A Sermon for All Saints’ Sunday

Sunday, November 7, 2021

By: David H. May, Rector

 

Today we are celebrating the great feast of All Saints on this All Saints Sunday. It is the day we remember all those who have gone before us in the faith of the Church. They are people – our mothers and fathers, our husbands and wives, our children and our friends – who were so deeply a part of our lives and made us into who we are today. And they are people we didn’t know, but know about and draw strength from their example. And they are people stretching back generations, millennia even, whom no living soul remembers at all. But God does. Every one of them.

And in Christ, we belong to them, and they belong to us still, in the great Communion of Saints. And the story of each of their lives, and our lives, whether great or small, known or unknown, are a part of the great story of God’s loving purposes to heal the world and make the whole creation new again.

Know this, dear friends, you in your life, we in our lives together – on this great All Saints Sunday – know that we, that you are a part of much greater life. We belong to a family of faith that goes far beyond this day or the circumstances of this day or this year or this decade or this era. Remember, that all of our sisters and brothers, great and small, who have gone before us, crowd in beside us in a great cloud of witnesses to encourage us in our lives, to cheer us on; they are beside us now to strengthen us to bear forward the cause of Christ and his Kingdom in our own day.

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God is Good to Us

Stewardship Reflection, Friday, November 5

By: Harry Baldwin and Missy Roberts, Wardens of St. Mary’s Vestry

God is Good! – what a clear, simple, and profound statement. In general terms, the word “good” appears in the King James Version of the Bible 809 times while the word “great” is seen 669.

God is certainly good to us, both individually and collectively. God has graced us with faith and love for Him, while giving us well-being, friends to cherish, and family to love. Our Heavenly Father has abundantly graced us at St. Mary’s with a vibrant parish family, which offers us comfort, safety, and supportive relationships. In parts of the world, worship means risking one’s life and being susceptible to persecution or death – thankfully, this is not the case for us in the United States or at our parish in Goochland.
Since God is so good to us, how can we thank Him and express our gratitude.

  • As Senior and Junior Wardens, we offer you this meaningful and powerful process
  • Take an inventory of the ways which God has blessed you.
  • Call them by name.
  • Reflect on the ways in which these blessings have graced you.
  • Think how your life would be different without them.
  • Pray to God and thank Him for His goodness and mercy to you.

This inventory acknowledges our gratitude to God and expresses our profound thanks. When we were younger, our parents would often say, “Count your blessings.” We should not take God’s love and His gifts for granted.

Another way to express our gratitude to God is to extend kindness to others. St. Mary’s cares for each member of our parish family. During the pandemic, our parish found many ways to continue to care and support others; virtual worship services, “hand carried” meals, phone calls, and cards, our parish nourished each other. The Outreach efforts of St. Mary’s are not mere programs but a part of our parish DNA. They are tangible ways in which we can live out our call to be servants by serving others beyond the campus of St. Mary’s

St. Mary’s is a light to the world, whose light to the world will continue to shine and become even brighter when we express our gratitude to God. An additional method of expressing gratitude to God is to give financially to the work and spread of His kingdom. The strength of our financial position allows us to do God’s work. We urge you to pray, to reflect, and to ask for guidance in your pledge to St. Mary’s. Let your financial support and giving be a sincere and thoughtful expression of your gratitude to God for all of the good He has given.

“All things come of Thee, O Lord, and of Thine own have we given Thee. Amen”

Heavenly Sunshine

Stewardship Reflection, Friday, October 29

By: Charlie Bryan

Some fifteen years ago, Cammy and I were looking for a new church home. We were becoming dissatisfied with the church where we were longtime members. It had begun to make changes that rubbed us the wrong way such as the abandonment of the traditional hymnbook in favor of one of so-called “contemporary Christian music.” I simply could not adapt to that switch in style. The passage from Psalm 100 of “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” was increasingly joyless for us.

With an exterior that was 1970’s style in design and look, little natural light made its way through small stained-glass windows into the sanctuary which was symbolic overall of a certain melancholy that seemed to hang over the congregation. In our fifteen years as members, we had four ministers, two of whom were specifically asked to leave the church. When the annual financial appeal was made, we grappled with deciding how much to pledge. With all those distractions we rarely felt the presence of God. Finally, we agreed to look elsewhere.

Leaving one church and going to another, however, is not easy. Over the years, we had made many friends, most of whom we served together as elders and with committees. That’s where St. Mary’s comes into the story.
Much to my surprise, Cammy suggested that we give St. Mary’s a try. She was a lifelong Presbyterian who persuaded me, a Baptist, to join her faith soon after we married in 1969. But she said there was something about St. Mary’s that had always appealed to her. We had driven by it numerous times, and both the church itself and the tranquil wooded grounds with a churchyard had drawn us.

We showed up one Sunday morning, where we were greeted warmly as we entered. I was struck by how bright it was as sunlight poured into the sanctuary. I couldn’t help but think about an old Baptist hymn, “Heavenly Sunshine.”
Heavenly Sunshine! Heavenly Sunshine!
Flooding My Soul With Glory Divine
Hallelujah, I am Rejoicing
Singing his Praises. Jesus is Mine!

