The Rev. Dr. C. Steven Teague, Rector
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
The calendar reads fall, and the temperature still shouts summer, when on a Sunday morning the foursome began their journey – to a new place, a place of only two seasons: a short summer season and nine months of winter. They are arrive – two doggies and two humans. The dogs seem relieved to know the motel that night is human-friendly.
On Monday, after closing, they go to their house. Days later the moving truck, and thank goodness the bed arrive. The air mattress can be stored. Alas the box springs won’t squeeze up the narrow stairs to the bedroom. Where’d the air mattress go?
Fall blows a quick kiss, disappears, and winter sets in – snows in November and December. Abnormally warm January days bring tornadoes and storms just to the south. But winter returns. Heavy snows, blizzards and white outs for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday – 12 inches of snow for Easter. Someone suggests the new rector brings plagues to Wisconsin. But the worst: Brett Farve retires. A hundred inches of snow that winter – would they stay? Now, FINALLY, after nine years, we leave.
Life is a journey, as the writer of Hebrews sees it, beginning with Adam and Eve’s boys, Cain and Abel, through Jesus’ journey – his death, resurrection and ascension. Life is a journey of beginnings and endings, arrivals and departures. A cloud of witnesses has gone before us. An earthly cloud of witnesses walks beside us in good times and bad. It’s a faith journey – a destination we bet on, with no clear road map to get us there. Only by faith, hope, and sensing it’s true without needing answers or being certain, we journey together. It’s faith.
The journey is not always easy. Some days we slog through tough times that weigh heavily on us. Sin nips at our heels and slows us down. Yet we hang in there, focused on Jesus. We persevere, because it’s really the only choice we have, unless we drop out of the race. That’s why the witnesses, here, and beyond are so critical and necessary, pointing us to Jesus, God’s pioneer and perfecter of our faith. We, who claim this as our journey live a different story – a different world, with a different center.
I wish I had some wise, memorable words with which to leave you. I don’t. My role is simple. I’m like a mid-wife to the arrival of God’s presence within and among us – those places we trace the actions of a divine presence in our lives. We find we are held in a God whose love for us is limitless, and never abandons us. On this journey, all is truly well.
My privilege and honor is to be invited into your journeys – at sacred, fragile moments, by hospital beds, before surgeries, times of fear. In prayer we invoke together a divine peace. Times we’ve stood at the grave, and trusted our loved ones into God’s hands and nearer presence. We’ve shed tears. We’ve laughed and celebrated – Pancake Suppers, Foyer meals, Annual Meetings, and weddings. We have sung the carols of Christmas. We’ve followed a star. We’re restrained and lock up the “A” word. We remember we’re mortal, and mark each other in ashes. We’ve faithfully come to un-restrain Alleluias and raise Easter’s strain of triumphant gladness, once more knowing Christ is risen, alive and present in us. We have rejoiced when babies are born. We have celebrated baptisms, and recommitted baptismal vows. We’ve blessed pets. We’ve honored our saints at Evensongs. We have renovated the nave, and made the organ spectacular. We worship God, and point each other to God, becoming a cloud of witnesses together, gathered in the church’s one and sure foundation Jesus Christ, who faithfully has perfected for us, is perfecting in us, and one day will perfect completely God’s kingdom of heaven, on earth through the likes of us. And sometimes that veil separating this world and the larger world of God opens, and we see the journey is sacred and holy.
A church member, after I told him to put worship on his calendar tells me I need to come from behind the altar and try life in the real world where he lives. What is the real world? Our world here is different. We keep time differently – around scripture and Jesus’ life and God’s story; in tradition through history and time, relying on those who’ve gone before us; and reason, discerning together what God calls us to do next. Keeping time this way ushers us into the real world, where time is everlasting, and love is boundless, and Jesus is the pioneer and perfecter of this faith journey. That’s why we worship – refocus on Jesus and get sent back out into the other world. When we don’t, we drift from God and lose our way. But here we enter God’s vision and dream for us and this world. God is love, pure and freely given in Jesus. God has already saved and reconciled us without our help. We are home free. That’s the real world. Together we point others to God. Look to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, not a priest, deacon or Bishop. Look for heaven’s presence in the stuff of this earth and messes we make. Never lose sight of who you are, whose you are, and why you’re here.
We are on a journey – and Karen and I are so grateful and blessed you invited us to join you – to grow in love and trust together – to share the journey into the deeper places of God’s love and life in these years. Your love has and will continue to bring joy and thanksgiving into our lives and what we hold so near and dear of our time together. God is surely in this place – among and between us, now and forever. And as a dear member of this parish said to me not long ago, “Steve, you’re leaving a piece of you here with us, and you’re taking a piece of us with you.” Brilliant – well said. Amen!