Preached by the Rev’d Louise Kalemkerian
St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT
The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost with the Investiture of Choristers – October 19, 2014
We have come to this beautiful sanctuary this evening to hear heavenly music, to have our spirits nourished and renewed, to offer prayer and praise to God. And to recognize our newest choristers. Thank you for your presence tonight, and for your support of them.
What if I were to tell you that this week you could change the world? Would you believe me? Would you imagine it to be so? Or look at your watch and wonder when the service will be over?
Let’s look at it this way: do you believe that what you do in your daily interactions and activities, your ordinary comings and goings, makes a difference to others? In other words, do I matter, in this huge and crazy world, do I count?
Throughout the Gospels Jesus gives us a resounding “yes” to these questions. He heals those suffering pain or illness to make them whole. He provides food for scores of hungry people with a few loaves and some fish. He welcomes and comforts persons whom the society had marginalized. He affirms women and children, people who were nonpersons in his society. He proclaims God’s love and mercy. He tells us over and over of our value as beloved children, persons made in God’s image and likeness. He tells us that God loves us down to the hairs on our heads. He wants each of us to know that we are loved and cherished beyond our wildest imaginations. And that nothing can ever change the love God has for us.
So when Jesus asks, “who do you say I am?” he wants to know what his closest friends think about him. A question put not just to Peter and the disciples, but to each of us. Maybe the more relevant question for us moderns is “Where do we find God? What are you looking for? Who do you say that I am?”
We live in a culture that purports to have an answer to everything. We like answers, concrete, definitive statements. It would be comforting to be certain, like Peter was in the moment, that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the savior of the world. That I can and will put all my trust and faith in him.
Jesus became human to show God’s unfailing and boundless love for every human being. To demonstrate God’s care and concern for each person, by God’s giving Godself away in the person of Jesus. To love and forgive again and again, to make community, to heal and make whole, to gather people around a table and feed them, to go to the ends of the earth to seek and save the lost. This is who Jesus is. This is why he came. And why he lived, died and rose again.
Because those traits of Jesus, the generosity, the love, the patience, the selflessness, gentleness, mercy, are what matter in the world. What this broken world needs more than ever. And that you and I can act with them in all that we say and do, at home, at work, at school.
I believe Jesus is hoping that we will answer is yes to him, yes to his guidance and mercy, yes to dependence upon him, yes to selflessness and love and generosity, yes to forgiveness and patience and forbearance. Yes that he is the One, even when we’re not sure. Yes that he is God-become-man, like Peter, even when we have doubts.
Life is often difficult, and does not come with an instruction book. Frequently it is three steps forward and two steps backward. It is filled with paradox, as is faith. And living in faith is hard. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan teacher and spiritual writer says that one is never sure of his/her absolute correctness when living in faith. He says that’s why it’s called faith. “At the crucial moments in your life’s decision making, you are always trusting in God’s guidance and mercy and not in your perfect understanding. You’re ‘falling into the hands of the living God,’ letting God’s knowing suffice and God’s arms save.”
Several years ago Andy Andrews wrote a little book called The Butterfly Effect in which he catalogued the extraordinary impact of simple and courageous efforts, by individual persons. Except when you go back, you can never really tell which efforts made the biggest difference.
So, for instance, should Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug, who developed high yield, disease resistant corn and wheat be credited with saving two billion lives from famine? Or should Henry Wallace, the one-term US vice president, who created an office in New Mexico to develop hybrid seed for arid climates and hired Borlaug to run it? Or should we credit George Washington Carver, who took a young Henry Wallace for long walks and instilled in him his love of plants? Or should it be Moses and Susan Carver, who adopted the orphaned George as their son? Or should it be… ? Well, you get the idea. Andrews points out how inter-connected our lives and actions are, creating an unforeseen butterfly effect that can ripple across time and space to affect the lives of millions.
Tonight six young people, Alexandra, Joe, Alexa, Denise, Brielle, and Justin are going to be invested as choristers in this place. They have chosen, like the older choristers before them, to make a difference in the life of this community, by raising their voices in praise of God, as the Psalm says. And who knows who their voices will touch. Who knows how their singing will affect others? Who knows how their learning and loving and living into the generosity and patience and gentleness of Jesus will touch the life of others, in their schools, neighborhoods, or beyond?
Maybe because they’ve experienced love in this community, they’ll be able to extend it to another. Maybe because they’ve been affirmed and valued they’ll be able to stand up against a bully, who never had anyone care enough to stand up to him before, and in turn he’ll go on to be a police officer. Maybe because one may discover a passion for singing, s/he will go on to a musical career, touching the lives of thousands. Maybe one may fall in love with Anglican church music and go on to become a renowned organist and composer like Mr. E, and in turn teach new generations of choristers. Or maybe, even, you’ll be so moved by their singing today that you’ll decide to write a huge check for the choristers’ program.
The things each of us, adult or child, does this week, our actions, decisions, choices, words, will in fact ripple out with consequences foreseen and unforeseen, for good or ill, for the welfare or wound of the world. Some of these actions may be big, most will be small, hardly noticeable. And yet they all have the potential for God to use us to change the world.
Sing well, choristers. You never know how many lives you’ll touch, how God will use you. And thank you for your gift to us.
 Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality. P. 136.