Proper 18 Year A 9-7-14
©Holly Lyman Antolini
Lections: Exodus 12:1-14; Ps. 149; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18: 15-20
Hallelujah! Let us sing to you a new song, O God; let us sing your praise in the congregation of the faithful. Let us praise your Name in the dance; let us sing praise to you with timbrel and harp! AMEN.
Happy Homecoming Sunday, everyone! I hope you have all found opportunities for rest and refreshment during your summer, so you can return to the beginning of our fall season full of energy for the coming program year! I know that in my own life, summer is a critical time to cultivate the Holy Currency of Wellness, one of the many “Holy Currencies” that flow together and reinforce each other to keep our ministry both sustainable and missional, outward-facing. When it comes to the Currency of Wellness, I can’t imagine what I would do without summer’s chance to get outdoors and remind myself that I am part of a much larger community of being than the merely human; without the chance to remember how small (but important) my agency is as I get my hands deep into the mysterious fertility of earth and plant things and watch them grow and blossom; without the long walks with nothing on my mind but how wondrous God’s creation is, letting myself be enveloped by bird-and-insect-and-wind-and-leaf song, my imagination soaring with cloud formations, my spirit stilled in the stillness of pondwater or sparkling like light on ocean. What would I do if I resumed the pace of our program year without having set the wine bottle in the middle of the dining table and sat long into the evening with friends, talking about anything and everything over fresh corn-on-the-cob and salads of vegetables still singing from the garden as the sun slowly inches toward the horizon and the late light slants long across the field? These opportunities to let the task list go, to sit on the porch, hands empty, and simply bask in rest and sunlight: these currencies of wellness, counter-cultural as they are in our frenzied culture of accomplishment, provide the springs of so much energetic work later on.
I don’t know how it was for you, but this summer, in particular, also held a rich Holy Currency of Relationship for me: reunions of many kinds with very old friends and with a whole variety of cousins, as we said a last “farewell” to my parents’ and my aunt’s ashes on an island in Penobscot Bay, Maine and as I journeyed west to revisit places I had traveled and people I knew when I was growing up on the Pacific Ocean. Such currency of Relationship flows directly into Wellness, too, as the Currencies are inseparable but supplement and complement each other, each building on the other.
One relationship renewed in a trip to New York City, in a weekend spent with an elderly first-cousin-once-removed, my father’s cousin, also opened some painful but Holy Currency of Truth long held back, as she revealed her parents’ severe alcoholism and her father’s physical and sexual abuse of her and her two sisters when they were girls – truth that I didn’t want to have to hear, but which explained much in my father’s family dynamics. Painful as that history was, the Wellness that resulted from our sharing the story in common, no longer “keeping secrets,” but grounding ourselves in reality and not some mythic construction of family harmony, and upholding one another’s learning and growth beyond that pain, was profound.
My summer also held much other Holy Currency of Truth, not least in my continuing education workshop in Los Angeles on the Holy Currencies with the Rev. Dr. Eric Law, continuing work I’ve been engaged in since Edwin Johnson first joined us in 2010 and we attended our first-ever Holy Currencies workshop at the Trinity Conference Center as part of our mentoring work together. It is important for me be reminded regularly of the fruitfulness that results in a congregation when ALL the Currencies are attended to and sustained, each enhancing the other, and none neglected. That reminder to keep ALL the currencies on my horizon and flowing is part of my cultivation of the Holy Currency of Gracious Leadership here at St. James’s, my OWN! In particular, it was good to be reminded of the importance of cultivating a Currency of Relationship that strategically and committedly welcomes all voices in a congregation or any community, so that it flows directly into the Currency of Truth that helps us learn things, important things, we will miss if some voices are privileged over others, and that helps us hold each other accountable as Jesus counsels accountability in the Gospel of Matthew for today. If we learned nothing else from the rioting in Ferguson MO this summer in the wake of the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager, we learned that Currency of Relationship and Truth are essential to build the bonds of trust that make our communities work. In the Holy Currencies workshop, I was renewed in my commitment to our Anti-Oppression work, here at St. James’s: work that enhances both Currency of Relationship and Currency of Truth in a way that offers promise for a Currency of Wellness in VERY short supply in our society and our world as whole. So, too, do the ongoing work of the Prison Ministry and Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, as well as the Food Pantry, Women’s Meal and the Outdoor Church: all ways in which we cultivate relationship and hear voices and concerns that too often lie unattended to, beneath our social radar.
