Sunday, November 28, 2010

Today's Sermon Isaiah 2:1-5 "Walk in the Light"

“O House of Jacob, come let us walk in the light of the Lord!”

The Light is coming. That is the clear message in Isaiah’s words and in Matthew’s: “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."

The Light is coming, and we are meant to walk in that Light.

The light, of course, is Jesus Christ, whose birth we will celebrate in a few weeks at Christmas. It isn’t hard to visualize Jesus as the Light – he is, after, God come to earth to restore our relationship with our Creator. How could God’s son be anything but a shining light of warmth and transformation?

That part we get. But how do we walk in that light?

There’s a great hymn called “I want to walk as a child of the Light, I want to follow Jesus,” and we might think that it sings our individual walk of faith, trying to be as Jesus would want us to be. But this is not simply an individual activity. It needs to be done in community.

That seems a little counterintuitive, doesn’t it? It’s about our personal relationship with Jesus, right? That may be so, but our individual relationship with Jesus is formed by so many different people with whom we interact, especially those in our faith community.

An old African proverb says “If you want to walk faster, you walk alone. If you want to walk farther, you walk together.”

And it is the long walk, the marathon of faith, not the quick sprint, that we should be aiming for here.

It’s about staying power, because there are lots of moments in our lives that can trip us up in our faith journey. And the good news is that we’ve got lots of examples of folks who had staying power, because they lived their faith journey in community.

Example number one would be the people of Israel wandering around with Moses in the desert, not for 26.2 miles, not for a week-long adventure hike, but for 40 long years. And during the time they did that wandering, they made their share of wrong turns in following Moses and God. Remember all those silly golden idols? It took them a while to get to Canaan, and Moses didn’t even make it all the way, because he made his own mistakes. But they wouldn’t have made it to Canaan if they hadn’t stayed together.

While we’re at it, let’s talk about Noah, he of the ark. He’s mentioned in today’s gospel. God didn’t tell him to make that ark for himself and the animals alone. He was told to bring the family with him. Now Noah didn’t always get it 100% right – why did he save the danged mosquitoes and cockroaches, for example? – but he, with his family, formed a new beginning and a new generation of the faithful. For obvious biological reasons, Noah couldn’t have done it alone, could he? Even the animals had to be saved in pairs!

Isaiah prophesied that we would go up to the holy mountain of the Lord not as individuals, but as “many peoples” and he said that the whole house of Jacob – in that time, all of the people of Israel, and in ours, all who follow the one true God – would walk in the light of the Lord. Not a private journey, a communal walk. The whole house.

We live in a society when individualism is prized, and that trickles down into a sense that all religion is personal. So we hear that people are “spiritual, not religious,” that they believe in God but don’t belong to any organized religion, because, you know, all religions did bad things.

When I hear that, I think of the obstreperous and distractable children of Israel, out there wandering in the wilderness. What happened when one of those Israelites went off from the group in the desert? They died of thirst or lack of food. Even when those wanderers were most unhappy with the journey, most angry with Moses or with God, when they were smart, they stuck together. It is not safe to wander off from the group.

The sociologist of religion Robert Bellah talked about the modern obsession with highly individualized religious experience most pointedly when he described one woman’s unique view. Bellah said:

Sheila Larson is a young nurse who has received a good deal of therapy and describes her faith as "Sheilaism." This suggests the logical possibility of more than 235 million American religions, one for each of us. "I believe in God," Sheila says. "I am not a religious fanatic. [Notice at once that in our culture any strong statement of belief seems to imply fanaticism so you have to offset that.] I can't remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It's Sheilaism. Just my own little voice." Sheila's faith has some tenets beyond belief in God, though not many. In defining what she calls "my own Sheilaism," she said: "It's just try to love yourself and be gentle with yourself. You know, I guess, take care of each other. I think God would want us to take care of each other." Like many others, Sheila would be willing to endorse few more specific points.[1]

Now here’s the remarkable thing: when someone like Sheila shares her vision of what her religious experience is, and that vision gets disseminated in a book or on the Web or in a television program, what happens? A bunch of other folks want to follow it. They become adherents of Sheilaism, start calling themselves Sheila-ists, and invite others to join them.

