May 21, 2018 Church - with a capital "C"
Happy Birthday, Church! That’s right, today is the birthday of the Church, church capital “C”, and we celebrate it with wind, and fire, and magnificent dove kites that tickle our senses and delight our eyes.
At the ten a.m. service we will lift our voices and sing, not Happy Birthday, but Shine, Jesus Shine and Jesus Loves me, and at that service, much like at many of the birthday parties that we all remember from when we were perhaps just a little younger, there will be lots and lots of children.
For today, in addition to being Pentecost, is also Christ Church Day School Sunday, and on Day School Sunday we celebrate the gift of our school and the partnership, connection, and love that we share between us. That connection, and more importantly, that LOVE has been nurturing students for the last 60 years.
Boy, do we have a lot to celebrate!
But since it is Pentecost, the birthday of the church, I want to ask you a very important question.
What does Church look like to you?
For the first half of my life, I would have told you that church looked like this, this magnificent building fortified with stone walls and alight with stained glass.
Church was a building, this building, and God lived here.
After high school, I traveled cross country to college in the Adirondack mountains, and found, nestled in the woods, a stone church just off campus. St. John’s in the Wilderness, Episcopal Church. Which only reinforced the idea that Church was stone and stained glass.
After college, I got my first job in Boston. I started looking for a church, and after flipping through the phone book, I selected one, Christ Church! Christ Church is located in the North End of Boston. You may know it by another name,,The Old North Church, and while it wasn’t stone, it was definitely old and historic. Tim and I worshiped there, and were married there, a long, long time ago.
When we decided it was time to have a family, we knew we had to move out of Boston and into the suburbs. We bought a house, and Karen Ray was born. Our new church home was called, St. Andrew’s. St. Andrew’s was white clapboard, and stained glass, with boxed pews. St. Andrew’s was a small church, with less than 50 of us worshipping on any given Sunday. The people were warm, welcoming, and it quickly started to feel like Church, like home.
Every Summer, St. Andrew’s hosted Rosie’s Day at the Beach. Rosie’s Place was a women’s shelter in downtown Boston providing sanctuary to poor and homeless women.
St. Andrew’s chartered a bus and brought 40 women from the shelter down to the South Shore for a beach day.
The first stop was always St. Andrews. There, a team of volunteers had transformed the parish hall into a boutique. It was stocked with donations from the surrounding community: bathing suits, cover ups, sandals, hats, magazines, and much, much more. The women were allowed in small groups to go in and shop for what they would like, and change into their beach wear. From there, the bus took a group of us to the beach.
For some of these women, it was the first time they had ever been to the beach.
We played in the waves, looked at magazines sitting on towels on the sand, and ate sack lunches that had lovingly been packed with sandwiches, pasta salad, and a piece of ripe fruit.
Under an umbrella there was a large thermos, the kind that is filled with Gatorade at football games. This one was full of lemonade, real lemonade, made with fresh lemons and water and simple syrup.
My friend Jody brought her guitar, and we sang songs.
It was sitting on that towel, on a beautiful summer day, in that community of women who came from a very different place than my privilege that I realized, I was at Church.
Church with a capital "C".
Church wasn’t the building made of stone, the windows of stained glass, and the beautiful hymns.
Church was allowing ourselves to be filled with the Spirit, and to share God’s LOVE with everyone, not just the people who sat in the pew next to us.
Church was bathing suits and sunscreen and floppy hats, for women who had never felt the warm sand under their toes, or the cold ocean splashing on their legs.
Church was iced cold lemonade, and hymns sung to a guitar gently being strummed in a chair.
Church was being seen as a person and not as a product of everything that had gone wrong in your life.
Church was a warm hug from new friends as they boarded the bus back to Boston, knowing that this day was one that both they and you would carry with you the rest of your lives.
That first Rosie’s Day changed Church for me. It made me realize that I should look for Church everywhere, and more importantly, that I needed to be Church.
I see lots of examples of capital "C" Church here at Christ Church too.
Capital "C" Church is alive in the way we all care for each other.
It is in meals prepared for friends who are ill, or rides given to those who are no longer able to get here on their own.
It is in our partnership with St. Mark’s; keeping their pantry stocked, volunteering at Showers of Blessings, and the Interfaith Shelter.
It is in the loving ministry of our Thrift Shop, where donated clothes and household goods are carefully sorted, sold, and transformed by God’s LOVE into help for so many, many organizations.
It is right across the courtyard at Christ Church Day School where children are nurtured and inspired, where they are taught to Reason, Create, Serve and Lead and to do all of those things by sharing God’s LOVE with each other and the world outside these gates.
It is how we come to this table, and even more importantly how we go from it.
Can you imagine Church being a building? I did.
But now I know better.
5/20/2018 - Pentecost - Christ Church Day School Sunday - Charlette Preslar