Sunday, November 6, 2016

Love in Action: The Saints of St. Francis

Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC; All Saints Sunday, 6 Nov. 2016
RCL Year C: Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18; Psalm 149; Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31
Why do we have our Paschal candle lighted & white hangings today?
[Congregation Answers....It's All Saints Sunday.]
These changes show us this is a day of extra celebration.
All Saints Sunday is a day, as our Psalm says, to sing to the LORD a new song, to rejoice in our Maker, be joyful & praise God in many ways. We do this with music, with smiles & through your many skills.
Notice: Our Psalm says the LORD takes pleasure in his people. How often do we remember this? God takes pleasure in you – in us.
God delights in you!
On All Saints we remember our brothers & sisters who have done as Jesus tells us in our Gospel: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” We tend to think of capital letter Saints, such as St. Francis, & St. Paul, whose words to the Ephesians remind us about God's gifts to us, which we have through the Holy Spirit.
How can we see our gifts with new eyes & enlightened hearts?
How can we remember some Saints do big things & some saints [little letter “s”] share God's love as they sit in church & help others find their place in the Prayer Book.

Look with new eyes & remember little letter saints you have known, whose positive influences live on in our lives, our parish, our community.

Among the saints we remember today, who reflect the love of Jesus, think of dedicated educator & worker for social justice, Oscar Hinton, who died in July. In retirement, he continued sharing his gifts educating prisoners who needed a 2nd chance. His generosity, wonder in God's creation & sense of humor enlightened many lives.

Think of joyful Steve Gregoryck's embrace of life & positive influence on so many, including his students, many of whom we saw at his funeral in October. Remember his “stirring” work producing soup at Christmas in the Forest! [CITF*]

As we unwind from CITF, notice how this project enlightens many lives & thrives on your gifts from the Holy Spirit – your joy, skills, creativity, wisdom, generosity, time.
We thank God for this blessing for our parish & community, which grew from the idea of the late Frank & Kitty Boseman, whose positive influence is felt in many lives.
As one of you says about the Bosemans:
My heart has been forever imprinted & strengthened by the influence of [these] two special individuals...
My friends in Christ showed me how to love unconditionally our church, church family, & those in our community & world [who] need us.
Their kindness & example of love for each other & everyone around them has changed me & made me a better individual.
They are truly missed, but I still have them close in my heart.
What's in your heart? Jesus tells us: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” This is Jesus' love active in us & through us.
This love does not die.
Embrace & share this love.
You don't have to be an expert to do this!
We may think we have to be experts or know exactly what to do before doing something. Learn from St. Francis: He learned while responding to God's call. Learn from the Bosemans, who had no experience with arts & crafts shows when they started creating CITF, a ministry they coordinated 25 years.

Their son, Dave, remembers cold weather for our 2nd CITF & his parents offering coffee & hot chocolate & our now famous soup, which was the work of our "Souper Women", Pat Biggers' mother Eleanor Powell & Nan Utley.

Many parishioners have been welcomed by the hospitality of "the Marys", Mary Hicks & Mary Robinson [Norwood], who would call on visitors, bringing goodies.

Many serve God in this place in quiet & unseen ways: painting a door, visiting the home-bound, folding bulletins, laundering altar linens, clipping ivy & hedges.

We are here, as one of you has noted, because of the faith & foresight of our brothers & sisters who left their beloved St. Stephens at Bishop Thomas Wright's request to plant a new Episcopal church in this faster-growing part of town.
The people nourished this seed which grew into St. Francis Parish through worship at the prison office [where the NewsArgus is] & at Boulevard Lanes where Sunday after Sunday they set up altar & chairs & removed altar & chairs before Sunday bowling leagues appeared!1

In memory of his wife Margaret, Tom Norwood, created our beautiful garden, shaped like a shield with 4 sections planted in colors of the liturgical year.
Our garden is lovingly tended by saints working without fanfare.
With great love, these saints devote time & talents to God's glory, enhancing life & beauty in God's creation in this sacred space, where many come for quiet refreshment, including brothers & sisters not members here, as some of them shared with me at CITF.
Like our garden, the hospitality you offer blesses visitors, vendors & shoppers & draws folks back.

What seeds of God's grace are you planting?

How often do you do what you love to do & think:
I'm not doing anything special.”
Yes, you are. You are responding to God's nudging to use the gifts God has given you.
How often do you say, “I just like greeting people....working at the Soup Kitchen....setting the altar....singing....reading...whatever”?
How often do you recognize the lasting value of God's gift you use doing what you love to do?

Think of birding, appreciating the beauty of God's creation like St. Francis did & sharing your joy with another when you see something beautiful, which may give this person an “Ah-ha” moment with God.

Think of your creative art & photography which open eyes to see wonders God has created in you & through you.

Think of the joy of the hunt as you track down family history & build a sense of connection with others, or as you track down bargains shopping for gifts & items for God's children in need.

When we share the Good News of God's love, we sometimes see results: a hearty thanks & the bottom line of funds raised at CITF to help others.
Lasting positive changes from our work serving at the Soup Kitchen & providing supplies to storm victims we may not see on this side of life.

Notice: through your simple ministries, you do as Jesus tells us: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” You walk by faith, not by sight, which is essential for us children of God. Infants learn to walk by practicing the motions. Faith is something we practice.

We practice faith like the fisherman I remember seeing casting a line over & over & over on the grass on a lawn miles from a lake. His habit is practicing, practicing, practicing what he loves doing.

Doing something you love puts God's love into action.

* CITF* is a months-long process involving food preparation, lining up vendors & producing this annual 2-day event the 1st weekend in November, for which we have special decorations in the sanctuary, on the lawn, & completely rearrange the Parish Hall to accommodate vendors.

Harper’s Bible Commentary. Gen. Ed: James L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Voyle, Robert J. “An introduction to Appreciative Inquiry”. 2013 Clergy Leadership Institute.

1 Thank you, Charlotte Campbell for this & other facts.

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