Wednesday, May 15, 2013


We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.
We confirm our members into the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.
All four of those adjectives describing the church are rich and complex.
But the oddest of them, the one we are likely to least understand,
Is “apostolic.”

It means we are still doing what the apostles did – but what’s that?
A disciple is someone who follows Jesus.
But an apostle is someone Jesus has sent out on a mission
to someone else somewhere else.
We have to start out as disicples before we can become apostles.
            but until we become apostles we have not experienced
            the fullness of the Christian life.
We have not been “made whole.”

Take the prototype of apostles – St. Paul.
 He started out in Syria and spread the word
            as far as Asia Minor, modern day Turkey.
But no one had imagined taking a Middle Eastern religion to Europe
            until Paul had a vision.

Our lesson says, “During the night, Paul had a vision.
            There stood a man of Macedonia . . . saying,
            ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’
            When he had seen this vision, we immediately
            tried to cross over to Macedonia,
                        being convinced that God had called us
                        to proclaim the good news to them.”
That’s how Christianity got to Europe.

Paul was doing alright in Turkey.
He had several congregations to look after there.
But God sent him to Europe.

Something like that happened again 300 years later.
As a boy, St. Patrick was captured by slave traders
            and spent his adolescence as a slave in pagan Ireland.
Eventually he escaped and returned to his home in England.
There he lived happy and content with his family and friends,
            worshiping faithfully in his Church for 6 good years.
Then one night Patrick had a vision he described this way.
            “I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland.
            His name was Victoricus and he carried many letters
            . . . (H)e gave me one of them.
            I read the heading “the Voice of the Irish. . . ”
            I imagined I heard the voice of those very people . . .
            beside the western sea – and they cried out, as with one voice:
            ‘we appeal to you holy servant boy, come and walk among us.’”
So Patrick, who hated Ireland with all his heart,
            returned to the harsh, alien land of his captivity
            to share with his former enemies the good news of God.

In 1863, a Massachusetts boy, Ozzie Whitaker,
 graduated from seminary in Philadelphia.
Something unusual apparently captured his imagination,
            because when he struck out from Philadelphia
looking for his first parish,
he found it in Gold Hill, Nevada.

Ozzie lasted 2 years.
Having seen the error of his ways,
            he hotfooted it back to New Jersey, got married,    
            and become rector of a well-heeled East Coast church.

Ozzie was doing alright. But God had other plans.
God’s call would not be silent, would not let young Ozzie rest.
So he came back  to serve St. Paul’s, Virginia City for 19 years.
But Virginia City was getting too upscale
so God sent Ozzie to  celebrate the first Episcopal communion
            in Eastern Nevada on September 17, 1870  in a Pioche saloon.
On his second visit to Pioche, he started the Sunday School.
Before long, Ozzie Whitaker was the Bishop of Nevada and Arizona
covering the whole diocese on horseback.

Paul, Patrick, and Ozzie show us what “apostolic” means.
“Apostolic” means we are sent to someone else.
We have a mission outside our own walls – out past our comfort zone.

We do not exist as the church to serve ourselves alone.
The church was born with a mission and we live for a mission
            to a world that needs Christ’s love more today than ever.
What is true for the church is true for every individual Christian.
God has to work a sort of spiritual aikido on us.
We come to God because we need something.
We need some healing or peace or joy.

We come to God with a spiritual need,
            but the problem is our spiritual needs can never be fully met
            as long as we are striving to get them met.
God gives us a bit of consolation to patch us up,
            but to really heal us,
God then gives us a mission to help someone else.

In the course of serving others,
            we are healed ourselves,
            we find peace ourselves,
            we find our own joy.
As St. Francis said,
            “It is in giving that we receive,
            in pardoning that we are pardoned.”
I don’t know how that works, but it does.
Jesus said, “Whoever tries to save his life will lose it,
            but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

That’s what Paul, Patrick, and Bishop Whitaker did.
They left their comfortable homes and their comfort zones
            to share Christ’s love with others
            and that life of self-giving, that life for others,
                        gave them their joy.

Today we celebrate confirmation.
When we were baptized, we received all the saving grace of God.
We became full members of the church.

But in confirmation, we take on the mission.
We say for ourselves, “yes I will share the love of Christ
            with the world.”
I will take my share of the mission given by Christ
            and passed down by Paul, Patrick, Ozzie Whitaker
                        and a line of Christians 2,000 years long.”

Each of us is given our part in the apostolic mission.
We bear the Christ light to those in darkness.
We are here to comfort the afflicted,
            to bring hope to the despairing,
            to feed the hungry, and strengthen the weak.

Congregations do not exist to sustain themselves.
The Church is here to serve the world in the name of Jesus.
We don’t always have to cross oceans like Paul or Patrick
            or even cross the Mojave like Ozzie Whitaker.

Human need is never any farther away than next door.
The basic discernment for any congregation is:
             what does our community need?
How can we serve the people in need here and now?
Your work with CACH feeding poor children in your local school
            is part of your answer to that question.

But need is not just hunger and material poverty.
It is loneliness, addiction, spiritual confusion.
Our task is to heal our neighbors’ wounds,
            whatever they may be.

God gives each of us gifts and talents
            to take our part in the mission.
Confirmation strengthens those gifts.
Confirmation is a holy and sacred moment when people
            commit their gifts and talents to service.

Confirmands inspire us to renew and redouble our own efforts
            to show our friends and neighbors
                        and the strangers who pass our way
            that there is love in this world,  
            the unconditional love of Jesus.

And so now, Brothers and Sisters, it is time for all of us
            to join the confirmands in committing ourselves
            to a life for others in the name of Christ.