Rector's Rhetoric - May 2015
Preachers often speak of the reality of “celebrating joy in the midst of pain.” St. Paul knew something about that. As I‘ve observed the world over the last few weeks, it’s sometimes difficult to find any light in the midst of so much darkness—Christians slaughtered at the hands of ISIS, the staggering loss of life in Nepal, rioting in Baltimore, the continuing water crisis in several states . . . and yet there is light, there is reason to celebrate, there is, as Qoheleth the philosopher would have us know, a time for every purpose under heaven. The time for joyful celebration (if that’s not already a way of life for you) comes in just a few weeks at St. Luke’s as we celebrate one hundred years of faithful ministry in the Ada community and beyond.
I’ve been re-reading Ann George’s “little red book” on the history of our parish and continue to be astonished at the passion, hard work, and determination that was necessary to make St. Luke’s a reality. Our founding Mothers and Fathers really believed in what they were doing, that the Episcopal Church, among the many other Christian denominations represented in Ada, was worth every sacrifice, every activity, every luncheon, bazaar, musical, or candy sale necessary to bring it about. The old adage, “nothing worth doing is ever easy” was a maxim that this fledgling congregation would live by. Even after an initial piece of property had been purchased, a building raised, and a priest called, there were the typical power struggles and church squabbles. The church survived two world wars, an influenza epidemic, two prayer book revisions, the stock market crash, the dust bowl, the tumultuous sixties, and two smaller but no less deadly and painful wars in Asia. Until John Ashby’s time, no minister ever lasted more than five or six years.
But for the congregation to not only have survived but to have thrived in their lean and dark days as well as their better ones, there must have been joy, the presence of our Lord guiding the hearts and minds of those faithful souls as they sought to know Christ and to make Christ known. They were given what they needed most—a Risen Lord and the willingness to follow him. Did they carry out this mission perfectly? No, they did not. Did they carry it out effectively? Yes, they did. And we are the inheritors of those graces wrought by their faithful, sacrificial giving.
One of the questions that will be addressed to some of our members in a video that we’re producing is, “What would you like for St. Luke’s members in 2115 to know about us?” My own answer would be that we were a people known for our joy. That in everything we did, no matter the circumstances,—carrying out the activities of feeding people, or worshiping together, or raising our families, or just spending time with one another—our greatest and best gift offered, the thing we were most known for was that of joyful celebration. What could be more effectively sacramental? What has the power to change the world? I don’t have a clue as to what the Church or our society will look like in 2115, but when I think of what has been accomplished in the last century, I am hopeful.
I’m looking forward to what our Centennial Committee has planned in June and I hope you will too. It’s our opportunity to lift up all that has happened in the last century and give thanks for it, all of it. It is our opportunity to look forward and imagine what the Church can be in another hundred years. Come be a part of the celebration. Be a people known for joy.