Canterbury Downtown

One of the lucky ones…

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sermon preached by The Rev. Mary Catherine Young

Grace Church

Proper 18, Year B, RCL

MC professional pic
I’m one of the lucky ones.
I have the pleasure of being employed to do work I love.
The work I love is being a priest and a chaplain to the God’s people in this particular time and in this particular place.
The people of whom I speak are students and young adults, people in their 20’s & 30’s, who are active in Episcopal faith communities around Manhattan.  The students I serve are mostly connected through New York University, The New School and Cooper Union, but also include students from Hunter College, FIT the Fashion Institute of Technology, Juilliard, and others.

And they come from all across the country (Hawaii, Oregon, Kansas, North Carolina), and from around the globe. Two years ago we had an Episcopalian from the Philippines who was attending NYU Abu Dhabi and spent time with during his semester abroad here in New York.
The place is here in the Diocese of New York, where I serve on the Senior Staff of Bishop Dietsche and under the supervision of Bishop Shin, who have given me the assignment, the mission really, to seek and serve students and the higher education community in this part of the pasture. Some of the things I get to do in my role as a missionary.

  • To be a provider of hospitality and welcome to our unique brand of faith community,
  • To be a voice of moderate, and progressive Christianity in a sea of other Protestant voices serving the campus community,
  • to be a companion to young adults who are finding themselves and their place in this city,
  • to be a teacher and preacher of Christ’s presence and call on our lives as young people discern their vocation, and what they’ll do with their talents and gifts, and
  • to be a raiser up of new leadership, a new generation of Christ followers, of Episcopalians, of witnesses to who and what the Episcopal Church is about,
    and what we care capable of doing in God’s name when we show up

The thing that I am most lucky to get to do, is be a storyteller.  I get to tell the story, over and over again of God’s love for God’s people.  Of God’s love for you right here, right now.  Of God’s love for God’s people found again and again in Holy Scripture, and in the scripture of our lives as grace and mercy and transformation and peace are experienced here and now.

I’m one of the lucky ones, because I have the privilege of walking with people, of being the Episcopal Church showing up on campus, of meeting the next generation where they are and calling them into community with one another, as fellow companions on this journey, companions in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, made known to us here in this moment of the day, of the week, through the sharing of bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist, the holy communion that we partake in as a gathered community, drawn to the mystery of God’s presence in our lives and in these elements.

As a chaplain I am also lucky to walk with God’s people, not only in times of discovery, joy and celebration but in times of darkness – darkness in their own lives and questions of why this moment of difficulty, pain, struggle is happening to them, but also in the darkness that exists in the world around us –   the tragedy, the shock, the certainty that the world shouldn’t be this way, that people shouldn’t suffer this way, the knowledge that the pains of decades, even centuries past, should no longer cause crippling arthritis to our hands today.

But the truth that you and I know is that the hurts of the past, when left unresolved, untended, underestimated, they have the ability to remain, to in fact grow deep roots that eventually make the residual problems resulting from them seem unmanageable, unbeatable, insurmountable.  The reason I cherish walking with others in these hard times is that it is in the hard times that we are often the most open to who we are deep inside, and who we hope God will be in our lives.  We are open with our emotions of anguish and anger, our need for succor, for a savior, for something to change so that we might be able to walk in the light once again, and that we are not alone.  These are liminal times, in-between times, that we will either shut down and lose ourselves, or be spurred to action, moved to reach out.  I strive to be a companion, a hope giver, a carrier of Christ’s love and light to the world in these times.

In our Gospel this morning we hear two healing stories.  At first glance one might wonder why these two stories are told at the same time, they seem to have two very different themes.
The first is of a woman, a mother, who seeks Jesus to plead the case for her child, so troubled that she is not even able to bring her to him for the healing she seeks.

At first her request is rejected by Jesus, whose harsh words reflect what would have likely been the status quo response of the time, given that this was a foreign woman, addressing a man, and asking for something of his that was, as he first puts it, reserved for the chosen ones of God, not just any dog under the table.
It is hard to hear this response from Jesus, especially if you stop listening right then and there.  But this woman is in her darkest moment, her child, therefore her whole world is at risk, something has to change, or all will be lost.  Her retort to Jesus causes him to turn to her, to listen to her, and to give her exactly what she needs in that moment.  He heals her daughter and sends her on her way. We can’t know for certain if Jesus’ initial words were so harsh as to intentionally set forth this example to us and to his disciples of “what not to do.”

Or if his thoughts actually aligned with the attitudes of the day that his words exemplified.
But this mother expected more from him, needed more from him, and was in such a place that she was not afraid to express it, not afraid to ask from her deepest self, for God to bring about transformation.  So she presses him, she opens the deepest part of herself and offers it to God to be healed.  And her life, and as the scripture leads us to believe, Jesus’ life were both changed forever.  Jesus’ mission, Jesus’ gifts of healing, Jesus’ bread of life was no longer limited to those who fit the profile. God’s chosen people, suddenly expanded to include those who had previously been excluded. Jesus’ work was not about building up or maintaining walls, but rather about bringing them down, and lifting up the people who had been kept out in the cold because of them.

In the second story from the Gospel, a deaf and mute man is brought to Jesus.  Though his eyes were able to open, his experience of the world was limited by his inability to send and receive communication in traditional ways. Having just heard the story before, is it any surprise that Jesus’ words paired with his touch that would give this man the ability to be fully present to the world around him, are “Be opened” ?

This man’s entire life would have been an existence on the outskirts, an unclean, un-connected. But the command Jesus gives to this man’s body, to the community around him, to us in these words, be opened, seem to be a direct result of what he himself learned from his interaction with the mother in the first story we heard.

My work as a chaplain, our work as the Christian community it is to open our ears, open our hearts and open our mouths in response to Jesus’ command that we “be opened.”  That we be broken open to God’s presence in our lives, God’s healing touch that releases the arthritis of the old wounds that cripple us, that paralyze us, that keep us from tearing down the walls that separate us rather than building the bridges that draw us closer to one another and to God.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I get to do this work on behalf of the Episcopal Church, on behalf of our bishops, on behalf of you in response to the needs and questions and hopes and hardships that young adults are going through here in our midst every day.  As you reflect on the words of Jesus, “be opened,” may you open your ears, and your eyes and your hearts to the needs that are set before you to respond to, to be transformed by, to be healers alongside of one another in this broken world that we share.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Growing together in community and Christ