Guidance
Rector

The Rev. Mark Andrew Jones, BSG

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My Dear Friends in Christ,

What follows is the sermon I gave on January 18th, the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter, for the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

In Christ's Love,

Mark Andrew+

Evening Prayer for Christian Unity 2018

            “Your Right Hand, O Lord, Glorious in Power.” In the Name of the One God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.  

             God’s Good Day and welcome to you all! I’m Mark Andrew Jones, the Rector here at St. Nicholas; and I’m delighted we’ve again come together. Each year, from the Feast of St. Peter on January 18th, through the Feast of St. Paul on January 25th, we celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. … Saints Peter and Paul form bookends for this special week with St. Peter serving as the representative of the Roman Catholic world, in large part because the Pope, as the Bishop of Rome, is his successor; and St. Paul, that great evangelist – who had his share of disagreements with Peter – broadly represents the Protestant world. … We know from Holy Scripture that, in prayerful discernment, Peter and Paul worked through their differences; they recognized their ministries are part of a greater whole, the Body of Christ in the world.

           Of course, Roman Catholics and Protestants have never lined up behind these two saints as if they were captains of competing teams. Quite the contrary, Roman Catholics and Protestants alike esteem both Peter and Paul; and like them we are called, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, to surmount our differences; so, through our ministries, we can bring the healing and loving touch of Christ as a

blessing to the entire world.                   …

            The phenomenon of touch is very much at play in tonight’s Gospel. In one instance a social outcast, ritually unclean by the standards of her day, reaches out to touch Christ; actually, she’s content to just touch the clothes of God’s anointed, God’s only Son. As she does so, healing power shoots through her and she is made well. … The tenderness of Jesus’ words have echoed down through the centuries: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed.” … This is another example of why biblical faith should be understood less as right belief and more as trust in action. This woman trusted our Lord and she acted on that trust, even against the prevailing social norms of the day; … this ritually unclean woman reached out and touched the Body of Christ and was forever changed. But the Good News of the Gospel does not end there.

            We also hear of a leader of the synagogue who sets aside his status and comes, as only a father would, to plead for his little girl. Jesus, for His part, turns from the many to care for the one. … I’m reminded of what St. Augustine said: “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” …

          Jesus is not put off by the skepticism and laughter of those who do not trust; nor should we be. Out of mercy and a desire to save, Jesus also ignores the social prohibition that one not touch the dead. Instead, Jesus tenderly takes the little girl by the hand: Get up, … and she does. Praise God – she does: “Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power.”    …           

          This Week of Prayer for Christian Unity comes less than a month after Christians around the world celebrated the endearing story of God come to earth – out of love, for love, and in love – as Emmanuel, God-With-Us.  … In Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection, God offers to change humanity’s often dark and hurtful story. God offers to change our story into God’s story of health, wholeness, and holiness, characterized by love and joy, and a peace which surpasses our understanding. That’s the ongoing miracle of Christ with us.

… Of course, Jesus is not physically with us in the same way; so we need to heed the words of St. Theresa of Avila:

“Christ has no body now but yours

No hands but yours

No feet but yours

Yours are the eyes through which

Christ’s compassion must look out on the world.

Yours are the feet with which

He is to go about doing good.

Yours are the hands with which

He is to bless us now.

 

          In Christ, as Paul says tonight in his letter to the Romans, we are adopted children of God and heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven. As children of the light of life itself, we can, as Christ-bearers, we care share a light that dispels the darkness of despair, sin, evil, and even death – not just for us but for all whom we meet. …

          Properly understood, “Church” is neither brick nor mortar; it’s neither a building adorned with the name of St. Paul or St. Nicholas or the patron name of any Church gathered here. Church, properly understood, is neither an institution nor an organization. …“Church” is a living, breathing organism consisting of the People of God, loving as we are loved, acting as the Body of Christ in the world, with a passionate concern for those around us, without exception; so everyone can experience and be touched by the miracle.                         …

          Msgr. Dever – Willie – I look back to that day a little over three years ago when you came to see me and suggested we revive the celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. You warmly reached out your hand to me when we met and when we parted. I think of the connections which have developed since our hands touched: How Trinity United Methodist transitioned its pantry food supplier, Edible Extras, to be a supplier for our Holy Grill mobile feeding ministry; of how Parkland United Methodist invited us onsite to supplement their availability of public showers, so we could serve hot breakfast meals to the homeless, including day laborers before they go off in search of work; of how St. Martin’s Episcopal Church has permitted us to supplement their weekly Agape Café dinners with a hot breakfast as well. I think of how, just last week, some of your own parishioners at St. Paul the Apostle received 24 large, 108 ounce cans of chili and another six (6) 102 ounce cans of potatoes that did not fit well in your food pantry ministry, so they delivered those cases of food to the Holy Grill. Thanks to these efforts and the support of people from a host of other churches, the Holy Grill has – since September 2016 – served over 13,000 hot, spirit-lifting meals. … I do not know how much of this would have come about without your visit, Willie, and the revival of this celebration for Christian Unity. I think of your warm handshake. I think of all the hands involved in our ministries – at St. Nicholas and in all of our churches and I praise God for the reminder, … for the witness, of how big, capable, an awesome is the Body of Christ in the world. I am convinced that if we continue to come together like this, if we continue to learn about and participate together in ministry, then – spurred on by the power of the Spirit – the Body of Christ can by our hands can change the world. … So, Willie, for your hands – for the hands of all who are engaged in Christ-centered ministry, I gladly shout out: “Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power.”

 

1/19/18 MAJ