“In my beginning is my end (and) in my end is my beginning,”
said T. S. Eliot.
My very first sermon was the stewardship sermon
right here at St. Michael’s 30 years ago.
As the sun begins to set on my ordained ministry,
this is where I need to be.
Thank you Dean Demarest for inviting me back home.
Thank you Bishop Thom for giving the ok.
I want you to know that what this congregation does matters.
It mattered to me in 1980 when I came here,
looking for some glimmer of hope in a darkened life.
I found Jesus here in you.
I first received received the Blessed Sacrament
kneeling at this altar rail.
St. Michael’s turned my life around.
I know this Church matters to many of you in the same way.
It also matters to all the folks outside these walls
to whom each of us bear the Christ light in countless ways.
It’s like collateral damage -- only this is collateral blessing.
Like the Samaritan in our Gospel lesson
we pass on the grace we have received.
I’ve gotten that part wrong many times.
I’ve gotten it right a few times.
Let me tell you about one of those times.
It may sound like I’m talking about me,
But it’s really a story about you because
when I’ve gotten it right, it was thanks to you.
I was rector of a small church in Macon, Georgia,
when one day some people called me
to come see their dying mother.
She had never darkened a church door in Macon
and no one had heard of her kids.
So I had no idea why they wanted me there.
And a little bit of “these are not our people”
was stirring in me too.
But when I arrived, they explained
Mamma had been the pillar of her church
40 miles up the road.
She was head of the altar guild, first woman on the vestry, etc. etc.
She dearly loved that church.
But when she and Daddy got divorced,
the priest kicked her out -- literally excommunicated her.
Mamma had not been to church for 30 years.
She was bitter.
Now she lay dying.
Medically, by all rights, she should have died days ago
but she just couldn’t let go.
The kids figured something was unresolved.
So I went in to see her
but instead of inviting her to confess her sins,
I confessed the sin of the church against her
and begged her forgiveness.
She wept and forgave us, then died peacefully the next day.
You sent me to do that.
Whatever Christianity I could draw on in that moment
had its roots right here at St. Michael’s Cathedral.
What you do mattered to that old lady in Georgia
and it matters to people in Boise
whose lives are touched everyday by Episcopalians
who’ve found their faith in this place.
The most liberating kind of faith I learned at St. Michael’s
was the freedom the Samaritan had,
the freedom we get from giving stuff away.
It was here I learned that what I had wasn’t really mine.
I didn’t possess my stuff. My stuff possessed me.
I learned that all I had was God’s free gift
and I could give it back -- trusting God
to provide for me as he’d always done.
I learned that to live we have to breathe.
To breathe in all the way, we have to breathe out all the way.
We have to give in order to receive.
The more we open our hands to God’s mission
the more we open our hearts to receive the blessings
God wants to give us.
It isn’t magic. It isn’t buying a blessing.
It’s just opening our hands to open our hearts
to receive the blessings God already longs to give.
St. Michael’s taught me that,
so I’m back here to say thank you, thank you, thank you
for making my life so much richer.
Mohandas Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself
is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Just so, the best investment of our money is in the service of others.
Jesus said – now listen up –
this isn’t some jackleg bishop from Sin City talking --
Jesus said this:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth
where the moth corrupts and the thief breaks in to steal.
Rather, store up for yourselves treasure in heaven,
where the moth does not corrupt and the thief does not
break in to steal.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
But St. Augustine replied, “Ok but where is this heaven?
Is it in the sky? No,” Augustine said,
“Heaven is in each other.”
Store up your treasure in each other.
Heaven isn’t some cloud we float on when we die.
It’s a network of compassionate generous relationship.
Yes it’s a safety net that catches us when we die,
but we can live in that network right now.
Heaven is life in God’s mission.
God has entrusted St. Michael’s with three parts of that mission.
First, as a congregation, you extend God’s love to one another
as you shared it with our family back in the 80s.
As the Cathedral, you have two other missions.
You have a mission to Boise.
This city has grown and changed beyond anything
I could have imagined when I left.
Boise today needs a community engaged Cathedral
to be its spiritual heart,
showing everyone of any faith or no faith
some Christ light that is open-minded and generous of spirit.
The Falwells, Robertsons, and Franklin Grahams
have branded Christianity as a hateful bigoted cult
that young people, bright people,
and good-hearted Idahoans won’t touch with a 10-foot pole.
Those good people are cut off from Christ,
and good people need Jesus too.
Your mission is to show Jesus to Boise as he is
-- not as others have slandered him.
Third, as the Cathedral, you have a mission to other churches
in this diocese – a mission to help them out
with resources small congregations
can’t generate from their own ranks.
That’s what it means to be a Cathedral.
A Cathedral is a resource church for a whole diocese.
There is no lovelier state than Idaho.
But it gets lonely out there and small towns are struggling.
They need help and you have it to give.
Those three missions take money – the money
our culture has brainwashed us to think is ours.
But it’s God’s money entrusted to us for God’s mission.
Brothers and sisters, you have blessed many lives.
You have blessed my life richly.
But God has given you the ability to do so much more.
God has given you the ability to do things
that will make Boise sit up and take notice –
that will make Idaho sit up and take notice.
God longs to do a new thing here -- to flower in a new way.
a bigger, brighter, altogether better way.
But God won’t do it without you.
God loves you too much for that.
God loves you too much to leave you out
of this adventure.
God invites you to open your hands and your hearts
to this mission -- not just for the sake of all those
who have been alienated from the faith by bigots,
not just for the sake of struggling congregations,
but for your own sakes.
God wants you to know the freedom and the richness
of placing your treasure and your heart
in this living breathing network
of human relationships that Jesus called heaven itself.