[RCL 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a, Luke 4:14-21; January 23, 2009.]
Thank you, Pastor Champion, for this honor.
Several questions came to mind as I prayed about being asked to preach the sermon today:
– How did I get here?
– Why me?
– Why did I connect with Pastor Champion?
– Why today?
– Why should I have the privilege of speaking to you on this Consecration Sunday?
I think I know the “Why”
– I AM BEING FILLED WITH GRACE – THE GRACE OF GOD
The first Reading of the scriptures from the Book of Ruth is so powerful, and awakens:
– Our awareness of Naomi’s strength
– Our acceptance of Ruth’s dedication, humble submission, and plowing ahead – not looking back
– Boaz’s attitude towards and advocacy for Ruth
Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz were filled with grace – the grace of God as was the widower in Mark who gave her only two coins to the treasury.
The first time I ever remember hearing about being filled with grace was when I learned the Hail Mary – “Hail Mary, full of grace…” as a child.
Last year while working in Johannesburg, South Africa, I visited a very poor shanty area outside Johannesburg with a group of public officials. The residents were slated to be relocated. There were over 700 families in small shacks made of any material they could find. They were living without running water, no bathroom facilities, little food, and cleaning their clothes in a small creek.
The mothers were hanging clothes while carrying their babies on their backs and old women in the front of their shacks sharing their meager food supply with their animals – all the while smiling and humming soothing melodies and sharing stories with the others.
Later that year, I am at a global inspiration conference in Vienna at the Melk Abbey with spiritual leaders from all over the world. I ask myself that same question – Why me?
In one of the sessions, I am asked to share how I see spirituality alive in the world. I respond by recalling the African women smiling and humming in the middle of what looked like sheer desperation. I am reminded of my mother who raised four children, struggling, not letting us know that we were in need. She was always grateful for the help she received from others. Whenever my mother had anything extra, a chicken, clothes, a little money, she would share what she had with others less fortunate.
One time my mother saved for months to order a pretty little dress from a catalog. Once she got it she was so happy, but a young girl who lived near us couldn’t buy a dress to go to her prom. Guess what? My mother gave her new dress to the girl.
I shared that because I believed that the African women and my mother were all filled with grace and in essence keeping spirituality alive in the world. Why?Because they didn’t just sit in their circumstances. They were restorers of life, nourishers, comforters, sustainers, and plowers as much as Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. They shared what they had – all they had.
Being filled with grace is the unselfish gratitude for God’s love and blessings and our willingness to share.
When I met Pastor Champion a month ago in Santa Barbara at the Member Mission training, I shared that I was committed to being a facilitated in the program because of all of the blessings and sacrifices I had received. I wanted to use my ability and talents to carry out God’s work in my work life, leisure time, and the wider world – everyday.
This includes my work with several pastors in San Francisco in looking at how to become more productive in working with the City’s government, being on a prayer line every morning at 5 AM, providing care support for my mom, and managing my business.
Each and every one of you is filled with grace JUST LIKE RUTH, NAOMI AND BOAZ, the women in Africa, my mother, the widower and me. Each and every one of you has a purpose today in the church and the other days of the week whether it is working, volunteering, sharing, and supporting your family, yourself and others.
St. John’s congregation – your congregation has numerous organizations it supports as well as the church, so many funded by your donations and volunteerism.
We give God praise for all of you being plowers, nourishers, and filled with grace – The grace of God.
The peace of the Lord be always with you.