Pentecost XIII – September 7, 2014 – Launch Sunday
A sermon preached by The Rev. Dianne Andrews at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Port Townsend, WA.
We gather here together on this most beautiful day under beautiful blue skies…to sail yet again… as we launch our new program year here at St. Paul’s.
I have two stories to tell you this morning… The first one is about an eagle… How many of you have seen eagles flying right above us here at the church?
A man found an eagle’s egg and put it in the nest of a backyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them.
All his life the eagle did what the backyard chickens did, thinking he was a backyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly only a few feet into the air and then fall back down to earth again…. just like the chickens did…
Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird soaring high above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat of its strong wings.
The old eagle looked up in awe. “Who’s that?” he asked.
“That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,” said his neighbor. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth – we’re chickens.”
So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that’s what he thought
We are each called to be the people God created us to be. Henry is called to be the very best Henry can be…. Joyce is called the best Joyce she can be… We are each blessed and beloved and are called to live into that blessedness. It is a calling from God.
We have another calling… through the waters of baptism… we are called to live into the blessing of new we take on a new identity as a member of the Body of Christ… a family of faith that spans all times and all places. When we are baptized the priest then marks our foreheads with holy oil and says, “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.” We are called to live into the fullness of life in Christ both as individuals and as the larger body… called to be fully who we were created to be, as well as the blessed calling of community.
When we live in community we can know many blessings. We also know that there can be challenges. Our lessons from Paul and Matthew give us some guidelines for living together, in community, when the waters get rough. We are invited to stand on the holy ground of meeting when there is conflict… and to stay there and work through our disagreements. We are called not to be passive or complacent, but to seek to work through conflict in creative ways, that we may know reconciliation and grow in community. Life as a large family of Christ does not promise to be easy, but it does call us into ever-fuller life, as individuals and as God’s beloved people.
The second story is about a monastery that had fallen on hard times….
Some of the younger monks had left in dissatisfaction and no new men were joining. There was but a handful of monks and their leader, the abbot, remaining. They began fighting among themselves, blaming each other for their hard times and for failing one another.
One day a travelling rabbi stopped by the monastery for a night’s rest. He ate, and prayed alongside the other monks. The next day, as the rabbi prepared to continue on his journey, the abbot drew him aside. He told him of the problems the monastery was having and asked for some advice.
Upon hearing the abbot’s woes… the rabbi was quiet for some time.
The abbot begged, “Please, can’t you give me some advice to help my monastery thrive again?”
“Your monks will not listen to my advice,” the rabbi replied. “But perhaps they would benefit from an observation. The messiah dwells among you… here at the monastery.”
“One of us? …Which one?”
“Oh, that I cannot say.” He answered. “Share this with your brothers, and in time it shall be revealed to you.”
The abbot thanked him and sent him on his way. He then gathered the monks together. They listened in amazement at what was being told to them.
“One of us! But who?” …each one asked out loud. Then to themselves they wondered… “It couldn’t be Brother Robert… or could it?”
“Surely it is not Brother Henry, … but there are times when…”
“Not the youngest, well maybe…”
“Is it the abbot himself?”
“…could it be me?”
Soon things began to change at the monastery as each one began to see the Messiah in the other… and to hear the Messiah’s words coming from brethren.
Soon people began to wander back to the monastery and in time new men joined. The monastery was thriving again.
Jesus has promised that when to or three are gathered together in his name, he will be among them. We gather here together today as a people of St. Paul’s, as a people of Christ. May we live into our callings as individuals and as a blessed and beloved people of God. May we know Christ in one another and in the sacred meal. Then may we go forth to live into the fullness of this blessing that go forth and be a blessing to God’s world.
 The Messiah Among Us, author unknown, from Doorways to the Soul, Elisa Dave Pearmain, ed., The Pilgrim Press: Cleveland, 1998, pg. 84ff.