The Rev. Jerry True, October 21, 2018

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“Today is the first day of the rest of my life”
Words to a song composed by Lyricists Pat and Victoria Garvey; as abridged ever so slightly by the Rev’d Jerry True.
Today is the first day of the rest of my life;
I awaken as a child to see the world begin,
Of monarch queens and birthday wanderings, wont to put on faces.
To walk in the sun, the wet and the cold; to look forward to my growing old.
To grow old is to change, to change is to become new, to become new is to be young again.
I barely remember when my memories are stolen by the morning; blotted out by the suns hypnotic eye.
Today is the first day of the rest of my life;
I awaken as a child to see the world begin,
Of monarch queens and birthday wanderings, wont to put on faces.
To walk in the sun, the wet and the cold, and look forward to my growing old.
Good Morning, my brothers and sisters in Christ. Today happens to be the first day of my 79th year breathing in the air of this beautiful planet; this world, this amazing gift of God’s love which we are called upon to respect, tend and to love. I find myself being afforded an opportunity which is, for me, unique. At least I do not recall another time when my birthday fell on Sunday; a Sunday upon which I was scheduled to both celebrate the Holy Eucharist, and to preach the Sunday sermon. Today I have that opportunity. Twice.
As I pondered the readings from Scripture for today’s observance, I could not help but be drawn to thinking about the experience of God in my life and the Scripture which I feel illuminated for me this event or that event which my musings may bring to mind.

When I was very young, as with most children with whom I came in contact, I believed in God just because my parents and other adults with influence in my life believed. Many of them spoke of such belief in their conversation and the examples which were evident in their lives. Attending Sunday School played a significant role as did the hymns and songs and music I discovered and learned to love in worship.
But then, something occurred which jarred my prior assumptions and faith. That troublesome occasion called adolescence. From an unquestioning, childlike acceptance of things that I had been taught, into a growing awareness of my need to question and seek answers to questions I had, I found myself trying to discern those things which are true, and those things for which there is doubt.
I began to notice and become troubled by portions of Scripture which seemed on the surface to contradict themselves; differences of many small details and some larger questions of attitude and temperament which seem inconsistent. I began to question more intensely the inconsistencies and the existence of points which seem not to agree. Doubts arose from my awareness of those obvious differences. The details of some ordinary events described were the most obvious contradictions.
If you consider the variances in the stories told by witnesses to an event or accident, you can certainly understand differences among those people involved with events, ideas and even facts who have been witnesses to events in the life of God’s people. Events and the interpretation of events became oral traditions concerning their experience of God in their lives. Many of these stories were collected and subsequently transferred from oral traditions to the written word.

Far from allowing discrepancies to demean the place of the Holy Bible in the context of the Christian faith, I found a new respect for its centrality and essential nature to our faith, because of, not in spite of those differences in detail, which for me affirm the reality of scriptural authenticity. From the creation stories in Genesis to the historical events related throughout the oral history and then the written history of God’s people; to the beauty and inspiration of the songs and poetry and witness which so often leap from the page for me as I read it prayerfully, I could never deny the essential place of Scripture in the life of the Body of Christ, the Christian Church. Yes, it tells us from where we came, but it also tells us who we are and whose we are.
But that having been said, can any authoritative interpretation of the bible be possible without the history, reasonable experience, and lives lived in worship and prayer within the living, loving, praying and believing Body of Christ we call the Church? I do not believe it can. Any biblical interpretation made by a single individual cannot be said to be either authoritative or infallible. We know that the Church is not the building, not even the location, but the people of God who are the Church. It is that living, loving, praying priesthood of the laity, together with those called and set apart from within that holy priesthood, who are the recipients of Jesus’ promise that in time, the Holy Spirit will guide the Church into the fullness of truth.
Some Christians and others believe that in some past time of creation, God once and for all began, finished and ended his work of creation. That is not true. The truth is, my brothers and sisters:
We stand in the midst of God’s act of creation.
Being the Creator of worlds is a very central part of who God is.

It is his infinite and total love that is the creating, unifying and ultimate force in this and in every possible universe. You and I seek to follow, seek to know, seek to belong to that gift of ultimate love that is presented to us in the person of Jesus Christ: the Son of God, the Lord and the Savior of us all; He is the One through whom all things came into being, and without him, nothing was made that was made.
Among the great and utmost joys of my life is that I was called, taught and sent to be set apart as a deacon and priest of this holy catholic Body of Christ, the Church. Not because I was anything wonderful above others, but in part because I had a spiritual director who was forward thinking and spiritually wise for his time to say, “Jerry, it doesn’t matter whether God made you gay or straight. The only real question is, ‘Are you being called?’ Your Bishop together with the councils of the Church will seek to walk with you as you seek to find the answer to that question.”
One of the key tasks of any priest is to make intercession on behalf of his or her sisters and brothers in faith, in the world and for the world. Have I always done my very best? No, I can not say that I always have. But have I tried? Yes, I have.
On the other side of the coin, it does happen that a priest, or a bishop, or a Dean is called to exercise a particular kind of authority. Especially as one is called to be a rector, or a bishop, or perhaps even a Dean, learning to exercise such authority in an effective way with humility and not sliding into pomposity – This is an art form that takes life experience and practice. Tom, I have come to admire the graceful way in which I have seen you exercise the authority entrusted to you, and I know you will continue to be a good example for us all.
We stand in the midst of God’s act of creation.

Yes, we are in the midst of that act of creation, and we are very much a part of it. We know that life is not all fun and games. There are tests, trials and tribulations which cause us to stretch and grow and become. There is cake and ice cream, but there are also sour grapes and cauliflower! I know, I know. Many of you love cauliflower. I know it is good for you. Obviously, I do not.
Many people throughout our diocese and out and beyond our own church walls are awaiting the inspiring word to be so brilliantly delivered by our tremendously anointed Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry. Traditionally, we Episcopalians have been known for being wary of the word revival. In the early days of the Episcopal Church just finding its way in this country, many were cautioned against what was called “Enthusiasm”. A professor at one of our Episcopal seminaries was famous for reportedly saying to his class, “My God, men, you can’t cuddle up to a volcano.” He thought they were being too enthusiastically sentimental about their faith. I respectfully disagree with the professor. I would say that you can cuddle up to a volcano: You can cuddle up to a volcano if you are willing to risk catching on fire. You can cuddle up to a volcano if you are willing to risk the melting of your heart. You can cuddle up to a volcano if you are ready to take the risk of being consumed right down to the deepest well of your very being. You can cuddle up to Almighty God if you are willing to take the risk, if you are willing, if we are willing, to joyfully continue in the work of creation which God has begun, but not yet finished, in us. Even though we cannot be physically present to hear our Presiding Bishop call us to revival, renewal and the Jesus movement this morning, let us pray for him and for those attending the mission this morning in Pittsfiel and this afternoon in Worcester. May the Holy Spirit be revived in them, and in us as we hear their stories and share their lives. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life;
I awaken as a child to see the world begin,
Of monarch queens and birthday wanderings, wont to put on faces.
To walk in the sun, the wet and the cold; to look forward to my growing old.
To grow old is to change, to change is to become new, to become new is to be young again.
I barely remember when my memories are stolen by the morning; blotted out by the suns hypnotic eye.
Today is the first day of the rest of my life;
I awaken as a child to see the world begin,
Of monarch queens and birthday wanderings, wont to put on faces.
To walk in the sun, the wet and the cold, and look forward to my growing old.
“Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Make of me what thou will, dear Lord.”
Amen.