Life in the Gap

Sermon by The Rev. Kevin M. Goodman, interim rector, Annual Meeting Sunday

Why do we have Church? Why do you, why do I come here, why do we come here? What happens here? What doesn’t? What happens when we leave and go out there?

Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry shares this, “In the first century Jesus of Nazareth inspired a movement. A community of people whose lives were centered on Jesus Christ and committed to living the way of God’s unconditional, unselfish, sacrificial, and redemptive love. Before they were called “church” or “Christian,” this Jesus Movement was simply called the Way. Today I believe our vocation is to live as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement. But how can we together grow more deeply with Jesus Christ at the center of our lives, so we can bear witness to his way of love in and for the world?”

Bishop Curry’s challenging question is at the heart of why we are here today. His identification of the Way, and his questions regarding what we might need for the ministry ahead, are worth exploring during this interim period, this time in-between, this time in the GAP. This gap is a time to question, to explore, to evaluate, to wonder what I need as an individual for the spiritual journey, to look around the room and see who is on the journey with me. This is a time to understand, identify and appreciate what gifts of the heart and spirit are surrounding me right here, right now, in this church; such as gifts of people, gifts of stained glass, gifts of music, gifts of accompaniment, gifts of care and concern, gifts of vision and hope and healing.

It’s also a time of discernment, of questioning, of searching our own spiritual selves, praying to uncover, to recognize and to develop and ultimately to share the gifts you and I have been given for the work of God.

As we gather for the Annual Meeting, I ask you to seek realistic answers to what you need and what you can give in order to enhance your spiritual life, to deepen your relationship with God, and to solidify your love for the people gathered here.

The work of the Gap, the interim period includes understanding what I am willing to give up and what am I willing to make room for in order to get this work done. The answers will not be the same for any one of us. Life in the Gap, our ministry in the Jesus movement, the work of the Episcopal Branch of which we are part takes space and time. Space needs to be created for something to happen. Time has to be dedicated for discipline and practice in hopes of transformation.

Space and time is so hard to find in a busy world. We are raising families. We are taking care of parents. We are working. We are going to school. We are managing our health challenges. We are laughing and living and loving.

How am I going to find time? How am I going to make room?

Unfortunately, I cannot deepen my spirituality, I cannot get to know God, I cannot find the strength to love God’s people more deeply without time and space and discipline.

This is what we are invited to consider during the Annual Meeting. What have we done with all that we have been given? Do I have time? Do we have money? What can I commit to to deepen my journey of faith here in this place?

Boy George, prophet and lead singer for the popular 80’s band Culture Club, shares this about time, singing, “Time, it could have been so much more. Time is precious I know. In time it could have been so much more. The time has nothing to show because Time won’t give me time.”

Worship and study and prayer is a good way to use some time. I believe Jesus’ life and ministry empowers me to find language and expression around suffering. The Church and the teaching of the tradition helps me find words for my experiences. I believe our collective spirit inspires me to live better, to love deeply and to act with great care. This is why I am here. This is why I come to church.

God created all of this. Jesus healed and fed and loved and invited everybody to find themselves in God’s story. Because Jesus loved so much, he was crucified, and died. Through Jesus’s life and death and resurrection, the pattern and framework of our journeys of faith are firmly establish. Birth. Life. Love. Serve. Die. Change. Be born again. New life.

Jesus’ friends and followers, believing you and I could live a better life, started a non-profit – the Church. And here we are. We have Church to celebrate.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., loved the church so he established a rule of life so that he would always remember the work he was supposed to do as a lover of God and a lover of God’s people. Dr. King’s rule was all about remembering he was part of the Jesus Movement. Dr. King shares, “Remember, the nonviolent movement seeks justice and reconciliation, not just victory. Remember, always walk and talk in a manner of love, for God is love. Remember, pray daily to be used by God. Remember, sacrifice personal wishes so that all might be free. Remember, observe with friend and foe alike, the ordinary, normal rules of courtesy. Remember, perform services for others and for the world. Remember, refrain from violence of the fist and violence of the spirit. Remember, strive to be in good bodily and spiritual health.”

We have to constantly work at being faithful people of God. Space has to be created. Time has to be dedicated. Disciplines need to be practiced. A prayer life needs to be established. All of this working together helps us to remember.

There is a lot to celebrate at today’s annual meeting. Let’s take a moment to remember.

St. Elisabeth’s community of faith moved through the year with faith and confidence in the midst of pilgrimages, confirmations, farewells, transitioning into in the GAP.

These are just a few highlights.

Members of St. Elisabeth’s began Lent by going on pilgrimage to The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. This historical record of lynching is dedicated to victims of white supremacy. This congregation moved out through those red doors, to become visible and present to the LGBTQ community, hosting a Pride Fest for the village of Glencoe. Later in the year, Daphne resigned as rector in order to accompany her husband on a teaching fellowship to Morocco. The congregation took the CAT survey, an effective evaluation tool providing a lens in time identifying hopes, and dreams, and aspirations for the future ministry of St. Elisabeth’s. A search committee was announced and their search began by listening, hearing and gathering data.

I began my ministry as your interim rector beginning with the first phase of my work -listening, gathering and discovering stories. During my first few weeks, I had breakfast with the acolytes, learned about Family Promise, participated in your Soup Kitchen, and was delighted to witness the generosity of this place during the ReVive Christmas Basket Drive. Being from New Orleans where everything food matters, I must declare, this church hosts the best coffee hour – period. It is difficult to get a Sunday Forum going because the coffee-hour fellowship is so vibrant and alive.

As we moved into the New Year, the Search Committee completed the beginnings of the process, hosting several listening sessions and is now interpreting the congregation’s responses in order to produce the Parish Profile. What comes next for them, the Parish Profile is published online and in print. This public document begins the process of matching St. Elisabeth’s ministry expectations with perspective rector candidates.

All of this is what we celebrate as we gather together for the Annual Meeting. We are given reports, hear about our parish finances and the 2020 budget, elect delegates to our next diocesan bishop’s electing convention and for the Diocesan Convention, vote for new vestry members, remember our dead, and pray in hope and gratitude for this congregation’s future. This is an incredible amount of ministry accomplished.

As we worship together and commemorate the year and take care of our business at our Annual Meeting, I pray you will take some time to reflect today. What does this place mean to you? What do you hope this church will continue to be? What do you need? What do you have to offer? What are you willing to give up? What are you willing to make room for?

What do you feel you need to do in order to continue to transform this part of the Jesus Movement that we call St. Elisabeth’s Episcopal Church, Glencoe, Illinois.