Hello Grace! We are so glad you are here with us! Bring David and Arthur along any time. We want to welcome them, too.
Grace, your desire to serve as a priest was awakened in you at a very early age. As a child you attended All Saints Episcopal Church, Beverly Hills where your mom was soloist in the choir. You sang in the children’s choir. By the fourth grade you were pretty sure you wanted to be a priest. Your family moved to Dallas where you attended St. Michael and All Angels. You got confirmed. You joined the youth program and went on annual mission trips with Habitat for Humanity. You kept coming back every summer from Sewanee to help lead mission trips with St. Michael.
After college you took a position at St. Luke’s in Darien CT where you organized the large Youth Ministry. You organized their confirmation program, recruited and trained teachers, built leadership teams of adults and youth, worked with them to plan youth led worship and annual mission trips for middle school and high school groups. You taught one class each year yourself.
In 2012, you began your formal Seminary training at Virginia Theological Seminary, and entered the ordination process through the Diocese of Virginia. You worked for a year as an intern chaplain for K-5 grade at St. Stephens St. Agnes School.
On March 1, 2015 you wrote me a letter expressing your interest in the youth ministry position at St. Luke’s. In May you accepted my offer to join us at St. Luke’s. June 6 at the Falls Church Bishop Johnston ordained you as a deacon. And now here you are. Prepared, Graduated, Ordained, Vested.
We are so glad you are finally here with us!
As a congregation we also have been preparing for this moment and for the work that lies ahead. We are so grateful for the work of the Search Committee. Cathy McPeek, Mike Tindle, Frank Morgan, Samantha Souza, Sally Hurme, and the Reverend Jonathan Bryan started this work back in December of 2014. Together we designed a process to engage everyone in the congregation, to get us all to think about what we wanted a new assistant rector to do and who we wanted that person to be.
Right from the start three main duties became clear and continued to be reinforced through our conversations with members of the congregation:
1. Oversight of Journey to Adulthood program to ensure proper planning, guidance, support, and resources for the continuing success of this program of Youth formation.
2. Leadership to ensure the success and enrichment of the children’s education ministry
3. A priest to share the work of leading worship and providing pastoral care throughout the congregation.
The person we were looking for would have a strong spiritual foundation, an ability to connect with children and youth, experience and skills in organizing leadership teams, identifying achievable goals, building healthy relationships, and exploring and growing in relationship with God.
That vision didn’t come out of a vacuum. St. Luke’s has always ministered to and with and among young people. In 1929 St. Luke’s began as a non-denominational Sunday school and morphed into an Episcopal congregation led entirely for nearly a decade by high school students and seminarians. Since 1940, 75 years ago this fall, St. Luke’s has been a church in the Diocese of Virginia. Throughout those 75 years work with and for and among young people including our Day School, Scout Troop, Youth ministry, Sunday School, and outreach programs to help children (Afghans for Gaza, Adopt a Kindergartner, Eagles Wings Tutoring, organizing for youth recreation, summer canned food drive) have formed the signature ministries of this parish. So when the congregation articulated these qualities and purposes, they were reconfirming a purpose that has always been at the heart of who we are and what we do.
Cathy, Mike, Sally, Frank, Samantha, Jonathan and I reviewed many resumes and interviewed many well-qualified candidates. We all agreed that you are precisely the person we are looking for. And by God’s grace, as you sifted through the various options available to you, you agreed that St. Luke’s was the congregation you were looking for.
We are so glad you are here with us!
Today’s gospel lesson reminds us of some enduring truths about the life and work we share as members of the church.
First and foremost, it all starts with Jesus and his proclamation of the kingdom of God.
From presiding Bishop elect Michael Curry, to Bishop of Virginia Shannon Johnston, to every priest, deacon and baptized member of the church, to every person in the communities in which we live and serve, every thing we are and everything we do begins, continues, and ends with Jesus and his kingdom.
That kingdom isn’t just a fantasy or a dream or a vision. The kingdom of God is already among us, living and active.
Jesus is the living and reigning king of the kingdom, as he has been for over two thousand years, seated at the right hand of the Father, present in the hearts and minds and souls of his subjects through the Holy Spirit. We may not see him, but we know him through his work, and we know that we would not be here without him, and could not continue apart from him.
Today’s collect reminds us that the entire mission and life of Jesus’ kingdom can be summed up in six words: Love God and love your neighbor.
And today’s gospel reminds us about some of the limits and the possibilities of this kingdom of divine love.
Love depends on trust, faith. When Jesus went to Nazareth he brought the same power of divine love that he had been exercising throughout Galilee. But many of the people in Nazareth didn’t believe, and so he couldn’t do the amazing work of love that he wanted to do among them.
That is as true for us as it was for them. No one can force trust from another person. Not even God. No one can trust merely as an act of will. You can’t make yourself trust me. You can’t make me trust you.
If we do trust God and one another, and if we are true to God’s love, wonderful, powerful things can happen. But nothing wonderful can happen where people do not trust each other and trust in God.
And be sure of this. Trust and love are not built upon or revealed through power or strength. Jesus shows and teaches exactly the opposite. It is how we are treated when we are weakest, and how we treat the weakest among us, that prove trust and reveal love.
So Jesus keeps going to the weak, the sick, the poor, the broken, the sinful, because it is among these that love has the greatest power. He never asks anyone for payment or tests their worthiness. He forgives. He gives in advance. And then he let’s them decide what to do with the health, and forgiveness, and power he has given.
Grace, in time you will find every form of weakness among us. Some are poor. Some are sick. Some are grieving. Some are broken by loss. Some are lonely. Some are oppressed by sin. Some are addicts. Some are depressed. Some are afraid. Some lack a sense of purpose or meaning. Some of us have rejected God at some point. But we have come back to hear the message of the gospel, that no matter how many times Jesus is rejected he keeps sending out his messengers: there is no final rejection from God. And everyone of us knows something through our weakness about the power of God’s love that we could never have learned through our strength.
In time we may share our various weakness with you, and you may share your weakness with us. We are not expecting you to be perfect, or to make the kingdom come for us. We are hoping to seek and reveal that kingdom with you, to share weakness, successes and failures, and to keep growing in trust and love of God and our neighbor.
For now, know and trust that we are so glad you are here with us!