Therefore encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. 1 Thessalonians 15:2
A friend in one of our congregations said his favorite song was Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” Jim was such a positive, loving, caring guy, and I expected his “favorite song” to be a hymn. I listened to Armstrong’s rendition, and I understood why it is so appealing. People greet one another with the words, “How do you do?” What they’re really saying, according to the song, is “I love you.” When we greet one another here at Epworth Villa, we’re not likely to say, “I love you.” It’s just too loaded with romantic and sentimental implications and prone to be misinterpreted. We’d rather use other words. (Choose your own.) I do believe in greeting people and calling them by name when I can remember—or see their name tag. I’m convinced there is no sound more welcome to most folks than the sound of their own name spoken in a loving, caring way.
Soon after we moved to Epworth Villa, over ten years ago, I decided that as much as I loved the facilities, staff, and services provided, what makes Epworth Villa so very special are the people who live here. I still believe that. The people who live here care for each other. It happens every day in so many ways. We can all offer a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, and a heartfelt prayer. It makes a difference. Let’s not underestimate the difference we can make in someone else’s life.
The Religious Life of Epworth Villa has been richly endowed recently with three very generous contributions by residents and their families to help to enrich the lives of our residents and bring beauty and joy to our chapel and the activities that occur there. These monetary expressions of love will see further ripples in our community and elsewhere.
With the purchase of 45 new choir robes for our wonderful choir that will be cooler and all have working zippers, we may be able to donate the usable robes we have left to a smaller and more needy choir that has no choir robes. Ripple, ripple. With the purchase of a beautiful new grand piano, the present piano can be moved to the Grand Ballroom where it will enhance the many performances that we enjoy there. The current piano in the Ballroom can be moved to the Redbud Room where there is currently no permanent piano to be used for activities in that room. Ripple, ripple.
The new screens already installed in the Chapel will allow viewers at home to see the words to hymns being sung in Vespers, read the words of the Call to Worship, and for uses we haven’t even thought of yet. Two new hand-held microphones will be used for many things. The choir will have access to many more beautiful anthems to learn and share with the community in Vespers as new music is purchased. The new piano will be well cared for because of another special gift.
The Prayer Garden being constructed outside the Chapel with the peacefully flowing fountain, wonderful new plantings, and soon-to-come benches and chairs for you to utilize while enjoying the quiet, would not be possible if not for the love expressed by these donors. Our seasons of worship will also be enhanced with gorgeous new paraments in five colors and outstanding symbols embroidered on them. Perhaps the current paraments we have been using can also be donated to another smaller church. Ripple, ripple.
As donors of this magnitude are not usually identified, we all will be forever grateful to them for their outstanding love of our community and their generous hearts. As it says in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
I really like what Chaplain Laura did last week with the disciples’ encounters with Jesus and the Holy Spirit — presence, peace, and power. We’re familiar with Jesus’ greeting, “peace be with you,” and the wind and fire of Pentecost. Obviously, the Holy Spirit is an important part of our Christian walk, too. This raises two questions. First, what IS the Holy Spirit? It’s God’s Presence that Jesus WAS. Then when Jesus left, he promised that God’s Presence would be with us through the Holy Spirit. Second, how do we experience that? We think of that happening in church, worship, or personal devotional time. Some of us have even had the blessed experience of the Holy Language of speaking in tongues. That may be an important part of our discipline. But are there other ways, too?
I think Jesus gave us a clue during his remarkable conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria. Jesus asked for a drink, offered her Living Water, then asked her to go get her husband and bring him back. When she said she didn’t have a husband, Jesus agreed and said, “You’ve had five, and the one you have now isn’t your husband.” Her jaw dropped and she replied, “Oh, I see you are a prophet! Well, we worship God on this mountain. You say the temple in Jerusalem is the only place where God is.” “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem… But the hour is coming and is now here when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth’” (John 4:21-24).
Jesus reveals that God’s presence can’t be contained in a physical location. I take that to mean that God’s loving presence is not just to be found in church or only in what we call worship. I most frequently experience God’s Presence in worship. I’ve even been moved to tears standing in empty worship spaces — cathedrals in Europe with their high vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows. God’s presence is strong in Brill Chapel, during Vespers, and in quiet times. God’s presence is strong in my little home chapel (once a second kitchen).
I’ve also felt God’s Presence powerfully in nature, even as a child, lying down on the warm curve of concrete covering our storm shelter and looking at the stars. Then there are sunsets, sunrises, rainbows, majestic mountains, Niagara Falls, still lakes, the silence of deep woods, and strong ocean waves. And, of course, God’s Presence and love come to us through people and even through books.
Perhaps these things happen to you, too, but you might not call them God’s Presence. That might even sound sacrilegious. I confess that this view comes from my own faith and practice of trying to be open to God’s Presence in every moment. That feeling in my heart of deep awe that often brings tears is the same in both worship and nature. This is what is in my heart to share here with love.
Today we are spotlighting Erma, CMA/CNA. She has been with Epworth Villa for a little over 17 years. When asked what was her favorite thing about Epworth Villa, she said the Residents. She said they are so, so important to her. Erma can usually be found on the 4th floor of Assisted Living. She exudes love and kindness and is a treasure to all who know her. Thank you Erma, for all you do!