Proper 27b 2015: Do not be alarmed

Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17 Psalm 127 Hebrews 9:24-28 Mark 12:38-44

The stones will all be thrown down.

With gospels words such as these, it is tempting to say that the stones of the temple, of our faith, will be thrown down, as in: the temple will be destroyed. Our faith will be torn apart. It certainly seems that way. This week we watch the news and hear about
 Bombings in Beirut – terrorist attacks;
 Murders in Paris – again, terrorist attacks; and
 An earthquake in Japan, a natural disaster.

Jesus says: do not be alarmed. Over and over the messengers of God say to the human condition: do not be afraid. Today, maybe especially today, we need to hear: do not be alarmed. Do not be afraid.

The stones that are thrown down will all be built up again. By God. By Jesus. In fact, it has already been done. Jesus Christ died and he rose from the dead, and in so doing, he built the temple, our faith, not in stone but in Jesus Christ. Jesus the Christ lives today. On that we build our faith.

We honor and pray for all who are suffering, and we especially remember victims and their families in Beirut, in Paris, in Japan. Pray with me [silence].
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Yesterday was an important day in the life of St. Peter’s. Our convention delegates and I (Patty Gillett, Mary Holley, and Patti Sanderson) Allison Bourne, and Susan Woodhouse, attended and worked at the 84th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester. In this way we connected to the Councils of the church (universal) throughout history. We might consider the first council of the church to be the one in Jerusalem at which Peter, our namesake, spoke – and ticked off a whole lot of people. We could call this the apostles’ council. The first official council was held at the direction of the Roman Emperor Constantine in approximately 325 – a very long time ago. Our Diocesan convention is our real and historic connection to the first Christians, to the apostles, to the witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. This is our church! We give thanks.
Today is an important day in the life of St. Peter’s. Three years ago, the day after the 81st Diocesan Convention of the Diocese of Rochester, we worshipped together for the first time. From this pulpit I recalled several things:

My call to St. Peter’s came in the middle of a hurricane. We postponed in-depth conversation about coming here until the storm in another place had passed. The immediate and urgent need was for water, power, and God’s mercy. I arrived here not long after a storm named Sandy that made a big impact in this part of the country. Our history began in many ways, with many stories, including stories of storms, tragedy, aftermath, and God’s mercy. As I stood here three years ago today, I had a new home, a new parish community, and house that contained one suitcase, a couple of boxes, and two bewildered cats. My belongings would arrive later in the week. Storms pass. God’s mercy is always present. I give thanks for ministry here, for coming home, for the Holy Spirit-filled community that calls itself St. Peter’s. Together, we give thanks.

Today is an important day in the life of St. Peter’s. Today is the day that we have chosen to gather our pledges of time, talent, and treasure for the coming year. We don’t like to talk about money in church, do we? It just “isn’t done.” Well, yes, it is done. We are called to talk about everything and anything in this community of God’s beloved children. Even how stressed we are. How hard it is to come to church. How exhausted we are. How sad we are that we cannot get our children/grandchildren – fill in your own woe – to come to church. To all of these anxieties we turn to Jesus who says: do not be alarmed. And to the angels who so very often say: do not be afraid.

Do not be afraid.
In fact, be filled with joy. Give thanks.

The Lord who rebuilt the temple is, in fact, building our house.

The Lord is building our house. The Lord established the church; we are but caretakers of that church. It is not just any house that we are building. In fact, we are not building a house of wood, or of bricks and mortar. We are building a house of faith. Jesus Christ our risen Lord and Savior is its cornerstone and its foundation. How appropriate that St. Peter’s, “on this rock I will build my house” St. Peter’s, is still today in this place a house of faith. We have a call on our lives and on our church. It is a call to faith and joy in all things.

ALL things. Storms. Hardship. New beginnings. And pledges of our time, talent, and treasure. What is it that we will give?

I ask that we each make an offering in heartfelt thanksgiving for our lives and for the abundance that we have. If you have not yet talked to God about this, I invite you to do so. Ask God: “What is it, God, that you would have me give?” Give that, in time, in prayer, in your financial offering to this church. Remember that we give NOT because God needs our money – God doesn’t need our money – but because giving is part of our spiritual life and growth. Give until you feel joy. From personal experience, joyful giving is scary, even a little unnerving. It is also something that will transform your life. Give until there is joy, until you spend a moment thinking “what else can I give,” not because you want to but because there is a nagging voice in your head that says that this is how we live in Christ. Giving. It will change your life.

Today is an important day in the future of St. Peter’s. Because today (and every day) we get to begin again. How will we live into our life with Christ? I invite us to join with Christ in a life of prayer, of asking tough questions, of responding to the agonies of the world with the knowledge that we are called not to despair but to joy.
Do not be alarmed.
Do not be afraid.
Be thankful – joyful!
Give with joy.
Give thanks in all things.
Gracious Lord, build your house at St. Peter’s, in our communities, and in all the world. And,
to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be the glory, now and forever.

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