Friday, September 25, 2009

Sill Haven't Found...

(A sermon on Mark 9:30-37, preached at All Saints' Episcopal Church in Littleton, NH on our Ministry Fair, 9/20/2009)

Our opening song of praise for this liturgical period is “A Song of Pilgrimage” from the book of Ecclesiasticus (51:13-16, 20b-22). It’s really quite beautiful.
“I sought wisdom openly in my prayer. In the forecourts of the temple I asked for her, and I will seek her to the end. From first blossom to early fruit, she has been the delight of my heart.... To the one who gives me wisdom will I give glory, for I have resolved to live according to her way.”

A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral significance, often over a length of time and distance. Most of you know that I have been on a U2 Pilgrimage: U2’s this band that’s been around for the last 33 years. I’m going to 3 shows in 8 days, two last weekend in Chicago, and a final show in Boston tonight. Last Saturday, I joined over 70,000 people gathered in Chicago to witness U2’s music. As one classic song began, Bono said, “It’s time to go to church. Sing out loud, and I’ll listen. Sing out your souls.”

So we all sang...
I have climbed the highest mountain
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you
I have run, I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

This last phrase, the title of song, is shocking if you think about it...especially in terms of this concert. All these people have journeyed to hear U2. Some have traveled great distance, and certainly money spent for what is for many, a once in a lifetime experience...pilgrimage, if you will...and the person reaches what appears to be the goal: only to be with you...only to be with you....

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

This special, special event, is not what we’re really looking for. That’s not to say what we find today isn’t great or important. It is. Today, thanks to the efforts of many people, we have a new pilgrimage to undertake, starting off with a wonderful Ministry Fair. The Parish Hall has been transformed into a grand display of the many ministries here at All Saints’. Even more impressive is what they represent: a commitment to God, to each other, and to the greater community. It is my hope that you all spend some time in the Ministry Fair. Enjoy the many photos, a gift of Hemmie’s time and talent. Sign up to join, learn about, or recommit to a few ministries. It is a wonderful opportunity, through your gift and time and talent, to encounter God in a new or renewed way, where you will likely find satisfaction, comradely, and, I hope, a sense of joy and accomplishment.

There is, however, a word of warning to be found in the shocking conclusion to today’s Gospel of Mark. With the welcoming of a little child, we tend to go all gentle Jesus in the up the cute factor, but in doing so we might miss the point. The parallel here with the child is the “servant of all,” who is the least, the one who is last among the servers...receiving only what is left after everyone else has received. In Jesus’ time, both are without “honor,” or high social standing, and vulnerable. Sharon Ringe writes that one would obtain no benefit from according to a child the hospitality or rituals of honor or respect that one might offer someone of higher status or someone whose favor one wanted to curry. Children and servants were of equally low social status. The offensive teaching of Jesus is not only that he honors and welcomes the child, but the claim that this is how one welcomes Jesus and even God. (Feasting on the Word Year B, Vol. 4, edited by David Bartlett & Barbara Brown Taylor)

The warning for us today is that the ministry before it fulfilling, rewarding, respected, or completely not what we’re looking for. No ministry is to, in and of its self: define us, remains only ours, be the complete picture, or require our protection from change. We should be wary of any ministry that seems to produce more power and status than it does relationship and humility. Now may be the time to take on something new, and, perhaps, leave something behind... For that to happen, some of us must stretch...some of us must risk...some of us must take on new things, some of us must share our wisdom with humility...especially as we encounter new ideas, and change, and with out a doubt, we must carry the message beyond ourselves, and grow.

I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
Well, yes, I'm still running
You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
And my shame
All my shame
You know I believe it

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

The point is this: pilgrimage isn’t about the destination so much as it is about the journey, and the inevitable question concerning reaching the destination: So what? What does it all are lives transformed? Our life is to be our pilgrimage, our greatest joy is to be that we may walk it together, and there are to be many destinations along the way. Each destination asks us how will we live will we reflect the love and humility that Jesus showed to us. And our assurance is that, when we finally rest in the eternal peace that is the completeness of God, we will have then found what we’re looking for.

Thanks be to God.


Susan said...

lovely piece.

Sarah said...

I think you've done a very wonderful, clever and appropro analogy with this piece. There is so much Truth. For really, as long as there is a journey, we must all say, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for." Thanks, Kurt.

Kurt said...

Thanks Susan, Sarah. I really appreciate you both taking the time to let me know.