Why? Because even though we treasure individualism, in America perhaps more than anywhere on earth, we need to belong as we shape our understanding of our God. In imagining someone as ineffable, as mysterious, as God, we need a shared experience of understanding and imagining, because God is more than any one of us can wrap our heads around. We need deep thinkers and great poets and the holy patient people who help us understand our God, at least a little bit.

Of course, God, being a loving and understanding God, gets this. God gives us signs to help us understand what is beyond understanding. And because we are slow learners, God gives us the ultimate gift to help us understand: God’s own Son, Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at the end of our Advent waiting.

God gives us a human baby – both human and divine, of course – to rebuild the faltering relationship we have with him. A baby who grows up and teaches and saves.

But will we know he is among us? Unless we have learned of him, in community, we might not. Unless we have been encouraged to understand him and what he stands for, we might not realize the great treasure that he is. Unless we have been prepared for who he is and what he means, we might miss that bright start in the cold night sky. Unless we continue to live and study and sing and rejoice as part of a community of faithful people, we might forget what is the most important thing in our lives.

We are by nature impatient. We want what we want, and we want it now. And so Advent, with its several weeks of waiting for the Big Day, is a challenge to us. And the waiting for those of us who are easily bored is a trial. That’s why we do our waiting in community. We help each other to wait and watch and wonder what this coming Light of the World will mean.

We cannot do it alone. Sheila-ism doesn’t work here. But in community, we can help each other. We can encourage each other to be patient, to learn, to rejoice, to wait for it until the great moment of celebration can begin.

That is why we come to church, in this season and all others. To make the long journey to joy, to walk farther, we walk with others.

In the weeks to come, we will hear beautiful music – members of this community from 7 to 77 and beyond will offer this for the journey, the walk in the light. We will see this sanctuary decorated magnificently for the season, an effort that takes several people quite a while. You will hear sermons, and trust me, they come not from individual effort on my part, but from many, many resources that I draw upon that are as varied as today’s television news and ancient commentaries on Scripture. And in our hearts, we will feel the slow warming, the gentling, that comes of the patient and difficult walk to the baby’s cradle, as we are urged on the way by those who are traveling with us.

We are not running a sprint. We are not running alone. We are walking in the light, patiently, deliberately, with a whole parish, a while church full of those who walk with us. Over the next few weeks, there will be moments when we forget what the endpoint of this season is. Not to worry – the others on the way will help us remember. The Child is there, with the star overhead. The Light of the World is coming. Let us walk in the Light of the Lord!


[1] Bellah, Robert, Habits of the Heart

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Random Dots of Thankfulness

  • The Tuesday interfaith service went well, as did this morning's service. As did Wednesday's service. Three sermons down, one more to write for Sunday.
  • Paragon of Calm Music Director did a marvelous job with the mass choir on Tuesday night. 50+ singers from nine churches. She di.d an equally good job this morning, with eight choir members doing a creditable job on a Thanksgiving anthem. I am blessed to have a grown-up as our music director - she is not about the drama.
  • The house is reasonably clean (despite Spewky doing another round of spewing in the middle of the night).
  • We are awaiting the arrival of StrongOpinions, who missed her bus yesterday because of traffic in the Big Apple. Bus arrives sometime between 10:30 pm and whenever, depending on traffic. Chinatown buses are inexpensive but not always timely. Hoping the head cold she is bringing with her doesn't infect the household.
  • Lively loving Lebanese family is feeding PH and me Thanksgiving dinner this afternoon. Should be a fun afternoon and evening. It's odd, though, to not be cooking on this day.
  • We will have a second homegrown T-Day tomorrow for SO, so I will be cooking then, just not today.
I guess it's time to turn my attention to Sunday's sermon, despite the fact that I am not feeling good - I have some sort of inflammation of the parotid gland (one of the salivary glands) and my left cheek is rather squirrelish and painful. Took the heavy duty pain pills last night so I could sleep - they worked sorta. I'm trying to keep it beaten down to a dull roar with Aleve today. Anytime I eat anything sour, it flares up with awful pain.

