My pastor scheduled me to preach my very first weekend as a deacon, to go along with a celebration of my ordination. I worked on my first homily all summer long. I really wanted to get it all right, I wanted to start off good. It was a finely crafted work of art.
I then scraped the whole thing and rewrote it the night before.
It was such a great joy to serve my parish for the first time, I was so deeply honored. Ill talk more about the reception in another post.
So without further ado, for your reading pleasure…
As I stand here today, I cannot tell you how grateful I am to this parish, this family who have given so much to support me over these last five and a half years. In preparing to become a deacon, I have many times wanted to quit, to give up. You see, I know that I am in no way worthy to serve you.
How blessed am I that the one piece of scripture that sustained me, is the scripture we read from Paul today. He is telling my story. He says, “I was once a blasphemer, a persecutor and arrogant, but I have been mercifully treated.” This is me. But the grace of our Lord is indeed abundant, and like Paul, somehow God in his grace has found me trustworthy.
In my life, I have not been the best of men. In my foolishness and ignorance, I have denied him, I have hurt people, and I have hurt myself. Christ came to save people just like me, sinners. Like Paul, I cannot help but think that the main reason Christ has chosen me in this way, to serve you as deacon, is to show you the endless mercy and patience he has. If he can bring a sinner like me home, there is no one he cannot save.
I know you too are not perfect. Maybe your sins are different then mine, but to be human is to have that natural tendency towards sin, so I know it is there for you too. It was there for Israel in the desert as they built the molten calf, and it is with us still. But God’s mercy is enough for us.
Jesus is not afraid of our weakness, he is not afraid of our sin. It is we who live in fear, fear of not being good enough, fear of judgement, fear of the future and fear of being alone. Jesus is not afraid to walk right through all of that to walk beside us. He is not afraid to leave all and come searching for us, to risk all to bring us home, and there is no greater celebration for him than finding you and I, his lost sheep, his missing coin.
We must move towards him always, we must have faith that he is there to catch us when we fall, and to guide our steps along the ever narrowing path. We must take every step of our lives in this faith, we must walk this faith in our work, in our dealings with our families and friends, in our meeting strangers, and in our sufferings and sorrows. If we instead choose to live in fear, we will never find the happiness we seek.
Faith is not a blind thing. Faith is not trying to force yourself to believe something that doesn’t make sense. Faith is like a glass bridge stretching over the Grand Canyon. You have seen people walk across it, you know it has been engineered well, but when it comes time for you to walk over it yourself, you can’t help but be afraid. You see nothing but glass and sky beneath you, and your heart rises in your chest, and you can hardly breathe.
Faith is knowing what is true, and acting on it even when it doesn’t FEEL true. We may desire sinful things, but we must fight it, because we know it will not bring us joy, will not make us whole, and will leave us empty. Instead we must in faith move towards the good things that come from God, Friendship, Loyalty, Charity, Compassion, Kindness, and Fortitude. These are the things that will bring us lasting joy. Joy is what we seek, and to live a life in Christ is to turn away from the sin and the fear that plagues us, and to grab that joy our Lord offers with both hands.
Today as I begin my ministry to you, I remember the words of a dear friend of yours and mine, Fr. Eric Freed, that I hold deep in my heart and in my thoughts. “To be happy, be thankful. To be thankful, have faith. Faith is understanding that all is God’s.”