The beautiful sounds coming from choir loft and accompanying organ were divine and a stimulating sermon by Christopher Brookfield topped it all off. On our way home later, Cammy and I agreed that we had found the right church for us even after only one try.

A few months later after numerous return visits, we were confirmed as members of St. Mary’s. Not once have we regretted that decision. We can thank God that we have found a church home that has so much going for it—a caring clergy, great preaching, splendid music, outreach to those in need, and a friendly group of worshipers.

Sometimes I wonder how much we realize what a special place St. Mary’s is. That alone should guide our giving generously for the year ahead so that we can continue in heavenly sunshine.

A Sermon for the Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, October 24, 2021

By: David H. May, Rector

 

These brief few verses from the gospel reading this morning occupy a ‘place of honor’ in Mark’s telling of the story of Jesus. This small story of the restoration of sight to a blind man is the last thing we hear of Jesus before he enters Jerusalem for what will be his very the last time. Mark wants this story to be in our minds on our way to the cross with Jesus. So I want to try to take us inside this little story and hear why Mark might’ve given it such a place of prominence.

We begin on the west side of Jericho along the road leading to Jerusalem, where beggars line the streets. It is a golden time of the year, because today the road is teeming with religious pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover—it’s like Christmas time with a Salvation Army kettle and bell clanging on every corner. This time of the year, people with their hearts turned towards the things of God may be easier pickings than at other times of the year.

Lining the road are clusters and knots of people who this world sees as good for nothing other than begging. Sorry to say that, but that’s just the way it is. Blind men, blind women. People with missing limbs. Paralyzed. Drunks. And mixed in, thieves and robbers preying on the beggars or gullible travelers. It’s a dangerous place. Jesus knew that well enough, and chose this stretch of road for the setting of his famous story about the Good Samaritan.

A gaggle of beggars are squatted on the dusty roadside like a pack of crows. Legs crossed, dark cloaks wrapped around creating a fabric alms plate in their laps to catch tossed coins. They might as well be crows for all anybody notices that they have human faces.

In among the crowing beggars is a man with a name we know now. Probably no one there did. No one there is too concerned about names. They are beggars, not real people. But now we know, this man was old Timaeus’ son. Bar-Timaeus, the son of his father. A father’s son. Maybe, long ago, his father walked home from the fields with his small son’s hand in his hand after a days work. But that’s long ago. A faded memory. Who knows where the father is now. Dead, or just dead to the son. Bartimeus, now spends his days crowing like a grackle, his small hands replaced by claws scrabbling for left-overs.

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The Many Tables We Gather Around

Stewardship Reflection, Friday, October 22

By: Charmaine Trice

A recent Sunday scripture reading ended with, “…mercy triumphs over judgement. What good is it my brothers and sisters if you say you have faith but do not have works?” Simple acts of mercy and kindness change lives.

I find something nearly every Sunday in the reading, lesson, or sermon that speaks to the mission of outreach. I suppose that makes complete sense because we are learning about the life of Jesus – a man who walked with, sat with, and shared a table with the broken, the lonely, the sick, and the poor.

Some time ago, I stumbled across a quote that stuck with me: “I’m not interested whether you have stood with the great; I’m interested whether you have sat with the broken.” Recently, I was reminded of this during an Outreach Committee meeting – a group gathered to help us carry out the mission of Outreach: “…to seek and serve Christ in all persons, caring for and loving the most vulnerable …” At St. Mary’s and beyond these walls, there are many tables that we gather around with a shared purpose, and everybody has a seat.

In the past, we shared our St. Mary’s home with friends of CARITAS. I miss those times taking care of the needs of others in our home. The hustle and bustle in the kitchen with folks preparing and serving meals; many hands setting up a safe sleeping space for our guests; sitting together during meals, playing games, and having conversation. Pinned to the outreach bulletin board, you will find a note from a CARITAS guest and many other moments captured over the past 18 months of your generosity, graciousness, and works in action. We made room for everybody, and bit-by-bit our table grew into the community.

Most recently, we welcomed Cameron and Celeste of Education=Hope to St. Mary’s. Celeste’s descriptions of conditions in Ecuador, Haiti, Rwanda, and Kenya gave insightful meaning to the vulnerable – people living in desperate and difficult situations. Yet, living with hope and gratitude. Thanks to the devotion of St. Mary’s mission team who annually travel to serve in Quito, Ecuador, our table has grown to the world beyond.

Our tables are good reminders. Rather than getting bogged down in what often feels like a world full of adversity, animosity, and grievances, WE can do our part – the work of God – with hope, gratitude, and JOY, bit-by-bit.

Or one-by-one. Celeste recited a parable about a young boy who was walking along a beach covered with starfish. “Eagerly throwing them back into the ocean, one by one. The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled, and said, ‘It made a difference to that one!’” Simple acts of mercy and kindness change lives.

I am grateful for this home – St. Mary’s. To see so many come here to receive God’s love, so that we may give it back to our home, community, and beyond. That’s what our world needs right now. With God, all things are possible.