Yes I saw the doc yesterday, and had an ultrasound of my cheek and neck. No stone in the gland, but it's dilated. Hoping to see the ENT after the holiday. Hasn't stopped me from talking yet, though...I know you're not surprised.

I am so very thankful for you all, for health insurance, for our home, for my kids and grandkids and family near and far, and for the sainted PH, for my work and my parish and God, who with tongue firmly planted in His cheek decided I was supposed to be a priest.

Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sermon for Tuesday, November 23, 2010 Lakeside Community Thanksgiving Service Deut. 26:1-11 “Rules of the Road”

Thanksgiving coming up has gotten me thinking about my Aunt Edna. She was a formidable lady, tall, Irish, red haired, with a Roman nose that entered the room a minute before the rest of her. She was very big on rules. She had rules for everything. How you set the table (the knife blade is turned in toward the dinner plate), appropriate topics for dinner table conversation (not politics or religion, and most definitely not the naughty bits), the appropriate way to kneel in church (don’t rest your hindquarters on the pew, kneel up STRAIGHT!), what kind of potatoes made the best mashed potatoes for fancy dinners (russets). It was an endless list, and as a result, going to dinner at Aunt Edna’s was more than a little intimidating for us children.

The rules for children were equally daunting there. One couldn’t refuse a food one found distasteful – creamed onions were my Waterloo on more than one occasion – and one could not leave the table while adults were conversing about something incomprehensible. My Brennan cousins had figured out the best solution to the last problem. They picked a fight with each other, and one threw a tantrum, and the result was that they got dismissed to another room for a time out. They escaped, and could be silly and look at books or play with toys while those of us who were trying (under pain of death from our parents) to behave were stuck at the table while the discussion of the topic of the day droned on.

It made for some very exhausting holiday dinners. The problem was compounded by the fact that Aunt Edna wasn’t a very good cook: the turkey might be cooked to Saharan dryness or worse, still bloody at the joints. The potatoes, unlike the silken clouds at my mother’s table, were lumpy. And worst of all, she served cranberry sauce that had whole cranberries, not the smooth lovely cranberry jelly out of the Ocean Spray can that we children adored.

Rules. Painful, difficult rules. And I often wondered why she was so deeply and passionately invested in those rules. Did she like the feeling of control that they gave her? Did she feel that she was carrying on traditions that she had been taught as a young girl? Where did her rules come from, and why did they matter so much, at least to her? I still don’t know.

Aunt Edna wasn’t the only one with rules. I faced a thousand rules a day, it seemed, when I was in school. You stood up when the teacher came into the room. You didn’t sit with your legs crossed at the knees, you crossed them at the ankles. Your clothes were neat, your homework was complete, and your lunch was whatever Mom packed for you and you had best not complain about it, Missy!

If I thought the rules would abate when I was older, I was mistaken. Rules continued, and continue to shape my life.

Driving is a prime example. I register my car, I drive within the speed limit (mostly), I have insurance, I don’t turn right on red except where it is allowed. I don’t pass on the right. I don’t tailgate.

In a word, I behave. I follow the rules of the road.

I presume the rules will help keep me safe, to keep others on the road safe, and I adhere to them. I also don’t like to pay traffic tickets, so I behave.

This understanding of rules is the norm in our society.

So what about the rules that the writer of Deuteronomy was outlining in our reading this evening? This talk of offering the first fruits of the bounty of the place the people of Israel now were to inhabit to the God who had brought them there?

Why are the people asked to do this? Is it simply a God of power and might exerting control over the people by demanding food which God clearly does not need? Is it a throwback to an earlier form of worship from a pre-Abrahamic tradition? Is it some sort of symbolic dance of give and take with the Divine One?

