Needing Air Masks

I loved how Holy Week and Easter morning unfolded this year.  Of course, I find that the richness of the liturgy is so great that no matter how many mistakes I may make, the significance and connection these services offer doesn’t fail.  After Easter Sunday I took three days off.  Well, Monday is one of my usual days off but I took Tuesday and Wednesday too.

Taking time off is a bit of a pain and I almost always have to force myself to actually do it.  Routinely, I sit in my office in the days leading up to time off arranging for others to cover some responsibilities, cancelling some events, delaying some conversations, praying that no one dies, and talking myself into actually being gone.  It seems easier in these moments not to leave.  Not taking time off would save me from writing the email detailing work that I do from memory, keep me from saying “later” to conversations that I enjoy having, wouldn’t have me asking other people to go out of their way to let me sleep in.

Three things stop me.  One, as someone quoted someone else as saying, “an overworked priest is depriving others of their baptismal ministry.”  If I insist on doing everything myself, I am, at some point, getting in the way of someone else doing things God has called them to.  

Two, many of the things I do are not essential.  The Church, not even my little parish, will not collapse if we have to make do without bulletins or if the newsletter doesn’t get emailed. 

And third, taking my vacation time is what allows me to keep being a priest.  This work I do is exhausting.  Not because my hours (especially in Lent and Holy Week) can be long, not because I work almost every weekend and major holiday, not because of evening meetings or unpredictable phone calls.  This work is exhausting because to be with a community and to listen to the joys and sorrows, the struggles and and griefs, is exhausting.  It is holy work and there’s nothing else I want to do.  But it is hard.  My body and my soul both need times of rest and renewal.  

Not too long ago I read that Reverend Willimon has invited us to reconsider Sabbath as more than time off but as time for God.  I find vacation time, and similarly regular days off, grey space where I need the time off to care for myself so that I can keep looking forward to going to work.  They are time for me and time for God.

When it’s hard, either being a priest or taking time off, I remind myself of an analogy a seminary classmate shared (which had been shared with her and in the great economy I have shared many times since).  During the emergency announcements on a plane, we are told to put our own air mask on before helping someone else with theirs.  Not because we don’t want everyone to be able to breath, but because if we don’t put our own air mask on first we won’t breath.

Why did I take three days off after Easter?  Because I needed my air mask.  Lent and a Holy Week has been particularly full of work this year with lots of nights and Saturdays (my other day off) and a few Mondays.  My house needed cleaning.  My body needed rest.  My spirit needed rejuvenation.

I needed my air mask.

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Relationship more than doubt, Easter 2 2015

Robyns SermonsThomas doubts (for a moment).  Which moments matter?


The lessons can be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with John: 20:19-31.



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Risen Relationship, Easter 2015

Robyns SermonsAlleluia! Christ is Risen!  The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!


The lessons can be found by clicking here.



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Waiting, Good Friday 2015

(The device I use to record sermons failed on Friday. I have several minutes recorded of absolutely nothing. I’m mildly stepping up the research for it’s replacement. Fortunately, I have a manuscript of almost exactly what I said.)

The lessons can be found by clicking here.

Today Jesus dies. Today we watch and wait.

We watch and wait with others. With Jesus disciples. Who had followed until the armed soldiers showed up with weapons and they fled. Who would’ve heard, still, where ever they were hiding, that their friend, their teacher, their inspiration, their Lord, was dead.

We watch and wait with Mary and the other women. Who hadn’t fled. Who had followed, too scared to stay, too unimportant to anyone else to be a problem, too scared to leave. With Mary who saw her son die. With the women who witnessed with her.

We watch and wait with God whose only begotten son, incarnate so that we could understand how much God wanted to be in relationship with us, dies. Who didn’t act. Who watched. Who died. Alone, suffering, in agony.

Our story, Jesus’ story is of a God who loves us too much to abandon us, even on Good Friday.

It’s a hard day, a hard place to sit. And yet I have found that people sit here too often. When the news is of death and tragedy. When our loved ones die. When the doctor has bad news. When, as it too often is, life is full of the tragic, the horrible, the unbearable. Our Good Fridays spread across our lives, too numerous.

Today Jesus dies. And it seems like the story should end here. Just as all of the Good Fridays we live through feel like the end.

Today we watch and wait just as God watches and waits.


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Come to Jesus’ Table, Maundy Thursday 2015

Robyns SermonsThis is the day we remember the first eucharist, the first time bread and wine became something more, and every one who was there.

