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All services listed below are currently suspended until further notice.
See information in the middle of our home page for current on-line worship opportunities.

8:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist
(spoken service)

10:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist
(with full choir, hymns)

7:00 a.m.
Holy Eucharist with Healing Prayer

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Preparing the Way
A sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. Gale Davis on January 19, 2014

Epiphany 2 

Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-121 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42

Today is Martin Luther King Sunday, or anyway it is the Sunday that is in MLK weekend. His actual day of celebration, according to Holy Women, Holy Men, is April 4th, MLK’s birthday.  As a nod to this important man and the role he played in American history, we will sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as our closing hymn. But I will save preaching about him and his ideals, both political and Christian, for another day.

Today is also the first time we have used the Indian Liturgy from the Church of South India. It is a unique church in the Anglican communion because it is a combined church, not only Anglican but combined with other protestant churches using Anglican liturgy. The liturgy we use today mirrors our liturgy in many ways, but expresses our faith with words that amplify and enlarge the words we use, as our words amplify and enlarge theirs. It is always a learning and growth experience to pray in a new and different way, and it is my hope that using these words for our common prayer during Epiphany will be a spiritually uplifting experience for us all.

But I am not going to preach about that either.

Today I want to talk about the gospel -- when in it, John the Baptist identifies Jesus to others and invites them to follow Jesus too. In this gospel that begins the day after Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan by John, John testifies to others that he saw the dove descend upon Jesus -- it is not just Jesus who saw it -- but John also was a witness to this mysterious voice and sign from God that Jesus is the Beloved, the Lamb of God. John tells his friends about Jesus -- his friends Andrew and Simon. And when they meet Jesus, they know they are called to follow him too, and they do. Simon is given a new name -- Peter.

A new name was a sign that a person’s role has also changed. Peter now was to be and do something far different with his life than he had until this point. He, like John, was to be one who told others about Jesus. He was to be one who followed Jesus in word and in deed and brought others into the discipleship of those who follow.

These incidents are reported to us by John who knew his role was to point to Jesus, to not delude himself that he was more than a messenger. He knew his role, he was the one who prepared the way and made sure that no one mistook his role (evangelist and baptizer) for the one reserved for his cousin Jesus who was to be the Messiah.

When I first came among you a year ago, I likened myself to John the Baptist, the one pointing to what is coming next. And as we draw nearer to the time when that person will be made visible, first to the Search Committee, then the Vestry, then to the whole congregation, I am even more acutely aware of wanting to prepare the way for the new rector. I can understand John’s sense of urgency and desire not to get in the way, of making sure that I keep pointing forward. 

Now we know John the Baptist went on to have his head cut off and presented on a silver platter to the Emperor’s wife. Frankly I have no desire to become a martyr, and I am rather attached to my head. So, I hope that is not the fate of all interim rectors! But it also reminds me, and I hope you, that this similarity does not break apart with the chopping off of heads. It really breaks apart long before that. The big difference is that the one to whom I am pointing as the next rector is not Jesus; is not God; is not going to be able to fix all that is wrong; will not be the one who saves the world, let alone this parish. No. The rector will be a human being, as I am human, and as are all of you.

I want to make sure that as you prepare for your new rector, you are preparing to have a completely human -- not God -- a human person come to serve among you. A person more like Simon (now Peter), who has a new role among you. A changed but still human role among you. The new rector, like all of you, like Peter, will be a follower of Jesus. She or He will have idiosyncrasies and habits, likes and dislikes, political views that may or may not agree with yours, skills that will enrich your life together and call out new skills in you, prejudices and life experiences, families (dysfunctional and functional).

The new rector, even with all those realities, will be in a very unique and special role among you -- called -- as Andrew and Peter were called -- as John the Baptist and Mary and Elizabeth and Mary Magdelene were called. The rector will be called, not hired, to serve among you, with a unique voice and skill set to help you grow in faith, community, and service to others in God’s name. The person will be unique and wonderful, fully capable of doing unique things within this community, calling you to do more than you ever thought you could. But, still, the new rector is not to be confused with Jesus!

Like Peter, your rector will be called, not hired. In our modern corporate world, we often try to think that we are “hiring” a rector to serve us. But the truth is you will be “calling” a rector. The difference has to do with that human element. It even used to be that clergy were paid before they did anything to reinforce this idea of “call” so they were free to live and preach as they were inspired by God without fear of retribution by those who disagree with them. The clergy are, by their ordination vow, to speak the gospel, even at the peril of inflaming people who might disagree. A “call’’ is more akin to a covenant than it is to a contract (even though you will all be wise to have a written covenant). That covenant may seem like a contract with the new rector, but it is not so much a legal document, as it is a statement of how you understand the responsibilities of the relationship. First and foremost, it is a covenant relationship that you will have with your new rector. It will not be an employee/employer relationship. Rather it will be a relationship undergirded by your common faith and desire to follow Jesus where he calls you together as a community.  

Because it is a call, the rector will have the equivalent of “tenure” in an academic setting. He or She cannot be “fired” for saying something you do not like. Likewise you will be forgiven when you slip. As with a marriage, you will all promise, with God’s help, to uphold each other and to live together through thick and thin times. I believe, because this is such a vibrant parish, that the thick times will be more lasting than the thin, but I am not a fortune teller and cannot predict the future. Like you, like Peter, like your new rector, I can only see the past, live in the present and hope the direction that we are traveling continues to be prosperous and healthy for all of us. Experience would tell me that is highly likely -- but faith assures me it is so -- even if it is not what I would predict or hope for, even if my definitions of prosperity and health, like our roles, must change.

Next week will be the Annual Meeting. As last year, we will hold it in the context of our worship and prayer. We will elect Vestry members, celebrate the last year, honor offgoing Vestry members, and talk about the future, most specifically this upcoming year when the new rector will be among you. We will have lunch together after the meeting and worship. It will be prepared for us -- soup and sandwiches and hot dogs! 

A wonderful program for the children will be held in the Parish Hall while we meet. At the meeting, you will vote for those who have indicated they are willing to answer the call to serve on the Vestry, and we will also elect delegates to Diocesan Convention who will vote on our behalf for the next Bishop of our Diocese. You will have an opportunity to ask questions and make comments ..... but only if you are here! So please plan to be with us!

Attending is part of the covenant of your call as a parishioner, to be present in the councils of the church, to participate in the community, and to support the ministry of those who take leadership roles. I trust that you will be here -- that many will be here -- because, as Jim said last week, this is a vibrant and exciting community of good and faithful people. Like him, I am delighted, honored and grateful to serve among you; to be one who is looking forward with you. We cannot know the future, but we can stand firmly on the ground of Now, knowing that God will guide all of us forward as God wills.  Like Peter, we need to be clear that following Jesus as disciples, telling others about our faith is our role in life.  That is what we followers of Christ from Christ Church do, then all will be well and right and holy.

May it always be so. Amen.

Last Published: January 21, 2014 2:05 PM