A Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany

By: David H. May, Rector

Last Sunday was Youth Sunday, so one of the young people of our congregation, Jack Ireland, was our preacher at both services. I’ve thought about what Jack had to say last Sunday. A lot. If you weren’t able to be here, Jack began his sermon by wondering aloud, ‘what is my purpose?’ Someone that age is looking and looking hard at the question of ‘what will I do with my life?’ That is part of what I admire so much about people that age. They are wondering, ‘what is worth giving my life to?’ I think that’s what Jack’s question, ‘what is my purpose?’ was all about.

The word purpose has its roots in the Greek word telos which does mean purpose, but purpose in a special sense. For example, the telos, the purpose of an acorn is to become an oak tree. Its purpose is built right into it, into its very being. Unless something intervenes – like a squirrel or bad growing conditions – it will become an oak tree. It can’t help it.

But when it comes to people, it’s not so clear cut. What is the purpose of a person? The sciences might tell us that our purpose is to survive, physically, and to procreate to ensure the survival of our species and leave it at that. And as far as it goes, I guess, that’s not wrong. But that’s not what Jack was talking about.

To go a step further, we sometimes find a sense of purpose in what we decide to do with our lives as our work. We decide to be a teacher, or an artist, or an IT cyber security threat specialist. Certainly, the work we do can be an important part of the answer to the question of what is our purpose. But what of the vast majority of folks for whom a job is just a job, little more than a paycheck?

So, the work we do probably can’t fully answer Jack’s question. I think his question is one that all of us – whether we’re just surviving or just making a paycheck or even when our work is deeply fulfilling – come back to again and again: what is worth giving my life to?

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A Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

By: Jack Ireland, 10th Grader, for Children and Youth Sunday

 

What’s my purpose? I’ve definitely said this phrase way too many times, but it’s a thought I have often. What’s my purpose, why am I here, why are you here, why are we here? It’s one of life’s great mysteries;

When I was younger, I used feel stuff more often. I used to really care about things on a significant emotional level, of which I’m not able to reciprocate today. I don’t know whether it’s part of growing up, or maybe a lack of sleep, but either way, it kind of hits me every so often that it doesn’t feel like I’m doing anything anymore; I just feel as if I’m going through the motions. I believe that as we grow older, we tend to lose joy in the small things: Holidays seem like regular days; Halloween becomes nothing, it doesn’t feel like Easter, and Christmas doesn’t hold that same magic it once did. We become too busy to stop and appreciate these small things too. The light that was once there was turned off.

A lot of the decisions I make are based on feelings; those for me and for others. If someone wasn’t feeling well, I’d drop everything at that second and do everything in my power to help them feel better. And, in making them feel better, it made me feel good that I was helping someone. Often times, I expected others to do the same for me. And when they couldn’t it began to frustrate me a little bit. It couldn’t be that hard, right? I thought everyone felt, like this. Well, boy, turns out I was wrong.

Around the fall last year, I got really into personality psychology, and did extensive research on the Myers-Briggs types as well as the enneagram when I wanted something to do while I procrastinated on my homework. Through reading through multiple sites and taking several tests (I’m an ENFP and a Type 2 by the way!), I began to apply my newfound knowledge to my everyday life, and I began to see things that I could change. As an ENFP, I often made decisions based on how it would affect me and others, which I knew. ENFPs are also known for frequent mood swings. But it also said that I could sometimes be inconsiderate when overlooking someone else’s boundaries if they were to interfere with my desire to be validated. But sometimes, I would break someone’s boundaries without even knowing it. Along with other things I read about the types of my friends, I soon felt really bad about how I had treated some of my friends in the past.

My best friend, who’s an INTP, can’t express emotion as well as I do, so when I called on her to help me through something, but didn’t seem to care, I got a little angry. I had misinterpreted it: it’s not that she doesn’t care, it’s that she’d rather listen and be there for me, when I interpreted it as ignorance or not caring. This put a subconscious rivet in our friendship for months, until I finally learned that she did care and was listening, as she told me when I apologized for breaking her boundaries. Our friendship, I realized, meant a lot to me, and I really feel a lasting importance to it. Since then, we’ve become even closer and we are now able to understand each other a bit better. This re-sparked the light that had been held inside me for so long. I began to show it, too. I’ve also started to learn how to listen to myself. I don’t need to always be the one talking. Although 15 years as the one talking has put me in quite the hole…

So where does this fit into my purpose? I not only began to learn more about myself, but others too, and how not everyone is capable of everything I’m capable of, and vice versa. The light began to flicker again.

In school, I’ve always been that standout person from the rest; no set friend group, in a bunch of differing activities, yet still smart, and something about me I felt just didn’t blend with the other guys in my grade. I’ve always been a floater, one who can drift to friend group friend group without feeling like a total outcast; however, I still don’t feel like a member of the group. Often times, I just feel like an add-on, like an update your phone doesn’t warn you about and it downloads itself without your confirmation. Because I’m able to jump from group to group, I often feel like I don’t have a lot of close friends. For an ambivert, who is both extroverted and introvert like me, it’s quite nice at times when you just want to be left alone to your own devices. But other times, when I’m craving social interaction, it’s nowhere to be found. This feeling has made me lose purpose and lose a little confidence in myself. How am I able to let this light shine if it’ll just hold me back?

