Preached by the Reverend Nicholas Lang
St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT
The Twentieth-First Sunday after Pentecost – October 17, 2010
May God the Creator begin new life in us, may Christ Jesus nurture all that brings us into wholeness, and may the Holy Spirit provide space for our growing. Amen.
After starting a new diet, a guy changed the route he used to take to work in order to avoid passing by his favorite bakery. One morning, because old habits are hard to break, he drove past the bakery and there in the window were his favorite donuts—calling his name.
This was no accident, he thought to himself, so he prayed, “God, it’s up to you. If you want me to have those donuts that I’m craving, let there be a parking space directly in front of the bakery.” And sure enough, God answered his prayer. On the tenth time around the block, there it was—a parking spot right in front. And I’ll bet it was a tight squeeze for his SUV!
Sometimes you’ve just got to be patient and wait for the good stuff and, yes, God really wants us to have it—although I’m pretty sure there was no divine intervention for our friend the donut lover. So today we are celebrating the culmination of literally years of waiting, talking, hoping, praying, dreaming, and many drives around the block to realize the blessing we have received in reclaiming what was the education building of the parish from about the early 1960’s until, because of decline in membership and financial crises, it was rented to a not-for-profit organization.
Through the generosity of Dorothy and George Warner, long time members of St. Paul’s who left us a bequest, we have gotten that parking spot right in front of the bakery—or rather the building, named the Warner Center in their loving memory—which is once again a place that is home to our Children’s Christian Formation Program and our adult choir and Choristers.
Following the Evensong today, we will process to the Warner Center and bless and dedicate it to God’s work in this community. Then I invite you to walk through and see what a magnificent space it is. On Sunday mornings you will find our choirs rehearsing and vesting for the Solemn Eucharist and our children learning about God’s profound love for them.
Walking through on a weekday afternoon, you will find choristers in rehearsal with Mr. Edwards, taking piano lessons with Noah Wynne Morton, our organ scholar, or getting help with homework from adult mentors. On Tuesdays a large group of children gather for a wonderfully creative program called “Not Sunday, Not School” offered by Mother Cindy Stravers. Room 4 has been beautifully furnished as a space for counseling sessions, small group meetings, and will be suitable for other uses as well. A huge, huge thank you to those who made all this happen in the short space of less than six weeks. You know who you are. I hope you also know how grateful I am to your for what you have done for St. Paul’s
And there is yet evidence of another dream come true in our midst today—the investing of nine new choristers who join the ranks of what is much more than a choir, but a community of young people who work hard to create excellent music and to learn about the great tradition of Anglican worship. We celebrate the seventh birthday of our Chorister Program.
In the reading from the Gospel of Matthew we heard, Jesus tells his disciples that he will give them the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever they bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever they loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
This verse has often been interpreted to mean the forgiving—or retaining of sins. I’d like to think that the binding and loosing we do as the church is in our mission: not cheating the poor of their living, not keeping needy eyes waiting, not grieving the hungry; not adding to the troubles of the desperate, not turning our face away from the poor, rescuing the oppressed from the oppressor.
I’d like to think that the keys Jesus has entrusted to us are the holy ways that we open doors that have been closed to people by extending God’s radical welcome to everyone and offering ourselves as conduits for God’s healing grace. I believe that the many opportunities that people find at St. Paul’s that might enable them to grow in the knowledge and love of God are the result of our cherishing the gift of those sacred keys—the keys that represent liberation for the oppressed, hope for the despairing, transformation for the seeker, affirmation for the lost.
Blessings on you who are the custodian of those keys, who spread the Gospel of radical hospitality and draw others into our communal life! Blessings on you, our choristers, who raise your voices in sacred song and make our hearts glad, making it easy to fall in love with God! Blessings on you who enter these doors seeking solace and peace and respite from a world that can too often dishearten and grieve us!
Never in my wildest dreams during my first five years at St. Paul’s would I ever imagine that we would be blessing and dedicating the Warner Center for our use or listening to 35 boy and girl choristers at a service of Evensong or have an art gallery in the Chittim-Howell House which was then a vacant, dilapidated building or expand to three morning worship services to accommodate our growth—the list could go on.
But I believe that’s exactly what God calls us to do as the church—to dream, to dream wildly and outrageously—trusting that through faithfulness and patience and, yes, maybe several drives around the block God will surprise us in ways we could never imagine. Thanks be to God!