Sunday, June 26, 2011 was the bishop's visit to St. MM. He confirmed and reaffirmed folks and celebrated our ministry together.
|With Jamie at graduation from seminary|
Greeting and introductions…
Well here we are in the presence of Our Lord, in the presence of A Bishop in Christ One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, in the sight of the people of the congregation, our hearts our minds attuned to but one thing this morning and that is to welcome and install the prophetess. Prophets are historically not welcomed into any community because their words seem harsh, their vision lacks conformity, and because that’s not the way we’ve always done it.
And yet you are called to the gift of welcoming and hospitality by the action of the Holy Spirit for which the by-product is the gift. The gift of Hospitality. To show grace and with open ears and hearts, and eyes to do the one thing we are called to do in the sight of Mother Julie, to listen to the words of the Prophet.
I have known Julie for almost seven years. I have been with her in battle in the trenches when the odds were stacked against her and like the phoenix rising from the ashes, I have seen her stand in the heat of the fire and say I will not back down. There were tears, heartache, and even disagreement. The first of which is when I offered to make her some Pimento Cheese and she said I can’t believe you people eat that stuff, it’s disgusting. I wept deep tears and prayed for our sister.
Then I brought my sister down to Birmingham for some dental emergency. I arose to make her breakfast one morning, and making stone ground grits, with a quarter stick of real butter on them, fried eggs, bacon, and cat head biscuits, she said I don’t know how you people eat that especially those grits is disgusting. Oh my heart wept and prayed for my sister.
Then she met Tommy. And oh Lord I prayed for him so much. And their love grew for each other, and they married, and she announced that she was going to become a Southerner and oh Lord I prayed for the South. I feared that my influence on her had brought yet another Carpet Bagger into our midst. But I was wrong as usual.
What God gave us was a Lady a true Lady, who in spite of her gentle manner, her quiet voice, her calm pastoral demeanor, is a prophet. She proclaims the word of God in a society that says it is folly. She proclaims the word of God as a woman in a society that says woman should not do that, in spite of the fact that women were called to do it in the New Testament, in spite of the fact that the Early church as early as the 200’s had recognized the common call to ministry amongst women and men, in spite of the fact that the bar that was placed over women’s proclamation was a bar that was put there by the church in Rome whose yoke we fled which identifies us as Anglicans 500 years ago.
You being a church with sober judgment and with praying and discerning hearts heard a call to ask her to come into your midst and join you in the ranks of a battle. A battle that wants to see the injustice of lives devoted to self made god’s, put down and Christ lifted up. This is why my sister is here in your midst.
She is here to lock arms with you, to be your servant, as Christ was to us, and to preach and proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and that Gospel only. To celebrate the sacraments with you for not only yours but also her fortification, sanctification, and renewal. Hers and yours or as we like to say y'all’s. You have learned y'all haven’t you?
She is here to help you claim your own ministry in the church, because the body can only be made strong when we are all contributing to the individual parts. She can’t do it by herself; God never intended it that way. He intended for all people to contribute to the needs of the saints, whatever that call may look like for each of you individually, she will help you clam it.
She is here to open up the Holy Scriptures and to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them and then in turn aid you in the same. Bringing to life the Gospel narrative of Grace by which we were undeserving as sinners and yet while we were still sinners Jesus Christ, the Son of God came in human flesh and took our sin to the cross, where even though we crucified him, he forgave us, was raised and reigns victoriously at the right hand of the Father.
That is a prophet’s message in this day and age, to put us in the mind to jump in the water of Baptism and the fluid of repentance will well up inside like millions of Holy tears drenching our soul in relief from the burdens of a world dying. A world that wants to park itself away in the corner lost in the fairy land of your personal electronic device where you can put up the picture of the person you want people to see and have 400 friends instead of the ones you really need, your family, your priest, and those for who your soul longs to be with.
Julie has been called among you to obey her bishop and to follow the most important canonical duty that he can charge her with. It is in the fine print of her contract and it says, and all other duties as assigned.
Just kidding, he has given her more than that, he has given her all that I have mentioned and one more thing that we will get to in just a second.
Julie we really have laughed and cried together, but I have seen the heart and light of Christ in you in such a powerful way that it gives me hope. And as Andy says in The Shawshank Redemption, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and a good thing never dies.
Today more so than ever we need vital churches, that understands their role as building up people for service as the Body of Christ. And with all the time we have spent together I have seen it in you time and again and don’t you ever forget it and don’t you let anyone take it away from you.
Julie knows the church needs this and she knows that her job is to build you up for this work. We are in unprecedented times and we need to regain our strength. A. W. Tozer, my favorite Christian writer said the following before he died in 1963 said the following, “In many churches Christianity has been watered down until the solution is so weak that if it were poison it would not hurt anyone, and if it were medicine it would not cure anyone!" Tozer was seeing what was only the beginning of the birth pangs.
For all these ailments that the world brings to the body of Christ there is but one cure, it does not come from a gun, it does not come from the well worded letter that insults, it does not come from the politicians, it comes from Love. Unbridled, wild, Christian love.
This is what everything I have said boils down to. To Welcome Julie to welcome the stranger, to pass the peace, to stand in the face of the powers and principalities of this world, and to Love them. Love one another as I have loved you, Christ said. Give my little ones a cup of cold water. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, be present to the hurting and lonely and by doing so you will let your light so shine before all and give Glory to your Father in heaven. This is why Christ has put you all together at this time.
This is why he has called Julie in your midst, me in your midst, The Bishop in your midst. To welcome that for which we cannot and do not wish to welcome, our selves. To love that for whom is unlovable, us. And in the process to change us in to whom we were meant to be. For you are called to be Christ to me and I am called to Christ to you.
Mother Julie this is your charge of ministry in this congregation and it is a task that you are equal to. You have been doing it all your life and I have seen you do it over the last seven years in the face of every obstacle. Congratulations St. Mary Magdalene, you have called one of Christ’s own unto you and together with your Bishop and as God as my witness let me say well done good and faithful servants.
The Rev. Jamie McAdams