Sermon: In Love Again

Sunday, 07 May 2017 03:00
Hits: 62 Written by Mark Giroux

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I have fallen in love more than once.

In 1975, I fell in love with Paula Warvel. Married her the next year. In 1980, she gave birth to Luke and I fell right in love with him. In 1983, it was baby Marie.

I have fallen in love other times, too.

As a teenager, I fell in love with Jesus. The stories from the Gospels captured my heart. Jesus so clearly cared about the little ones and the least ones. He cared about underdogs. In high school, I was one of those.

Falling in love with Jesus is different than falling in love with someone you want to marry, of course. But as Kathleen Norris wrote in one of her books:  "Ordinary, sane people are in love with the Gospels much as one might be in love with a person."  So according to her, I'm not crazy.

In 1981, I got divorced, kind of. I split with the church I'd sunk my heart in. It had been a good church for me in some ways. But we could not stay together. I had become more open and tolerant in my views, and that was not acceptable in that kind of church.

So I kind of dated some other churches. And then I fell in love again. It was the Episcopal Church. And it was just like coming home.

I love the way the Episcopal Church does church. I love the Prayer Book. I love the tolerance and openness. And I even love the quirkiness.

More years went by, and at the end of 1994, I fell in love again. A bishop in Syracuse pointed me at a congregation in a place I'd never been, a place called Chenango Bridge. I fell in love with the parish immediately. Not to mention the fabulous name of the place:  St. Mark's.

I did try to leave once, thinking I was supposed to go somewhere else. But the love would not let me stay away, and I got back a year later.

Now, let's remember something about love. You love people who are not perfect.

My wife is pretty perfect. I mean, she is really, really close to perfect. But she will admit she has some shortcomings, though I would argue she has way fewer than her husband. My children are not perfect, either. But I still love my wife and my kids, and they still love me in spite of my faults.

Same goes for my church. This church here in Chenango Bridge has its flaws. It is made up of people, and people are flawed and broken. The church has been flawed and broken ever since the time of Peter and Paul and Thomas and Mary and Martha and the rest of them in the New Testament.

But from the start, the church was loved by Christ, warts and all. All people are loved by Christ, warts and all. St. Mark's Church is loved by Christ, warts and all. And I love St. Mark's.

Two weeks ago, we had the joy of baptizing a baby at each service. Each of those baby girls was beautiful. And they were perfect. There will be time later for them to show their less-than-perfect side, but not yet.

And when we baptized them, we renewed our Baptismal Covenant, as we always do. One of the commitments we make comes from today's reading from the Acts of the Apostles. In the service of baptism, we are asked, "Will you continue in the apostles'

teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers?" We answer, "I will, with God's help."

During the Great Fifty Days of Easter, we hear every Sunday a text from the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament. Those baptismal words come from today's portion:

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers....They ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people."

It's an attractive portrait of a church family, and it could just as well be written about St. Mark's, Chenango Bridge. Week by week, we gather to hear from the apostles' teaching in Scripture and to break the bread together and to pray together. And we may not see huge miracles like in the Bible stories, but we have smaller, quiet everyday miracles...

people slowly being healed, people getting through hard times, people finding help and hope, people growing up into the image of Christ. We eat together, we enjoy one another, we work together in service, and we give together.

I love this picture of the church from the second chapter of Acts. I love that its words are used in our service of baptism. And I love that you are living it out, right here and now.

So I want to tell yet again one of my favorite church stories. I think I should tell this story at least once a year until I die. It lives in my heart, and it should live in the heart of every church.

There was a church school class full of 5-year olds. A new child joined the class unexpectedly one day. His name was Tommy, and he'd been born with a disability. He had only one arm. The teacher of the class did not have a chance to help the other kids understand ahead of time. She worried that the other kids might feel uncomfortable or even say something cruel.

But she wasted a good worry. The other kids just accepted Tommy right into the class and they all had fun together.

Then the teacher said, "Okay, now we're going to do a poem with gestures...Here's the church, here's the steeple, open the doors, and here's all the people!"

And too late she remembered Tommy could not do the gestures with just one arm. But the little girl sitting next to Tommy reached out her hand and said, "Hey, Tommy...let's you and me be the church together!"

As the dad of a disabled child, I love that story. It's a miracle to me.

And it's the miracle of the church.

We are all broken somehow.

We are all flawed in some way.

We are all wounded, if only secretly.

But we are loved.

We are loved by Christ.

We are loved by one another.

And you are loved by your priest.

The joy of the church is this:

in spite of our brokenness,

in spite of our flaws,

in spite of our wounds,

we join hands

and we decide to be the church....together.

Close Panel

Worship Services at St. Mark's

Sunday

  • 8:00am Holy Eucharist

  • 10:00am Holy Eucharist
    10-10:30 Sunday School 

Thursday

  • 9:00am Morning Prayer