just laughing behind that banner. I miraculously guessed where to turn and managed to get it safely into its stand.
Sometimes things are heavier and more cumbersome than we expect.
We all have times when we’re carrying an unexpectedly heavy load and we feel we could easily just collapse – physically, mentally, spiritually. And when people tell me things that are weighing heavily on their hearts, I feel like I’m accepting some of the weight of what they carry. Perhaps you’ve experienced this. At times, it’s a heavy load and it can be wearing. But somehow the load is lifted and it’s carried and we come out the other side.
We all have the capacity to not only do our own heavy lifting but to take on some of the burdens of others. We have the capacity but sometimes we must dig a little deeper to get to it, to maybe set aside tired arms and tired hearts. We have the capacity to carry, to hold one another up, and we usually carry a bit beyond our comfort zone. That’s the zone where the Holy Spirit meets us. We open that channel with our willingness, our self-emptying, and let the power of the Holy Spirit do her thing. And we come out the other side.
“Come to me all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)