Epistle Lesson: Ephesians 4:11-16
OT Lesson: 1 Chronicles 23:1-6
November 1, 2015
On all saints day, I remember a story I heard about two brothers… both fairly evil and underhanded. They were rich, and used their money to keep their evil ways from the public eye. They even attended the same church. Still they kept up good appearances… they wanted people to think they were perfect Christians. Then, their pastor retired, and a new one was called. He could see through their deception. There was a fundraising campaign started for a new building. All of a sudden, one of the brothers died. The remaining brother sought out the new pastor the day before the funeral and handed him a check for the amount needed to finish paying for the new building. “I have only one condition,” he said. “At the funeral, you must say my brother was a saint.” The pastor gave his word, and deposited the check.
The next day, at the funeral, the pastor did not hold back. “He was an evil man,” he said. “He cheated on his wife and abused his family.” After going on like this, he finally concluded, “But, compared to his brother, he was a SAINT.”
Of course, I’d like to tell you a more positive story about a saint on All Saints day.
A few weeks ago Pope Francis made his visit to the Philadelphia… getting in that famous Fiat car… he was driven to the cathedral of the Eucharist where he opened his homily with the story of a Catholic saint born in Philadelphia: Katherine Drexil. He was telling the story of her conversation with Pope Leo XIII… who Pope Francis called a very wise pope.
When she spoke to Pope Leo about the needs of the missions, the Pope – he was a very wise Pope- asked her pointedly: “What about you? What are you going to do?”
Pope Frances said… those words changed Katherine’s life, because they reminded her that, in the end, every Christian man and woman by virtue of baptism, has received a mission. Each one of us has to respond, as best we can, to the Lord’s call to build up his Body; the church.
Then Pope Francis repeated to the congregation,
“What about you?”[i]
I would like to dwell those words in the context of our specific mission highlighted first by Paul… that God gave gifts to leaders… to equip everyone (saints) for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ…”
Notice… he didn’t say… to equip the paid professionals… but the saints… saints… he’s not talking about dead people or perfect people… he is talking about you!
So… “What about you?” It struck me as the perfect question for this Sunday as we celebrate the ministry and mission of the Kirk.
For this Sunday asks you and me, what about you… what are you going to do about it.
Ed Bacon, an Episcopal priest raised that question in his congregation. Then he shared with them:In my imaginings, when we reach out and complain to God about the universe, the suffering, ‘Why did you let that happen?’ ‘Why do you let so many people suffer?” ‘Why do you let poverty and war and bigotry happen in the world, God?’Ed says, “In my fantasy, I imagine God responds by saying, ‘Great question, wrong address. You’ve addressed the right question to the wrong being. “
“Why do YOU let it happen? Why do YOU let so many people suffer? Why do you let war and bigotry and poverty happen in the world? What about you?”
One of the impulses behind having this celebration of ministries Sunday… is that we want to lift up that everyone has a responsibility to do something about those questions… Let us think today about how we have answered the question, “What about YOU?”What are you going to do about those things that are breaking your heart… that you are passionate about… or making you mad.
Central to the mission of the Kirk is striving to embody and make tangible God’s love for all…
In our mission statement we proclaim:
The Kirk of Kildaire is a safe and gracious community that welcomes you to explore your faith. Guided by the teachings of Jesus Christ, we strive to accept, love and support each person, develop each member’s unique gifts and grow disciples through worship, Christian education, fellowship and mission…
Two of our core values lift up this desire to embody and share God’s love for all:
Love in Action: We intend to put into practice what we preach and teach in lives of service.
Growing and Serving: We value both the journey inward which gives focus to spiritual growth and the journey outward which seeks to actively serve a world in need.
We believe that the church isn’t our idea… it is God’s idea… that God designed the world in such a way that we would do the work together…
In the story from 1 Chronicles, we see David is old and graying and about to die. But before he dies, he gathers 38,000 plus priests and Levites to organize them.. to distribute among them the work of taking care of the temple… of worship… even down to the people assigned to play the music for God. Israel would engage the gifts of over 38,000 people. He doesn’t appoint just one person… but thousands to carry on the work of worship.
