“Helping Heal God’s World,” October 6, 2019, the Rev. Louise Kalemkerian
(This sermon was not recorded due to a glitch in our recording process.)
We have come to this holy space this evening to hear glorious music, to have our spirits nourished and renewed, to offer prayer and praise to God. And to hear our choristers and Schola sing of God’s love and protection of us. To remember that the human voice is healing and consoling. Thank you for your presence. And thank you, Dr. Barry Rose, for your presence and leadership.
The lesson we just read from the Book of Acts is part of the saga of the church in the first century. Stories of rescue are abounding in Acts. The fledgling church struggled with persecution by Jewish and Roman political leaders and grew both because of dramatic experiences such as we just read of Peter’s escape from prison with God’s help, and the faithful community’s prayers.
The concept of faithfulness seems not have much standing in today’s world. The idea that one follows guiding principles, core values and honors them with one’s commitment of time, treasure and talent seems almost out-of-date. And yet that is what the Christian journey is about, being faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ, walking in his way of love and generosity and forgiveness and fairness in our own lives. Sharing with those in need. Recognizing that every person is made in God’s image and beloved of God. And then, as in the case of choir members everywhere, giving up one’s time to attend practices and rehearsals when one could be doing something else. So I thank you all for your efforts tonight, particularly the choristers, for your commitment, your faithfulness.
Faithfulness is something learned over months and years. It is learned from others’ examples,
parents, teachers, colleagues. And it is improved by practice, the same kind of practice we need to learn music or a sport.
Those of us who lived through the 1960s may remember the arduous and painful efforts of parents and children who were called upon to integrate schools in the South. Their experiences were amazing examples of faithfulness.
Harvard psychiatrist Robert Coles spent time with four black six-year-old girls who initiated school desegregation in New Orleans. He had become fascinated with the “stoic courage” with which these girls faced the ordeal of walking to school under the protection of federal marshals, as crowds of angry protesters hurled obscenities and threats at them.
Coles says he became especially interested in the relationship between Tessie, one of the six-year-old girls, and her grandmother Martha, whom he describes as “a tall, handsome woman, carefully groomed,” with a “big laugh that shook her ample body and was sometimes punctuated by a clap or two of her hands and a two-word exclamation: ‘Lord Almighty!’”
One day, he reports, Tessie suggested over breakfast that perhaps, for the first time, she would stay home from school. Coles was present at the breakfast table, and witnessed and recorded Martha’s response:
“‘It’s no picnic, child—I know that, Tessie—going to that school. Lord Almighty, if I could just go with you, and stop there in front of that building, and call all those people to my side, and read to them from the Bible, and tell them, remind them, that He’s up there, Jesus, watching over all of us—it don’t matter who you are and what your skin color is. But I stay here, and you go…
‘So I’m not the one to tell you that you should go, because here I am, and I’ll be watching television and eating or cleaning things up while you’re walking by those folks. But I’ll tell you, you’re doing them a great favor; you’re doing them a service, a big service.’
Coles then reports, “She stopped briefly to pick up a fly swatter and go after a bee that had noisily appeared in the kitchen. She hit it and watched it fall to the floor, then she plucked a tissue from a box on a counter, picked up the bee, still alive, and took it outside, where it flew off. I was surprised; I’d expected her to kill the bee and put its remains in the wastebasket. She resumed speaking and, again to my surprise, connected her rescue of the bee to what she had started to say.
“‘You see, my child, you have to help the good Lord with His world! He puts us here—and He calls us to help Him out. That bee doesn’t belong here; it belongs out there. You belong in that McDonough School, and there will be a day when everyone knows that, even those poor folks—Lord, I pray for them!—those poor, poor folks out there shouting their heads off at you. You’re one of the Lord’s people; He’s put His Hand on you. He’s given a call to you, a call to service—in His name! There’s all those people, scared out of their minds, and by the time you’re ready to leave the McDonough School they’ll be all calmed down, and they won’t be paying you no mind at all, child, and I’ll guarantee you, that’s how it will be!’”
Coles continued, “As she was speaking, Tessie finished her breakfast, marched confidently to the sink with her dishes, put them in a neat pile, and went to get her raincoat and empty lunch pail from her room—all without saying a word. She was going to school…”
As Tessie’s grandmother Martha said, we have to help God with God’s world. Your devotion, wonderful Choristers, shows the world, your friends, your families, that singing heals, that God loves, and that we all have to help heal God’s world. Thank you for your faithfulness.
And your faithfulness is supported by the commitment of your friends and families as well. The commitment of time and treasure, especially your and my treasure, to support our Chorister Program, is indispensable to its success. I ask your generosity.
 Robert Coles, The Call to Service, p.2