Eve was walking through the Garden of Eden one day, head hanging down, kicking at the grass. God stopped and said, “Eve, what’s wrong?” She said, “Good morning, God. I’m just bored. Bored and lonely. This is the most perfect world I could possibly live in, but I’ve eaten of all of the trees and talked to that crazy snake, and hung out with you, and I’m sorry, but I’m bored and tired of not having anyone like me around.”
God said, “I have an idea. How about if I make you a man to be your companion?” Eve said, “Great! But what’s a man?”
God said, “He’ll be like you, but bigger and stronger, and he’ll be able to do things that you have trouble doing. But there’s a downside too.” Eve said, “What is that?” God said, “He’ll be somewhat egotistical and he’ll always be worried about being the best and the most manly. And sometimes when you want him to help you, he’ll refuse and just sit around.”
Eve thought about it and said, “I am so lonely and bored. Okay. It’s a deal. I’ll take one.”
God said, “One other thing. Because the man will insist on being first at everything he does, we’ll have to let him think that I made him first. So all of this has to be a secret — just between us girls. okay?”
This week, as I was preparing, I was going over the readings for today. I read through this incredibly familiar Gospel reading about Thomas and his interaction with Jesus, but I kept getting stuck on the first part of the reading. “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, ….”
Jesus had been with the Disciples for about 3 years when He was crucified. Setting aside the fact that they had seen all of the signs — as John’s Gospel calls the miracles of Jesus — which should have convinced them long before Good Friday that Jesus was indeed, the Messiah, the anointed one, God Incarnate in the world. Setting that aside, Jesus had been their teacher, their leader, their mentor and confidant. And suddenly He was gone.
Undoubtedly, they were all grief-stricken as they sat in that room, wondering what was going to become of them — and of the life that they and Jesus had built together. It must have been very hard indeed for them to process what had happened, or to begin to think about what tomorrow might bring.
I think that I initially had trouble getting past that opening line, because today is the day that I must make the bittersweet announcement that I am leaving St. Barnabas. I have accepted an offer from our Bishop, to become his Canon to the Ordinary. A diocesan bishop is known as “the Ordinary,” because he or she exercises ordinary jurisdiction over a diocese. So, I will be Canon to Bishop Jake, meaning that I will be someone who does whatever the Ordinary needs me to do.
This call is one of very few in the world that would have ever lured me away from St. Barnabas. I have loved my time here and have enjoyed being your rector more than I could ever tell you. But it is not only an honor to be offered a position like my new one, but I also believe that this is the perfect time for me to make this transition.
Over the last year, and particularly since we got involved in the RenewalWorks project, I have seen a vibrancy and an energy level here that is absolutely wonderful. That energy and vitality come, at least in part, from the fact that your RenewalWorks committee learned and internalized the fact that the clergy are not St. Barnabas. YOU are St. Barnabas. They learned, and are now trying to pass along to you, the fact that YOU can — and should — BE THE CHURCH. Your clergy should empower you for your mission and feed you sacramentally, to prepare you for your work in the world. Your rector should be here for you when you discover difficulties and should help provide whatever tools you need along the way. But YOU are the ones who make St. Barnabas the wonderful place that it is. And YOU are the ones who are charged with taking the initiatives that came from RenewalWorks and carrying them forward into whatever future God has in mind for you.
Although Donna, Taylor and I will miss you all more than we can say, we know that you are in a great place as a congregation and therefore will continue to flourish long into the future.
I know that this comes as quite a shock to most of you. And I know that in the days to come, some of you will feel some of the grief of loss that Donna and I will feel. But remember, after John’s Gospel says that the Disciples were sad and afraid of the future, the next line of the passage says, “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’”
The resurrected Jesus came and stood among them and gave them peace — the peace that passes all understanding — the peace which can only come through the power of the living God in our lives. And that same peace will be here for the taking, anytime you need it. All you have to do is come and partake of the Body and Blood of our Lord, and feel the real presence of Christ within you. Open yourself to the power of the Holy Spirit and receive that peace of Christ, every week. And then trust in the grace and goodness of God to provide St. Barnabas with everything you will need for the next leg of your journey together.
I really believe that this congregation is in the best possible place to start a new adventure — the next stage of your journey together — along with whomever your next rector may be. And I couldn’t help but think of you all as I read today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles.
"Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need."
Now I don’t mean for one minute to suggest that St. Barnabas is going to get together and everyone is going to sell everything they own and give the proceeds to the church to begin an exercise in socio-religious communism. I don’t believe that that is what God has called this church to do. But I DO believe that the image of how tight that early community was, has something to say to this congregation. That early Church was of “one heart and soul,” and I believe St. Barnabas can be that way too. I deeply feel that this congregation stands on the cusp of something deep and wonderful and miraculous, something that will grow from your being of one heart and soul in your following of Jesus Christ. And I look forward to seeing how your next chapter plays out.
My last Sunday here will be May 13th. We still have a little over a month together, and I hope to be able to speak with each of you during that time. But no matter what, please know that I love you all and you will always have a special place in my heart. And please know that Donna, Taylor and I have been honored to be part of this wonderful place.