The Book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book in the Hebrew Bible, the last book of Torah, and restates the long lists of laws found in the earlier books. The passage that we read today is in Moses’ Second Sermon to the people of Israel before he passes the responsibility for them to Joshua; it is part of what is called the Deuteronomic Code, the rules of the road for God’s people once they get to Canaan, the Promised Land. The earlier books have laid out rules of the road for their years of wandering in the desert after the escape from Egypt, and now the rules are reshaped for a different existence, one in a place full of milk and honey and bounty. Now they will live in a world that is entirely different than the one they have traversed for the last forty years. The original rules were about survival in the harshest of places. These rules are about retaining their faith and their relationship with their God in a place that is full of all the distractions that can lure them from the God who has given them all.

Distractions that can lure them from the God who has given them all.

Sound familiar?

Are we not regularly distracted from the God who has given us all? Doesn’t it become easy to forget from whence all that we have has come? We think it is about us, about our hard work, about our talents and wit and tenacity. Some of the bounty that we have comes from that, but even our ability, our talents, our tenacity, our wit…where does that come from? It comes from the most loving and gracious Creator. All of it. From God.

And the instruction that Moses gives God’s people, the offering of the first fruits of the bounty that they will harvest in that beautiful promised land, is not about what God needs. It is, once again, about what we, God’s people, need. We do it not because God is hungry, or wants to prove his power. God instructs that we do it because we need to remember, once again, where that bounty comes from. If we do not remember, the relationship with God founders.

The relationship founders, and we are lost without it. God loves us too much to let that happen. And thus we have this instruction.

These rules are not punitive, like Aunt Edna’s, or like the Virginia Code about driving safely. These rules are, once again, a gift of love, to keep us reminded of our love and relationship with the One who loves us so dearly.

That relationship creates the framework for all our relationships, our beloved ones who are family and friends. So we look forward to Thursday, to gathering with family, to enjoying the bounty of our table, to laughter and love and football games and a full belly and a full heart. That is all gift, just one of the wealth of gifts our God has given us.

But before we thank the cook, before we compliment the delicious gravy and the awesome pumpkin pie, before we pass the biscuits, we have something to do.

We offer the first fruits of our heart to God.

We say thank you to the one who is responsible for the good things we enjoy. We promise to share those good things with God by sharing them with God’s people, especially those whose tables are less bountifully blessed. And we do it because we remember that God has delivered us from an Egypt of sadness and lack, from a desert of loneliness and poverty. We must follow the rule that God has given through Moses. We give, because we have been given. We love, because we have been loved. We rejoice, because we cannot NOT rejoice. And we give thanks, today and Thursday and every day, because our thanks are the first fruits of our heart.

Thanks be to God!


Monday, November 22, 2010

Busy But Laughing, Even

I've gotten the first of four sermons written for this week. The Wednesday one is usually a very informal homily, so that's no biggie. Thursday's service will most likely be sparsely attended, but I still want to write something worthwhile.

Sunday is Advent I. The service will be an adventure because we will be trading out Eucharistic Prayer C for B, replacing the Gloria with the Archangelsky Trisagion, changing Prayers of the People to a different form, and inserting the Advent Wreath Lighting bits. I expect I will get some grousing from some folks, but it's a different liturgical season and it should feel and sound different from Ordinary Time.

Pledges are coming in. Not as generous as we had hoped for, but an improvement over last year, and several new pledgers. I hope folks are embracing our shared vision and are willing to invest in it.

Struggling with some difficult pastoral issues right now. Please say a prayer for folks for whom the next month will be a time of sadness and emptiness rather than joy, and pray for their priest, who sometimes has words and sometimes has only a loving heart to offer.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Today's Sermon: Luke 23:33-43 "You Never Know"

Here we are on the last Sunday in Ordinary Time, the feast of Christ the King. This is the last Sunday before Advent begins, the last Sunday of wearing green vestments. In the past weeks, we’ve read through much of the Gospel of Luke. We are on the verge of Advent, but before we can get to all our favorite Advent stories, here we are with this story of Christ on the Cross. It seems a surprising story so far from Passiontide. It’s unexpected, somehow, to be hearing about this in late November. So how do we bridge the gap from the crucified Christ to the soon-to-be-born infant Jesus?