The lessons can be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with John 13:1-17, 31b-35.



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Because God Loves Us, Lent 5 2015

Robyns SermonsToday we hear Jeremiah remind us of God’s promise, “I will be your God and you will be my people.”  How do we become a people who reflect our God?

The lessons can be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with Jeremiah 31:31-34.



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Faithful and Failure

Robyns SermonsGod gives the Ten Commandments, not as edicts from on high, but as the next step in a very unequal relationship.


The lessons can be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with Exodus 12:1-17.



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A Covenant of Laughter, Lent 2 2014

Robyns SermonsGod makes a (third!) Covenant with Abraham.  And Abraham and Sarah laugh, as they should.


The lessons for today can be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with Genesis 17:1-7,15-16.



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One of the nights I worked this past week was because of an event held by our local ecumenical  group.  The Westmount Christian Council formed several decades ago when lay people in St Peter’s neighbourhood decided the Churches should cooperate better.  On Sunday evening they hosted a service and fellowship time.  I have find it to be one of the times we get this Church thing right–when we understand that the God we have in common is much greater than the things we disagree over.

I had a great time. It was a beautiful service and a gracious group. We prayed, “Gracious God, so often our churches choose the logic of competition and dispute by desiring to be the best.  We are weary of this race to excel.  Allow us to rest at the well.  Refresh us with the water of unity drawn from our common prayer.  May your Spirit who hovered over the waters of chaos bring unity from our diversity. Amen”

And I must confess: I noticed the pauses and the glances, the sense of uncertainty, the unfamiliarity that leads to imperfect projection.  It was tempting, in the seconds of noticing to judge, to condemn, to keep myself apart.   To wonder why they didn’t cover that before the service, to judge their lack of practiced communication.  Even knowing how challenging it is to balance all of that, it can be hard to participate and appreciate.

I remember sitting at one of my internship parishes, two seminarians and a 25 year priest talking about how ordination and the call to lead worship changes our participation.  The mental gymnastics leading worship asks for are convoluted. Being aware of what we are doing, how people are or aren’t participating, knowing what comes next and seeing of the leaders for that are present, having the current and future page number and place and words, listening for my own voice to check the microphone and my own projection, remaining centred in the prayer and worship of God, trying to hear the still small voice these acts are trying to amplify.  It’s exhausting and there is a gift in being the one who sits in the pew, who is called first to praying.  Even still it takes a few minutes for my to let go of how I would to things so that I can participate fully in the now and the doing of worship I am not leading.  

After the service, while we were enjoying tea and snacks, someone commented on the presence the pastors had at the front while we were offering the sending blessing.  I knew what was meant.  It’s the little things.  Knowing how to project, speaking at the right pace, trusting that we will catch each other’s pauses and cues.  And it was hard to hear.  While I appreciate the generosity of the Council sharing the leadership with us ordained types, I’m so in awe of the witness they offer to us. And I know that what was commented on is in many ways a skill.

I know because I spent years learning these skills.  Because in High School I was the definition of painfully shy: soft and rarely spoken, public speaking turned me into a blushing shaking mess. Because this fear, this inability, my own uncertainty and nerves, was one of my top reasons God could not be asking me to seek ordination.  

I listen and watch my colleagues whose backgrounds involved more public speaking or performance than reading history books and I still marvel at their presence, their ability to hold a moment, to invite others into their moment.

And I remember the Sundays when the awkward moments stretch as we all wonder who is suppose to read, the first Sunday in Lent when I picked a hymn with 41 Alleluias (that was this year😕), the times I misspeak, the Sundays when I am disappointed in my sermon.

Sitting there on Sunday night, was a beautiful reminder that God loves an amateur.  Because none of us manage the worship of God perfectly.  We are standing in front of the altar of God doing mental gymnastics, desperately hoping someone will catch our cues, praying we don’t screw it up and knowing we do.

All that we do, hopefully in Church, ideally in our lives, is done for the love of God.  And we are all amateurs at it.  Jesus is the one human who got it right, and he was God-with-us.  For the rest of us, we are amateurs struggling to love God as we are loved.  

Thankfully God loves an amateur.


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Promises, Lent 1 2015

Robyns SermonsAfter the flood, after Noah builds his ark, after the dry ground reappears, God makes a promise, a covenant, the first of many that we’ll hear this Lent.


The lessons can be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with Genesis 9:8-17.


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