- September 7, 2014
A Sermon for September 7, 2014 (Proper 18 A)
Offered by Nathan Ferrell at The Episcopal Church of Saint Mary, Falmouth
Texts: Romans 13:7-14; Psalm 149; Matthew 18:15-20
Themes: holy baptism, welcome home celebration
Title: You Know What Time It Is
My friends: do you know what time it is?
Yes, you know what time it is! It is time for the people of God to wake from our sleep, to rise up together, and show the world what love truly means!
It was a rare Sunday for Father Andrew, an Episcopal priest down in Florida.
He was off from any official parish duties that day, so he and his wife and their two children visited a friends’ parish in a nearby city – just as visitors.
The parents had prepared a well-equipped bag full of items with which their 2 year old and 4 year old children might keep themselves occupied.
That worked well enough for their 4 year old son, but the 2 year old daughter was fidgety, as often happens.
So Father Andrew took their daughter back into the Narthex to help minimize any distractions. The ushers there were a bit unsure of what to do. They murmured to each other and said, “I think we have a nursery, don’t we?”
The father said, “No thanks. We’re fine. We like to keep them with us.”
Things went along pretty smoothly from there, as best as can be expected with a squirmy child in church! These parents were well-versed in how worship operates, after all, so they knew what to do.
Everything changed, however, when the congregation was dismissed. As they were preparing to leave, one well-dressed woman approached Father Andrew’s wife and told her, “It was very inconsiderate for you to bring your children in here! They don’t get anything out of it, and you’ve ruined worship for 200 adults!”
Stunned, and a bit incredulous, the mother replied, “Are you kidding?”
“No”, the woman shot back. “You are incredibly rude.”
Ouch. That, sadly, is a true story.
Why would a woman like this – supposedly, a regular church-goer – act in such an unwelcoming and inflexible and unloving way toward visitors at her parish?
Perhaps her own words give us the key. In reference to having children in worship, she said, “They don’t get anything out of it.”
What are we supposed to “get” out of being in church?
And what, really, does it mean to be “church” as Jesus described it to his friends?
Matthew’s Gospel speaks of the church as a radical, new community which has a very distinct shape and culture.
This is a community where anger and bitterness are never allowed to grow, where reconciliation is pursued as a way of life.
This is a community where we fulfill the will of God by loving one another – that is, by seeking what is best for the other, and by always asking the question: what will be most conducive to help those around us to reach their full potential as the beloved people of God?
Unfortunately, that’s not how everyone thinks about church, is it?
There are far too many like the woman in our story who reprimanded Father Andrew and his family, who seems to think that “getting something out of it” is the goal of church.
There is another mistaken perspective which also distorts the true purpose and meaning of church.
Perhaps you’ve been a target of this yourself. A new couple comes for the Eucharist, then they have the courage to stay for coffee hour, and before you know it, they’ve been sized up as the perfect new Sunday School teacher and new chair of the Budget & Finance Committee.
This, too, is a failure to see church in the same way that the Lord Jesus sees it, and the way that Paul saw it.
My friends, church is not at all about getting. It’s not about what you get out of it, or about what church leaders might get out of you!
Church is not about getting. Church is about giving.
It is about being a community gathered together in the name of Jesus and continuing to do what Jesus himself did: giving away ourselves for the healing of the world.
My friends, you know what time it is! It is time for the people of God to get to work, and to show the world what love truly means!
Time to put our God-given talents into action in works of love that change people’s lives, that bring healing to this broken world.
This kind of giving, caring, loving community is what this world needs more than anything else, and it is what God is creating here on planet earth.
That’s why we are here.
You have a special insert in your bulletin today.
It’s called “Mission and Ministry Areas of Interest.” This is a simple tool to assist us in growing more into a giving, caring, loving community.
Each one of us has been blessed with numerous gifts and talents, and God endows us with spiritual gifts designed specifically for ministry.
These gifts can be put into loving action in a myriad of ways.
The determining factor in knowing where you are called to minister is your passion, your energy, your vision.
On your Ministry Interest form is a list of areas where, as a Christ-centered and loving community, we are currently sharing our gifts or where we might share our gifts.
It is not an exhaustive list, by any means, and I trust that the Holy Spirit will inspire you with new ideas which you can share with the community.
This is a tool of discernment – first and foremost, for your own discernment.
What are your spiritual gifts? What are your other talents and skills?
What is it that gets you fired up and eager to jump in and make a difference? Where is your passion?
Read through this list. Circle the area of areas where your passion is engaged.
Or else write in new areas of mission and ministry at the bottom.
If you are so inclined, please share this with your parish family. There are two boxes where you can deposit these completed forms. One in the Narthex here, and one in the Parish House on the Sign-Up Table.
Or you can keep the form for yourself. That is entirely up to you.
My friends: you know what time it is! It is time for the people of God to wake from our sleep, to rise up together, and show the world what love truly means.
We do that when we use our God-given gifts in works of love that bring the healing touch of Jesus to every area of human life.
There’s a ton of work to be done. Will you join in the effort? Will you step off of the sidelines and become engaged in the mission of God?
May it be so. Amen.