We’ll start in a place far from Jerusalem, far from the hill called “Skull”.

My husband and I were standing in line in front of the Accademia in Florence. It had been his dream to see Michelangelo’s David, and now here we were, on a crisp autumn morning, with all the other tourists in comfortable walking shoes, waiting for our turn to go into the museum to see the statue. Suddenly a gaggle of scruffy pre-teens came rushing up to us. They didn’t really look Italian; gypsies, most likely. Dirty faces, torn clothes, old shoes. They formed a scrum around us and shoved big pieces of cardboard at us on which were written their stories – I am poor! I have nothing to eat! Please give me money! Even as we were reading the cardboard signs, they were reaching underneath them --- and trying to pick our pockets. One of us in line noticed what was happening and shouted an alarm. We grabbed our respective purses and wallets and yelled at the street urchins. They ran off, cursing us in Italian and Romany. Shaken, we double-checked our pockets and thanked those who had figured out what was happening.

I hadn’t thought of that story for many years, until I saw a newspaper article in the Washington Post three years ago. It told the story of Mario Capecchi, who survived as just such a street urchin in WWII Italy after his mother, an anti-Fascist intellectual, had been hauled off to the Dachau concentration camp. Before she was taken, she had given some money to a neighbor to care for her son Mario, who was then just three years old. The neighbor cared for him until the money ran out, and then turned him out onto the streets. He went from town to town, occasionally living in orphanages, but mostly begged and stole and survived on his wits. He nearly died of malnutrition and was in a hospital in Bologna when his mother, liberated from Dachau, finally found him in 1946. A year later, an uncle in America sent money for them to emigrate, and Mario began a new life, one that included degrees from Antioch and Harvard and a fellowship under the discoverer of the structure of DNA, James Watson. Capecchi did groundbreaking work in gene targeting. And so, three years ago, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. A street urchin to a Nobel Laureate. Not what one would expect.

This gospel passage is another case of unexpected people doing unexpected things. We shouldn’t be surprised by this; it has been the case all the way through the Gospel of Luke. In Luke’s world, the outsider is usually the hero of the tale, and the folks who are the in-crowd usually get it wrong.

What’s going on in this passage, one that is so very familiar to us?

Jesus hangs on the cross. He’s been up there so long that gravity has taken its toll. The wounds on his head and hands no longer freely bleed. The bloodstains on his face and palms have dried to a dark-wine crust. His shoulders creak with pain. The crowd, who had called for his execution, is watching silently now, but the soldiers and the leaders mock him. The sign on the cross mocks him: “Jesus, King of the Jews.” Even one of the criminals hanging beside him mocks him, daring him to save himself and the criminal, too. In their eyes, this is no king. This is just another broken troublemaker who got what he deserved.

But the criminal on Jesus’ other side sees something more in him than a loser, a failed religious leader. This criminal chastises the first one: “We are being justly punished, but this man doesn’t deserve this. He did nothing wrong.”

That would be remarkable enough coming from the mouth of a dying criminal, but the moment takes an even more surprising turn: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This is more than a personal request. It is an acknowledgment of Jesus as King of a kingdom not of this world.

And then Jesus does what he usually does when a person opens his heart to the Anointed One and asks for help.

Even in the pain of the moment, with the taste of blood and sour vinegar in His mouth, Jesus speaks words of comfort and of promise: “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise.”

Jesus turns the eyes of the repentant criminal forward in hope, to a place of salvation.

All those people, watching and mocking, and there is only one who truly sees this broken rabbi on the Cross for the King He is. Only one, an unexpected one, seeing an unexpected King.

Time and again in the Gospel of Luke, throughout these weeks of Ordinary Time, we’ve seen the same surprising story. The conventional religious people just don’t understand Jesus’ message. It is the outsiders, the ones we least expect, who open their eyes and their hearts and recognize the kingship of Jesus, and what that kingship entails. It is not a kingship of this world, and what we are expected to do to pay homage to this King is very different than what the expectations of a worldly king might be.

