Saturday, November 9, 2019

Year C Proper 26 SAT 2019 St David's Aylett 160th Anniversary A New Thing

Year C Proper 26 SATURDAY
160th Anniversary Celebration for St. David’s, Aylett, VA
“A New Thing”

Isaiah 43:14-21
Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
For your sake I will send to Babylon
   and break down all the bars,
   and the shouting of the Chaldeans will be turned to lamentation.
I am the Lord, your Holy One,
   the Creator of Israel, your King.
Thus says the Lord,
   who makes a way in the sea,
   a path in the mighty waters,
who brings out chariot and horse,
   army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
   they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
Do not remember the former things,
   or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
   now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
   and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honour me,
   the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
   rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
   the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.

Matthew 21:12-16
Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, ‘It is written,
“My house shall be called a house of prayer”;
   but you are making it a den of robbers.’
The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’, they became angry and said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read,
“Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies
   you have prepared praise for yourself”?’

To quote the Apostle Paul, I share with you from Philippians 1 (vv. 3-5):
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 
I can honestly say, that St. David’s was a lifesaver for me and my family when we had little hope, and the light at the end of the tunnel seemed to be more of an oncoming train. Having been laid off from my parish, and then laid off again during my times with you, it was hard for me to consider what God might hold for us in the days to come.

Since then, all our lives have changed. Father Gustavo is with you. I am now the Rector at St. James the Less, and our Celebration of New Ministry is this Wednesday night at 7 p.m. if you you are up to coming all the way to Ashland. God had plans for us we knew nothing about. Thanks be to God.

God will not be mocked. And Jesus will be lifted up. Our Gospel reminds us of that. God wants his temples to be Houses of Prayer, a place to connect with the Eternal in our limited capacity. And even more, it is a place where we praise the name of Jesus like the infants that came to him. In fact, as we lift up the name of Jesus, and more and more open ourselves to prayer, God can do mighty things. If there are any words I can leave with you today, or with any parish any day, it would be to be a House of Prayer and Lift High the Name of Jesus.

Think of how audacious a thing prayer is. We presume first off that there is a God. For many that is a point of contention, and even more a point of ridicule. As St. Paul said, “we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”

Then we have the audacity to think that God not only hears us, but that God wants to hear from us. And then we stretch the audacity to the point of the absurd (to many) that God wants what is best for us. As the Prophet Jeremiah reminded God’s People: 
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Friends, that is our faith. That is our only hope. And how do we have this Audacity? Because the God who was with us in the beginning, has been with us all along the way; God is the one who will be with us in the end. God, the same Yesterday, Today, and Forever. And when we look at our past, God is there. When we look at our Now, no matter how dark the day, God is here. But God is not the God of Yesterday, nor the God of the Now. God is the God of  Yesterday, Now and Forever. No matter where or WHEN we go, God is already there. How can we not have Hope?

We come today in celebration of the work of God here at St. David’s Aylett for one-hundred-sixty years. And yet what is so long to us is a blink of the Almighty Eye of God. Hold on to that. God is the God of your Future as much as God has been with you in this one-hundred-sixty year long Blink of an Eye.

Friends, know that we have a limited capacity, and that can be a help. Often if we knew where the Hand of God was leading we might be scared or run away like Jonah who thought he could escape God. But God lets us know one step at a time. And what seems like a failure or tragedy God can use to transform us to who God would have us to be and enable us to do what God would have us do. In the Economy of the Kingdom NOTHING IS EVER WASTED.  

Picture this: In Spotsylvania County, near Penney’s Crossroads, Area Code 22534, the Ma River springs up out of the earth. Passing near Thornburg, then Bowling Green and Milford, it flows. Joining with its sisters, the Ta, Po, and Ni Rivers the Mattaponi is formed, winding and running its course until it flows to behind us right here in Aylett. The Mattaponi joins the Pamunkey in West Point birthing the mighty York where the monumental battle at Yorktown was won by blockading the reinforcements of Lord Cornwallis, birthing this mighty nation we love. The York flows into the Hampton Roads. Joining with so many waters creating one of the great bodies of water giving life and beauty, the Chesapeake Bay. And the Chesapeake connects Baltimore, Washington, D.C. with us here today. And the Chesapeake flows into the Atlantic, and the Atlantic connects us with the rest of the world. Never forget that. And that my friends is why what you do here is so important.

What happens in Aylett at St. David’s connects you to the rest of the world. St. David’s connects with its Region, which connects it to the Diocese, which connects it to the Episcopal Church, which connects it to the catholic [universal] church which connects us with the rest of the world. You are the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement in Aylett and King William County. Through you, lives are touched and changed. People are loved with the love of God through your work and your words. Your mission here creates ripples which flow through those connections and touch all of the world.

As the prophet Isaiah spoke, I repeat today: 

Do not remember the former things,   or consider the things of old.I am about to do a new thing;   now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?I will make a way in the wilderness   and rivers in the desert.

The death of any organization, especially the local parish of the Church, happens when someone convinces it that its best days are behind it. When we sit in the dark, our eyes get used to the dark. We only perceive darkness. But slowly, as the dawn is coming, we begin to see more, colors begin to emerge from the black and grey we have seen for so long. We may forget the dawn. But it is coming. If God can make a way in the desert, if God can sprout a river in the desert (or Penney’s Crossroads for that matter), if God can save your church from the outrages of the Civil War, what is God dreaming up for St. David’s Aylett tomorrow? Most organizations do not last past the generation that founded it. You have already done that 8 times over, so it begs the question. What is God dreaming up for you all to do? Where is God leading you? What glory to God can be made by your faith, by your hard work, by your love of God and neighbor?

I am about to do a new thing;   now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

Brothers and Sisters, as you live into that question, you will show your faith and trust in the Living God. God’s blessings be with you all, now and always! Amen

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Blessings, Rock