“God is at work in you”
Well my friends, it has been a good ride! The first words I spoke in St Mark’s a year ago were, “My name is Roy Green, and I am here on approval.” Now a year later, I believe it has been a good ride.
What will I remember? What impressions of St Mark’s Church will go with me?
You pray intentionally. You wonder about God. You enjoy one another. You laugh well. You care for your young folk, honor your seniors, and are open to new ideas. I cherish the home visits I have made, though they have been too few, and I am grateful for our spiritual conversations, the God-questions, and the wisdom you have shared.
You are strong in your support of FISH, Gorge Ecumenical Ministries, and your fifth annual Clothes for Kids effort was exemplary. That AA is welcome here is a strong affirmation of your outreach, and your generosity has been extended to the Warming Shelter. And St Mark’s Guild, I have it on the good authority of Lois Butler, is “huge”.
I am happy to be one of a hundred honorary godparents for Rowin Rajamoney. I remember visits by Darth Vader, Amahl and the Night Visitors, and Bishop Bell. And how grand was Marilyn’s ordination! In our year together, you have honored one Eagle Scout, and another is in the wing.
You have completed what turned out to be “stage one” of your search and made a call, which was not accepted. Now the ground work is behind you, and you have competent workers in the process.
Now you are facing a stewardship drive, a referendum on your ministry as a congregation. Last year you stepped up and made budget. This year you can, and I believe, will do it again.
I celebrate my colleagues Steve Tyson and Mary Lujan and Marilyn Roth. Your Wardens and Vestry have been strong support and welcome, and we all know that St Marks’ could not run without Gloria Arnold and Sue Jenkins. And who can resist the pure enthusiasm of Sue’s four-footed office companion Jake?
And I have continued a string of failures… I have failed retirement three times, but my recent failure allowed me this year with you, and I am grateful. Though some are skeptical, this time I am retiring from parish ministry.
These good months and our encounters help me look back on my career a priest and remember the good times. For that I am truly grateful. As Carol Burnett sang signing off each week, “I’m so glad we had this time together.”
It is riskier to ask what I may be remembered for. It may be safer to say what I WISH to be remembered for. Among preachers, there is a particular hope that something of our preaching is worthy and remains after our time together. I hope you will:
Hold in your heart the assurance that you are chosen, that your life is part of a great love story.
May the light of your soul brighten your days, and may you never be afraid of the dark.
Strive to think like God, to see as God sees, to love and forgive as God does.
Practice generous forgiveness, for life is not saved by getting even. Work toward unconditional love.
Remember, getting out of Church is as important as getting into Church. If our words have no expression outside the walls, they have no meaning inside the walls.
Give thanks in your prayers, not just make petitions. Remember the splendor of the whole creation, the beauty of this world, the wonder of life and the mystery of love.
Remember, when you make your own journey home, Someone knows you are coming.
It seems we live more and more in dangerous times. The sounds of wars and rumors of wars are all around us. Hurricanes and wildfires remind us we are still but part of creation, not the Creator, not in control. We cannot make life to our own satisfaction, but we can join the dance of life in God, and really live! For Life is not about us. We are about Life. And as we have seen before in troubled times, it is not persecution or distress that crushes the Church, but complacency and domestication and self-interest. Paul wrote to the young church at Philippi:
“If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy… be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind… Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be exploited… Therefore, my beloved… work out your own salvation in fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you…”
Hold fast to your God, St Mark’s, and in the words of William Soane Coffin:
May God give you grace never to sell yourself short, grace to risk something big for something good, and grace to remember that the world is now far too dangerous for anything but truth, and far too small for anything but love.” 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.