I am heading towards our readings from Scripture. But I want to begin with a different set of readings: the reports in our Annual Meeting booklet. I e-mailed the whole set to everyone last week. Twice! And, thanks to our dedicated crew of office volunteers, we have hard copies here at the Church.
If you have had a chance to look through the booklet, probably the first thing you noticed was its length: more than fifty pages!
In those reports, you can find LOTS of information about virtually every area of life here at Saint David’s over the last year. I’ve had some time to digest the reports, and still I recognize that the sheer amount of information contained in them can be overwhelming.
All that information is important to our common life.
And we need to know what to look for as we work our way through it all. We need to NOT get lost in the details, but to focus on what matters most.
That’s where our readings for this morning come in. When the schedule of readings for Sunday services was established years and years ago, nobody was thinking about our annual meeting this morning. But it almost seems like they were. Our readings for this Annual Meeting Sunday are exactly what we need. They can help us to evaluate our different ministries and to discern where we need to go from here.
Our New Testament reading comes from Paul’s letter to the Christian Church in Corinth, and the whole letter is basically one long lesson on what it means to be Church.
Paul’s metaphor for Church is the human body. Paul tells the Corinthians, “You [collectively], y’all, are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” Each of you is a part in the one body of Christ.
So, says Paul, each Corinthian Christian has a part to play in the overall functioning of the Church in Corinth. Each member contributes his or her particular gifts for the common good (12:7). And each member shares in the common calling of the Church to serve and support God’s mission in the world.
“Church” for the Corinthians was, first, their own particular community of faith. But Paul is clear: Church was also bigger than Corinth, a LOT bigger. The Corinthian Christians were members of the whole body of Christ, the Church that was even then spreading across the ancient world, the Church that has now spread around virtually the entire globe. The Christians in Corinth were a small but still vital part of Christ’s grand body, and they each had a role in keeping the body as a whole healthy.
Two thousand years later, the same is true for us. Like the Corinthians, we are Christ’s people, Christ’s body, in our time and place. Like the Corinthians, we are part of the body of Christ across time and space.
And, like the Corinthians, we have our small part to play in the health and faithfulness of the whole body. That is who we, individually and as a parish, that is who we are called to be in Christ Jesus: the body of Christ and individually members of it.
Our annual reports provide us with a picture of what the body of Christ looks like here and now.
Then there is our Gospel reading. In it, Jesus teaches us what we, who are the body of Christ, are called to do as Christ’s body in God’s world.
This is Jesus’ big homecoming and his first “sermon” in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus reads from the prophet Isaiah that the Holy Spirit has anointed him to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and so on. Jesus adds, in what is probably the shortest sermon of all time, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The end.
In his “sermon,” Jesus adopts Isaiah’s words as a kind of “mission statement” that speaks for itself. Isaiah’s words set the tone right here at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry for virtually everything else that Jesus will do and say.
Jesus’ mission is our mission too. We too are anointed by the Holy Spirit. We too are called to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, and so on.
So, how are we doing?
On this Annual Meeting Sunday, as we look backwards at the last year and forward to the year to come, we pause to reflect on our common life in light of what our readings say.
How healthy is this particular limb of Christ’s body? Are we functioning as one people? Are we using our spiritual gifts for the common good?
And how faithfully have we embraced Christ’s mission to the world? Are we doing the things that Jesus did, bringing good news to the poor, and so on?
The answer to those questions, as best we have discerned it, is contained in the many reports in our annual meeting booklet. That’s where people reflect on our particular ministries.
As I read the reports, I find much to celebrate. The pandemic has continued to limit what we can do in important ways. But the Spirit keeps moving, and we have tried to do keep moving with the Spirit. Along the way, we’ve had to let go of some things, adapt some other things, and create some new things.
For example—I mention these in my Rector’s Report—we had to put our prison Bible study on hold. We’ve let that go, at least for now. Our Good News Garden and Church without Walls both look quite different now than they did this time two years ago. We’ve adapted them. And we had our first auction. Now we’re starting a ministry with an Afghan refugee family. New things.
Inevitably, there are also areas that could stand a little work and a little grace. I invite all of you to read through the reports on ministry areas of interest to you, to give thanks for what is going well, and, perhaps most important of all, to prayerfully consider where you could help us do better.
As our readings for this morning remind us, always the question is, how are we living as the body of Christ? And how are we serving Christ’s mission in the world?
I want to end with a final quick point that came to me as we prayed through our Gospel reading in contemplative prayer last week. Luke tells us that, while Jesus was speaking, “the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.” That really stuck with me. It’s a pretty good summary of what it means to live as a Christian: keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus while we do whatever it is that we do. I am grateful to all of you for keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus as you engage in the many ministries of Saint David’s, and for encouraging me to do the same.
My prayer for us in the coming year is that our eyes will remain ever more fixed on Christ. In his name. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill
Third Order Franciscan