“We are all witnesses of the great love of God”
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
The Rev. Leonard Oakes
I missed reading the Gospel in Spanish. The reason I stopped reading was because few mistakes in pronunciation give different meanings.
There’s a joke about a missionary sister was asked to give her testimony to the people in a Episcopal church Spanish congregation. She approached the lectern and, trying to convey how embarrassed she was she told the congregation “estoy muy embarasada”. She then pointed to the bishop and jokingly said in Spanish, “and it’s all his fault”. On hearing this, the bishop’s wife stood up and stormed out of the chapel. After the testimony, the sister’s companion told her that “estoy muy embarasada” doesn’t mean I’m very embarrassed, it means I’m very pregnant! And it is the Bishop’s fault!
This being the first Sunday in July, I would like to request all July birthday and wedding anniversary celebrants to please rise. (Happy birthday)
Today, we also celebrate the birthday of our country.
You may say, “But it is past the day, father.” Don’t worry, nobody is certain about the exact date anyway. (So Please greet the person next and around you a happy Independence Day)
Did you know that seven (7) of the Signers of the declaration of American Independence were buried at the graveyards of Christ Episcopal Church in Philadelphia? Benjamin Franklin and his family who had been attending the church were also buried there. 15 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were members of this Church.
During the meeting of the National Episcopal Youth Council in Philadelphia last year, Bronwyn Skov, the Episcopal Church National Youth Director took us to this historic Christ Church in the heart of Philadelphia. Christ Church was the birthplace of the Episcopal Church, founded in 1695. It was here where the famous William Penn was baptized and the baptismal font is still there. I saw the historic seat where William White, the First American Episcopal Bishop of Philadelphia seated and where George Washington, an Episcopalian once sat. It was here that I learned about the value of a seat on sunday morning service. Each “Box seat” was rented by rich members of the Church. The closer the seats are, the higher the rent. The slaves would just be standing outside the door of the church. We do not rent the seats here at Holy Child and St. Martin nor are those front seats reserved. But I find it difficult to understand why most of us are seated at the back. (I would like to call on all of you at the back to take pride and be seated on these free seats up front.)
There are lessons to learn from the experience of the American Independence from the rule of the King of England, as we reflect about Church growth and development.
The core of the great “American Experiment” was created in having the right to determine their own governance, their own future and live their lives as they will.
We all learn that from a mother’s womb, our lives depend through the umbilical cord where we get our sustenance. By the time we come out to this world, that umbilical cord is cut and our first experience of independence is given. We are now able to breathe and move freely. We may find ourselves not totally independent for we still have to depend from our mother’s milk and in our care. But we learned to crawl, we learned to trust, we learned to speak. This life development continues until we come to the age of maturity and total independence. We have our work, our homes and our own family to start a new community. And the cycle returns when we become dependent to our children.
It is in the young stage of independence that I would like us to reflect deeper this time.
St. Martin started as a mission station in the heart of Daly City in 1965. Over the years, this church grew her programs and was able to apply and operate as a full time Parish, independent from the Diocese, Independent in her programs and administration. But came a time where the cycle had to move back to become a Mission station in the mid 80’s. Then there was the merger of St. Barnabas and St. Martin that gave birth to Holy Child and St. Martin Mission in June of 1990. Twenty three (23) years had passed, we submit ourselves to be one of the fastest growing mission stations in this Diocese. The Bishop himself thinks that we are capable in becoming once again a parish. The facts about this invitation came to the awareness that we have grown not only in numbers but also in our pledging units and the programs we have for this community and the surrounding community. Some of you may say, “Why do we have to be independent? Why don’t we take advantage of what the diocese gives?” I must tell you that such diocesan subsidy will end in the near future and unless we educate ourselves in becoming self sustainable now, we will not get to where God intend us to be, a vibrant and sustainable parish in the heart of Daly City in two years.
I must submit however that, an honest assessment on this growth and the pursuit of independence depend on how we can sustain ourselves as a parish for more than 5 years.
I would like to propose to you on how we can sustain our journey to that noble dream:
First, we must continue to be a forgiving community. Ever ready to accept humility as a service to God and each other. There is no time to be blaming each other when we fall short to our expectations. Let us fix our hearts and minds to a wider and more inclusive faith community.
