March 23, 2021
Reading time was a magical experience in my childhood home. As a young boy I loved being read to by my father and mother. It was better than even television because the pictures inside of my head were so much richer than what I saw on the old black and white boob-tube.
I soon graduated beyond The Cat In The Hat and Scuffy the Tugboat. I remember the excitement of my father reading Robin Hood and Mark Twain’s Life on The Mississippi to me. In Twain’s classic he recreated life on the big river before the Civil War and what it was like learning to be a pilot of a paddle wheel steamer. After my father tucked me in, I would get up and pretend that my bed was the pilot house of a ship headed for New Orleans.
Then came a period where I lost interest in reading and became more interested in movies. This was the era when the silver screens seemed as big as Texas, and Lawrence of Arabia pressed on to Aqaba. We were able to go around the world in 80 days with a big bag of buttered and salted popcorn.
However, in eighth grade something happened: I started reading books again. Low and behold I had an epiphany! I concluded that the book is almost always better than either the movie or the tv show. I believe this observation is still true to this day – at least for me.
Back in the eighth grade one of the first books I read was a translation of Antoine Galland’s rendition of One Thousand and One Nights. Galland was a French archaeologist who is believed to be the first European translator of this Arabic classic.
I loved the story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and I thought it was one of the best stories that Scheherazade told to the Sultan. Remember that the forty thieves had hidden their treasure inside a cave. “Open sesame” were the magic words that would open the mouth of the cave. The phrase comes from the supposedly potent properties of the sesame plant and not from the children’s tv show.
I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to say “Open Sesame!” to Unity of Roanoke Valley’s buildings, which have been closed because of the pandemic. When I first came to Unity of Roanoke Valley in June of 2020 I thought, “Well, things will be closed for a month or two.” As the end of the year approached I started to feel like Abraham Lincoln when he realized that the Civil War was going to be a long and hard slog.
But then I started to say to myself, “Rick, count your blessings. We have these new YouTube services, Zoom classes, an online Youth and Family Ministries program, and parking lot services.” There has been much to be grateful for. I was able to meet many of you through the Hi Teas, Christmas Open House, The Giving Room, pastoral counseling, and more. There were your many kind emails, text messages, and phone calls. But it was still not the same, and I think you know what I mean.
Many of you have expressed a real desire to get back together in our beautiful church. And many of you have also expressed the key desire that we be safe and not become COVID-19 spreaders. The URV Board created a wonderful Task Force on Reopening the Buildings. Pat Eby has done a great job chairing this Task Force. Both Pat and Jeremy Johnson have kept us up to date on the latest regulations and guidelines. The Task Force includes people with medical expertise and knowledge in many other areas needed for the safe reopening of the buildings.
The Task Force has now recommended – and the Board has approved – a first step which I think is both safe and wise. What better day than Easter, Sunday April 4th, to say a “Partial Open Sesame” and see the cave partly open! This Easter we will have a Sunrise Service at 7:00am on the patio, right next to the beautiful new fountain in the rose garden. There will be overflow seating for the Sunrise Service in the Fellowship Hall.
Next, Grace Wood will lead prayers and a guided Labyrinth walk at 10:00am to honor The Season for Nonviolence. Lastly, we will hold an Easter parking lot service at 11:00am. The Sessions Band will be there. To quote the great British poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Let Him Easter in us.”
On April 18th we start regular in-person Sunday services at 11:00am in the Sanctuary! Because of social distancing, seating is limited with overflow seating available in the Fellowship Hall and on the patio (weather permitting). Mask wearing and social distancing are required at all services. To attend an in-person service you must preregister by sending an email to: email@example.com with the following information:
Names of all people attending the service with you
Which service you plan to attend (Easter Sunrise Service/April 18th service, etc)
In the tale about Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, the words “Open Sesame“ entirely opened the mouth of the cave. In our case “Open Sesame” will only partially open the mouth of the cave. But I have faith that this partial opening will be fantastic, and that in God’s good season we will be back to two services on Sunday with fellowship!
We will continue doing YouTube services! So if you are not there in person, you can continue to enjoy Unity Of Roanoke Valley services. I look forward to meeting so many more of you. If you have any questions about this partial “Open Sesame,” please do not rub any magic lanterns. Instead, call or text me at 571-215-9481.
We will get to the magic carpets soon!