Sermon for United Thank Offering, General Convention Ingathering
People get ready for General Convention in different ways. I didnât notice any of the staff go on retreat, but two of them did drive a truck filled with electronics across the country two weeks ago. I think most of us â deputies, bishops, staff, volunteers, and our hosts here in LA â were scurrying around, trying to get all the work done before we left home. The
The list was filled with advice about what to bring. A senior deputy led off with advice about lots of things, like how to get your socks dry after washing them in the hotel sink. There were many interchanges about what to remember: pictures and icons for your table space, chargers for all your portable electronics, dollar bills or coins for the housekeepers in our hotel rooms, and energy bars for a speedy breakfast.
Many of us heard another version of this gospel last Sunday, when we were thinking about what to put in our suitcase: âno purse, no bag, no sandals.â Weâre supposed to depend on the hospitality of those we meet. One of the list-serve posts included a reminder that
Episcopalians are like Boy Scouts â we like to be ready, with prayer book, hymnal, and bulletin in hand, and a Swiss army knife in our back pocket to open the wine bottle. I was reminded yesterday at lunch that nineteenth century missionaries often shipped their goods out in a coffin, not expecting to return â they may have cut some ties with home, but they still took plenty of cultural baggage. This very Convention is a testimony to our love for order, our desire to process and organize and structure our lives together. The challenge is that structure or culture can become an idol, an image of our lust for control. Jesus isnât interested in taking extra rations or all the comforts of home or making hotel reservations for every stop on the journey.
Jesus simply sends the crowd out, tells them to travel light, and expect hospitality. Their job is to share their hostsâ tables, heal wherever they go, and announce peace and the reign of God.
Travel light. When you leave this place, how much more stuff will you have than when you arrived? You can ship the papers home, but are you open enough to receive what is offered here â from Verbosians, the housekeeper in your hotel room, the deputy across the aisle, an international or ecumenical visitor, or the person who beats you to the microphone? What will you put down or leave behind in order to receive whatâs offered? Traveling light has a great deal to do with expecting to find the presence of God, gracious welcome, hospitality, and the image of God in those you meet.
A few weeks ago I met a youth group from
Jesus sends out 70 to do just that â to interrupt the day to day lives of their hosts, heal people who probably didnât expect it, and offer shocking news â the reign of God is already here. If they donât receive peace, theyâre just supposed to move on â there are other places and people where it can be offered. Those 70 just GO, and they go ahead of Jesus. Theyâre not following him around, theyâre the advance team, the roadies, like our convention manager and the band of technical gurus who have worked hard to make this a hospitable place for us to enjoy what is set before us, whether fellowship or resolutions.
Are you ready to be sent? And you read to go ahead of Jesus, to prepare the way? The advance teamâs expected to find evidence of the presence of God before they begin to talk about Jesus or the reign of God. They have to test the welcome because they canât share news of what they have not found. We arenât strangers and aliens any more, as Paul reminds us, and itâs the task of missionaries to discover and proclaim that good news of loving welcome in Jesus.
Paul was a master at expecting hospitality, even in jail. Roland Allen was a more recent light traveler, who worked in
How much of a burden is culture or structure? Can we receive what is offered, can we announce peace or heal, with a bit less of it? This church can not be all things to all people, except through all its members. Those human faces become the living image of God to a hurting world, pronouncing peace, healing, and making one. This body can only do that work through those who are sent out, having been fed for service, now fit for mission. Traveling light includes the willingness to share ministry, and discover the gifts of others.
The offering we receive today is a sacrament of traveling light. When we hold something lightly, weâre much more able to offer it, like sharing peace â if itâs here, great, if not, let it go and move on. The United Thank Offering is a sacramental sign of inward gratitude for what is, turned to outward and visible mission. This sign will go to Puerto Rico and
All over this church, and beyond, Godâs people are feeding, healing, and announcing peace and the reign of God. The First Nations Kitchen in
Mission is our life, and it is a life spent on the road, traveling light, anticipating hospitality, and sharing what we have.
When weâre dismissed at the end of this service, most of us will not go very far out into the world, though some will travel to that other temple just down the road. Can you announce peace to someone wearing mouse ears? Will you heal in
In the coming days of this convention, what welcome will you offer, and what will you receive? Youâre sent to be an interrupter of the worldâs âbusiness as usual,â and you are sent to be interrupted. The reign of God, the