St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Pentecost 22 Sermon 2014
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Jim Campbell

In working on our sermons each week, we preachers are highly encouraged to use the Gospel reading as our basis for their teaching, as it usually contains the words of Jesus Christ—a central figure in our Christian faith.  So, I will do that first today, and then move to telling you about some related things that happened at our Diocesan Convention this weekend  and how they affect each of our own faith experiences and our lives together as a church working in Montesano and beyond.
 
Gospel implies “Good News!”, and today one might wonder what good news there is in our reading of the Parable of the Ten Virgins.  Well, one way to think about this tough and confusing parable is that it is one of the last ones we have to endure in our Gospels this Pentecost season.  Next week there is one more, the Parable of the Talents, and that is it!
 
Some themes about this Gospel that came from our Bible study this week:  “Live as if this were your last day.  Live as if you are expecting Jesus to return at any time.  Keep awake—be prepared!  But also, go about the business of making the world a better place.  Seize the moment!”
 
Canon for Stewardship Lance Ousley, as usual, looks at this Gospel as a stewardship opportunity.  He says that, “Readiness is stewardship of the faith we proclaim.  Readiness is not something that happens in a moment; it is developed through process and dedication. And readiness is not a destination; it is a constant state of practice. Likewise, stewardship is a constant practice of dedicating oneself to God and God's kingdom. Stewardship is not a destination, it is a way of life that makes us ready to receive God into our midst at any time.  God's kingdom is always near and we must be ready to receive its presence into our midst at all times.  This readiness comes through constantly stewarding our faith, keeping the lamp of our faith shining and filled with acts of God's love in the world. The wise bridesmaids were willing to invest their time and resources to makes sure they were ready with the lamp of their lives to receive the Bridegroom.  The foolish bridesmaids had not filled the lamp of their lives with the fuel of faithfulness to God and in the darkness were unrecognizable to the Bridegroom.  The reality is that the foolish bridesmaids were missing out on recognizing the presence of Bridegroom in their lives through their unwillingness or neglect to steward their faith with integrity.  Who knows what we miss when our lamps of faith are not shining?”
 
 
This year’s theme for Convention was, “So That All Might See Jesus”.  The Convention liturgies booklet has as its cover as icon from an unknown Ethiopian artist showing Jesus healing the blind man.  And everything that happened at Convention weaved in this theme. 
 
  1. On Friday before the main Convention, there were 5 “Outreach Experiences” available for people to attend, including:
    • St. Matthew/San Mateo Jubilee Center in Auburn—working for justice for the undocumented immigrants coming from Central America
    • Northwest Harvest—feeding the hungry all over the state of Washington
    • Mission to Seafarers-an expanding ministry helping those who work on the ships coming into the ports of Seattle (and soon also for those who come to the port in Grays Harbor
    • Babies in Need—a ministry of All Saints, Vancouver; and finally (and not least at all!)
    • Chaplains on the Harbor, Rev. Sarah Monroe’s ministry to those on the streets in Aberdeen and growing to Westport over the next few months.   These are all ways for those who experienced this, and those who receive these ministries to see Jesus.
  2. Rev. Sarah Monroe actually was able to present details about her ministry at the main Convention to 600 people with a video and talk—we were so proud of her!  And, Chaplains on the Harbor was recognized as a mission station of our Diocese by Bishop Rickel.  Clearly, a ministry to bring Jesus to a hurting people. (Oh, and I want to mention Sue Rolfe, Gail’s daughter, who has done a lot to help Sarah prepare for her convention presentations and outreach experience meetings, and support her in organizing her ministry with brochures and displays and other ways I cannot even know.)
  3. A presentation of the troubled area of South Sudan, and a new ministry to bring sports, soccer for boys and volleyball for girls, to heal wounds of the various tribes fighting there.
  4. A presentation by the new Canon for Veteran Affairs, the Rev. Mike Morrissey, who passionately told his own story of him and his wife’s challenges after serving in Vietnam and the Gulf War.  He explained how we can begin helping get many of the veterans we know and their families aid from the government in ways unknown to them at this time.
  5. Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD), celebrating its 75 year of service in the world.  A goal of raising $2.5M in the next year to continue its work ($150K in our Diocese!).   In so many ways, helping the world to see Jesus in troubled times!
 
The group, Outside Church Walls, that Sarah Monroe and I have served on the past two year for the Diocese, presented a concept at Convention for all to think about, and which ties well into the theme of convention.   We brought up the idea of WHY!  Why are we here? Why are we Christians?  Why do we do what we do as Christians?  Each of us took about 30 seconds to say why we are Christians to the Convention.  Mine was along the lines of: “Having a faith belief in the Trinity of God gives me hope for a future existence after this life on Earth—otherwise there is no hope.  And…Jesus Christ showed us all how to live here on Earth, to make this place God’s kingdom right now.”  These short messages focus us on why we are who we are as Christians—not the How we do it or What to do.  Why is needed before we can work on the Hows or Whats.  And a clear general Why for all of us is “So That All Might See Jesus!”
 
A new short time group formed by Standing Committee (that Sarah and I are blessed to be part of!) and presented at Convention is the Mutual Ministry Task Force.  Our role is to focus all of the surveys and other data gathering the past couple of years by the Diocese and turn it all into a new Vision and Strategic Mission for all of us in the coming years ahead.  The idea is that in having such a document we can rally around it with Diocesan and local resources ($$ and people) with solid intent to carry out our own personal and corporate Whys and to allow all to see Jesus in our communities.
 
To close I’d like to have Lorraine play (and us to sing) a short song we used to close the convention, which gets right to the heart of the theme of Convention.  It’s called The Face of Christ, and was written by the Convention music leader, Susan Bloomfield.
 
AMEN!!

 
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