What a wonderful weekend we had at St. Nicholas. Our first “Open Sermon” was a joyful success. The fact is, we all have questions, inquiries and concerns regarding the nature of our church and why we do the things we do. This Open Sermon provided us all the opportunity to ask those questions that have weighed on our minds and hearts. What better place to ask a question about church and faith than in church, during our Liturgy where and when we are celebrating our faith? Exactly.
The questions covered plenty of topics. The size of heaven? Only God knows that though our faith assures us, and Jesus promised us there is a place for us all. Jesus said, “in my Father’s Kingdom there are many mansions.” (John 14:2) For me, I’ll always take Jesus at His word!
Salvation…how do we gain a share of Paradise? First, we must make that decision and choose to follow Christ; to lay aside the things of this world and focus on the true prize. Riches on earth fade and rust. Heaven is eternal. Jesus reminds us, “do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. For no one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 10: 6: 19-21, 24) Those who serve the Lord have great rewards that await them. St. Paul, in his second letter to his beloved Timothy, wrote “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4: 8) Being a good Christian is demanding and daunting. All that hard work, sacrifice and dedication however, will reward us with a share of Paradise, just as Jesus promised us.
What distinguishes us as Episcopalians? Another rather loaded question that has layers of responses and answers. First of all, we have our linage directly in and of the apostles who first brought the message of Christ to the world. There has always been a Church of England: once part of the Roman Catholic Church and now, a beautiful, historical and rich-in-tradition Church unto itself and of which we, as the Episcopal Church here in the United States are part. We believe in the full and glorious presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Communion. This particular point also brought to light the issue of Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation; a subject that is complicated and has personal overtones as varied as we are a community of diversity. We have seven sacraments; though we place a greater emphasis on the first two sacraments (Baptism and Holy Eucharist) as they are the two that Jesus instituted and commissioned Himself. And, as a Church, Episcopalians sing and take great pride in our rich, musical heritage. When we sing a hymn — whether one verse or ten — we sing ’em all and rightly so.
We talked about the Psalms and why during the year we sometimes sing and sometimes pray them. We touched on the subject of the various and unique Church seasons. There were questions about the various stations in the church; the altar at the Baptismal Font and at the Christus Rex statue. Do we fully immerse an individual at baptism and why is there Holy Water in two different places? Is it required of us to bow or genuflect as we approach the altar and from where and whence does this tradition come?
The questions were all over the place; varied and informal, specific and general. I couldn’t have asked for any better. Hopefully, as a community and individually, we all gained a better insight into what our Church, the greater Episcopal Community and our own church, St. Nicholas are about. What makes us ‘tick.’ I look forward to our next Open Sermon Weekend. Until then, we have much to look forward to. For any time we are afforded the gift of gathering as a community of faith, family and friends, we are truly blessed!
The next few weeks will provide us a unique opportunity to get engaged in the community is a rather specific and fun way. Our annual St. Nick’s Knacks Rummage Sale is fast approaching. Look about the Gathering Space, Noah’s Ark Space and the hallway near the bathrooms and you’ll see the start of something big about to happen. And our sale is BIG!
We need as many of us to get engaged: roll up our sleeves and get to sorting, organizing, pricing and selling. It’s a lot of work, my friends, I’ll kid you not. But, it is also a lot of fun!
While I’m away the week of August 2-9, all are more more than welcome to come on over, grab some stickers and start to price items. Lots of our items will be sold according to bulk pricing. Still, there is so much that has to be priced individually. Yet, before we can even price an item, everything has to be unpacked, unwrapped and placed where it belongs. Again my friends, there is much to do. We’ve done it before and we’ve come out on top. We’ll do it again and we shall be, God willing, just as successful and still have a fun time at it. The week of August 10th, right up to the opening of the sale on Friday, August 14th at 9am, again, all are welcomed and encouraged to come and help out getting our sale up, running and headed to the finish line where we shall find our desired success.
Community celebrates and worships together. Community mourns and rejoices together. Community plays and works together. So, as we go about the work of building God’s Kingdom here on earth; as we go about the work of bringing and sharing the Good News of Christ to others, let us be reminded that our efforts do not go unnoticed nor unrewarded. Remember the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3: 23-24) And may I add and conclude by saying, that truly it is the Lord for whom we toil and labor. But all of us, as sisters and brothers in Christ, benefit from the efforts we put forth, for one another and always for our Lord’s greater glory.