May 27, 2019
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
As some of you may know I was raised on a farm in East Texas. And as land locked as I was I somehow fell in love with the Coast Guard – a service which advertised the best of things – they were the Life Savers. And they had a motto which appealed to the soul of a young Texan – You have to go out but you don’t have to come back – a chance to be a hero.
So when I had the opportunity I enlisted. Something else you probably know – because I’m sure I’ve shared it with you many times – I’m a genius. And part of my “geniusness” I timed my boot camp so I would graduate and be home for Christmas. Now as a young Texan I thought that surely the Coast Guard would be guarding the Texas Gulf Coast. Who knew they had Small Boat Stations in – Michigan!
So, after Christmas I got on a plane bound for Detroit. The first thing that struck me when I got off the plane – it was cold. And as we headed north to the station it got colder. Then when we got to the ferry which would take me to the island which would be my home for the next two years I noticed there wasn’t any water – just more ice and it was cold. When we got on the island we drove for about 20 miles or so over twisting, winding icy roads and icy canal bridges to my new home. Now when I got out of the truck and looked at the station buildings one thing struck me and is etched into my mind forever – it was excruciatingly cold.
Since the lake and everything else in Michigan was frozen for the winter we immediately entered a maintenance mode where we took care of our own. We weren’t worried about anyone outside of our little frozen world so we cooked, cleaned, painted, stood watches around the clock. We also trained over and over to cut down the time it took from the first alarm to get to the boats and to get underway. In Search and Rescue sometimes seconds mattered. And each of us knew that soon the ice would be gone.
Any time we could hear the three bells which meant someone was in trouble. We would leave the maintenance life where we were comfortable to mission to save the lost. From maintenance to mission in 3 bells.
Isn’t this a lot like the ministry of Jesus? Jesus called the 12 enlistees and he began to model a life they were to live and teach the scriptures like no one else had been able to do before. He was preparing them for life after the ice was gone.
In the Gospel of John Chapter 14 Jesus is at the Last Supper and he tried to prepare them for his death. Telling them not to worry because it was necessary that he leave them for a while but he would be back for them.
What did the Apostles do? They stayed locked behind the doors of the upper room caring only for their small number. Trying to stay alive until Jesus returned. And he did return as promised – he appeared several times to the two Marys, the Road to Emmaus, the upper room and shore when they were fishing and catching nothing until bid they cast the nets on the other side of the boat.
And he continued to prepare them and at his Ascension he told them they would be receiving a helper, the Holy Spirit which we heard last week at Pentecost. The Spirit was to give them courage. Today, is like Jesus rings the bell three times – a sign it was time for them to go out to those in trouble.
Today Jesus moved them from Maintenance – all that teaching and modeling – to Mission. A subject we have been hearing quite a bit about lately.
We are called in this Gospel today to go out to those who don’t have a church, to those who may have never had a relationship with God, or maybe someone who has walked away from church because they were hurt in the past and they’re angry or maybe even led astray by others.
That’s why we ring three bells – not for those of us safely in the boat but for those whose boat is sinking or maybe they’re already in the water – 3 bells are for those in danger.
Look, I know how hard it is to leave a place we are comfortable do things we know well. We can convince ourselves that’s someone else’s job. Today’s Gospel tells us it’s not someone else’s job. God is calling us.
It can be very painful to move from maintenance to mission. But much as the Apostle’s received a helper we at Prince of Peace have also. We don’t have to make all the mistakes trying to get to Mission. We have Divine Renovation. St Benedict Parish in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada has been through this change. There were three parishes in close proximity to one another and the decision was made to combine them into one. You can imagine what that would be like. Three communities, each locked into their own maintenance mode; caring first for their own interests. It was Faith Community tearing itself apart without realizing it. Enter Fr James Mallon and a few Intentional Disciples. Fr James became pastor and saw that things needed to change. It’s like when God said to St Francis, ‘Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.‘
So they began a process of changing St Benedict from a parish where people argued over space, proclamation of the Word and leadership – a church mired in maintenance – to a community interested only in God’s mission.
No one is better than Catholics at Maintenance – caring for our own. Where we aren’t so good is exiting these doors and going out to care for those who are lost – searching. We are much too caring of a community to just be people of the pews. We can be disciples of the Most Holy Trinity and go make more disciples.
But there is still understanding we need, knowledge to be gained and mission to be claimed.
But I believe in us as a collective. I believe with the help of Divine Renovation we will go out and “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit.”
9 years ago Fr John welcomed me to Prince of Peace and I knew immediately this was a special place. By the acceptance and love and involvement of you for me.
I, for one, look forward once again to answering those 3 bells and moving to once more to the boats. And I have to tell you, there is no one I would rather have manning the boat with me than the people of Prince of Peace.