This is the sermon the Rev. Karen Calafat preached at the online worship service for the Third Sunday in Easter. This is the last Sunday St. Luke’s will be in their building.
“Oh, that we might see better times!” I think that line from the Psalmist was meant just for us, for our tenacious little diocese and its faithful parishes. “Oh, that we might see better times” – from the words of the Psalmist, through our lips to God’s ears. “Oh, that we might see better times!”
It has been a rough couple of months for the Episcopal Church in North Texas. Actually, it has been a longer rough season than that as you stood up for your faith over 12 years ago, vowing to love as Jesus loved, respecting the dignity of every human being and striving for justice for all God’s children. Your convictions lead you to love and welcome all. You treat women equally and support God’s divine call of women to all orders of ordained ministry. You throw open your arms to God’s children in the LGBTQ community. You feed those who hunger. You love as Jesus loved. You welcome to dine at your table people that society and even some churches put on the fringes. You are beautiful in the expanse of your love.
In this diocese, that kind of love has come at a large cost as we lose 5 of our beloved, beautiful and sacred church buildings and grounds to people who do not love as you do. We must leave these holy places where, in love, you have baptized babies, confirmed youth and adults, ordained women and LGBTQ folks to the priesthood, married your beloved, given your children in marriage and returned to God’s care and keeping the dearly departed. We lose sacred altars where we are invited by our very Christ to break bread in Christ’s name and dine with whoever happens to be at our side, because that is what Jesus invites us to do. Indeed, it is what Jesus commands us to do. Love. Love God, love your neighbor, even those you don’t like very much.
You will come to this altar today (or join us spiritually at the altar if you are worshiping virtually). You will come to receive spiritual food to sustain you on the journey. For many of you, this will be the last time at your parish altar. This is hard. This is unfair and unjust. This hurts.
Jesus knows something about the hurt you are experiencing. Jesus knows how you are suffering. Jesus, too, was persecuted for the way he loved. He suffered at the hands of those who judged him for welcoming the outsider and dining with sinners. Jesus suffered even unto death for the sake of love.
We suffer a similar death today – the death of our sacred church homes. It is painful. It is sad. It hurts. In some ways it is like a funeral. When someone dies, we think about what they meant in our lives, remembering joys shared and challenges endured with them. We celebrate the life lost, treasure memories made and release them to God’s eternal care.
I wonder if we might use the funeral model for our church buildings today, remembering joys shared and challenges endured in these places. Look around you at the beauty of the stained-glass windows, recall baptisms and weddings, think of the countless saints commended to God’s care in this place. Remember the times you have been fed at this altar – times where you were struggling and especially needed that sustenance for the days and weeks ahead, times where your heart was troubled and you came to the table with Jesus, seeking peace. Recall times you came in grief or joy or simply as a matter of routine, a discipline of your faith.
We not only carry our memories with us when we leave a funeral, but the impact a loved one or friend has had on our lives. We carry whatever our hearts and minds contain, but we also live our lives differently because of the experiences we have had. We will do the same as we leave these buildings and other sacred spaces across the diocese today. We will take not only our memories and as much courage as we can muster to move on, but also the transformation that has happened in our lives over the past 12 years of litigation. I have seen the transformation in our parishes and in the diocese. You have learned who you are as church – that you, the people are the church. You have learned to love more deeply, give of yourselves more freely, take leaps of faith with less fear. Your determination to carry on and let the light of Christ shine through you to your neighbors is an inspiration to me and to many who watch you in action, living out the call of Jesus to “love.”
Before we gather around Jesus’ table, I encourage you to remember. Remember your days and years and for some of you, many years in these places. Feel whatever feelings surface, whether a doubtful heart, a troubled mind, a flash of anger or a downright flood of righteous indignation. Feel your sadness. Feel your pain.
Jesus suffered for love’s sake. Jesus dined with the disciples who were confused and disillusioned and scared. Jesus suffered deeply, even unto death. But Jesus did not stay dead — on the 3rd day, Jesus was resurrected.
On the 3rd day. We will have our 3rd day!
In the 1st letter of John we hear, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.” Our parishes will be resurrected and granted new life – for most of us, the shape that will take has not yet been revealed. We are ‘beloved children of God and God’s plan for us will be revealed. Episcopalians in North Texas will be resurrected and granted new life, new direction, new mission and purpose. We will see better days. We are resurrection people who will continue The Way of Love right here in the communities of North Texas.
You are resurrection people! You love like Jesus loved. You are Christ’s light in this world. Boldly let your light shine and do not let anyone put it out!
Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” “Peace be with you.”
May you know the peace of Christ in these days of waiting and unknown.
May your faith be strengthened as we begin this journey to find our new promised land.
May you know not only ‘joy anyway,’ but joy always.
Remember, you are resurrection people! Out of this death, God will bring new life!
Alleluia, Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!
(Before you receive the Body of Christ, light a candle as a symbol of your offering to God of any thoughts or feelings that burden you. Light a candle as a symbol of what you want to leave behind as we move forward from these places today. For those of you worshiping from home, light a candle, write a note or simply open your hands in offering to God whatever is burdening your heart.)
(For St. Luke’s on Sunday: As a symbol of that, on your way out, you are invited to pass by the Paschal candle, light a candle of your own and take the light of Christ from this place into the communities where you live and move and have your being.)