Intercessors, Choir, Altar Guild, Community Meal, Winnie’s Place – The ministries card began to fill up pretty quickly last Saturday. As we enter the next phase of our diocesan strategic plan, the diocese is looking at specific ministries which are being done by parishes. They had passed out note cards at convention and asked each parish to fill out four, each color tied to a specific question. Vern and Judy handed me the ministries card, figuring I knew more of what was going on than they. So, it was my task to list all the ministries we had undertaken the past twelve months. Ministry of Presence, Food Pantry, Winnie’s Wishes, healing, World of Warcraft – My card was quickly running out of space, and still I was not done. Ice Cream Social, Picnic, Nerf Wars, Trivia, Canterbury House, Christmas families – I even resorted to changing the orientation of the card in an effort to get more ministries listed. Gas cards, meals, and budgeting for the needy, AFM, offering space to AA, Girl Scouts, the residents of our Ward, and a couple families in our area – That filled the other side, and still I was not done. Jeff and Christine offered the care for the yard, which we in turn make available to the children and preschools in our area. Scott offers plowing. Bev and Linda and Wanda, in particular, take care of the garden – a place appreciated by those struggling and looking to hear God’s voice. How many pastoral visits? How many calls?
Our collect this day begins with the words “Almighty God, You have knit together Your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of Your Son Christ our Lord . . .”. Sometimes, they are merely words that are said aloud in gatherings. But here, thanks to the intentional effort of so many of you, the words begin to describe a mystical, almost sacramental, reality, a reality made possible only through God’s grace and our willingness to risk failure and humiliation as we try and serve Him faithfully. Think for just a second. I did not run out of ministries to name. I ran out of space upon which to write all your ministries! Mission Trip to Tanzania, Befrienders, our Carillon system, ECW, HospiceCare, Churches United – And just how do we name the faithful witness of you in your daily lives? How many co-workers came in to speak with me because of your efforts? How many in your families? In your neighborhoods? How many called? How many e-mailed?
That same grace, which causes us to be knit together in one body is the same grace which allows us to follow prior saints and become saints to those who follow us in virtuous and godly living. Better still, it is that same grace which causes us to repent when we go astray, and leads us into His loving arms once again. Brothers and sisters, this day we celebrate not just on behalf of all those saints who have come before us but also on behalf of all of you who have struggled, strived, and occasionally succeeded in loving God and in loving our neighbor as ourselves. You might be uncomfortable with the idea that you are a saint, but are you not washed in His blood and clothed in His righteousness? That, brothers and sisters, is one of the joyful rewards of a repentant heart! We can face life, and all its darkness and evils, with the certainty, and the peace that comes with it, that He is preparing that place and reward for each one of us. More amazing still, we can offer to share that joy, that heartfelt thanksgiving, with all those whom He places in our path in ways limited only by our imagination and willingness to serve.
In a bit, I will end this gathering ith one of the blessings which I love to pronounce: "May God, who has given us, in the lives of His saints patterns of holy living and victorious dying, strengthen your faith and devotion, and enable you to bear witness to the truth against all adversity." Remember, as you hear those words and reflect on your life's toil that for many in the world around us, you are the one living a holy life and you are the one willing to face death triumphantly in the lives of others. This day we celebrate your obedience and your faithfulness, even as we celebrate all those who led each one of us to Him!
Thanks be to God!