Sunday, June 10, 2018

3 Pentecost

June 9, 2018

Mark 3.20-35

+ Today is a big day for us here at St. Stephen’s. We, of course, are blessing and dedicating this wonderful window today—the final one of this series of eight windows.   Personally, it means so much to me. Of course, to have such a wonderfully window dedicated to my mother and cousin is moving for me. And I am deeply humbled to be honored by seeing my name and ministry, as well as my poem immortalized in the window means so much. And to honor not only my predecessor-priests, but also those priests that will come to St. Stephen’s in the future is truly beautiful and wonderful as well.

But, for all of us, this window of course represents the completion of an amazing and truly beautiful artistic project here.

It was about two and half years ago that our very own Leo Wilking brought an idea before the Vestry of having a window dedicated in memory of his parents.  At the time, I didn’t know what to think of the idea. Of course, I was all for a stained glass window!

But, I’ll be honest.  I thought we would end up having one window and that would be it. 

Stained glass windows are expensive after all!

But with Gin’s artistic vision, we moved forward, thanks, in some way, to Piet Mondrian (and the Mondrian painting in the opening credits of Green Acres—which causes poor Gin to roll her eyes, but it’s kind of the truth!!).

Still, I will be even more honest about the fact that I thought this would be a project that would be completed long after my time at St. Stephen’s.  I thought: well, this will be a project that will take at least five years, more likely ten.

But first came the Good Samaritan window. And then dear Harriet Blow died and we then got the Mary and Martha window, to balance out the windows.  Then came, of course, the Integrity window which was controversial and exciting and amazing all at once!  And before we knew it…well, here we are.

The first window, that Good Samaritan window, was dedicated and blessed on June 12, 2016. That will be two years on Tuesday.  Within two years, all of our windows are done! That is absolutely amazing! God works in these ways!  (and so does Gin Templeton)

I thank Leo for his vision for these windows.

I thank Michael Orchard and Nick Walberg from the Michael Orchard Studio for their hard work on these windows.

I thank the donors who stepped up and contributed to this incredible artistic accomplishment.

And, of course, we thank Gin. Gin, who sacrificed and labored and lost sleep and was unable to fully enjoy her vacations to Florida, for these windows.  There is a lot of blood and sweat and tears in these windows.

Now, having said all of that, I want to stress something. This all more about more than just glass and paint and metal this morning. These windows are more than just lovely additions to our church building.

Look at these windows! Actually LOOK at them.  See what they represent.Actually look and see what it is they celebrate and commemorate. Because what they celebrate and what they commemorate is you.

Each of you.

You, as well as those who are not here among here in this building today but who now dwell in a place of light inaccessible.  These windows commemorate the ministries you have been doing in this church for 62 years.

These windows represent your blood, your tears, your sweat, your sacrifices, your lost sleep, your moments of despair.

These windows represent your devotion, your perseverance, your dedication, your devotion to God and others.

These windows represent in a very real and beautiful way your attempts at doing the will of God in this world!

In today’s Gospel, we find Jesus saying that wonderful statement of his:

“Whoever does the will of God is my brother and my sister and my mother.”

Now that was no doubt a jarring statement to Mary, his mother, and to his brothers and sisters. But, I’ve always loved that scripture for a probably not so nice of a reason. Many of know full-well that family is not always those who share genetics with us. Family is often those we chose as family. The Church reminds us of this again and again. Those of us who follow Jesus, who are the sisters and brothers of Jesus, we are also sisters and brothers to each other, and hence, family.  It is true of our church and it is true of our own community.

So, what is doing the will of God? Do I honestly need to even ask this this morning? We know what doing the will of God is.  It’s peached and lived out in this church every single day.

It’s celebrated in these windows.

Doing the will of God is loving—radically and fully and completely. Doing the will of God is accepting radically and completely. Doing the will of God is being radically and fully inclusive.  Doing the will of God is doing things that others say shouldn’t (or can’t) be done.

One of the things we endure in our lives is Christians is the doomsayer. We know the doomsayer. We’ve endured the doomsayer.

While other Christians—and specifically Episcopalians—are singing their songs of doom about the demise of the Episcopal Church and other mainstream churches, we are the ones who laugh at such doomsayers. We are the one who shrug our shoulders at those in authority who tell us we shouldn’t do what we have done here.

Look at these windows and what they celebrate.  

Mary & Martha window

We are the ones who gave women a place in leadership when others said that can’t be done.

Peaceable Kingdom window

We are the ones who say and again that peace is always an option and that justice is a Christian obligation even while wars and rumors of wars raged around us.

Sts. Benedict & Scholastica window

We are the ones who welcome all people in these doors in the name of Christ, receiving them as Christ and including them as one of us.

Good Samaritan window

We are the ones who did not pass by on the other side of the road when see others in need.

Integrity window
We are the ones united under the overarching love and acceptance of God to include all people here, because we are a family under the overarching love of God.

We are the ones who stand up and say we cannot abide when those in  authority tell us we cannot do this or that.

St. Stephen window

 We are the ones who, like our patron saint, St. Stephen, can look up in the midst of a rain of stones, and see the glory of God and Christ standing his the right hand of that Glory.

St. Cecilia window

 We are the ones who, on good days and bad, who in the face of life’s storms or in the sunshine of our youth, who even at the grave are able to rejoice and sing and say, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

Bread of Life window

We are the ones who gather here, at this altar, again and again, to break bread with each other, to share the Body and Blood of Christ, and to then go out into the world to share Christ with others.

This is what it means to do the will of God.  And by doing this, we are the brothers and sisters of Jesus.

See, it’s not doom.  See, it’s not the end of the Church. Yes, we know it’s uncomfortable to change and grow and be pliable. But it’s essential.

The church is changing. These windows today reflect that changing church. These windows reflect the Church that is about to be.

This is the Church of the future. And it is the Church of the past. It is a church filled with music and poetry and art, but it is a church centered squarely on God and God’s Christ.

It is a Church supported by the saints, both those who are alive and present right here, and those who are singing their praises this morning in the Presence of the Lamb.

It is a Church that is radically different and yet radically the same.

Doing the will of God means being like these windows.

In this month’s newsletter, I shared the poem “Windows” by the great Anglican poet and priest, George Herbert (yes, one of my heroes—and who is quoted in our latest window). That poem is, of course, about more than mere windows. It is about us being the windows of the Church.  It is about us being the conduits through which the Light of God shines.  It means opening ourselves to reflect God’s Light to those who need God’s light in their lives.

We don’t have to perfect. We can be “brittle crazie glass” as Herbert says.  We don’t have to be gorgeous stained glass done up in Midcentury modern/Mondrian-inspired beauty.  We can be cracked and dirty and imperfect to reflect the Light of God. But our job is to reflect that Light, even when we don’t feel like or think we can’t.

“Who are my mother and my brothers and my sisters?” we are being asked today.

We are! That is what these windows represent. That is what these windows remind us we are doing. We are being Jesus’ sisters and brothers in this world by doing what these windows celebrate and commemorate.

So, let us celebrate today. Let us give thanks to our loving God for these windows, for all that they represent in our lives and ministries here at St. Stephen’s. Let us rejoice in the artistic and poetic vision and talents of those who labor beside us. Let us be thankful for those who worked on these windows and for those who are remembered in them.

But, most importantly, let us live out what these windows represent.

Let us be windows in our own lives.

Let us be windows reflecting God’s Light and Love to others.

Let us, like these window, shine!

Shine in all we say and do.

Shine in conveying the Light of God’s love and acceptance to all.

Today and always, let us...


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