We Reach Up in Worship – Proper 10B Sermon

You can listen to is here, or read on below.

Good morning! It was nice to be home from Sewanee for 65 hours, but it is even nicer to be home now, since I know I’ll be here for a while. General Convention was, quite possibly, the hardest 10 consecutive days of my life. I got more sleep with Elaina at home than I did in Indianapolis. Each day started before 6am and ended after midnight. And honestly, it felt like the sun never set in Indy, they really were long days. I’ve blogged all about it, and I’ll probably write a final reflection in the coming days. I’m happy to talk with anyone who would like to
have a conversation with me. For now, I’ll suffice it to say: Thank you for your prayers, your emails and texts of support, and for the real honor of representing Saint Paul’s Foley and The Diocese of The Central Gulf Coast in Indianapolis.

One of the advantages of hanging out with a group of at least 550 deacons, priests, and bishops, is that I was able to have several conversations about the difficult lessons that were assigned for this first Sunday after General Convention. Plumb lines, heads on platters, and super busy schedules do not make for easy preaching, but the more I reflected on the passages for this morning, the more I was drawn back to our own statement of mission. Saint Paul’s is a ministering community: reaching up in worship, reaching in to serve, reaching out in love, to the glory of Jesus Christ. From this pulpit and during our announcement time, we talk a lot about points two and three. We reach in to serve through our prayer shawl ministry, Galileans, caring casseroles, the prayer team and the ECW – to name a few. We reach out in love to Foley Elementary School, Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, Turkey Take-Out, Ecumenical Ministries, and various others boards and agencies.

For all the talk me make about reaching in and out, we very rarely talk about the first point of mission, the defining factor for who we are as disciples of the risen Lord, we reach up in worship… to the glory of Jesus Christ. It is who we are. It is what we do. It is, quite frankly, what sets us apart from the Rotary Club and the American Legion, among others, who do great work both within their groups and out in the wider community. We reach in and reach out because first of all, we reach up.

In the opening of his letter to the Church in Ephesus, Paul reminded the community of faithful of the Good News that set them apart from the rest of the world. In Christ, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing. Through Christ, we are his adopted children. By Christ we have been redeemed and forgiven. With Christ, we have come to know the will of God. And for Christ, we are set apart to live for the praise of his glory. The list of attributes that we gain from the Son of God is astonishing, but perhaps more mind-boggling is that all that God calls for in return is our praise. From Ephesus to Indonesia, Kadugli to Port Au Prince, Indianapolis to Foley, we, who have been reborn in Christ, are called first and foremost to offer our thanks and praise to the God of all creation. And so we gather this morning, a diverse group of disciples, to be unified in our words of worship. From the opening acclamation to the final dismissal, we are a united people no matter our age, no matter our birthplace, no matter our social status, no matter our politics, no matter our foibles. We are, above all else, beloved children of God.

Since June 10th, I have been to church 25 times. That’s 25 times in 35 days. That’s a lot of church. I’ve heard the Scriptures read in several Native American languages, in Spanish, in Hmong, and in English with accents of all sorts. I’ve heard the Eucharist be celebrated in Rite I, Rite II, and several versions of Enriching our Worship, what most would call Rite III. I’ve heard some great sermons, and some bad ones. Long ones, and like today’s, very short ones. I’ve sung Plain Song, Anglican Chant. African Spirituals, Latino praise choruses, and classic hymns. I’ve listened to organ music, pan flute, steel drums, piano, guitar, and A Capella. A more diverse version of Anglican worship, I can not imagine, but when it comes down to it, we were all doing the same thing.


Even on Sunday, as I sat with 3,000 Episcopalians in the Grand Ballroom of the Indianapolis JW Marriott, with paid singers, timpani drum, and horn section, I took great joy in knowing that my family here at Saint Paul’s was gathered in praise for what God had done this week. As the summer goes on. As plans for the fall begin to take shape. As the flurry of activity, the stuff that is supposed to slow down in summer, but doesn’t, begins even to ramp up. Let us remember whose we are: God’s beloved children. Let us remember what we are: a people broken, but redeemed. And let us go forth, renewed, empowered, and restored: a ministering community: reaching up in worship, reaching in to serve, reaching out in love to the glory of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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