As I say, the Holy Currencies workshop was an important investment on my own Currency of Gracious Leadership, and summer is also a time to cultivate the Holy Currency of Gracious Leadership of many of YOU in our congregation, first and foremost by letting our Officers & Vestry take a month off in August from the press of work they attend to the rest of the year – Currency of Wellness flowing into Currency of Gracious Leadership, as they MUST flow together or leadership becomes impossibly burdensome! Also summer is the time that we set goals for staff for the coming year in our staff evaluation process – again, Currency of Gracious Leadership - so that we can stay focused on the welfare of the whole Body of the congregation the rest of the year.
And while that work continued in summer, so did the work of the Sound & Light Committee, an ad hoc group working to smooth out some of the most immediate problems we have with our lighting and our microphones here in the church – enhancing the Holy Currency of Place in a way that we hope will impact our worship weekly. And the work of the Redevelopment Committee and Property Committee rolled forward as ever, laying the groundwork for us to be ready for start building as soon as the courts dismiss the latest attempt by a few neighbors to hold up the construction process, creating a stoppage in the flow of our Currency of Place that impacts so much in our life together as a community, only proving again how important the Holy Currency of Place is - the currency of kitchen & garden, nursery & classroom, space for feasts and bible studies and ministry to the needs of the community - for the flow of our other currencies.
The church school takes a break in the summer, as do most of the adult formation programs, but that didn’t prevent the teaching staff from devoting the Holy Currency of Time to polishing up their Currency of Gracious Leadership for the coming season of teaching and learning. At the Celebrations today, we’ll be commissioning all the teachers for their Gracious Leadership in the church school season ahead, and commissioning all our students who will be dedicating important Currency of Time to attending church school regularly (and whose parents will likewise be devoting Currency of Time to bringing them for church school regularly!) so that their spirits can be informed and strengthened and their Currency of Relationship with each other and with Jesus Christ solidly established. Other groups that devote a great deal of Currency of Time to enhancing our worship – and therefore our Currency of Wellness! – are the Choirs: the Adult Choir, the Greenleaf and Gospel Schola choirs, the Men’s Choir. We’ll be commissioning THEM NEXT Sunday!
And the Sunday after that, we hope to commission our Nominating Committee to expand afresh their own Currency of Gracious Leadership, raising up candidates for leadership on our Vestry and as representatives at Deanery and Diocese, for the January Annual Meeting Election.
Now that the fall season is here and the pace of our life together as a congregation is picking up, the last of the Holy Currencies - the one that usually commands the most attention! – also moves to the front burner: the Currency of Money! When we commission the Nominating Committee, it’s our intention also to commission a new Currency of Money Committee specifically convened to lead us in the fall pledge campaign, soliciting all of us to commit to support our missional ministry with sustainable funds. This summer, our Currency of Money has been a bit of a sluggish stream, as we’ve all been off and away at one time or another. In 2013, we stretched a long way to afford our wonderful Associate Rector for Church School & Family Ministry and we can’t let the Currency of Money become a brackish backwater if we want to keep the immense grace of Judith’s ministry flowing into an increase of ALL the Holy Currencies here at St. James’s, as it has over her wonderfully productive year with us!
We also plan on the last Sunday of September, September 28th, to celebrate with loud HUZZAH’S and ALLELUIA’s the completion of our “Growing Together, Building in Faith” building fund to furnish and fit-out the new Parish House when it is built. Many of those who pledged in the campaign three years ago have now paid their complete pledge, and some have even paid BEYOND their pledge, while a number of you who weren’t here to pledge in the campaign have nevertheless given generously toward it even without a pledge. That meant we could afford already to accomplish our wonderful – and desperately needed! – repairs to the historic slate roof on the church! Some of us still have money owing on our building fund pledges. If that is you, we hope you may be able to progress toward completion in time for the Campaign Completion celebration that Sunday.
Because the Currency of Money really only flows richly in a congregation when all the OTHER Holy Currencies are flowing well, the Vestry plans to accompany the celebration of the completion of the Building Together Fund with a Holy Currencies Ministries Fair. Gracious Leaders from all our many, many initiatives at St. James’s - in social justice ministry and Missions work, in Christian formation, in pastoral care, in vibrant worship – will be present and ready to tell you about their particular call to ministry, whether planning for our new Parish House, or leading bible study or visiting prisoners or marching in the People’s Climate March in New York, or putting worship together at St. James’s or participating in the advocacy work of GBIO or stocking the Helping Hand Food Pantry or taking communion to the ill and shut-in, all part of the flow of Holy Currencies that animates our congregation and streams out to help transform the world.
The softer, gentler pace of summer is behind us and as the air turns crisp, the flow of Holy Currencies quickens. As Paul tells the Romans, “You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light! And let us, through ALL the Holy Currencies, open up the “grace margin” to love one another, which is the aim and fulfillment of all our activities as a congregation, of God’s law itself. AMEN.