Second, we must see things in the eyes of God. Let us continue to be welcoming, loving and compassionate to everyone and everything around us. We are all part of the ecology of nature and so let us be good stewards for all. Let us also look at this faith community with an eye that sees possibility, that all things are possible with God. And so we must learn to look with God’s eyes for the hidden possibility when things seem to be impossible.
Thirdly, we have to be a co-witness to each other in bringing about the kingdom of God to every person and community. That is the lesson we learn from the Gospel this morning.
I have never seen a great leadership such as Jesus’ sending people to the villages and communities two by two. It is precisely because he has seen the immediate need of spreading the kingdom of God while life is young and able. Two by two is better than going alone. You need a company to talk to on the road and be a witness to each other when bringing the love of God to the community.
We remember that last Sunday, Jesus sent out his 12 disciples to go to the villages and community in spreading the kingdom. Today, he is sending 70 of his trained Lay leaders who were made ready to spread the word.
Before Jesus sent them out, he gave them a heart to heart talk. He said, “The people are ready. They are looking for something and the Kingdom of God is what they need.
There are so many Christians and non-christians who need the Kingdom, so pray that the Spirit of God, that has prepared their hearts to hear, will send more laborers to spread the word. But be careful. There are wolves out there. But don’t be fooled when people will use their names against you. Keep on going, be a lamb keeping your cool and humility. Don’t be troubled when people use their power to try to stop you, keep going. The people are waiting and they are ready, go into the villages, in every street, in every home, to those who have not heard the Love of God, tell them the good news.
He also gave them some directions. Don’t take any extra baggage; only what you need. Don’t waste time on the way. If people welcome you accept their hospitality. If they don’t welcome you then don’t carry that resentment with you. Be steady; don’t jump around from place to place; minister where you are. But no matter what, tell everyone that the Kingdom of God is near.
When we read this passage that is what it calls to mind. Churches sending people out into neighborhoods door to door. But this passage has a much broader scope. Studies have shown that one of the most effective ways to invite people to church is by inviting the people you know. Presumably the same can be said for inviting people to turn to Jesus. Some people call it lifestyle or friend evangelism. It simply means that we Christians witness to our friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors.
When a stranger comes up to me telling me I need to do something I think they are just trying to sell me something. But if it is someone I know, I can tell if they are sincere and I am more apt to listen. The same is true for telling people about Jesus. The people who know you and see your faith lived out are more likely to listen to you.
and thus, I must tell you my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that such invitation must begin from ourselves and our families. For how can we go out there without even able to try to invite our households. Let us be a witness to them that God is with us.
We must put to heart that we are Jesus’ advance people. We are simply preparing the way for Jesus. A lot of people think that to witness you have to be pushy. But Jesus simply told his disciples that if they welcome you then fine, but if they don’t then just move on.
Why do we see few young people in the pews? Because they are seeking something that will answer their questions and needs. They are yearning for meaning and purpose. They are hungry for God.
And unless we ask them and recognize their needs, we can never be able to encourage them to come to church. Only God can fill the emptiness. The fact that people are so frantic to find something shows the depth of their hunger.
The Harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. I say, there would be enough laborers if we all advance our ministry together. The idea that it is the work of the priest to reach out to these people will have to change. We are all in this together, Clergy and lay people, we are all part of the body of Christ.
Let me tell you that the 12 disciples would have failed if Jesus did not send the 70 Lay leaders who were also commissioned to go abroad in spreading the kingdom of God.
I have asked The Rev. Dr Lynn Bowdish to reach out to our former members of St. Martin. I’ve asked Fr. Armando De Mesa to reach out to our members in full communion, Philippine Independent Church members in the area. Fr. Jurek is doing his part to strengthen our Men’s Group and our Acolytes ministry. We now have our Deacon Student intern Betty Jerer to reach out to our Latino members and the community. Now the rest of the task is yours the Laity, the leaders of the Church of God.
We are now sending you out two by two into your community to tell them the good news that God has sent us here. The people are hungry for God. God is in our midst through his Holy Spirit. The kingdom is near! God is right here with us! Go therefore to love and serve The Lord, in your household, in this community and beyond. Amen.