Sermon for March 31, 2019        Fourth of Lent               “This is Us”

We are St. Mark’s.

We are a diverse, seeking, celebrating, sometimes frustrating but always faithful collection of folks. My suspicion is that no one knows all the people that make up ‘Us’. If everyone on our list who lives in the Saint John area were to come on the same Sunday we would be full. If all the people connected to St. Mark’s came on the same day then we would need to have a life video feed to the fellowship hall and classrooms and we would not invite the fire marshall.

We all have a place here and our presence is valued and necessary. Some ministries are noticeable like Suzanne our organist and choir director, the choir, the greeters and ushers, the coffee and tea makers, the bulletin maker and so on. Many ministries go mostly unnoticed and we may not even wonder how something happened. Many may not know that with the ice and rain there were some leaks in the roof, they were tended to and the water cleaned up. Ever wonder who sets the tables for fellowship? And no we do not have leprechauns living in the building.

We are connected in wonderful and by times challenging ways. When the parable of the prodigal son appeared as the lectionary reading for today, I smiled. First, the bible study group has just looked at this parable and the conversation was lively, and second it is a story of a father trying to bring peace and reconciliation to his family.

We know the story. How the younger son asked for and received more than his fair portion of his inheritance, the older son who was dutiful and even resentful and the father who had capacity for love.  Families and even church families have not changed much in the last two thousand years. Some wander and by all appearances have too much fun and when they return are met, not with open arms but with critique or even scorn. Others stay out of duty or habit. And I expect both and even all groups are struggling their best to live into a growing faith.

It just seems to appear to folks in each separate group that the others, by not doing it ‘my way’ have fallen off the path, are not seeking faith or just blatantly ignoring the teaching of Jesus. But Jesus sees us differently, Jesus sees us through eyes of love and welcome. And maybe that is the learning of the parable. Rabbi Amy-Jill Levine writes “ If we hold in abeyance, at least for the moment, the rush to read repenting and forgiving into the parable, then it does something more profound than repeat well-known messages. It provokes us with simple exhortations. Recognize that the one you have lost may be right in your own household. Do whatever it takes to find the lot and then celebrate with others, both so that you can share the joy and so that the others will help prevent the recovered from ever being lost again. Don’t wait until you receive an apology; you may never get one. Don’t wait until you can muster the ability to forgive’ you may never find it. Don’t stew in your sense of being ignored, for there is nothing that can be done to retrieve the past. Instead, go have lunch . Go celebrate, and invite other to join you. If the repenting and the forgiving come later, so much the better. And if not. You sill will have done what is necessary. You will have begun a process that might lead to reconciliation. You will have opened a second chance for wholeness. Take advantage of resurrection_ it is unlikely to happen twice.”

We are gathered here today to celebrate. Celebrate who we are, who we are becoming, those who have been here and those for whom seeking has taken them on a different path. We are celebrating the fact that Jesus loves all of us all the time. That Jesus walks with us all the time. We celebrate that home is the place where we discover Jesus. And there, Jesus greets us with open arms and prepares a celebration so that all can see how precious we are.

We are St. Mark’s. A delightfully diverse and faith seeking people. And I say…Let’s celebrate us!