The Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year B)
May 10, 2015
Our Lord called his disciples to go on a journey with him. He found them in the villages in which they lived and said to them, “Follow me.” And in a courageous response to his call, they left everything and followed him. They traveled for three years, growing in the knowledge and love of the Lord. They witnessed and participated in his healing. They learned with him every step of the way. He taught them about the infinite love of God – greater love than anyone can imagine! He taught them to love others as he, their Lord, loved them.
We have heard the very core of Jesus’ teaching about love today in the Gospel of John. These words come near the very end of his earthly ministry in what is called his “farewell discourse.” He has gathered with his disciples in the upper room. He has washed their feet. Now, before he was taken prisoner, tortured, and put to death on a cross, he says to them, “You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you love one another.” (John 15:16-17)
“You did not choose me, but I chose you.” Our Lord is reminding his disciples of the moment he met them. He is taking them back to the beginning of their journey, affirming them and preparing them for all the challenges and threats they will face in the years to come. He is reminding them of the love that will carry them, the love that will enable them to soar like eagles. He is reminding them of their courageous response to his call to go into the world and share the love of God with others.
Perhaps you, too, can remember a time when you faced difficult challenges. When that is our experience, you and I can draw on inner voices that give us the courage to keep going. These inner voices may come from our mothers, mentors, family members and friends who tell us again and again, “You can do it!” God speaks to us in the same way. God reminds us that we are chosen, and we are appointed to go and accomplish God’s mission. God will be with us every step of the way.
All of us together in Holy Trinity are on a journey. This is a critical phase of our travel together. Like all Christian communities, we face the challenge of creating new patterns and programs to reach people today. We celebrate and give thanks for all the accomplishments and traditions of the past. We hear our Lord calling us into the future, saying, “Follow me.” He reminds us, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” We pull together in the love our Lord shares with us. We pull together knowing that in this new day and new time, we must travel to new places. We respond courageously to God’s call.
I wholeheartedly believe that God affirms us along the way in our journey. Have you been seeing these affirmations lately in the life of Holy Trinity? I am amazed and grateful for the way they are unfolding. You might think of them as separate events, but they are deeply connected. And they are all courageous responses to God’s call.
This morning I want to name four of these affirmations. First, I believe Bob Kinney and Kathleen Moore’s presence among us is a great affirmation for Holy Trinity. We have Bishop Dabney Smith and his staff to thank, as well as Kathleen and Bob for their willingness to serve. Holy Trinity has been selected as the community where these two servants of the Lord will learn and grow. This is their year of field education as they prepare for ordination to the diaconate in the Diocese of Southwest Florida. In a courageous response to God’s call, they have left their home parishes to come here. They will not be paid for their ministry in Holy Trinity. Just as Bob and Kathleen will be shaped and formed through ministry here, so will we. This is an opportunity for all of us to learn and grow together.
Their arrival comes at the same time when we have been working on the gifts needed for Operating God’s House. This is the second affirmation unfolding right now. You may remember that at the Annual Meeting on January 26th, our Senior Warden, Rogers Howard, reported that pledges for 2015 were lower than total pledges for 2014. In a bold move, the vestry appealed to all of us for additional gifts. Look today at the courageous response to that call! Thirty-seven parishioners have offered $41,246 toward our goal. This is such a powerful affirmation. This is not the time for Holy Trinity to pull back; this the time for us to move forward courageously.
Number three is our branding process. We have been fortunate to have professional guidance from Nancy Walker of Walker Brands in Tampa. When you think of the word “branding,” think of the Gospel words, “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” God is calling us to turn up the light and sharpen our image so people will see and recognize Holy Trinity. Last Sunday, eighty-four parishioners courageously responded to our survey. Today I invite others to participate in this exciting process.
The number four affirmation is big news. Holy Trinity have received an anonymous gift of $100,000 to reduce the mortgage. This generous gift is a courageous response to God’s call, and will help free us from the weight of debt. Because of this gift, more resources can be used to carry out God’s mission.
Listen again to these four affirmations: Bob and Kathleen’s presence among us; $41,326 committed for Operating God’s House; great progress in our branding effort; and a gift of $100,000 to reduce the mortgage. These four strong affirmations encourage us to respond courageously to God’s call as we move forward in faith. We look forward to a capital campaign to address maintenance needs on our buildings and property (Maintaining God’s House). We continue to expand our ministry teams, involving more people in the life and ministry of Holy Trinity. We will all share the Good News with people who have never been to Holy Trinity (Growing God’s House).
As we face these challenges, we hear our Lord saying, “You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…”
Our Lord calls us to follow him. He reminds us of God’s infinite love that will enable us to fly like eagles. And hearing his call, we respond courageously.
Email Fr. Randy: Rhehr@holytrinityclw.org