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October 4, 2015, 12:00 AM

Rededication of St. Giles' Hall


Rededication of St. Giles’ Hall

 Feast of St. Francis. 2015 

Christ the King, Quincy 

 

Great things, Thou hast done, O Lord, my God. I would name them and proclaim them, but they are more than I can tell. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen. 

 

    I will admit that I am somewhat nervous about preaching this morning. It’s not that Mary is here—she’s too generous a supporter of mine to really level me with a withering critique of my preaching failures. To be honest, it could be that Kay is here. At Camp Noel Porter this summer I was spreading my Zwinglian form of Anglicanism, and I’m not sure how many strikes I get before she notifies the Bishop. Three strikes? Ok, phew! That means I have one more public slip up before I land in the Bishop’s office explaining myself. 

    No, I think the real reason I am nervous is because I’m not preaching on the lectionary this morning. The lectionary is kind of an escape hatch for a preacher’s ego. When you fail to really make your point while preaching on the lectionary, you can always blame the readings. “If they gave me a bit more context in Paul’s letter to the Romans,” or, “I could have preached a better sermon if the lectionary writers hadn’t picked such obscure texts.” But when you write the entire service, including selecting all the readings...you are really operating without a net. If you can’t make your point after cherry-picking the Bible—the onus is really on you and your ability as a preacher when you fail to make your point. 

    So, you see, I’m working with some pretty high stakes this morning. If I can’t write a coherent sermon to accompany a service I myself wrote, then that’s quite an indictment on my ability as a priest. I’m already a little nervous because after reviewing the service, Mike emailed me with the observation that those are some odd readings for a rededication service. 

So let’s start there. What is our reading from the Hebrew Scriptures about this morning, and what could it possibly have to do with our rededication of St. Giles’ Hall? As the first few lines suggest, we are in the 18th year of King Josiah’s rule in Judah. Josiah was king roughly 400 years after the death of King Solomon and the division of the two kingdoms. After Solomon’s death, the kingdom over which David and Solomon reigned was divided into two nation-states: Israel to the North, and Judah to the south. A lot can happen in 400 years. Judah, along with Israel to the north, are increasingly threatened by foreign nations, and Solomon’s once grand Temple in Jerusalem was in need of repairs. And so, we are told that the king sent Shaphan son of Azaliah, son of Meshullam, the secretary, to organize repairs to the Temple. And during those renovations of the temple, something strange and unexpected happens. 

    As they are knocking down walls and busily making repairs to the temple, they come across the Book of the Law. Historians believe that as they were preparing the Temple, the builders came across an old copy of Deuteronomy. And when the book of Deuteronomy is read aloud to the King, he immediately tears his clothes in mourning. Each verse of the Law stands as an indictment against Israel and Judah, and they highlight how far they have strayed from the Covenant the Lord God swore to their ancestors. To any citizen of Judah, the discovery of the Book of the Law was not only a religious awakening, it was also a political revelation. Israel and Judah have collectively strayed from the Covenant, from the Law of the Lord God, and clearly, their religious infidelity was why Israel and Judah are being     threatened on the world stage politically. 

    Now, what in the world does that have to do with Christ the King and our newly renovated St. Giles’ Hall? 

    Well, there actually are three analogies between our scripture this morning and our experience renovating St. Giles’ Hall over the past three years. A year ago, Joe and I were smashing through a cinderblock wall to expand the entry to the restrooms. Now, you’d have to hold the Sacramento Bee in very high esteem to equate it with Scripture, but stuffed inside the cinderblock walls were several editions of the Sacramento Bee from the late 1940’s and early 50’s. So, the first thing I guess scripture is preparing us to find some unexpected writings when you renovate structural walls. 

    The second analogy is the effect the renovation’s have on our leaders. For both Josiah and yours truly, the renovations have brought about a period of intense self-reflection and self doubt. “Are we in over our heads? Did I bite off more than I can chew? What happens if we renovate St. Giles’ and nothing happens?” 

If there is a clear and demonstrable message from this morning’s readings, it is this: it is unwise to engage in a renovation project. It only leads to unpleasantness and a general state of unease. 

 

 

    But I mentioned there is a third analogy between Christ the King in Quincy and the rule of King Josiah of Judah nearly 2600 years ago. For you see, the story in II Kings doesn’t end with the words of the prophetess, just as Christ the King’s story didn’t and won’t end with my case of nerves. 