The work of ministry of sharing the love of God was never a one person show. Though Jesus is our leader in love…loving God and neighbor… notice that as soon as his ministry began, he calls, trains and equips others to carry on his ministry… they are called disciples. His work will be carried on by others who follow him.
Paul saw the church as the instrument of God in the world… the Body of Christ… with every person… every person given a gift for ministry… to carry on the work of Jesus… the work of loving God and loving neighbor…
The people who lead our ministries at the Kirk or who are involved in the mission and ministries of the Kirk… are outward and visible signs of an inward and invisible desire to be of use to God…
All around us today are banners… lifting up the ministries and mission of the Kirk designed to be of use to God… to equip people for the work of ministry.
Every ministry you see is here to serve…including real people in life in all sorts of circumstances… look around and you see ministries focused on helping the poor or promoting peace and justice… You’ll see ministries caring for people from as close as our neighborhood, to the mountains of Appalachia to the mountains of Guatemala. Look around you and you see ministries of spirituality, pastoral care… ministries devoted to the nurture and care for youth and children…
Every ministry is here to serve, to include real people in life who have suffered some sort of exclusion: cultural, societal, or flow of life (illness, death, job loss, divorce, whatever)
The essence of Jesus’ gospel.. is to live and to love and to serve anyone who lives on the margins of life… you often here me describe them as the least, the last, the lonely, the unlucky, the left out and the lost. And to do it together… as the Body of Christ.
The people who are leading and participating in our ministries are committed to this kind of life of loving service… they know that by loving their neighbors in need, they are also loving God and serving Jesus Christ.
They have learned… that God has a call for everyone… and yes, sometimes it is hard to believe… sometimes people resist… as they often resisted calls in scripture… but eventually they said yes. They learned that God does not call the qualified… but is able to equip those whom he has called. They learn the joy of being a part of the good work of proclaiming the gospel of Christ’s love and mercy. They learn the joy of being a part of something bigger than themselves. And of transforming lives.
I hope you will talk to the people who are leading the ministries and mission about how it has changed lives, including their own. I can almost guarantee you that every ministry has a story of someone or some group whose lives are different because people at the Kirk participated.
I hope you will support them not only with your prayers… but with you money. Ministry and mission require money… Behind every transforming and effective ministry is funding that comes from your pledges. It comes from God but through you!
Even if the program money is small, your pledges support staff salaries to make it possible for Stephanie, Melinda, Amanda, Larry, Jacob, and so many others to support you in your ministry. Your pledges support the mortgage, maintenance and care of this building where so many of those ministries take place…
So, I hope you will prayerfully pledge your support to the work of ministry at the Kirk as we seek to be servants of Christ here.
I love the story Ed Bacon told about one of his retreats where he gets away to refuel his spirit. He went to a Catholic retreat center…and in the dining hall, he saw a sign that said, Fiat.He asked a nun, “Why Do you have the name of a car company on the wall?”She said, “May I recall for you the story of the angel Gabriel… who spoke to Mary, “Hail, Mary full of grace” and told her what was about to happen… told her that her old life was about to end and something new was about to happen through her… “Ed said, “Yes, I know the story”… “Do you remember what she said?”
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
The Nun turned to Ed and said, “, Ed, you don’t remember your Latin, do you?”
“No… “In Latin the word, “Let it be” is Fiat. Fiat. No wonder the Pope is going around in a Fiat.
Brothers and sisters, when God hears or sees what is happening in the world, or in our lives or in the lives of those we love… — there is only one question, isn’t there… that God is asking of us, “What are you going to do about it?” The hurt of the world… the suffering… the loveless… (inside and outside the church) all of that…
My prayer is that we will join the movement… the movement started by Jesus when he came among us… proclaiming the Kingdom of God… the reign of love—My prayer is that you and I both will say, “Behold, I am a servant of the Lord, let it be with me… let it be with me…according to your word.”
[i] Story and inspiration for the sermon from Ed Bacon, priest at All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena, CA