St. Mark's Episcopal Church

124 North Sylvia Street - Montesano, WA, 98563

Epiphany IV Sermon 2015

This in from King 5 Sports--The Seahawks may have a little extra help on their side.  “A group of nuns called the "Seahawks Sisters" are crossing their fingers that the Hawks win this weekend. They're also saying a little prayer.  To help get into the Super Bowl spirit the sisters made a big display of their twelfie signs.  "They're such wonderful, wonderful men. Such integrity and excitement and skills - they're wonderful.  We love them!" retired nun Alexis Melancon said.  The "Seahawks Sisters" are all retired nuns who live at Providence Saint Joseph in West Seattle.  The sisters never forget to wear blue and green to support their team.
Ok, so it is SUPER BOWL SUNDAY!!  Bonnie and I were at a celebration of new ministry for the Rev. Drew Foisie at St. Aidan’s, Camano Island last Thursday, and the Rev. Nigel Taber-Hamilton, St. Augustine’s, Freeland was there too—dressed in his Seahawks colors!  I asked him if that was his worship service attire for this Sunday.  He said no, but the altar guild had discussed making him some Seahawks vestments--without getting it done in time.  The preacher for the service, the Rev. Bob Randall from Old Donation Episcopal church in Virginia, constantly brought up to the partisan Seahawk audience at the service his amazement at the enthusiasm and dedication of the Seahawk 12s, while also talking about his recent associate priest, Drew.  (He did bring up his support of Peyton Manning at last year’s Super Bowl, but said that did not work out so well, and maybe he should get on board with the 12s.  More on that later!)
To today’s readings—I was not excited by any of them!  But, there is a kernel of a message in today’s Gospel I will mention.  It is that Jesus astounded his disciples and everyone else by his confident and forceful teaching and healing with authority, to lead others to follow him and do likewise.
Bonnie and I on our recent vacation to California and Arizona attended and visited a few churches along the way.  I am going to tell you a little bit about each one and how they relates to this message.
Our first church visited was St. Andrew’s in Sedona, AZ.  We found the 70 or so people there at the worship service to be really friendly.  I felt they were not into the service as far as singing (they had a choir of 8 who seemed to do most of the singing), until they sung together the Lord’s Prayer, while holding hands.  We were there for Jesus’ baptism Sunday, but there was no renewing of Baptismal vows or aspersing, which confused us.  One announcement made was that their normal Monday evening weekly community meal was not covered by the group from another church that was supposed to provide it, so they needed lots of help to put this on.  We told them we could help—and did!  They put Bonnie and I at the front of the serving line, me serving lasagna and Bonnie serving mac & cheese.  Most of the people who received food were elderly or needy, and they really appreciated getting this meal and a few other food items made available by the church.  This church is very dedicated to this community ministry.
Our next church visited was Faith Church in Laguna Niguel, CA.  The church is part of a business park, and was a little hard to find.  But the inside was very nicely decorated to feel like a church space.  The new vicar there is a friend of ours, Rev. JR Lander, who served in our Diocese until recently at St. Columba, Kent.  This was only his second week there, and he has been placed in this church by the Diocese of Los Angeles (with some grant funds) to build it up in an area with lots of young people and a fairly well off community.  JR was very enthusiastic about his call here, and was working at getting his people there to see the same commitment toward the church and its growth in that community.  JR had a young girl, maybe 12, who is an acolyte, also serve the bread with his supervision.  We were well received there, but stayed only for the fellowship time, as they were having a fairly serious finances meeting after.
We also met with another priest friend we knew, and were shown her church near the Carlsbad area where we were staying that week.  Rev. Brenda Sol, who as a seminarian had come with the Rev. Janet Campbell to visit St. Mark’s and look at our worship space back in 2010, was ordained in 2012 and had ended up as the rector of St. Andrew’s, Encinitas in early 2014.  This is her first church to lead and it is a large one, with a budget of over $500k and over 200 worshippers on Sunday.  But she said the church people think they are a small church, because they were once a larger church.  Yet, they have 17 12 step groups using their facility, a large weekly food bank program, a preschool, and lots of other ongoing community events.  She said she is also a teacher in her congregation, for things like not filling the large marble font (which has no water in it) with poinsettias on Christmas Eve.  Their church, though, is a healthy one which is being asked to help others near them decide how they all can do mission in their area north of San Diego.
Our last visit was on our way home last Sunday, at Ascension in Riddle, OR.  This very small church has a lot in common with our own St. Mark’s.  It is in a small logging town, it is around 100 years old, is very small, with 11 for worship (including us) that Sunday, and it had a link as to why we sought this church out.  Their priest, Rev. Robert Lonergan, and his wife had visited St. Mark’s about 3 years ago while they were visiting his 100 yr old father who was living at the time in the apartments across the street from St. John’s Catholic church.  Their service was interesting in that the worship space had 7 rows of pews and everyone sat in the back two rows, leaving the priest up in the altar area away from them by himself.  We came in just as the first hymn was being sung and sat in the row ahead of them.  At the end of the service when they did announcements, one person said she had something that had nothing to do with church—she had lots of clothes and would be providing them to anyone who needed them for free, and asked others if they knew people who could use them.  Bonnie told me then (and this person after the service), that what she brought up had everything to do with church and doing God’s work.  This little church does have a preschool, and does other community work.
What do all of these churches have to do with our Gospel message?  I think we see God working in each one of them, almost all of them in a different place in their collective journeys of faith.  There are struggles with each one, yet there are also leaders who are challenging them to new work and new opportunities for growth in their communities.  This is just as it is here at St. Mark’s—we continually have new challenges and also opportunities, and we also have among us leaders (all of us!) who challenge each other to do ministry for God.
To finish up, our preacher the other night, Rev. Randall, brought up this great metaphor to think about.  I was going to paraphrase it, but I decided to actually read it. 
He said, “I’ve been thinking about the 12th man.  It has positively captured this state.  Of course, 12 is a significant number for Christians.  Jesus sends out the 12, and commissions the 12 to do his work.
At Virginia Theological Seminary, a huge stained formed the wall over the reredos of the chapel, that Drew and I saw every day at worship for 3 years.  It depicted the Ascension—and there was always a trick question for first year students.  Jesus hovers over the disciples, commissioning them to “Go out into all the world, baptizing and making disciples…”, but there are only disciples in the glass.  Who is missing?
The first answer is easy—we all could answer Judas, he is dead and gone.  But that leaves 11.  Seminary humor being what it is—gave an answer: the 11th isn’t in the scene because someone had to take the picture!
Remember that in Acts, the next scene is the election of Matthias as the 12th Man.  He represents each one of us—men and women who become the 12th disciple—to go out into the world. 
Maybe if we could somehow capture the same Passion and Energy we have in the 12th Man Seahawks movement—and focus it on each of us being 12th Christians??  Could we change the state—and maybe the world—the way Washington has been captivated?
Want to be the 12th Christian?  I’M IN!  Are you??”

Related Information