Bishop Curry led services at our Cathedral last Sunday in celebration of the Cathedral’s bicentennial. Monday he addressed the clergy of our Diocese, so I heard him twice last week. I am a huge fan.
Bishop Curry told us the story of his first day as the rector at his first Church soon after he was ordained many years ago now. His Church had a daycare center. So, there he is in his new office, and along comes a little boy, who sees him and asks, “Are you God?” Father Curry said that he was not God, that he just worked for God. The boy wandered off.
A few minutes later, a little girl came by, and she also wanted to know if he was God. He told her he was not.
Later the whole class came by on their way to the playground. And, as they went by, they all addressed him as God. “Hi, God.” Welcome, God.” “Good to see you, God.”
Bishop Curry told us, that got him thinking. He realized the children were not wrong.
He didn’t mean that he thought he might be God. But, he thought to himself, our calling as Christians is to reflect the grace and love of God. God’s love should shine in us and through us to everybody we meet. We are called to be windows through which people can see God. In principle, people should be able to look at us and catch a glimpse of God at work in us. That is a high calling, and it is our calling.
Unfortunately, we routinely fail to reflect God’s love so clearly. So here is another thing, a more depressing thing, that Bishop Curry told us. Polls show that non-Christians, particularly young ones, don’t see us as windows through which God’s grace and love shine. Their impression of Christians is that we are narrow-minded, bigoted, judgmental, and hypocritical.
I know a lot of Christians, and so I say with great confidence that that picture is not accurate. But we should not simply dismiss it either. If non-Christians cannot see God’s love in us, we are not doing our job.
So Bishop Curry challenged us. He challenged us to live a Christianity that looks like Jesus.
We should live like Jesus. We should love like Jesus. We should forgive and help and heal and pray like Jesus.
Jesus shows us the way. Jesus helps us to walk the way. And Jesus commands us to bring our friends and our neighbors and our enemies and everybody else along by showing them what life in God looks like, by showing them a Christianity that really does look like Jesus.
But how? How do we do that?
Here’s another story Bishop Curry told us. Many of you will know this story, which was made into a movie.
In 2009, Chesley Sullenberger, aka “Sully,” was flying a plane that ran into a flock of Canadian geese. The birds clogged up the engines, and the plane lost power. Sully knew he couldn’t make it to an airport, so he decided to land the plane on a river. Apparently, that had never been done before, not successfully. Sully had to improvise. He landed the plane, and the passengers were saved.
Sully’s improvisation worked because he had prepared himself for that moment. Sully had never practiced landing a plane on water. But Sully had practiced flying. In the crisis moment, he could draw on the skills he had cultivated even though the specific situation he faced was new.
Here is how he described it. “For years, I've been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15, the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”
Bishop Curry told us that we should live the Christian life the same way. We don’t know what challenges we will face. But we can practice living faithfully. In ordinary times, we can try to live a Christianity that looks like Jesus. Then, when real challenges come, we are ready, ready to improvise skillfully, ready to improvise Christianly, ready to live in that challenging moment—whatever it is—as a beloved and faithful child of God.
Here’s one more story. This one is not from Bishop Curry. It’s from my newspaper.
A couple of weeks ago, a man named Paul Vidich just threw a bunch of money into the air in downtown Northampton —$389, mostly in ones.
It seems like a silly thing to do.
But I was struck by the reasons Vidich gave for doing it. Vidich said that he has “a lot of money anxiety.” Vidich said, “Money is a large part of the way that I think.” Vidich said, “I have this money obsession that feels unhealthy.”
Vidich wanted to tackle that anxiety, that money obsession, head-on, so he decided to throw away the $389 he had earned in his last carpentry job.
What Vidich was doing was practicing a different attitude towards money. Hopefully the next time money gets tight for him, he can live with his anxiety a little more gracefully.
We are called to do something similar. Like Sully, like Vidich, we are called to practice a way of being in the world, a Christian way, a Christianity that looks like Jesus all the time.
Our long-term goal is to grow into the full stature of Christ, to reflect the love and grace that we have received from God in Jesus Christ back out into the world, to live as windows through which other people really can see God. And that takes a LOT of practice.
Now, at last, I come to the United Thank Offering.
Most people in the United States today have MANY reasons to be thankful. God has given us much. Among other things, we are blessed with the good news which has come to us not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.
And of course life presents us with all kinds of challenges. And lately those challenges have felt pretty challenging.
But even in the midst of challenges, which can be brutally hard, we are called to lives of gratitude and hope and love and joy.
The United Thank Offering is a way to practice Christian living. Not many of us are likely to cram $389 into the little blue UTO boxes. But we can put a little change in the box each day and pause for just a moment to give thanks to God for something good in our lives.
In a minute, we will take up our United Thank Offering, which we do twice a year. But I encourage you to hold onto your little blue box, or take one home if you don’t have one. Use it to practice an attitude of gratitude. That is like Sully’s “little deposits of experience, education, and training.” That’s like Vidich’s effort to face his anxieties head-on.
Then, when the challenges come, you can draw on that reserve of gratitude and faith you have built up, and you will be able to experience and to reflect God’s love a little more clearly. That is living a Christianity that looks like Jesus.
For the gift of gratitude and joy, even in the hard times, I give thanks to God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
 Daily Hampshire Gazette, October 12, 2017.