It is an honor to be with you to celebrate the new ministry of Sara Fischer as your Rector and the new ministry of the members of St. Paul’s who will be confirmed tonight. I am the Rector of St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church in Portland, Oregon where I have been for the last six years. Sara was one of the first clergy persons I met when I was new to the Diocese. She greeted me with gracious hospitality and kindness, followed by many invitations to partner with her in ministry. It was through Sara that I somehow landed on the Commission on Ministry, became active in our clericus, hosted gatherings of folks bringing art supplies to benefit the Rahab Sisters, and attended my first year of the College for Congregational Development. Oh, and there was also that time she enlisted me to do the Whole30 nutritional plan through Lent. And of course, signing up for a trainer and working out more regularly. You almost have to, to keep up with the courageous and creative ways Sara seeks to bring the kingdom of God to the communities she serves.
Which is all to say that there will be a time or two that Sara will have an idea for a new adventure in ministry. She will approach you about it and your first reaction might be to tilt your head to the side and wonder where this idea came from, but then from that place you will start to nod and you’ll hear the words coming out of your mouth, ‘okay, let’s do it.’ I can imagine that perhaps Jesus grew to expect and appreciate a similar response from his disciples and followers. A bit of a tilt of the head when he is telling them to go with no purse or bag or sandals. A look of wondering when he says that he is sending them out like lambs into the midst of wolves. But then comes the enticement of mission. Bringing peace to every house. The heads begin to nod. Cure the sick. Yes, okay. Share that the kingdom of God has come near. I’m in. Travel in pairs. Let’s do it.
Sixteenth century mystic, Teresa of Avila, wrote a piece that describes for me the commissioning of the seventy by Jesus that we hear in the Gospel of Luke, the induction of Sara as Rector of St. Paul’s, and the Confirmation of Ned, Jamie, Elaine, and Paula: “Christ has no body on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ looks out to the world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which he is to bless others now.” I would add the idea that we do not do this work alone. We are not Christ’s body in isolation. As Paul reminds the community in Corinth, we gather together in remembrance of Christ. We break bread and share a common cup to be nourished, strengthened, encouraged and empowered to proclaim God’s word. We do not do this alone, but around a table, as friends with a mutual ministry and purpose. ‘Yours’ becomes a collective - our body, our hands, our feet.
That is what we are celebrating tonight. A new collective. The new body, hands, feet and eyes of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. With every person that you welcome, with every new person baptized, confirmed, received, inducted, you are changed. Each of us - Sara, Ned, Jamie, Elaine, Paula, you - every one of our sets of hands have shaped different things, our feet have travelled different places, and our eyes have seen entirely unique worlds from one another. Every new person transforms us into a new body, a new church. By greeting Sara as your new Rector tonight, by welcoming the newly confirmed, by renewing your own baptismal covenant, St. Paul’s is changed.
Change is scary, particularly in these very unsettled times. So how do we as one body embrace change and let our apprehension heed to faith? In this season of Advent we preach a lot about hope. It’s what I have been preaching about in Portland and I know it is what Sara has been preaching about here as well. I read her sermon from First Advent - reminding us that our primary job is not to seek signs of hope for we know where our hope is, it is in God. Our responsibility is to point toward hope so that we may bring others to that knowledge. I coupled this very same message with a particular stance - we call it the hero of hope stance. Modeled after the Harvard researched stance that demonstrated that standing like a superhero for two minutes a day increases our confidence and optimism and decreases our stress and anxiety- we decided at St. Michael’s that we could use some of that in these dark days. We have learned that even in our first ten days we have grown accountable to one another and the world around us. The world needs hope. So I share it with you. When Sara approaches you with a new idea for ministry, I want you to stand with your legs two feet apart. Shoulders back and head raised high. Put your hands on your hips and glance to the new horizon. Count to 120. And listen to the “Yes” that emerges from your soul and trust that it comes from a place of hope and faith. Amen.