Gracious and Loving God, grant that the journeys on which we find ourselves may offer us all the wonders you hope for us. Bless us with true friends, neighbors and companions, with relationships founded in faith, love and justice. And grant that we in these relationships may serve your will on earth as in heaven. All this we pray in your most Holy name.
In our Scripture today we hear the story of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan by John and over the next few weeks in Epiphany, we’ll be hearing the stories of his journeys, the beginnings of the start of his ministry in the world, and his gathering of the disciples. What we will be hearing are stories of journeys in faith. Stories that call us to seek something beyond what simply exists before our eyes in this world. It’s a call for us to dig deeper and begin to un derstand what Jesus meant when he said to Nathaniel, “You will see greater things than these.”
There are parallel stories in the Bible, ones about people and places in literal history, and within that a deeper, spiritual level that reflects our own individual journeys. This makes the Bible a relevant guide for us today. In its literal sense there are contradictions, resulting in confusion and many times disagreements, but on the spiritual level, when we dig deeper and look harder, the contradictions begin to disappear. This journey is our spiritual development: our individual self-discovery of what gives our life meaning; what our purpose is, our use, our love; who we are and how we fit into God’s plan. God created us with freedom to choose, and to learn to make the choices that lead us to a heavenly life. He created us with free will so that we can fulfill his plan for us, and can choose to become his hands and feet in this world. And this journey God calls us on is not one we’re asked to travel alone.
For the past 8 years I’ve been on such a journey; one that culminated yesterday with my priesting at Trinity Copley and in my call to work as pastor, priest and teacher here in Stoughton, to proclaim by word and deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to love and serve the people among whom I work. This journey has been one that had its stages of contradictions and confusions, places where I’ve had to stop and reexamine and reflect. Moments where my call was questioned, and moments where I’ve had decisions to make. I’ve visited and worked in places that have helped form and inform me in more ways than I can remember, whether those places are are the parishes I’ve worked in, sacristies I’ve polished brass in, or barrio’s in the poorest parts of a foreign country. But the one commonality in all of these places was the fact that I knew I was never alone, that God was always there with me, and that I was always in the presence of others.
Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all on a journey in this life and for most of our journey, we are in relationship with other people. Sometimes we meet through brief encounters, sometimes for short periods of time in work together, and sometime we find life long companions. And on the simplest level, It’s my belief and my experience that people enter into your life to teach you something. In the more temporary times they may come and go, but they make a difference and you are left changed in some way! I have been incredibly blessed to have had an almost endless list of places where my encounters with people have formed and changed me. To learn and grow with the communities I’ve been part of over the past eight years, Trinity Melrose, Episcopal Divinity School, Saint John’s Bowdoin St, Emmanuel Wakefield. The list of parishes I’ve visited as Bishops chaplain, or worked with through the Saint Luke’s soup kitchen and the far flung parishes I’ve been in during medical mission trips; places where the people I encountered didn’t speak the same language as I did, but we still worked and grew together in faith, serving the least of these.
And now here….. Trinity Stoughton. I wish for a moment we could change places, so that you could see what I see from up here. While it may seem from where you sit you see all the action…. I assure you that I am the one witnessing something amazing; and what matters most is the work YOU are doing in the world and the relationships that you are all developing. The work which make an incredible difference in the world. I hope that as in our readings this morning, that God is well pleased with what is happening here at Trinity. Over the past few months, we’ve witnessed the energy of the Holy Spirit descending on us, energizing us, calling us, and reminding us of the call of our baptismal covenant; to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ – To seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourself – to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of all people.
In a very real way, “we ARE there,” witnessing the power of the Holy Spirit in our midst, just as those disciples experienced the Holy Spirit descending on them in their lives. The Holy Spirit reminds us again and again that we ARE God’s children and we have the same Holy Spirit the disciples received to live out our call to serve and to help and to heal. Our gospel messages aren’t about simply getting it right with Jesus in some private spiritual affair. Its about engagement: not only our faith and lives but the faith and lives of others, in every interaction, in every world and action spoken or unseen…. in every moment of our existence. Its an invitation and our call to be fully formed by God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. Your work here is clearly spelled out, and those at Trinity yesterday heard again the call: that “All baptized people are called to make Christ known as Savior and Lord, and to share in the renewing of his world. “
The theologian Walter Brueggemann once suggested that the greatest heresy in our time is the notion that it is possible to live an uncalled life, a life which has no reference point beyond itself, a life in which God would not choose to dwell. We are all called; called by God in many ways, to use the many gifts he blessed us with, to do more and to make a difference in the lives of others. To make the kingdom of heaven evident and visible here on earth. This call brings us all on a journey, whether we’re ready or not, so relish the moments in which you grace the life of another and always remember… it’s the journey we are on that is important not the destination. That’s already planned for us. Enjoy it while it lasts and have a little fun!