I don’t know about you, but in my life, I have met very few people who really put their money where their mouths are. Father Powell was one of those rare individuals for me.
Father Powell was one of three priests at All Saints of the Valley Episcopal Church in the Spokane Valley. He attended seminary at Nashotah House Theological Seminary, an Anglican Seminary, where he swore to a life of celibacy and poverty.
He served the Lord by faith and thanksgiving. His reaction to most situations, good or bad, was always, Praise the Lord, let’s pray about it.
He led his congregation in a true servant leadership model, never electing a vestry, instead pulling names out of hat and asking that person to serve, never running a pledge campaign, but always having faith that the Lord would provide, which he always did.
Father Powell was always blessed by people giving him a car to drive. Often, he would have 4 or 5 cars a year because he would give his car to someone who needed it. He was known to literally take the coat off his back in the middle of winter and give it to a stranger on the street.
His shoes had holes in the bottoms of them, despite the fact that people would give him new shoes and boots. And as you may have guessed by now, he would give the new shoes and boots away as well.
He housed the homeless and visited the shut ins, and he was a regular at the city and county jail and in court, begging for second chances.
He is the image I most relate to when I try to picture John the Baptist.
When I found out I was pregnant when I was 16, the first place my parents took me to was to see Father Powell in hopes that I would change my mind and have an abortion. The first words out of his Mouth was, Praise the Lord. and then he went on to assure me that my life wasn’t over, my journey just changed. He also went on to assure me that no matter what decision I made, the Episcopal church was my safe place and my stronghold.
Father Powell was the voice of strength and stood up in defense of so many in their times of greatest need. A young gay man who had been kicked out of his home. A schizophrenic unable to secure housing and employment. A young couple living out of their car. The shoplifter he met while making a jail visit. An elderly woman eating only cat food because she couldn’t afford to buy food and her meds. The lists go on and on.
He never asked for anything in return. He just served his Lord and did so relying simply on Faith that the Lord would provide.
Like John the Baptist, Father Powell lived his life serving God, baptising those who believed and wanted to be baptisted but for sure loving all those he met.
But there was a down side to his service….Those folks who disapproved of his unconditional acceptance. There were those in the congregation who threatened to leave the church if he didn’t change his ways. But he never weakened or gave him. He wasn’t there for a popularity contest, he was there to serve his Lord.
John the Baptist must have been quite the sight. He also must have been seen as quite controversial. His message was very clear and he wasn’t afraid that he might offend the Pharisees and the Sadducees. He got in their faces and just told them how it was. “Hey look you hypocrites…Just because you are related to a pretty awesome ancestor doesn’t mean that your way to salvation is paved.” The only way to Salvation is through the one of whom the Prophet Isaiah talked about…Jesus.
John chastized them yelling at them saying, Your Status isn’t gonna save you man, it’s how you live your life that seals the deal. If you all live all high and mighty, and don’t recognize that you are a sinner, you’re not gonna make it to heaven. Don’t think this is a joke, this is very real.
Father Powell used to say, we all need to be prayed up, packed up and ready to go because we never know when we will dead, and by then the choices will have been made.
John reminds us in our Gospel that Now is the time to decide how we are going to live our lives. Now is the time to bear good fruit.
My Grandmother would say, pee or get off the pot.
John asks us today: Is the fruit we bear plentiful and delicious? Or is it barren and dried up.
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Are you a Wheat or will you be the empty Chaff?