A sermon by the Rev. Deacon Katharine Holland, April 11, 2010
Hallelujah! The Lord is Risen!
Seven weeks ago, on Ash Wednesday, at the beginning of Lent, I asked 3 questions?
- What will be our relationship with God (& with each other) at the culmination of these 40 days?
- How will we be changed, even transformed?
- How will we become more “holy” & more wholly God’s?
Now, we are at the other side of Lent. We’ve experienced the sorrows & the joys of Holy Week, & the glorious resurrection Light of Easter. This is no small thing, & the experience should change us.
As I was thinking about this sermon last week at Mt. Hood, listening to the combination of snow, sleet & hail as it hit the skylights & watching the red & black Varied Thrushes scurrying around on the green grass outside in the ever-changing weather, alternating between the dark, threatening clouds & the brightness of sun breaks, I wondered again about those questions & asked myself, have we indeed moved into the glory of Easter & the light of spring? Have we learned anything about ourselves & about God in the season just passed? I hope so.
We are in a time of new beginnings, not only here at St. David’s, but also in our Diocese with the consecration yesterday of Michael Hanley as our new Bishop. How will we respond to God’s call? What kind of community will we become? What kind of diocese? How will we shape the future?
On this, the other side of Easter, we are asked to “show forth in our lives what we profess by our faith,” to move into living the Hallelujah we proclaim this Easter season & to do this “unafraid,” knowing that our God is the Alpha & the Omega, the first & last of all that has ever been created, that our God will be there before every event we experience, as well as in the thick of life with us, & still standing by our side as we enter the uncertainty that is the future. Just like those thrushes who continue to hunt for food through snow, hail, rain & sleet as well as in the sun, we are to trust that God is with us – always – & keep going. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” [John 20:21]
But God doesn’t send us out into the world unprepared – “The kingdom of God is within you!” – each of you! We just need to experience, to consciously grasp hold of what we already possess. The ultimate expression of spirituality as defined by the desert fathers, was a person who embodied the sacred texts, who drew others out of themselves into a world of infinite depth, into the God who is the source of all our being. [“Weavings”, Man/June,1995] Ken Leech said something similar a couple of weeks ago. When I asked him about how the church today can balance our appeal to the secular while remaining faithful to the holy, he said he thought that “balance” was the wrong word. Rather, we ought to strive to be “integrated” – through prayer & meditation & silence – integrated into the Word of God, so that every nook & cranny of our lives right down to the core of our being is fed & sustained by God, until it becomes the grounding of our lives, such that all our actions flow from our connection with the Holy One. It is then that our faith becomes a seed that grows in us, strengthening us & flowing out to strengthen others as it grows into maturity & depth.
The writer, Osho, reminds us that “The greatest courage is needed to come near a man like Jesus. That means you are ready to take the jump into the abyss, you are ready to lose yourself. To move with Jesus in the insecurity of the unknown, in the uncharted, in the ocean where the other shore is not visible, tremendous courage is needed. [&, I might add, tremendous trust] . . . you are a seed, he is the tree; he has come to bloom [in you], he is your future . . .” [“Synthesis”, April 15, 2007]
St. David’s, it seems to me, has embraced it gift for hospitality, for welcoming others; & I see this community continuing to live into its call by opening itself to include the new, the seekers, the lost, the found, the hopeless, & the hopeful. I see us being transformed into the holy people that God designed us to be, embracing whatever challenges & uncertainties may be ahead, while relying on God & each other.
But our work is not finished – it is on-going.
Mother Teresa said, toward the end of her life, “I am just a pencil in God’s hand, writing love letters to the world.” That’s the path we’re on, to reach out, to make a difference in people’s lives, our own included. Yet, there’s no point talking about it if we aren’t prepared to do it, to live it daily & unswervingly.
Canadian Anglican, Molly Wolf, says, “But when fear – whether of saying the wrong thing, or making a fool of oneself, or risking a bottomless pit – stands in the way of our ministering to others, then we are failing to work out God’s purpose. We are failing to be, for others, Christ with the warm human skin;” [White China, p.127] & I want us here at St. David’s to be that incarnated, warm, living, breathing, loving Christ to those who enter our doors. I want us to be bold enough to overcome our shyness, our reluctance to initiate relationships, to stay safely in our own skins. And I want us to be intentional enough to overcome our very human tendency to be drawn away from our Center by the many distractions around us.
As a way of continuing to grow this seed here at St. David’s, I’d like you to take the blank piece of paper in your bulletin & a pencil (ushers have extras they can pass out to you, just raise your hand), & take a few minutes “to be that pencil in God’s hand” – allow God to inspire you to reach out to someone, to write a love letter as God’s own emissary. Remembering that it is only as we step out in faith that we can expect others to do so, reach out to someone here in church or outside these walls – a family member, a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, someone you know well, or not so well, someone you’ve been meaning to talk to & haven’t yet, someone you admire or just want to reach out to.
I hope you will share your love letter with the person you wrote to later – at the coffee hour, or when you get home, or mail it if the person lives elsewhere . . . but do share it.
This 50 days of Easter culminates in Pentecost – that season of the birthing of Christ’s Church, Christ’s mission, in fire & the Holy Spirit. Why not spend this intervening time in active discernment of how we will become more alive in Christ, more integrated, more grounded in Christ’s death & resurrection, more on fire in our zeal to love one another.
Indeed, why not become that fire . . . on fire . . . alight with the holy fire of God?