So we hear this story on this last Sunday of Ordinary Time, on the Feast of Christ the King, before we enter the cold, pre-dawn winter hours of Advent. In the dark, it may be easy to miss who we’re really seeing on that cross.

It isn’t a broken man, a failed teacher. If we truly understand His message, we see Christ the King, whom the Greek Christians called Christ Pantokrator, Christ all powerful, looking forward in hope that we all might be with Him in the kingdom.

Christ opens our eyes and hearts and souls to see unexpected people in unexpected ways, as He too was the ultimate unexpected One. He bids us to see who He is, and how we might see Him in the most unlikely people.

You never know. A street urchin might turn out to be a Nobel Prize winner. A crucified teacher might turn out to be King. And a baby born in a rude stable on a cold winter night might turn out to be the Son of God.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Random Dots of Friday

  • Picked up fabric this week to sew a duvet cover for the down comforter for the master bedroom. Because we own a cat who likes to sleep on the bed and who tends to vomit regularly, I got indoor outdoor fabric for the main section of it. Undoubtedly the cat will either not vomit on the bed, or do it on the edge which is not indoor outdoor fabric. Y''know, because that's the way she rolls.

  • She also has a new trick: going inside the baby grand piano. You read that correctly. Not on top of. Inside. See picture. Not quite sure why her eyes look that way. May be demonic possession, or may be my lack of skill with the phone camera.
  • Going to get a haircut in a few. Should I go short, because it is easier what with going to the gym every day, or longer, because it looks softer and is warmer in the wintertime>? Danged if I know.

  • StrongOpinions wrote an intense piece for Yale's feminist magazine (she wants to go there for her PhD program) re TSA procedures. Read it if you dare. I'm proud of her, and equally proud that she stuck one of my favorite quotes from St Augustine in it. Don't know if I would have had the courage to write something like this back then, but maybe. I'm not sure how she'll get to Denver for New Years, but we shall see.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sermon for Sunday, November 14, 2010 2 Thess 3:6-13 “Get Your Hands Dirty”

Big Ed Armstrong was one of a kind. Six feet tall and nearly as wide, with a Santa Claus white beard. No moustache – just the beard around the chin, in an Amish style. The force of gravity and time being what it is, that seemed to be where the hair on the top of his head had migrated to over the years. He was an imposing guy with a booming voice and a can-do attitude, and he had been a fixture most of his life in the church where I raised my children. He loved the church and he loved his garden, and anytime we drove by his house, we could see him outside, tending the flowerbeds from a seated position – he couldn’t get down on his knees anymore – or raking leaves. He also had another love: mathematics. He had taught at one of the private schools in the area for decades, until he retired.

That turned out to be a good thing for us, because my boys were math-challenged. And you know how it goes when you try and help your own children with their homework…it’s not pretty. So Big Ed was their tutor. He coached M and B and C and S through algebra and geometry, C through trig and calculus as well, and they did well in their exams. The skills he taught them served them well in their studies beyond high school and in their work. They continue to use the math that Big Ed taught them.

But the best of the lessons that Big Ed imparted had very little to do with math, or school, or anything like that. It had to do with work.

You see, Big Ed never charged for his tutoring sessions. He cut a deal with the boys that he would help them with their math if they helped him in the garden, usually raking leaves, but also mulching after the raking was done, and shoveling the walk when it snowed. They got an hour of tutoring for each hour of garden work. And they learned their math and they learned that their work had value. They still talk fondly of Big Ed, who has gone on to his reward in heaven. I know Big Ed would be proud of the men they have become, of the lessons they learned beyond the equations and the formulae.

That was a precious gift, that lesson. They got their hands dirty, and of course Ed did, too, moving some dirt around, handing them a rake or a hoe or a spade. He never simply sent them outside to do the work, he did it alongside them, as much as he could.

