Dear Friends in Christ,
As many of you know if you have been part of St. Mary’s for any length of time, I will often remark that in my capacity as your rector I only say “about 12 things and I repeat them over and over again.” Because I obviously think that repetition is a good thing, and as I continue to reflect and rejoice in this 30th anniversary year, let me underscore several that continue to resonate for me personally and for us as a parish family.
Persons are ordained to be proclaimers of the Gospel, but very quickly, the Church co-opts them to become keepers of the Institution.
While it is true that we are able to do more out in the world by virtue of giving 25% of our pledge and plate income away, never lose sight of the fact that we benefit at least as much as those we serve because it helps to keep us honest. To be blunt we try to put our money where our mouth is, or as the Letter of James says more felicitously “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22) The landscape of our world is rapidly changing and not for the better. The foundations that have secured the Episcopal Church in generations past are not sufficient to meet the challenges of our day.
The truth that we are all Beloved Children of God must be balanced by the truth that we are all Forgiven Sinners.
Part of the genius of our Anglican approach to living the Christian faith is that we are able to hold more than one truth at a time. The grace of God freely given forever precludes us versus them, saved versus condemned, righteous versus unrighteous. We all fall short of the Glory of God, but because we start from the place of unconditional love we can extend that love to our neighbor and to ourselves. Holier than thou has no place in the life of the Church.
At Saint Mary’s we try to take God seriously, ourselves not so much so.
The mark of a Christian is joy as distinguished from happiness. One of my more stellar preaching experiences in Africa was having my sermon on this topic translated, not knowing that in Swahili they are the same word. Differences between and amongst us always are informed by the reality that, buried with Christ in our baptism, we are a new creation. It may not always be easy to see either in others or ourselves, but we walk by faith, not by sight. The ancient wisdom of the Church is correct – while both are to be avoided, heresy is always to be preferred to schism. We are the Body of Christ… we are connected one to another in our joys and in our sorrows.
Less than a year after I was called to be your rector persons began to say to me that the honeymoon would soon be over. I’d have to say that I think it has been a pretty good run, and further, the credit belongs to God.
May the Peace of the Lord always be with you.