St. Mary Nanoose Bay
October 6, 2019 Sermon
2Timothy 1:1-14 & Luke 17:5-10
“Rekindle the gift of God that is within you” Paul writes to Timothy in the letter we heard this morning. Not “kindle” but “re – kindle” which assumes that the gift has already been there. Because what we have is a “holy calling” Paul states, a calling to live in connection with God so that God’s purpose and grace can be expressed through us. That call has been there since we were formed in our mother’s womb. We just keep forgetting about it. Our “holy calling” needs to be rekindled many times in our lifetime. And as we mature, that calling will sound different than it did when we were younger. So what is our “holy calling”? What in us needs re-kindling?
My nephew just turned 40. We talked in the summer about this milestone he was approaching. Because he was thinking about it; that’s for sure. He was looking ahead and looking behind and taking stock. He asked me, “I’m thinking about what kind of legacy I want to leave behind.”
This past week I attended the funeral of a friend, a man with a small daughter. It was a tough day. Being Irish, the family held the reception at a local pub. There was a lot of drinking, story-telling and tears. One man who I’ve always experienced as somewhat aloof, came over to speak to me. His eyes were red and his voice was shaky. “I can’t stop thinking about my own life,” he said. “What kind of legacy am I going to leave? What will people say about me at my funeral?”
There’s that word “legacy” again. Mostly we think of a legacy as the leaving behind of money or property. But the word also means “something that someone has achieved that continues to exist after they stop working or die.” And this is the idea that both these younger men were thinking about. A funeral is always a good opportunity to stop and think about our lives; to take stock and to make the changes that we can make. But what would we change?
CJ, the man whose funeral I attended, didn’t have time to think about his legacy. He was sick one day and died less than a week later. He just had time to do his will and say goodbye to family and close friends, nothing more. His legacy was simply who he was; the way he had lived his life. The hundreds of people who gathered to pay their respects used words to describe him such as: “kind,” “faithful,” “respectful,” “dependable,” “gentlemanly,” “wicked Irish wit.” Certain adjectives were repeated over and over. Those words capture CJ’s legacy.
Yes, some people will be able to leave a building or trust fund or bequest when they die, and they will be remembered for that. But for the people who have known and loved a person, it will be their character, the way they have lived, that will leave the enduring mark on those they leave behind and the ones who come after.
We are such interesting creatures, we humans. We want to live large, make our mark, change the world. We stumble into God’s territory repeatedly as if God isn’t the One in charge, the One who has the big picture, the One who created the world. We want to improve upon Creation. We think we know how. We take the word “steward” as a right, not so much as an awesome responsibility.
We are not God. Yes, we will change the world, but probably not in the ways we imagine. It will be the legacy we create over a lifetime of daily choices and actions that will indeed leave an impact. Not the grandiose plans we have.
In the gospel reading from Luke we heard about faith. The reading begins: “The apostles said to the Lord, “’Increase our faith!’” These followers of Jesus have been with him long enough and seen enough to understand that the calling they have responded to is a vigorous and demanding one. Possibly the honeymoon phase has faded and they know how undisciplined and weak they really are. They want to be up to the task of their “holy calling.”
“Increase our faith,” the apostles ask. They know that their faith is something given and expressed through them. And Jesus tells them that even with the smallest amount of faith, perhaps the size of a mustard seed, they would be able to do amazing things. It seems clear that they need to be grounded in their relationship with God.
So what is faith anyways? One dictionary definition is: “Complete trust or confidence.” Faith not in ourselves but in God. And faith in the holy call given to us by and through God.
This faith will be expressed and shown through our daily work; Jesus uses the examples of “the plowing of the field or the tending of the sheep, through the preparing of supper and the serving of it.” In other words, through the moments of our day that bound together, create our lives. Our “holy calling” is how we live out our lives – through the mundane tasks of our work, our play, our relationships with our loved ones and the strangers we meet at the store, bank and car wash. It’s the words we use, the expressions on our face, the way we move, the care we take of the things we own, how we share or don’t share.
We don’t need the grandiose plans. We just need to take care of our own business and treat ourselves, our neighbours, and Creation as holy; as worthy; as sacred. The German writer Goethe captured this idea perfectly when he said: “If each of us sweeps in front of our own steps, the whole world will be clean.”
This is our “holy calling” – to live more fully and whole heartedly into the moments of our daily lives. And amazingly, this holy calling has a strong hold on most of us. We find ourselves drawn to people and situations that bring out the best in us – the holy calling that informs all of creation. Where plants and animals do what they were created to do, and if we humans slow down enough and get our minds to stop so our hearts can guide us, we too do what we were created to do – to love one another and to love God in so doing.
We come to church to re-kindle the gift of God that is in us; we wake up each new day determined to appreciate the gift of life and the people who will cross our path; we take a moment to stand still by the window or in the garden to say a silent “thank you” for the beautiful place we live in; and we lean into the love that is our birthright – the love of God. And this love is what increases our faith. And this faith inspires us to do what seems impossible. To open our hearts and hands to express the love that moves the sun and the stars.