Sermon by Deacon Maggie:
7 Easter May 24, 2020 St John’s
Good morning St John’s! Today we get to celebrate Ascension day, which as you know fell on Thursday this year… I read somewhere a comment that even Jesus is working from home now…it made me smile and maybe roll my eyes a bit, and it helped me to see this trying time as a challenge as well as an opportunity. I imagine we are all feeling all kinds of emotions…fear and wonder, humility and worry and frustration, to name only a few of the ones I have experienced so far. Amidst all this, I hope I am also learning. One thing I have learned is that when I get cranky, when I get impatient or worried with something that is happening around me, especially lately with some of the things I see on the news, I need to consider that I am getting a nudge… I hear that sometimes annoying voice in my head saying “So what are you going to do about it?” I think I am, we are, being asked to consider this very difficult time as an opportunity to do something positive… to see the brokenness that surrounds us and to use our imaginations, and all the gifts we have been given, to grow into the people that God knows we can be, made us to be… to try to bring a bit of healing to a very broken world. I have been giving to local businesses and trying to help service organizations lately. But there is so much more we can do…
In our reading from Acts this morning, we hear Jesus respond to his disciples’ questions about the very frightening time and place where they found themselves, and the uncertain future that lie ahead, with the words:
“It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The disciples, confused and frightened, gathered in community, staying together and planning for their future… and, bless them, they had to do it without Zoom…but, as the story unfolds we see that, though they must have had many mixed emotions, they were frightened but also strengthened by community, and together they put their faith in the promise of the resurrection and the holy spirit.
We too are not powerless… we have an been given an invitation to open ourselves up to a new way of being, a new way of thinking, a new way of viewing the world. And having our feet firmly grounded in faith, or at least trying to, we are being asked to open the door to a new reality. The world we live in is ever evolving and growing and changing and we are being called to grow and change too, to a new way of being. Aware of, grateful for and actively using the gifts we have been given, while taking the steps to bring about something new, together, as we care for this new reality.
The community of St John’s has actively supported the Franklin Food Pantry for a while now, and we are always looking at new ideas, new ways to develop this ministry. We have plans, when we are able to gather again, for ways to expand this support even more. One way we can and are doing this right now is to try to provide some fresh produce to both our community here and to our community that relies on the food pantry to help supply basic need for their families. We have dreams of coming together as a community to build sturdy wooden raised beds, to plant and nurture fresh vegetables to share among ourselves and our neighbors. We had to scale those plans back a bit this year… but with the encouragement of our rector (and she was so right!) we are moving ahead… we have our fabric raised beds, filled with rich soil, soon to be protected and supported by fencing and filled with seedlings…promises for the future… to grow nourishing food. And our partners from the food pantry want to help and are sending volunteers! Many, many thanks to you: Kimberleigh and Emmaleigh, Jane and Joanna, Carl and Eleanor, Anne and Amali and Jen, the Griffiths, Brian and all who have offered support through their suggestions, their time, their ideas, their labor, their prayers… because they know that together, even in these challenging times, we can do God’s work in the world. To all those working and visible, to all those working behind the scenes, tirelessly, often quietly, to care for and strengthen our community, we thank you.
We all have been given so many gifts… time and talent and treasure, as the saying goes. Every day it seems I discover more of the richness and generosity that live in this community… and we all have needs. Some gifts and needs are pretty basic… food, clothing, shelter, funds, transportation… and some more complicated. Episcopal City Mission is starting a program, the Mutual Aid Network, to try to connect some of those gifts and resources with the needs that exist, right here, and among our Episcopal communities. I am not sure how I ended up on the leadership team of this network, but it is so inspiring to see people of faith come together and try to make a difference. Amy Enright has graciously offered to lead this effort here at St. John’s and you can all be a part of it… because we all have resources and we all have needs. Stay tuned for more information!
Our lessons today remind us that God has and will always be with us, empower us… He sent His only son, Jesus to be here with us, He lived with us and among us and like us… and he suffered with us. Jesus speaks of personal transformation and encourages us to look to the future with hope. In these times of uncertainty, we can be empowered, to know we are loved and cared for, to know we are called to care for each other, to look for ways to reach out to our communities, to be an icon of faith to each other: our family, our friends, our neighbors.
And tomorrow…tomorrow is Memorial Day! It’ll need to be a bit different than what we are used to, but it is still Memorial Day… and it is an opportunity to take some time to honor our veterans, those who have gone to the glory of God and those still very much here, among us; those brave men and women who sacrificed for all of us. Remember them, with praise and prayer and thanksgiving. Find a way to show your support- be it with flags, or signs or honking of horns or charitable contributions or in your own unique and wonderful way. We are so grateful.
In the words of Alan our diocesan bishop: “Whether you are a pot-banger or a hymn-singer; a grave-decorator or a thank-you note writer; a prayer-lifter or a donation gift-er. May we each, in our own way, be people of gratitude and generosity.” Amen.