Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Summer Effort

What follows is a sermon given today (July 15, 2012) at St. Gabriel's, Douglassville. It is an appeal for our "Summer Effort". It is printed here for the record. Members and Friends of the congregation may send contributions to St. Gabriel's Church, 1188 Ben Franklin Highway, PO Box 396, Douglassille, PA, 19518.

We Are His Body
It was yet another sordid moment in political and religious history. Herod, the son of Herod the Great whom we know from birth narratives of Jesus, actually liked to listen to John. But John confronted the King with the business of his illegal marriage, clearly proscribed in the Levitical Code. Thus he ended up in jail. Then came that famous birthday party and that even more famous dance of Salome, and John’s head was delivered on a platter to Herod’s wife Herodias. 

His body was taken by his disciples and buried in a tomb. We are told similarly about Jesus. He too confronted the Temple authorities particularly around the questions of Justice and Compassion for the sake of the outcasts of his time, and he was not killed so mercifully but with the torturous suffering of crucifixion. His disciples too, took his body and laid it in a tomb. 
In neither case was the King or the Religious Authorities able to silence the Word of God. Both the message of John and Jesus continues throughout history, as we continue to come to terms with our Baptism and learn to embrace Forgiveness and Eternal Life.
In so many ways, we become the Message of John, and the Body of Christ. For to continue to bring that message of Love, the Church must continue to have the courage to be the Body of Christ for the sake of the World.
This week the Episcopal Church concluded its General Convention in Indianapolis and continues to make clear that no matter who you are, if you seek to embrace Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus of Nazareth will embrace you. This mutual embrace knows no boundaries, and thus we here at St. Gabriel’s continue our work of “learning and doing the work of Jesus” and resolve with courage and determination to be a “House of Prayer for ALL People”.

This week, we also met with Archdeacon Howard Stringfellow and two representatives of Diocesan Council. There is a question out there of a financial obligation of $62,000 which we incurred several years ago and have yet to meet.
I confess to you that I was dreading the meeting and so too were some members of your vestry. We’ve had some stressful moments in our financial life over the past few years, and as your Interim Priest, I am learning the more exact nature and shape of the financial picture around here.
It remind me of things at home. Truth be told I’d just as soon not know much about the household budget. My checks simply get direct deposited and my darling bride takes it from there. She does ask me to check the balances in our accounts before I go off spending money, but I don’t always do that. She can become a bit irritated with me, and justifiably so.
Then there come those times when she insists that I sit down with her and work out the particulars of our budget and balance everything out and plan how we are going to deal with the financial realities of our household.
Well, let me tell you, whether it is the Archdeacon, or whether it is the Vestry and our monthly meetings, or if it is just Cindy and me at the Budget spreadsheets, I feel a little like John the Baptist closed up in Prison uncertain of my future.
But Paul says in today’s lesson from Ephesians; “In him we have Redemption” This Redeemer will not abandon us but will buy us back from the brink. In fact we always manage to find a way through the sticky wickets of our lives. Jesus is always there somehow or another. Wednesday night we explained the background of our situation to the Archdeacon and members of Council and how the expansion of our buildings has made so much wonderful ministry possible. But because we did step out in faith, we have found it financially stressful to meet all of our financial obligations along the way.
We also said plain as day we’re more worried about this year, never mind the $62,000 we owe on the Assessment, we are short around $42,000 just to meet this year’s obligations.
To our amazement and enormous relief, the Archdeacon and the Council representatives advised us to get our house in order beginning with this year’s budget obligations. Then there came a moment of Grace when one member of the Vestry said, “I’ll give $1,000 to help out”.
I said, “I’ll kick in $500.” Before I knew it folks around the table called out numbers like 750, 500, 250 and so forth until we had $6850 pledged between now and the end of the year.
That moment changed us. The Grace of God changed us. Surely we can meet our obligations if we all chip in a bit to help us over the hump right now. 

When I got home, I called Cindy, and told her I promised St Gabriel’s another $500 between now and the end of the year. She didn’t even bat an eyelash; “Sure we can do that, we might even be able to do a bit more.”
So then the question comes to all of you. This church has so much wonderful work to do day in and day out. Can you help a bit to get our financial house in order?
Let me call this our “Summer Effort”.
Let me set $50,000 as our goal. I know I said we need $42,00 to balance this year’s budget...but let’s give this church a nice shot in the arm. God needs your help to build the Church. What can you do?
Amos has set a plumb line both in the buildings we’ve erected and in our own hearts. 

The sacrifices that our spiritual ancestors made to build the Chapel and this beautiful church were substantial. It took hard work, lots of love and determination, and lets face it a great deal of generosity to provide us with this inheritance. Surely we can tend to the Household of God and make it strong for the work that God has given us to do. There will be others who will come after us and thank God for what we did in our time. 
A blessing on you and remember this, “It is not so much the amount of your gift, it is the amount of Love that goes into that gift that matters!” 
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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