Listen to this week’s Devotional here.
Author: Tom Riis
[Lifting his eyes to heaven, Jesus said] And now I am no more in the world, but they [my disciples] are in the world. . .. Holy Father keep them in thy name . . . that they may be one, even as we are one. John 17:11
Hearing the title of our Stewardship theme this year, Come Together, brought to mind a visionary phrase of the United Church of Christ: That they may all be one, derived from the gospel verse above.
My next thought, when asked to contribute some words for our 2023 Stewardship devotional, went to a saying attributed to the medieval mystic Meister Eckhart. “If the only prayer you ever say is ‘Thank you,’ that is enough.” Over the years I have often been overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude, the urge to say thank you to the Spirit of the Universe for the blessings that appear when I most need and least expect them. Every day — sometimes several times a day! — I feel grateful for a remarkable (and still growing) extended family, for a musical career that constantly showers me with glorious soul-stirring sounds, for the necessities of life — nourishing food, warm shelter, robust health — and for true friends who remind me of both my gifts and my shortcomings!
Also high on my list, perhaps the highest gratitude-generator for me, is the singular community that is First Congregational Church Boulder. That I have remained a member for more than 30 years owes less to loyalty on my part than of constant care and love bestowed on me by the many folks here — both lay and clergy, old and young — who have become an indispensable part of my life.
When I make my annual pledge, I see it not so much as a chore (time to pay my monthly dues!) as a joyful opportunity to support a radiant community, which also cares for the larger community beyond its walls. Giving to First Cong is my chance to contribute each month to the 24/7/52-week celebration of Peace and Justice — call it a party or a banquet or whatever fits your idea of a good time — which is constantly happening in this place.
A few years ago I might have judged that last sentence as somewhat extreme or over-the-top (maybe the giddy result of oxygen deprivation at high altitude). But not now. And here’s why: I vividly recall returning to the sanctuary during the height of Covid, my first visit back after a long hiatus. I found myself stunned and nearly tearful just standing alone and taking in the spirit of the space. Gentle and quiet. Hundreds of paper cranes on strings crisscrossing the aisles and prayer stations from the pews to the rafters captured the morning light. It simply took my breath away.
What a blessing to Come Together in this place! And what a symbol of how we all, while physically separate, are truly One in the Church, in the Spirit, in Christ, when we are here.