For audio, the link is www.bishoprickel.com, under sermons.
Having been in the Galilee just a few weeks ago, and actually in Capernaum, we looked down into the ruins which they say is this very house. It is literally a stone’s throw from the synagogue, many saying this one. It was not a huge place at all, very small in fact. One estimate is that only about 400 people lived in Capernaum at the time.
One thing I love about the Sea of Galilee is, that of all the places you will visit in the Holy Land, it is the one probably most still like it was in Jesus’ time. It has not been messed with much, the shores are the shores. Unlike our tendency here, in this country, to build a dock, a house, layers of condos in every square inch of available water front, that has not been done there. You can wander along in Capernaum and actually have some sense of wonder at what it might have been like then. When you read this line, that Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed, you get that. You could still do it, today, pretty easily from Capernaum.
This is where the story in Mark we hear about today comes from. That small place, and now, here we are, on this little island, hearing that story, and pondering what it means for us. On this day we are here also to do, what the church has often called the Celebration of New ministry, or new and mutual ministry.
We have also called it the installation of a Rector, which sounds like we might take Berto and plug him in, like an appliance of some sort.
The truth is we have not come up with a good title. I am coming more and more not to like “new Ministry”. I mean I get it, the Rector is often new, and so your life together and the ministry you will do together is new, but ministry here is certainly not new, it has gone on for years before most of us here, and most especially long before Berto.
And even more the liturgy given to us in the prayer book for such days and events, and often still used, is just truly atrocious, awful.
That usual liturgy has the congregation members bringing all sorts of things to the new priest, a bible, as if he is the only one that can read, the keys to the church, as if they are now going to go away and let him deal with everything there is to deal with here, or even more as if to say, make sure you always lock the doors, which, understanding all the realities of the world we live in, still seems a bit odd to have in this place. What was really said there is “work with us to have the doors always open, but if that is the case, who needs keys?”
It is just an odd, the usual liturgy. I often think we should just go ahead and complete the picture, we should give Berto today a spatula, a toilet plunger, a lawn mower, some gloves for pulling weeds, a mop and bucket so he can spruce up around here when the rest of us go home. It just gets absurd. And a very one directional display it is.
Sadly, though, that is often the way, in reality, we think of this relationship, or the way we like it, and so sometimes liturgy ends up reflecting what is really happening after all.
Liturgy should be bold enough to say what we hope will be the truth of a relationship.
What you, Berto, and I are going to do today is very different, thank God. What we will do and say today is much more mutual, much more about sharing this work we do here.
This liturgy, unlike the old one, has the baptismal covenant as part of it, and today we will, together, remind ourselves of that call, which is for each and every one of us, not just the ordained, not just the professional Christian, but all of us.
The events in Capernaum, the people who witnessed Jesus talk there, and then preach there, and then heal there, they were moved in such a way that their lives were changed.
The disciples had been called to follow (vv. 16-20), but Capernaum was still home, and they had not quite come to the realization that what Jesus was saying is that they might have to leave it .
So, they go find Jesus and they ask him to follow them back to Capernaum, but Jesus isn’t having any of that. He says, we have to move on, we have to go to other towns, and places. Jesus didn’t want to stay around and simply be the magic man who heals everyone. He wanted to show people how to live with one another, differently, better.
He wanted people, like this story, to pray mightily, however they pray, and then to get up from that place, and go straight to the focus of their prayers, to the sick, the lonely, the prisoners, the destitute, the forgotten.
He was quite aware that all are called to follow, some, like the disciples, called to leave town, to leave family, to truly go, but far more, most in fact, are called to follow by living as Christians, at home, in their town, on their island.
Either way, he is calling us to get up from this place and, as soon as we leave, and go, that we go to where the trouble is, where the sickness is, where the need is. Our faith must lead to action. He was smart enough to know some have to stay, and do this work there. Folks, here, Orcas Island, is your Capernaum, your home, your place to do just that, to pray here, and then to go, from here to where the trouble is, to where the need is.
What I have loved about you, in this place, is how realistic you are about the fact, that as easy as it would be to say, on this island, we are removed from all those problems that happen on the mainland, you have actually kept your eyes open to the reality that you have a lot of those same problems right here, in a place where no one else is going to address it. That is just what Jesus was asking of the people in that little town, and every town he went to.
Being ready for that, reminding each other of that, is just what we celebrate today.
As a Church, with a capital “C” we find ourselves yearning for a time again, when we can say, about Jesus, “everyone is searching for you.”
Everyone is searching for you. I think that is true still, even when people are not totally sure who they are searching for. For so many, the Jesus that is espoused by many in the name of Christianity is not one they search for.
We are called to show this other Jesus to the world, the one we know, and hear about today. Jesus, did not want to stay around in Capernaum. He knew he could not be everywhere and do that, and he knew that was not the point of his life or message. He wanted, instead, to show people how to live with one another, differently, in a new way. He wanted to leave them with a new faith, and a new way of life.
If we celebrate anything today, we celebrate that, the way you will do that here, in this place, on this island, taking all those who have gone before you in this place, who gave you the legacy of this village church, and working together, with Berto, to be Jesus, here.
Everyone is searching for Jesus, for someone to understand and know the difference in this world, and the Kingdom of God, even if they would never say it that way.
This ministry you share in this place is that, to be Jesus, here, so all might see him, know him, be touched and healed by him. We are so much stronger when we do that together. It would be, and is, so easy to forget that.
So remind each other, be there for each other, walk with each other, share this load, but don’t let yourselves off the hook. Jesus has left us, you, here with work to do.
Sisters and Brothers, I wish this for you all. And I have said all of these things to you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.