In the Midst of Us
(A poetic reflection on the Prayer of St. John Chrysostom)
Daily Office Readings for the feast day of John Chrysostom, Friday, January 27, 2023:
“Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.”–Prayer of St. John Chrysostom, pg. 102, Book of Common Prayer
Almost twenty years ago
When I emerged from
Twenty years of unchurched wilderness
And mostly spent my Sundays playing golf,
This was one of the first prayers
I encountered repeatedly.
I spent several months
darkening a church door just on Wednesday mornings
to attend Morning Prayer on my way to work,
because there were only three or four other people there,
and I was not ready for a Sunday crowd,
or Sunday questions,
or the kind of pressure
that new people get
when people walk into an Episcopal church
in an era of declining religious practice.
It was the first prayer in the book
that I memorized
(after all, we said it every time)
with absolutely no clue
I would memorize others
in the years to come.
There have been translations of this prayer
that say “You will grant their requests”
instead of “you will be in the midst of them,”
but you know,
I had no requests back then.
I wasn’t even quite sure
why I was there.
And as I look back now,
through the lens of the retrospectoscope,
“In the midst of them,” makes sense.
When we have a companion on the journey,
we’re so busy chatting with the companion
that we miss the direction signs
or lose track of how long we’ve been traveling,
we walk right past what we thought our destination was,
yet we still end up where we needed to be…
It turned out that in my case,
where I truly needed to be
was a place where I’d gained an abiding sense
that Jesus didn’t have a clipboard
where I was always at risk
for somehow being on his naughty list.
I simply needed to hang with Jesus,
at my own speed,
until I understood enough
to trust that Jesus didn’t operate that way.
Maria Evans splits her week between being a pathologist and laboratory director in Kirksville, MO, and gratefully serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri , as Interim Priest at Trinity Episcopal Church in Hannibal, MO.