In relaying this to my one best friend mentioned earlier, she gave a response which completely changed the way I saw it. She said that “one day you will find your people, and then they’ll be your people for life.” I may not know who my people are now, but they’ll come eventually. This Began to give me something to look forward to, and the light began to amplify and present itself to others. Spending time with friends? feel that.

So is this my purpose? To just wait for friends to come? What do I do when I find those friends? How much power will this add to the light?

I believe my greatest vice for my lack of purpose is the many talents I possess: I act, play piano, participate in sports teams, do well in school, and much more. But where am I to go with these passions? There’s so many different options, how do I choose one? While I might enjoy school and sports, they don’t elicit as much passion and vigor as they once did, and I don’t feel it anymore. I don’t feel as if my light truly shines best there. I’m just going through the motions.

However, acting and piano are intriguing. With acting, I used to get stage fright and was nervous. Since then, acting has just become a natural part of me. In situations on stage I do whatever feels natural, and my presence just feels natural. Acting is where I get to be in the spotlight, and let my own light shine as well. It allows me to express parts of myself that I usually don’t get to take on, and it’s a lot of fun.

Music and piano get their own paragraph, oh boy. Whenever I start to feel, I instantly want to play the piano. I actually have this, like, primal instinct to touch every piano I see. Whenever I sit down to play, my emotions start running rampant. I start to feel. And I feel a LOT. It’s almost as if music calls my emotions to come out and be comfortable being expressed. Music becomes my true light; without it, I might not be able to see. I think what drives me most about music is that it’s something I’m creating. Using guidelines set by previous people, there are no boundaries and I’m free to take any piece where I want, which is why most of my pieces end up becoming my original arrangements. This is where I’m able to let my light shine AND present it.

Is this… my purpose? I don’t know, but I’m okay without knowing. Our reasons for purpose and letting our light shine are dictated by what we feel, not what we think. This is exactly how Jesus lived his life. He never did something because it was what he thought he needed to do, he just felt that it was the right thing to do. And he knew his purpose from day I: to die for our sins. How come he knew his purpose, yet we don’t know ours? We are not perfect, actually, far from it. What elevates Jesus above us is our own faults. Too often we succumb to our human nature and subconscious desires because we think it’s right, not that we feel it’s right. Ultimately, what holds us back from becoming one with ourselves and God is our tendency to hide our emotions. People are afraid to feel, and are held back by doing so. And it’s when we hold back our emotions is when we make our biggest mistakes; we’re going against our feelings. Jesus lived his life-giving emotions the wheel, and his light was radiant. Don’t be afraid to feel and let emotions guide you. Through our emotions and feelings, we derive a sense of purpose.

Through our emotions and feelings, we can let our light shine.

A Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

By: Eleanor Wellford, Priest Associate

 

Have you ever wondered why you do some of the things that you do? Is it routine or ritual? If you get up early in the morning to walk the dog, it’s probably routine. But does being outside in the fresh morning air make it more ritual than routine? Think about sitting down with your family to have dinner. That can certainly seem like a routine. But does it shift to ritual when you bless the food before eating it?

So what’s the difference between routine and ritual? They sound so similar and are sometimes used interchangeably. A routine usually becomes a habit – we just do it without thinking about why. A ritual has more to it. It has meaning or tradition that stirs up something deep within us. It points to something bigger than itself.

Mary and Joseph knew that when they took baby Jesus to the Temple when he was only 40 days old and there wasn’t anything routine about that. They were a Jewish family and they followed the Jewish ritual of presenting their first born son to the Lord. Such a ritual was in gratitude for their baby and as a reminder of the sanctity of their relationship to God.

Although baptism is a sacrament, there are rituals involved in it that uncover its meaning for us – such as watching and hearing water being poured into the font, or watching the priest make the sign of the cross on the child’s forehead. They both point to the presence of the Holy Spirit.

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A Sermon for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany

By: David H. May, Rector

 

One of the things I remember pretty clearly from when I was a kid was how we picked teams to play kickball or dodgeball or some other game. It was a pretty regular occurrence either at recess at school or in my neighborhood. You might remember something like this. Two of the kids out of the pack of kids were the captains of their team. I don’t really remember how that got figured out. It just did. And then one by one, they would pick someone for their team. I usually got picked in the middle of the pack, which was aok with me. I was never one of the first to get picked. So, I didn’t really expect it. But occasionally – depending on who was there – I did end up being one of the last ones picked. And in the slightly ‘dog eat dog’ world of childhood, that could make for kind of a tough day.

I guess, in some way, we were learning a lesson about how things work. It’s a competitive world so you might as well start getting used to that. We were learning the ropes. Life can be tough, so it pays to toughen up some too. So if you don’t like getting picked last, well then maybe you could try to do something about that.

But if you’re not careful, you could see what happens in today’s gospel through the same lense. Of course, Jesus picked Peter and his brother Andrew and then James and John first. It was like Jesus had a great eye for talent and saw Ted Williams when he was a kid swinging the bat and an 18-year-old Willie Mayes gliding in the outfield and signed them up on the spot. Of course, that’s how it happened. They were special. Jesus saw that.

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