Weekly Devotion for July 17, 2023

Weekly Devotion for July 17, 2023
By Rev. Barbara Certa-Werner

For the past four weeks, I have been on a renewal leave as part of my transitioning from my appointment from the North West District Superintendent to the Assistant to the Bishop. I had planned for quiet retreat time, and an educational trip to Italy.

I was blessed that my four adult children and spouse were able to make this trek to Italy. We decided it would be a celebration of our 30th Anniversary, everyone’s birthday and Christmas gifts, and in memory of my parents, Frank and Anna (my dad’s family is from Sicily) and my mother-in-law, Lorraine, who loved to travel. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us all.

As we toured, I was almost overwhelmed with the wonder of all that was around me. I had read and saw pictures of many of these places, structures, paintings, and sculptures, but words and pictures do not completely convey the beauty and the feelings of being in awe.

We visited Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and of the Martyrs, which is the last project of Michelangelo.  Self-guided tours were available but not during worshipping times. Guests were invited to join in prayer during the worship time.

I decided to sit and pray, while the priest was delivering a homily in Italian.  I was deep in prayer – inviting the presence of God that was throughout this holy place into my mind, my heart, and my soul. There was a stillness in my spirit as if time had stopped – an emptiness that was overflowing with fullness. I was lost in this moment that was not quite long enough, knowing and feeling a depth of connection through time to me.

As I entered back into the hustle and bustle of Rome with the crowded and noisy streets, there was a new stillness in me that was untouched by all the chaos surrounding it. This moment is a grounding one for me. One that will remind, console, and propel me in my spiritual and ministerial journey.

After returning home, I have contemplated more about this experience, reflecting on the Scripture text from 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

How fitting for a time such as this for us all. We live in a very chaotic and demanding culture. We are often spinning in demands, deadlines, desires, and drama. We can easily loose connection to God and our purpose if we are not intentional about “standing firm” in Christ Jesus. Our reality also dictates that we cannot always go to Rome or some far off place for connection, quietness and/or stillness.

Friends, seek ways for connection. Be purposeful in developing your relationship with Jesus Christ and His followers. Share your story so others may be encouraged and be hopeful.

Prayer: Lord of all. We seek to be known by You and to know You more fully. In stillness or chaos, grant us ways to stand firm in the faith which You have given us. Amen.

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and of the Martyrs