Friday, October 21, 2016

Hit the Ground Serving

Dear friends,

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:2)

Sunny, warm days dominate the backdrop for what has already been an incredible month of mission service here in the Holy City, Jerusalem. Upon arriving on October 2, I immediately assumed my responsibilities as a Pastoral Assistant (Sacristan) at St. George’s Cathedral. Eager, but having limited training in liturgical duties, I admit that I was quite nervous when I started. I made a few mistakes on the first Sunday and wrote detailed notes to learn the correct way to perform the tasks expected of me. Paradoxically, during the 9:30 AM service that morning, there was a shooting at a train station 5 minutes down the road from the Cathedral, in which three people were killed including the perpetrator. The repeated thunder of Israeli helicopters overhead and the tragic, unnecessary loss of life quickly eclipsed and diminished my concern about procedural errors made during worship.

The Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr, Jerusalem
It’s interesting to be in this role, because I am so focused on making sure the services run smoothly that my experience participating in them is different as opposed to when I am sitting in the pews at St. Michael’s (my home parish) with no assigned responsibilities. Because of the lower numbers of volunteers and servers here, I am balancing being a Lay Assistant, Usher, Lectern, Crucifer, and Counter –Jerusalem could use the St. Michael’s faithful! It is quite the responsibility and task to remember to do all these things. However, attending and serving in the Sunday and weekday Eucharist and Evening Prayer services are the highlights for me. To worship God in this place, day after day, is a real blessing and a powerful, disciplined experience. To monitor the Cathedral each day and walk down the aisles of the Nave when no one is present conjures humility and reverence in me imagining all those who have passed through its iron doors. I feel this inexplicable presence of countless souls who have sat in the reed-weaved seats and listened to the Gospel, prayed on the kneelers for the peace of Jerusalem, and came forth to Christ’s table to receive the gifts of bread and wine offered to all. All this, of course, happening less than a mile from where the events of the Paschal Mystery are remembered to have taken place.

“I am grateful to God -whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did- when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.” (2 Timothy 1:3)

I have much to share, but I will hold off for now and write more in the next update, which will focus more on my work in the Diocese, schools, and with Jerusalem Peacebuilders (JPB). Please work and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

In Christ,
Jack Karn

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Soup Kitchen September!

Dear friends,

Before time escapes me, I wanted to publish some reflections from my last month in Vermont, where I spent Tuesday and Friday mornings volunteering at a local soup kitchen called Loaves and Fishes.

Me, manning the dish-sink
As previously mentioned, I believe service is an encounter with God. Through service, through selfless acts of compassion and sacrifice, I believe Jesus Christ's redemptive love is further manifested in our lives and in the world.

Envisioning the challenges and experiences that lay before me over the next nine months, I have a tough time finding greater happiness than getting in the kitchen and preparing meals with beloved members of the Brattleboro community. Everyone in the kitchen volunteers their time to prepare, cook, clean, and serve.

First, serving at a soup kitchen reminds me of humility. Humility toward the abundant blessings of food and drink, the time and effort it takes to prepare and cook a meal, and the fact that we all share a common need for sustenance in order to live and be our whole, true selves. We cannot further the Kingdom of God on this earth and within ourselves without having something to eat and drink!
Faithful volunteers hard at work

Too often we forget to appreciate the essential value of this universal need. We forget that without it, we are deprived and empty, and that with it, we share in community and love's embrace.

Forever more, I am reminded of Jesus’ Last Supper in Jerusalem:

While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you. I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14. 22-25)

It was there in a small house in Jerusalem that Jesus shared his last meal with his disciples before he was put to death. Like the last supper, it is the gifts of all kinds of tasty healthy food and drink that we celebrate and serve at the Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen in Brattleboro. Though not sanctified in a church by a priest, the meals prepared each week are given freely, without charge, without judgment, without question. The sacrifice made by volunteers is an extension of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross for humankind, whether they are Christian or non-Christian.

Prayers before lunch
Second, this act of service teaches me to seek Christ where he wills to be found. By meeting the people who come in off the street for a warm meal, I strive to extend my soul in compassion, respect, and love. A welcome, a little chat, a smile, a thank you, or a conversation are some ways I seek to model this every time I walk into that kitchen.

"In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and of the prophets." (Matthew 7. 12)

I want to be treated as a human being, with dignity, with respect, and love. I want a person to look me in the eye and smile at me and say hello and ask how I am doing. I want to be in relationship with my neighbor. So I try to practice what I preach here, as Christ has taught us. I believe that these acts of service and love multiply as time passes.

Let us pray:

Loving God,
From whom no secrets are hid and all desires known. Grant that we may serve you in truth and righteousness. Seeking you in our daily lives and in the people we encounter each day. For with you we are complete, but without you we are nothing. Lord thank you for the gifts of food and drink, and all those who toil and sacrifice to produce them. May our meals be filled with your blessed presence and may we extend ourselves to others in love and peace, as you have extended to us. Through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

The next post comes to you from Jerusalem. Stay tuned!

In Christ,
Jack Karn