Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” After I read this and some of the other history of our church, I read the Gospel for today and had myself a little laugh… Then they came to Enid; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”
The interesting thing about a church’s history is that you can really only talk about the buildings and the clergy, the people and who served, the money or the lack there of, and so on. What you can’t really tell in the history of a church is how God moved in the people. How the power of the Holy Spirit transformed lives. How Jesus truly entered this house and began the work of the Kingdom of God in this place. The buildings, the people, and all are only a part of our heritage, because it is these workings of God in our lives and the lives of those around us that are reflects our true heritage, and that really is the most important thing.
Jesus “took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’” Our heritage is about welcoming the child, welcoming Jesus into our midst and loving him and loving one another, for what other sign can we show that God is present than by our love for Him and our love for one another? Does the height of a steeple prove that love? Or the size of our endowment? Or even the number of cars in the parking lot? Do any of these things demonstrate the love of God and the love of one another? Not really. They do demonstrate commitment and courage. They also show a desire to honor God in visible ways. None of this is bad or wrong, but what they can’t show is love, because love is an action of the heart. True love is that which seeks the good of the other without regard for self and that is what it means to welcome the little child, but that is not something that can necessarily be documented. Instead, it is a feeling, almost a presence.
This past week, we had our Saints Book Club. We’ve just finished reading In This House of Brede. A beautiful story about the lives of the nuns living in a convent. The main character, Philippa, had come to the point when the older nuns would decide if she would be allowed to stay and become a fully professed sister. She was afraid they would not allow it, so she went to the sanctuary to pray, asking God to allow her to stay. The scene is set: “The light flickering by the tabernacle was warm, alive, and as if they were still there, she heard what the nuns had sung last night at Benediction: ‘Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat.’” Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands. In that place, she could “feel” the prayers from the night before, because as was stated, “If a place has been filled with prayer, though it is empty, something remains; a quiet, a steadiness.” Our sanctuary is the same. You can “feel” the presence of the prayers that have been said there over the last century, but it’s not just that… and it is the reason I’m so happy to be serving in this place, because, I can see the heritage in buildings and the books and the art, but more importantly, I can “feel” that more important heritage—that heritage of God’s work and transforming power—I can feel that you have always performed the work that Christ called on his disciples to perform. That is, in the name of Jesus, the child has always been welcomed here. In the name of Jesus, you have always loved and there really is no greater heritage than this.
This year… your church is 128 years old. May the love you have shown in those years be a source of inspiration to continue in this great work of the kingdom for the years to come, until the great day of the Lord’s return.
Let us pray: We thank you, heavenly Father, for the witness of your apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of your Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.