Well, friends, it is good to be back with you. A month is a long time to be away from home. And it has been an abundant month in many ways...several of us have been travelling, we celebrated the life and ministry of our dear brother Ed and our talented sister Betty, we have spent time in reflecting on our life and ministry together, imagining the possibilities of what’s to come next. As a community, St. Mark’s has become a place of abundance and I have never been more proud of us than I am in this moment.
So I want to take a moment and reflect on how we have not only become a place of abundance, but how we are rich toward God.
Six years ago this past June, I became your priest and you became my spiritual home and community. And it took us a little bit to figure out how we were going to do ministry together...some things worked, and some things didn’t. But you were gracious enough to let me explore my passions with you and the Hood River community, and I can only hope that I have encouraged you to do the same.
It has been a blessing to watch Shea, Philip, Sam, Catherine, Cody, Elle, Gabriella and now Aidan graduate high school. It has been wonderful to cheer on our youth and their mentors to do their work at Blanchet House, Oregon Food Bank and Forward Stride in Portland. It has been incredibly humbling to sit with some of you as you grieve the loss of loved ones. It has given me a full heart to watch you engage with the homeless, hungry and neighbors in crisis because you see them not as “other” but as beloved children of God. It has brought me to tears when you’ve taken home laundry to mend, wash and fold for a child you’ll never know. Our prayers for a more peaceful and just world are answered daily...even in the face of disaster and hurt. I truly believe with all of my being that we are actively engaging and becoming what Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has called to us to be--the Jesus Movement.
And none of this has happened over night. We have and continue to work hard to spread the abundant love of God around us. Unlike the man in the parable that Jesus shared with those who followed him, we don’t store up our abundance because we’ve earned it or deserve it, but rather our abundance has empowered us to give more, love more, and welcome more.
And I am moved beyond words by your generosity of spirit and heart.
This year I’ve taken a lot of time to reflect on my own abundance...the gifts and skills that I have to offer as a part of the Jesus Movement. In church lingo we call this discernment. With the guidance and support of colleagues, our Bishop Patrick Bell, and my spiritual director, I have been intentionally looking at the ways I can share my abundance with the larger church. Sometimes this discernment can be very easy and sometimes it means having to make hard choices...it’s the difference between storing up your treasures or sharing it freely...living for God. So after many months of conversation, prayer, and listening, I have discerned a new calling in my life as part of the Jesus Movement.
In early September, Matt and I will be moving to California so that I can begin a new ministry in the diocese of San Joaquin as the Canon to the Ordinary for Bishop David Rice. This decision was not an easy one and it comes with a price...it means having to say goodbye to this amazing community and to all of you. I am so proud of all of us...so proud of the work we have done together, the ministries we’ve engaged in, the fact that St. Mark’s is a vital parish in this diocese and the community of Hood River.
Now it is time to share abundantly with our neighbors to the south…
We all have lots of questions about what this means...and some of the questions I have answers to...some we’re still working out. I invite you to stay for coffee hour and let’s talk. And let’s talk by email, phone, text message, stop by the office, invite me for a smoothie...we don’t have to figure it all out today. But I am here, your vestry is here, Bp Pat will be here to walk with you in this new part of abundant ministry.
And I hope you’ll join me in celebrating our time together throughout the month of August.
But for now, let’s take a moment to pause and breathe.
Let us pray. Everliving God, strengthen and sustain the ministries and people of this congregation, that they may faithfully follow in the way of your Son Jesus Christ, proclaiming in word, deed and sacrament the good news of the kingdom; we lift our prayers to you, the holy, undivided Trinity, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I don't know what the future of the church is, but I know that we will continue to be a place of sanctuary and hope, working towards healing in the world.