I found myself thinking of Big Ed when I was meditating on today’s passage from 2 Thessalonians the other night. We used it as our Bible Study in our Vestry meeting, and I think at first the Vestry members were taken aback by it. I could see on their faces what I thought as I first read it: “There’s St Paul being Mr CrankyPants again. He’s berating the Thessalonians for hanging out with people who don’t work hard. He’s saying ‘I didn’t sit around on my hindquarters when I came to visit you and set up the church in Thessalonika – I worked right alongside you!’ And he’s making it sound like they’re a bunch of lazy slobs. Doesn’t sound like good evangelism to me!”

And at first glance, that is what he was saying. But as the Vestry wrestled with this text, something very interesting began to happen. The tone of the message from Paul took a backseat to the message itself, which is a very straightforward one: We all are supposed to get together and do the work that Christ sets before us. No one gets a free ride. No one gets a bye because he’s more important. Everyone gets their hands dirty.

Now Paul framed his message as he did, because in those very early days of the church, people thought that Jesus was coming back any minute. They thought they didn’t really have to work. In the next moment – zap! – Jesus would be back and earthly responsibilities would be irrelevant. But Paul was telling them that none of us know when Jesus might return, and while we’re waiting for that blessed day, we have work to do, every single one of us.

And the Vestry and I, we had our “aha!” moment – yes, the work continues. Even when we pass a milestone toward which we’ve worked, the work continues. And every one of us is supposed to do that. You and me and every one who is a part of this church family.

That work takes different shapes, because, as Paul told us elsewhere in Scripture, we all have different gifts to offer. It’s a good thing. It would be pretty boring if all of us were good at numbers, or all of us were terrific dancers, or all of us were awesome gardeners…that variety is one of the great gifts of God’s creation.

And that is the message I share with you today, on this Commitment Sunday when we bring our pledges of financial support to the altar and say “thank you” to God for his gifts to us. That is a part of what we do to carry on the work of this parish, and of the larger church, and of Christ in this place and time. But it is not all.

We need to remember to get our hands dirty, in whatever way God calls us to do that. Three people have been nominated to serve on Vestry. Should you choose to elect them to that service, they will get their hands dirty in the management of the day-to-day operations of the parish. This may be their call at this time in their lives. And in another time, it may be yours. But they do not do this alone.

There is other work to do, and there are other ministries that help carry out Christ’s command to love and to preach and to serve. In a few minutes, after we have been fed at this table with Christ’s body and blood, we will go into the Parish Hall for a delicious lunch before the congregational meeting. And that lunch will happen because J and many others made it happen. In the same way, this service of Holy Eucharist happened because D and the Altar Guild, T our Sexton, the Usher Teams, C and the Acolytes, A and the Choir, the folks caring for the little ones in the Nursery, G and K and A teaching down in Sunday School, L in the office, and even me – we all got our hands dirty or at least busy, doing Christ’s work.

How do you get your hands dirty, doing Christ’s work? It’s easy. You don’t wait for an invitation. You volunteer to help. You experiment to figure out what God is telling us to do at this time and this place. You try something, and if it is not the right fit, you say “Thanks for letting me try this out, but I need to try something else.” If it is the right fit, you thank God and you do the work joyfully.

In our Eucharistic Prayer at Communion, we pray, “Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal.” We come here today and every Sunday to be fed and to be built up so that we can do the work God sets before us. There is so much wonderful work for us to do together. And we’ll get our hands dirty together, all of us, not just the same folks who get asked to do things over and over again because they’ve said yes before. That’s what Paul is talking about.

That’s the lesson that Big Ed taught my boys, in his own inimitable way. We’re going to work together for Christ’s kingdom, and we may get a backache and a blister or two, and we may laugh over silly jokes, and we may shed a tear when one of us can no longer be with us, and we may even have an “aha!” moment when we feel Christ’s presence among us. These lessons, this work, are what Christ expects of us until he comes again…and when he comes, won’t he be proud of what we’ve done? Let’s get our hands dirty – together!