Increase our Faith! Mother Tracy's 1st Sermon
Good morning! It is a delight to stand among you finally. It has been a long journey to get to today hasn’t it? It’s been a journey with some bumps and bruises along the way, a journey where at times the questions and the concerns, and the uncertainty felt too much…but we kept the faith. We pressed on in seeking the will of God for this new chapter…and here we are, united by God’s grace! It is a joy to accept the calling to serve as your Rector, which is kind of a funny title.
We have just grown accustomed to it in our little Episcopal world, but I wonder, do you know what it means? Rector is a word that comes to us through the Latin for ruler…ughhh…wait maybe we don’t want one of those after all…well have no fear…I’m not under any illusions that I can rule you, nor would I want to. I much prefer the modern definition, one who directs…That jives with me…
Not only because I can be direct, but because giving directions and guidance is one of the most loving things you can do in the world. With our children we raise them up to be kind, faithful and loving by teaching them and showing them how. With our animals that we will bless today we teach them to be good companions by directing them. We teach them how to love us well, by redirecting them away from chewing on the shoes and scratching at the furniture. We encourage their nuzzles and affection, and we discourage their jumping up and their hissing. And in our partnerships and our marriages in life, we have to give guidance to our spouse. I learned pretty early into my ten years of marriage; my husband cannot read my mind…shocking I know right. It doesn’t come with the skill set. And so, we teach one another how to love each other well by sharing our desires, our concerns, our hopes, and how we want the dishwasher loaded…
But more than all of this…giving direction is biblical. The whole of the Bible can be summed up in this: God reaching out to lost, lonely, broken people who couldn’t find and follow God on their own.
And so, God in his infinite mercy gave us the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ. To be our savior, our companion and our guide.
Where do I come into that story? Where do we come in? We come in like St. Paul came in. We were once all blind people that now can see that Jesus lived, died and rose again for us. And if a man can live, predict His own death and resurrection, and actually pull it off…Well that’s someone worth following.
In our following Christ we are gathered together as a community of faith not unlike the apostle Paul’s communities of Corinth, Ephesus, and Philippi. Here we are gathered as the community of St. Lucie county, in the city of Port St. Lucie, united in the Nativity family by God’s grace. We’re a family centered around that Family. The Holy family. And we stand as a community of faith centered around a story of new birth, and how one new birth, can change the world.
And we are gathered today at another new birth. A new birth of the ministry of the people of the Nativity family, and I hope it’s a happy occasion.
As Paul wrote to Timothy, I write to you. I am grateful to God--whom I worship--when I remember you constantly in my prayer’s night and day. Recalling your tears, I longed to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandparents, and your parents, in Father Paul and in Reverend Mary, and now, I am sure, lives in you.
For this reason, I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord, or of me, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace.
This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.
So if any of you here are fearful…relax… take a deep breath. It’s gonna be all right. I don’t intend to rule you, but I do intend to direct you, to direct you to the foot of the cross, to direct you to the table of our Lord, and to direct you to love and serve one another in the name of our Christ Jesus…who was and is our greatest treasure and gift…And oh by the way…Since I intend to direct you to the greatest gift we have in our Lord Jesus Christ…I don’t think I’ll be needing this gift. I brought a super hero cape with me today because you said to me in your call: Not unlike the Marvel Comic characters, Nativity seeks a Christ-centered Super Priest, able to transform Nativity into a vibrant, financially sound, growing house of worship…Like Edna Mode in the Incredibles, I’m a firm believer in “No Capes!” Not only because this one’s a little small…it actually belongs to my daughter, but also because they get in the way…
We don’t need a super-priest. When the disciples cried out to Jesus “Increase our faith” Jesus didn’t give them a zap, whammo, jolt and bam Super faith, and Super Christian. But he could have…I firmly believe that God in man, made manifest could have done exactly that, but instead Jesus said you don’t need more faith. What little you have is already enough. Instead Jesus goes on to say that increasing our faith is tied to what? According to Jesus, our life as servants, a life of service…As we live out our calling together here to love and serve the Lord united by God’s grace we will in faithfulness grow as a house of worship, but more importantly we will grow the family of God.
But there is one important thing I have to ask of you…Do you remember what happened to Jesus immediately after his baptism in the Jordan river? Immediately after the beginning of his ministry with the words from heaven, “This is my Son with whom I’m well pleased…”
Jesus was led into the wilderness, to fast and to pray for 40 days, to be tried, and to be tempted. You see when we do a new thing. When we raise up our heads, our hands, and our hearts and we say Here I am Lord send me…Well there isn’t just rejoicing in heaven. We face opposition…the Evil one isn’t exactly rejoicing that we’re getting fired up here, and ready to enter into a new season of love and service to Jesus. And so I’m inviting the whole church to pray with me, pray for me, and pray for our community for 40 days beginning this week.
These 40 days will carry us through mid-November and my celebration of New Ministry on November 17th at 10:30. If you want to follow me on social media @tracydugger, or the Church of the Nativity on Social Media on facebook and Instagram, it’s @Nativitypsl. I’ll be posting prayers weekly there that we can pray together. For those of you that aren’t into social media, with Carol’s return this week, I’ll probably be able to figure out the mailing list, and we’ll get them out that way as well. And you don’t have to pray the way I’m teaching, I have no illusions that I’m Jesus. I’m offering these as suggested prayers so that we can pray in unity, and for those of us who may be less comfortable praying off the cuff. But however, you choose to join me, please join me in prayer these 40 days. I need it, we need it, and the world needs us to be a people of prayer who can at the end of these 40 days say like Jesus, Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.