Farewell

The Rev. Bradford Ayers Rundlett

Ecclesiastes 3:1-7; 7:8, 10, 13-14
Psalm 119:89-96
2nd Thessalonians 2:13-3:5
Matthew25:31-40

“For everything there is a season, and a time.” [Eccl. 3:1].

Buenas dias mi vecinos, mi hermanos y hermanas in JesusChristo. Dios de bendiga. Good morning neighbors, my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. God bless you.

“Once upon a time” or “I remember the time” is how we usually begin telling stories about experiences and events that mean something to us. You might be sad because a friend is moving far away and you know you’ll not likely see your friend again. You might be excited because it’s your birthday and there’s going to be a party with presents, ice cream, and cake. You might be fearful because your doctor said those tonsils just have to come out. Maybe you’re filled with thanks because you just got the news that your first grandchild was born fifteen minutes ago, that mom and baby are fine, and you got to see it with skype.

Pain, joy, and other “seasons” come and go; they are part of life. On any given day, in any given place – well, like today, right here, for example – there are people with hearts so broken they believe they’ll never be happy again. There are also people trying very hard not to burst out laughing at something that tickled their funny bone. I frequently hear people declare they just can’t come to Church right now because they’re afraid they’ll burst into tears or giggle so hard they won’t be able to stop. I don’t think either is inappropriate. In fact I think tears and laughter are at home here more than any other place. Every feeling we’ve ever known is, I submit, a kind of prayer. If I’m asked I say “It’s not good to hold onto either tears or laughter; let them out.” Sometimes words ust aren’t enough. No collection of vowels and consanants can express the inexpressable – “sighs too deep for words” the Bible calls them.

Of course we prefer things that evoke big grins . . . may you have many and long seasons of joy.

Every season has it’s place – “it’s time” – even in this sacred space, this God space. We come as we are – full of sorrow, frivolity, curiosity, regret, doubt and disbelief, and even full of boredom. Whatever you’ve got going on in here, it’s welcome in this house of God. Like everything else in the universe, it’s under the purview of God. And we offer all of it to God. Tears, laughter, and all of the other seasons of life; they are the prayers of our commom human language.

All of the stuff we bring into this sacred space is an offering from the depths of the human spirit. Holiness communes with Holiness. Much of what meets us around the bend – the greatest sorrows and ultimate joys – are too overpowering for words, though we know full well the unspoken intensity of them. Grief and joy that is shared bind us together. Telling someone who is grief-stricken “Once upon a time I buried someone I love too,” cuts through the terrible isolation that taunts us with the lie that there is no God or God just doesn’t care.

Likewise sharing something that makes your sides split from laughing too hard lifts our spirits: “I remember the time when my friends were waiting behind the bushes; when I stepped out of the car they drenched me with the hose.”

Our seasons are not very often concurrent. We don’t all feel the same way about what’s happening. I might be deeply grieved while you’re having the best day of your life. At some point or another we all go through times that stretch us so thin and tight we almost snap.

Some would say that St. Timothy’s is in a stretching time right now, and I would agree – with one very important codicil: St Timothy’s will emerge bigger, better, stronger, and more faithful. I don’t doubt that for a second.

A season of St. Timothy’s ends today, and a brand new season begins. Today is my last day as your Rector. I’ve had this great honor and privilege for more than twenty-one years. And we have been through many seasons, you and I. We have deep scars and sore sides from our times together. I cherish them all, even the times of tears because tears are a sign that we love, and that’s why we’re here.

The columbarium bears silent witness to some of the sorrow we shoulder. Annual retreats at taking viagra and cialis Shrine Mont, the Talentless Show, and the Hallejuh Honeys, recall seasons of rampaging joy. This Church, you the people of God have been through so many seasons since the first service on All Saints’ Sunday in 1868. You’ve been stretched from small to bigger, simple to better, weaker to stronger, and “We’re not so sure” but “What are we waiting for!” From that first service 147 years ago you have been The Church – you have fed the hungry, refreshed the thirsty, welcomed newcomers, clothed people who couldn’t clothe themselves (including a lot of children). You provided medical care for the sick, visited prisoners, hosted Recovery groups (currently 26 per week), sent skilled missionaries to Scott County Virginia, the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and Haiti. You established a clothing outlet, a furniture outlet, a food bank, and a homeless shelter. You established and operate the finest preschool in Northern Virginia! You helped create Reston Interfaith now called Cornerstone. You’ve provided school supplies, fought for a Day Labor Center, host a Boy Scout Troop, welcome homeless and marginal people into God’s house, gave them respect, let them rest from scrounging for food and searching for a dry spot in the rain. You opened the doors of this Church to people fleeing for their lives from countries run by drug cartels. You treat everyone who comes through the doors with respect. As Jesus ordered us to do in our Gospel lesson this morning, you have responded with the love and generosity of our Savior.

None of us will ever know how many peole have received this hope and kindness, nor how profoundly these gifts have affected them and the world we share.

Do not stop!

Don’t be fooled into thinking that any redemptive effort is too large or too hard. Nothing is impossible for God, except defeat! Serving other people with the love of God and Jesus Christ is our vocation; it is our mission. We worship and we serve, in the name of Jesus Christ.

You are headed into a new season. You will be stretched and challenged. And you will prevail; you will succeed. You will be bigger, better, stronger, and more faithful than you can imagine.

Fr. Mark will help you through this time (and vice versa), as did Ralph and Nancy, Leslie and me. As Peter James Lee, Clay Matthews, and David Jones served as our Bishops, so Bishop’s Shannon, Goff, and Gulick do now. Others will follow. And keep your eye on our newly elected Presiding Bishop Michael Curry – he is a firecracker!

Prayer Books and Hymnals may change, especially as congregations become less monochromatic. We’ll all have to learn other languages. But, what’s really important is ending poverty, human trafficking, war . . .

Once upon a time when I was in Seminary (God was just a toddler at the time) no one could see into the future and prepare us for the communal and global seasons we face today. The gifts of the Holy Spirit come to us when we need them.

Remember that God’s dominion, providence, and victory is unassailable. Give God what you’re carrying in your heart and mind and spirit, and ask for what you need, for what the world needs.

And “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loves us and through grace gives us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen you in every good work and word.”

Amen.