Final Sunday in St. Luke’s
The Rev. Karen A. Calafat
"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, both as your fellow parishioners and even as your clergy. You feed those who hunger. You love as Jesus loved. You welcome to your table the people reduced to the fringes by segments of our society and, yes, even by some churches.
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 to people who do not love as you love.
We must leave these holy places where, in love, you have baptized babies, confirmed youth and adults, ordained women and LGBTQ folks, 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. That is what Jesus commands us to do. Love. Love God, love your neighbor.
You will come to this altar today. You will receive spiritual food to sustain you on the journey. This will be the last time at your parish altar.
This is hard. This is unfair, 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.
You suffer a death today – the death of your sacred church home. It is painful. It is maddening and sad. It is wrong. It hurts.
This is like a funeral. When people die, we think about how much they meant in our lives, remembering joys shared and challenges endured with them. We celebrate lives lost, treasure memories made and release them to God’s eternal care.
I wonder if we might use the funeral model for our church building today, remembering joys shared and challenges endured in this place. 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; times you came in grief or joy or simply as a matter of routine, a discipline of your faith, because it is Jesus who welcomes any and all to dine with him.
We not only carry our memories with us when we leave a funeral, but the impact a loved one or friend 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 this building today.
We will take not only our memories and as much faith and 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 witnessed some of the transformation in this parish.
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 a little 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 – who watch you 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.
During the Offertory, I invite you to come and 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 this building today. Leave here, in this space, anything that robs you of the joy of being St. Luke’s.
And when you leave this space today, light a candle from the Paschal candle taking the light of Christ from this place into the communities where you live and move and have your being.
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. “Oh, that we might see better times!” We will have our 3rd day! St. Luke’s will experience resurrection!
In the 1st letter of John we hear, “Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.”
I wonder if these 12 years might be likened to a long pregnancy – where something is happening in mystery that has not yet been revealed; something that cannot be rushed or forced. Something is taking place that we cannot see until it is ready to be birthed, ready to be revealed.
God’s purpose for St. Luke’s will be revealed. You are beloved children of God and God’s plan will be brought to life for you – for you are the church.
I say, “Watch out Fort Worth, St. Luke’s in the Meadow is experiencing a funeral today, being forced from our nest, but we have wings, and we are going to soar!”
You are resurrection people! You love like Jesus loved. You are Christ’s light in this world. I have seen it in you! Boldly let your light shine and do not let anyone put it out!
Alleluia, Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!