Installation Jennie Anderson April 22 2016
Earl Kooperkamp, Pastor
Church of the Good Shepherd
There is a pastor in Cincinnati, Ohio named Damon Lynch and he tells of an exercise he did with a group of teachers. Each teacher was given a small gift wrapped box, and then the teachers were divided, half on one side of the room and half on the other. Them the teachers from one side were asked to walk across the room and give their gifts to the teachers on the other side, and then resume their places. When asked how they felt, the teachers who gave their gifts away felt great, that they had been generous and shared their gifts with the others. The teachers who now had two gift boxes each, though, said they felt cheated, they felt like they had something to share as well, but they were frustrated they couldn’t share their gifts. It turns out, though, there was one guy with two gifts who did admit afterwards that he was happy with having two gifts!
Prayer: O Wonderful God, we give you thanks this day for this time to celebrate the new ministry that St. Barnabas Church and the Rev. Jennie Anderson have begun. By your Word and sacraments may we be inspired to continue your mission in this congregation by the love of Jesus our savior and friend. Amen.
About two millennia ago, the Apostle Paul planned a trip. He was on his way to Spain, to preach the Good News of Jesus literally to the ends of the earth as known in his day. On the way, though, he hoped to stop to visit with the Christians in Rome. So Paul wrote an introduction, a letter to show who he is and what his ministry is about. But this letter not only gives an insight into Paul’s theology, it also tells us what he thought about the Church. Paul was about to go to Rome, the center of the great Empire, the belly of the beast. He saw that the Christian community there, and in the other communities he formed and visited, were a challenge to imperial authority. The Church in Rome, and the other Christian communities throughout the Empire are alternative communities to Paul, alternatives to the way community was practiced under imperial rule. These alternative communities of the Church were not founded for the pursuit of wealth and power, but they were committed to caring for one another and sharing the love of Jesus. This is what he tells the Roman Christians in the twelfth chapter of the letter which we just heard. This is about a community living in harmony with one another, living together in humility and with a right relationship. Contrary to all the trappings of imperial luxury, Paul describes and ideal of a community, hospitable, generous, hopeful, loving and genuine. In Paul’s view, this is how we are to be together and this is who we are to be together.
Different days, different empires, but the same faith: today come together in a place Paul could never have imagined, but we come in that same faith Paul exhibited. We come together here this evening to celebrate the ministry of St. Barnabas Church, this community which has gathered in the love of God for generations to be hospitable, generous, hopeful, loving and genuine in praising God’s goodness. We come together here this evening especially to celebrate the new time of ministry at St. Barnabas under the leadership of Jennie Anderson, and the energy and joy she brings to her call. Before we go much further, though, we will soon renew our Baptismal vows. I am so glad that you all provided for this to take place in the midst of our worship this evening, for as Bishop Ely will remind us, it is through our Baptismal Covenant that we receive the power together as a community to carry out our ministry and to carry out God’s mission to reconcile all people to God through Christ. This is how we as the Church, this is how we as Christians, enter into a right relationship with God, with our sisters and brothers in Christ, and with our neighbors. This is how we live in right relationship to carry out Jesus’ two great commands, to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. And as out new Presiding Bishop Michael Curry always reminds us, it is in the right relationship established in our Baptismal faith that we are part of the Jesus movement, ready and called to, “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.”
Of course, this is not always as easy or as neat as it sounds. That ideal Paul presented to the Christians gathered in Rome remains just that, an ideal. Our lives are messier and rarely fit neatly into Paul’s paradigm. But that is really ok, because even in our shortcomings, God is present, telling us in those words of Jesus, “Do not fear, only believe.” Yes, even in the middle of our sometimes messy lives or our relationships that have gone south, that love of God we know in Jesus draws us to him, draws us to him for the gifts of healing and peace, draws us to Jesus for the gifts of embarking anew in a spirit of peace on right relationships.
In a few moments, representatives of the congregation will give Jennie gifts as signs of the ministry you share in this parish and in this community. A Bible, oil, keys and other gifts will be given and received to symbolize the means by which God’s grace will be present here; although I’m not sure that Fr. Gunnar Urang’s “gift” of the Canons and Constitution of the Church fit under the title of “Gift,” but that’s a theological discussion for another day! We heard the counsel to seek out Wisdom as she is easily discerned, and I think in this giving of gifts as signs of ministry, Wisdom is called for: as can be seen from the example of Pastor Damon Lynch and the gift boxes the teachers had, perhaps the greatest gift we can give another is to allow her to share and develop her gifts. In a sense, that’s what we are doing here in our ritual this evening: we are giving these gifts as signs of our ministry together and we are fully expecting them to be given away, given away freely and with love and joy. And why? Why do we do this? Because you and I have been given that greatest gift: you and I have been given the love of God in Christ Jesus. We, you and I have had our hearts opened in the light of Jesus’ love. You and I have had our lives turned around by that amazing grace bestowed on us so freely and generously. You and I have been given a foretaste of God’s loving reign of justice and peace in the heavenly banquet prepared for us. But we also know that, to quote Humphrey Bogart as Rick in the film Casablanca, that, “it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans,” if we don’t share that love, if we don’t give it away, if we don’t give others what we have been so graciously given, because then, as they say back in my home state of Kentucky, “we ain’t got it.” We are given God’s love in Jesus to share it with others. We are loved so that we might love in the name of Christ. God’s love so changes us, so transforms our lives that despite our faults and failings, God grants us, to each of us, to you and to me, that grace to love others. God gives God’s own self to us in Jesus that we, you and I, might give ourselves to others in the name of Christ. And that, that my sisters and brothers, that is what this ministry is all about.
A final word: to the congregation of St. Barnabas gathered here and it's friends and neighbors, and to Jennie, your newly installed Priest-in-Partnership: share these gifts you have been given, share them, but also open your hearts and lives that others may share their gifts with you. Jennie; allow the people here to share their steadfast loving service, their unstinting generosity and their intellectual curiosity, their questions and doubts, to share them that you might grow in faith and wisdom; and to the congregation gathered here; continue to grant Jennie the grace to share her great joy and vitality, to share her caring and loving to share her faith in God’s goodness with you and with the wider community. May God continue to bless you richly in the new places you will go, called forth in mission and strengthened by loving bonds of fellowship. And above all, thanks be to God for these graces and the love, the loving gift bestowed on us that we might share it with others. In the most Holy Name of God, Amen.