A Sermon Delivered by
The Reverend E. F. Michael Morgan, Ph.D.
Trinity Episcopal Church
Morgantown, West Virginia
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 8, 2019
The task of the preacher on any occasion is to proclaim the Good News of God as understood in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. I have said that many times in a wide variety of contexts, and I intend to continue doing so in the foreseeable future, especially here from this pulpit at Trinity Church. That is my reason for being here as priest-in-charge, and I am committed to honoring God’s purposes as long as the Holy Spirit permits.
As most of you know by now, I have been here nearly a year, and if I were to give a Priestly Report on how things have gone during the past several months, there is a very good chance that I would take the typical Anglican “middle-way” of responding; opting for the classically balanced via media of Anglican theology, and then indicate at the same time – speaking positively - that some things have remained steady in my appreciation of Trinity Church, among them: Trinity’s sense of history, the warmth of the people, the commitment to its various projects and programs, as well as its willingness to reach out to those in need – whether they are individuals who are hungry, in need of shelter, a place to stay, or some assistance with utility bills. These are the core commitments that Trinity Church continues to make obligatory, in the name of Jesus Christ.
Yet I am also aware that during the course of the past year we have moved through an increasing number of things that are quite new and different: new experiences, new liturgies, new forms of worship, and new ways of understanding what our Christian faith is all about. What has changed for me in terms of my role as the priest appointed to serve this parish, is that the most important thing I have learned, and what we all can do together, is come into this building to worship God in praise, thanks, and adoration; as well as participate in Spirit and in Truth. That is why I say every Sunday at the exhortation during the Offertory Sentences; the Word of God is presented as essential to our being here, and the Sacraments performed in Christ’s name are equally relevant since they are ‘outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace.’
Those of you who follow the rationale of ‘The Invitation to God’s Table,’ and the explanation of why we are here in church, know that my brief weekly recitation represents a way my mind has changed in order to solidify complicated beliefs affirmed in the church’s doctrines over the years, by putting them instead into smaller nuggets of truth. For example, during the pastoral assignments I’ve held serving culturally-diverse cures, I have come to appreciate the relevance of God’s Heavenly Banquet. Particularly in regard to the liturgy, I make the bold and obvious claim that ‘table fellowship’ is what we do in this building. I reiterate that it’s a common meal for all, and we come together not out of any sense of exclusiveness or superiority, but because we seek unification with those who are simply different from us. Jesus in all his teachings pointed toward a society that includes everyone – a beloved community.
What’s new for me, therefore, in my thinking about Trinity Church, is the realization that the offer of Holy Communion at God’s Table has been extended to members of this community, ironically, since 1819. That’s a long, long time – 200 years of history - and in fathoming that Bicentennial fact, it has changed my mind about this church, and to a certain extent changed my thinking about our Christian faith. Faith endures, just as Trinity Church has endured for these past 200 years. And Trinity Church is likely to prevail for another 200 years, God willing, if we remain open and responsive to God’s will. In the days ahead, most assuredly, things will be very different, very new, and totally unexpected; yet let that sink-in for a moment, and think about it.
In truth, God, and only God, has the capacity, the purpose, and the will to ultimately transform Trinity Church in God’s own time – and it will be a Kairos transformational moment, a fait‘compli, if you will, integrated into God’s time and in God’s way, not ours. I can promise you this. Salvation will not be achieved in our time according to our way of doing things – instead - just the opposite. Only God is in charge. The world is in God’s hands, even as we seek to accomplish “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
The temptation of course is to go on and on, and explain how we are striving in the Episcopal Church to follow Jesus in the ‘Jesus-Movement:’ how we are persevering by resisting evil in the world; and how we are seeking to achieve the goals of social and racial justice set by General Conventions in 2015 and 2018…mindful that those objectives are to:
1) Tell the truth,
2) Repair the Breach,
3) Proclaim the Dream, and
4) Practice the Way of Love.
I am keenly aware that the enthusiasm to actually ‘Become a Beloved Community’ is evidenced authentically when Trinity Church is asked to share information about our stained glass windows, or give an Appreciation Dinner to volunteers at the community kitchen, or participate in ecumenical ventures such as the Good Friday Cross Walk during Holy Week, or when the Daughters-of-the-King evidence care and concern for one another through prayer-chains and acts of charity.
These are all signs that the Holy Spirit is alive and well at Trinity, and that in our life together we are making a difference for the community at-large, particularly in the civic realm. We need to continue witnessing to Jesus as stated in the concluding prayer of the Dismissal, by serving others, feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger … and at the core, simply learning to let go, and love God.
We ask all this …
in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN
CREDITS, NOTES, & REFERENCES: available on request.