Today’s sermon is focused on the activities of three people, and the ways they have operated their lives with God as their guiding light.
The first person is David, and we only get the almost finished glimpse of him becoming king in our reading from 2 Samuel 6. I’m adding a bit to this brief story in today’s reading because it is important to know where David came from to see how God affected everything about him.
David came from meager beginnings as a shepherd boy who was brought to the first king of Israel, Saul, by his father Jesse, and was recognized, singled-out to become a future king. We all know the story of small David and huge Goliath, and that finally David overcame the forces of king Saul himself to win his place as the one true king of all Israel. David was able to unite together all of the heads of the 12 tribes of Israel to be recognized as their one king, and to bring that power to a new city showing that power in Jerusalem. In all this David continued to recognize God as his light and strength to do great things.
The second “person” is Jesus himself. In our Gospel reading from Mark 6, it says that the newly formed group of disciples and Jesus came to Nazareth, his hometown, and he began to teach about God in the synagogue, and all were amazed. “Who is this, this meager son of a carpenter from our own town, who thinks he can heal people, and preach to us about God?” And they rejected him. So, showing them the wisdom and strength of God, he directed the disciples how to do their ministry—two by two in the towns nearby, bringing little with them, and trying to find those who would believe and offer hospitality as they cured people and taught about God. Don’t waste time with those who do not believe, and keep going as you see the path forward with God.
The third person is the Rev. Sarah Monroe. Once upon a time, 12 years ago today, July 4, 2009, Sarah first came to St. Mark’s to visit, and what a start of things to come. She believed she had a call to ministry as a priest in the Episcopal Church, talked with us all at the time about it, and quickly we agreed to work with her in discernment about this call. Just over a year later she was accepted as a postulate to Holy Orders and headed off to seminary in Boston, MA, with St. Mark’s supporting her by paying for her health insurance, and with individuals in the church community giving her other funds for travel and necessities. Our own thoughts at the time—hey, we, small St. Mark’s, get to actually support a young woman becoming a priest who will do good things somewhere else.
While there in seminary she began to focus her call to ministry to the homeless, participating in the ministry there on the streets of Boston. Her final year of seminary was back in Seattle, finishing online, while being placed at St. Paul’s, Seattle. Although interesting to her, and it was done toward her getting her own church to lead hopefully in this Diocese, she decided that was not her calling and she delayed one year her ordination and returned to Montesano, where she became their deacon at St. Andrew’s, Aberdeen, and was allowed to do what she really felt her call was driving her to—ministry to the homeless.
In Fall 2013, she took Jesus’ direction to heart and did what He said—go into the streets with little (a $500 grant), literally a backpack of small things for the homeless, and proceeded to talk with them, get to know them and to become friends and to develop meaningful relationships that would lead to great things later. In essence, this was the start of her Chaplains on the Harbor ministry. She was ordained at St. Andrew’s, Aberdeen in April 2014, and started to build up the ministry with support of some of their people, starting the weekly Sunday evening meals and the Wednesday lunches programs. She was also able to secure the former St. Christopher’s church building in Westport as a center for ministry there at the Diocesan Convention in late 2014. It opened in February 2015 and had been in operation since, open now 4 days/week and also has been a winter overnight shelter for the past few years, too.
Somewhere in this incredible scheme of ministry an apprenticeship concept came about--for those who had been homeless to have meaningful paid work to get back into “regular” society, and a farming operation began in 2018, which has resulted in the Diocesan-purchased 23 acre farm and office home just south of Montesano last year.
In all of this, the focus by Sarah has been how to minister, support, advocate, and build leaders among the poor here so they can get what they need. It has been and continues to be a really tough job so far, lots and lots of opposition from many in leadership in Aberdeen, but she continues to lead and push all around her in this ministry.
Our role here at St. Mark’s in the past 10 years or more is essentially based on her own call—what can we do to minister to the local homeless and their needs. (Montesano itself DOES have homeless or poor people; they are just hidden well mostly by necessity.) So, our focus has been in less direct ways and not so much “hands on”, but with funds we have based on our low expenses and generosity of our congregation’s pledges and donations. We give to the Montesano Food Bank, the Childrens Advocacy Center (whatever its name is now), the Montesano schools emergency fund, and other needs as we hear about them, including through our local Ministerial Association and our Clergy Discretionary fund.
In the larger scheme we give monthly a donation to Chaplains for their operations, plus provide one of the Sunday evening meals there for up to 200 people (pre-Covid), done by the Varnesses and Catons. And, our outreach has expanded to north Pacific County after Rev. Gretchen Gunderson joined us with a few of her former St. John’s friends for worship and leadership in 2018.
How do we keep this going? What is God calling us to do here now in our St. Mark’s community? Hopefully, post Covid, whenever that really is, we are able to use all our resources again, including our facility, to provide local support in new ways. All of you, please continue to listen for the voice of God, ask what you and all of us can do, and look for ways to keep doing what Jesus gave us as the example for how to minister in such really tough times for many in this country. AMEN