    Josiah orders the renovation of Solomon’s temple, and in their efforts, they discover the Book of the Law. Josiah then begins a years long reform of the Kingdom of Judah. The discovery of the Book of Deuteronomy was the spark that set off a wave of reformations within Judah and Judaism. The renovations of the temple did more than just to rebuild Solomon’s Temple, the renovations and subsequent discovery of Deuteronomy helped to rebuild the faith of those living in Josiah’s kingdom. 

 

    And the same is true of Christ the King. 

    I am not sure how, or when, or even why...but sometime in the course of the past 33 months, we stopped rebuilding St. Giles and we started building our faith. This project has not only transformed our parish campus, but I believe it has equally transformed the spiritual lives of our parishioners, as well. 

    Think about how we understand our faith. For Centuries, we Anglicans have held to the Biblical principle that a tree can be discerned by its fruits. Show me a Christian, and by the level of their commitment and actions, we can gauge the liveliness of their faith. Every single parishioner, even visitors to our family, have contributed to the Stewardship of St. Giles’ Hall. Whether it has been through Time, Talent, or Treasure, every single one of us has either directly contributed to the work, or supported those who have. That is a phenomenal claim to make in this day and age. All of us, collectively as a parish, have understood that God has called us to this new chapter in our parish’s ministry, and have marshaled the resources to see it done. We heard God calling us. We acknowledged its difficulty and we still followed where we think God is calling us to. 

    In our parish newsletter, I likened the spiritual transformation that has happened in our church to fulfilling our Diocesan Mission of Making Disciples, Raising Up Saints, and Transforming Communities for Christ. There I mentioned that time and time again, I have heard several parishioners describe their efforts as the product of being “called” to this work. There isn’t a lot of glory in shoveling gravel or pressure-testing sewage pipes, but I have yet to see a frown on any of our volunteer’s faces (apart from Joe Way evaluating my handiwork). Renovating a building can be grueling work, but so many of you have shared a holy pride in the task we are accomplishing. That, essentially, is the essence of discipleship: the recognition that we are called to work on behalf of the kingdom, and fruits of that labor will not reflect our own glory, but God’s. 

    In watching Christ the King coalesce around St. Giles’ Hall, I have marveled at how I have seen the Saints in action. Saints are not just the pious luminaries of centuries past. The saints surround us, and the witness of their faith deepens our own. What has been so inspiring about this project has been the way in which it has galvanized our parish. Parishioners have been so encouraged by the good work of others, that they have taken on new and complimentary tasks in and around the church. St. Giles’ wasn’t even complete, and we had parishioners eager to improve the quality of the music that accompanies our worship. We painted St. Giles’, and then parishioners turned around and started painting our main building! We’ve taken a renewed pride in our parish, and the work you have undertaken to beautify and improve our campus is truly a blessing. We are each encouraging one another—that is why we worship in community!!! Christianity is not a solitary pursuit—our faith is engendered by lives of others, and it is our faith which shall encourage others to follow in the Gospel of Christ. 

    Obviously, our work in and around St. Giles’ was born out of a desire to grow our parish family. Our hope has always been that St. Giles’ Hall will become a resource for our community, and serve as an introduction and invitation to join our parish. There is a deep yearning in our community for what our parish can offer, and I pray that St. Giles’ can help provide for those needs. 

    But Jesus never commissioned a building to serve as one of his disciples. Jesus needs people to become his followers and invite others into a life of faith and servanthood. And that is precisely where St. Giles’ has been such a surprise. It has turned us all into evangelists. How often have we shared with someone outside of the church, how proud and excited we are for the next chapter in the life of Christ the King? That is evangelism. We are witnessing the life-giving effect of faith, and we are welcoming others to draw upon the nourishment which only the Holy Spirit can provide. 

    Somewhere around 640 BC, Josiah began a renovation of Solomon’s temple. That work changed the shape and nature of their faith community. Fast-forward some 2600 years to a small congregation in the Sierra Nevada’s, and we see the same thing happening. Our rededication of St. Giles’ Hall isn’t just a story of renewal, it is a deepening of our very faith. Many of us, myself included, knew that our Renovation would transform our parish campus, but I think few of us were prepared for how this renovation would transform our community internally. This project has transformed our parish campus, but it has also transformed our hearts, as well. Amen. Alleluia.


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