Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sharing Sincere Faith

(A sermon preached at All Saints' Episcopal Church on 10/3/2010)

Some of you may have seen an unusual sight while walking on Main Street last weekend. There was a strange man whose nametag read “Kurt Wiesner”, walking around with a sign; imploring people come up to All Saints’. Sounds like me, but it wasn’t me. I did, however, have a had in this: after all, I made the sign.

Truth be told, I didn’t really suspect to see my father working the streets of Littleton like his sign proclaimed the message that the world was ending, and not just that now was the opportunity to come eat pie (although some would consider this message of equal importance).

My father got such a kick from helping out at the Pie Festival, and both of my parents greatly enjoyed their time interacting with so many of you. Their enthusiasm of course started with the fact that Darlene and I are here at All Saints', but I believe that their passion for All Saints’ is in no small part due to the spirit of this congregation, clearly seen in so many of you.

Last night at the White Mountain School, I was able to witness more healthy family passion. I attended the Alumni dinner. I was there, as the All Saints’ Rector and as a Trustee of the school, to offer a blessing. I adapted a quote from the National Association of Episcopal Schools in my blessing that was well received…a quote that was later read by Head of School Tim Breen in his summation of the state of the school.

“Above all, Episcopal schools exist, not merely to educate, but to demonstrate and proclaim the unique worth and beauty of all human beings as creations of a loving, empowering God.”
(National Association of Episcopal Schools)

The presentations of the night, from start to finish, echoed this view of formative growth for the entire school community.

The best part of my evening, however, came at my dinner table. I sat with 6 women: all from the class of 1955. We talked a lot of church, All Saints in particular, as well as the school’s identity as an Episcopal School. We talked about changes from the past and how it all connects to the present and future.

I probably talked too much, truth be told. I couldn’t help myself: I was too excited about the hope for the church and the school: and revved up by the clear involvement and interest from my table of enthusiastic former students of the school.

These women clearly loved their school, and yearned for its continued success…not for the sake of memory, or to make the school like it used to be…but because they were grateful for the opportunity that it had given them, and heartened by what it was now offering to others.

It wasn’t just my table: this energy came from everywhere in the room.

The women reflected a joyous desire to be connected to the good things desired by the current generation of students, faculty and staff, and there was enthusiastic commitment to the future of the school.

This is the same energy that we have been seeing here at All Saints’: valuing the current place as well as the potential of every person, and investing our time and effort into the support of one another.

It was then that I recalled a piece of the Epistle reading for this morning from the 2nd Letter to Timothy:

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.”

There is of course a twinge of painful nostalgia here...

It have seen the great frustration of many a parent, grandparent, uncle and aunt. After all, so many people now see their children and younger relatives in different churches, or no church at all.

Likewise, many a person has been scared by a family members’ judgment and heavy handed attempts to force particular beliefs and practices.

This is often the difficult reality between generations: not just now, but at various times of history.

But I wonder what exactly is being praised in the Epistle, in the uplifting of Lois and Eunice. Did they force their faith onto their offspring? Are they being commended because they made the next generation like them? I doubt it: trying to make others believe like us almost always ends with disappointing results.

I am willing to bet, in the transformative times of the 1st century, that the faith of Lois, Eunice, and Timothy did not look the same. Grandmother, mother and son did not necessarily share the same viewpoints. They were each their own person, they likely had different understandings of the world, and certainly they lived their lives in different ways.

Clearly, they made loving, faithful room for each other.

My hunch is that first Lois, and then Eunice, gently shared their joyful stories with their child: the stories of God, family, tradition, experience, and what their faith meant to them.

As each child became an adult, they could appreciate the things freely shared, and could choose to incorporate these ideas into their own understanding.

I believe that it is the sharing of stories and “sincere faith” that ultimately connects the generations to each other: creating not clones, but people who learn how to think critically and make informed decisions for themselves.

When our faith shines through in a way that does not attempt to coerce or force, those who witness our sincerity come away with the sense of hope and love. Instead of creating places of weighty restriction, we demonstrate the great generosity that God has for all of creation.

We become connected in our shared hopes, in our understood differences, and in our sense of responsibility to one another.

That faith is found at the White Mountain School, in the Episcopal Church, and here at All Saints’.

Thanks be to God.

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