Saturday, November 26, 2005

Sermon for the Sunday after All Saint's Day, November 6, 2005

In the name of the God the Creator, Jesus the Liberator, and the Holy Spirit the Sustainer. AMEN.

Over the next few months you will hear me speaking a lot about the three G’s: gratitude, grace and generosity. I learned the three G’s from a wonderful priest when I was back in Florida for Credo. I think they capture what I have been trying to express for the five and a half years that I have been here at St. Peter’s.

I’m currently on an unpaid leave from my job at the prison until November 11th. This is as a result of contracting issues that were only resolved last week. During the past month I have been dealing with this situation. I have been struggling with living out the three G’s in the face of what really is a rather minor inconvenience compared to what so much of the world is going though. I was worried about how I would pay the bills if I lost the job. I struggled with the Biblical injunction about trusting in God for all my needs. Of course when it all worked out it was easy to return to normal.

But then I read the beatitudes. Talking about all the blessings there are in faith. It is very appropriate that we read that passage on this particular day. During the processional hymn we read the names of the dead to remember and honor them. But the reading of their names serves another purpose. We are reminded that the church is more than just us sitting here in the pews today. The church does consist partly of us here today. But it consists of much more. It also consists of those who have gone before us. Those named and unnamed who have served God in their own times and have now gone on to their reward. In this list we hear the names of the poor in spirit, the meek, those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted.

Hearing all these names, just a taste of all those in the church triumphant, we see indeed how blessed we are. In this list are loved ones. In this list are some who kept St. Peter’s going for decades. They kept St. Peter’s going as priests came and went. They made sure that the doors were opened every Sunday. Names like Mary Elizabeth, Elsie, and Amy. Names that will never appear on the church calendar. Names that will disappear to history when all of us who have known them are no longer around. But they are every bit as important to us as all those strange names on our calendar. In fact, they mean more to us. We knew them. We loved them. We lived with them.

These are people who in my experience demonstrated gratitude, grace, and generosity in all they did for St. Peter’s. And the truth of the matter is that it is no different today. Today our pews are likewise filled with people who continue to toil in the same way that we have for 100 years at St. Peter’s.

I have an abiding sense of gratitude when I look out and see our pews filled more than they have been for many, many years. I am filled with gratitude to see a choir, something St. Peter’s has been missing for decades I think. I am excited, overjoyed and grateful when I look at our budget and compare it to the one we had just five years ago. This growth is an expression of all three of the G’s. The grace of God blessing us with growth and our gratitude, expressed through so many ways, one of which is generosity. Our food basket continues to help feed the hungry of the community. I am blessed every time I empty it. We share our grace, gratitude and generosity with so many people, many of whom we will never know.

The Gospel today talks about all the blessings available from God. In my own life, I want to start focusing on those. It is so easy to allow the troubles and difficulties of life to drown out the gratitude, grace and generosity we experience in our life. It is important that each of us intentionally focus on them. As we do, we will find ourselves drawn closer to God and closer to ministry in serving God. Another Church year starts at the end of November. Another Church budget starts in January. Another stewardship campaign will be starting before you know it. In all of this let us all commit ourselves to living out the three G’s of gratitude, grace and generosity every day.

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