Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sermon: Celebration of New Ministry. We Show People Jesus!

The Very Rev. Mike Kinman, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, St Louis MO, preached the sermon for Dean Penny's installation:

Let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Mission statements are pretty popular. It seems like everyone either has one or is working on one. And a good mission statement has two things. It’s precise and it’s concise.

Google’s isn’t bad. To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Charles Schwab does even better. “To help everyone be financially fit.”

Probably my favorite mission statement is actually a product slogan. It nails precision and concision in three words.

You know it. It’s Raid. What does Raid do? Everybody?

Kills Bugs Dead.

Precision. Concision.

Now, churches love mission statements too. Unfortunately, too often they’re neither precise nor concise. Too often they are way too long and too often there’s not much to separate them from Starbucks or the United Way.

But one church got it right. One church has the “Kills Bugs Dead” of church mission statements.

It’s Canterbury Cathedral, mother church of the Anglican Communion. Their mission statement is just four words:

We show people Jesus.

Isn’t that beautiful? Says it all. Precise and concise!

Let’s say it together.

We show people Jesus.

Again … We show people Jesus.

Louder … One more time…  We show people Jesus.

“We show people Jesus” is beautiful because it is spot on and impossible to forget … especially now that we’ve all said it three times.  But “We show people Jesus” is also beautiful because as soon as we say “We show people Jesus,” it begs some important questions as we consider the mission, the new ministry of this Cathedral:

Who is this Jesus we are showing people?

How do we show people Jesus?

Finally, how do we show people Jesus as a Cathedral?

First, who is this Jesus?

That one’s easy.  I can’t tell you. You have to find out. And you have to keep finding out. And keep finding out. And keep finding out.

If we are to show people Jesus, the foundation of our life has to be our own quest for Jesus. That means it is absolutely essential and non-negotiable that each and all of us commit ourselves to the holy habits of finding and being found by Jesus.
We must pray. Every day. We must read and study the Bible. Every day. We must seek Jesus where he tells us he is to be found – in the lives of the most marginalized and vulnerable among us.

And in these tasks, you have chosen exceedingly well in calling your Dean. In Penny, you have called a formidable priest whose strength comes precisely from her absolute commitment to prayer and study and a tireless quest for Jesus, for finding and being found by him.

Make no mistake, she does not do these things so you don’t have to. If you are to continue to grow this Cathedral’s history of showing people Jesus, you must together recommit yourselves to prayer and study and service and of finding and being found by Jesus.

We cannot show … what we do not know.

Second, how do we show people Jesus?

That one is easy, too. It’s easy because it is in our DNA. It is part of our natural rhythm of life as followers of Jesus. We show people Jesus the way Jesus is shown to us. Using the motions of the Eucharist and the ministry of blessing.

Think about what happens in the Eucharist. The community gathers around the presence of Jesus on the table. And then we are invited to lay our lives on the table with Jesus. In the words of this morning’s epistle, we “present ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship.”
And then something amazing happens. Our lives on that table get mixed up with Jesus’ life and something new emerges. New life. Resurrection life. Then in receiving the Eucharist, that new life which is a piece of each of us and of Jesus, too, that new life lives in us, and we are sent out into the world to live it out loud.

To show people Jesus, all we have to do is take what we do in here and live it out there.

We take the Jesus we know from prayer, study and service and we find something that looks like Jesus. Some mission or ministry or opportunity to follow that great commandment of “love one another as Jesus has loved us.” Something that looks like an invitation for us to lay down our lives for one another. Some deep brokenness that is just waiting for the reconciling love of Christ.

And then we take this opportunity, this idea, this ministry – and we gather the community around it. And not just this Cathedral congregation, not even just this diocese, but all San Diego. And we say, “Hey, this looks like Jesus to us! What do you think?” And if they think it looks like Jesus, too. If they think it looks like a love that can change life itself, we invite them to join us in laying their lives on the table with it. And if they do, we watch and we midwife a new resurrection life into being and then we send it out to be Christ in the world.

At Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis, we looked around and we saw women being beaten and abused and sold for sex on our streets and in our downtown hotels. And we looked at what Becca Stevens has done in Nashville with Magdalene and Thistle Farms – a two year residential program and amazing social enterprise for women who have survived lives of prostitution, violence and drug abuse. And so we brought Becca and some of the women of Magadalene in, and we gathered the community around and we said “This looks like Jesus to us? Are you willing to lay your lives on the table with this mission of love?” And St. Louis said yes, and the result is Magdalene St. Louis, which will open its first house for five women this fall.
We looked around and saw a public school system that had lost its accreditation, parents who could afford to fleeing for the county when their kids reached school age and parents who couldn’t trapped in failing schools. Bringing children together across lines of race and class to give them the gift of education? That looked like Jesus to us.

So we connected with a group with a similar mission and now we are incubating an excellent - public charter elementary school in our building and serving both the downtown loft community and some of the children most left behind by education inequality in our city.

Neither of these are things we do all by ourselves.  We are gatherers and catalysts and contributors. Just like the Eucharist, our role is not to generate resurrection life ourselves, but to gather people around something we believe looks like Jesus, to invite the whole community to lay their lives on the table with it, and then to midwife the new resurrection life into being.

What is the brokenness in this city? What might it look like when the love of Christ, the most powerful force for healing in the universe, meets that brokenness? That’s what Jesus looks like. That’s what you gather people around.

And you’re already doing it, too. I can name at least one way. I saw on your Facebook page that you are connecting people who have spare bedrooms or couches with people who have been displaced by the fires. That’s what I’m talking about! Hospitality. Opening up your homes to strangers. That’s what Jesus looks like!

And you’re inviting everyone … everyone … to lay their lives on the table with it. And who knows what new life will emerge? Not just temporary housing but networks of relationship founded in radical hospitality. Relationships founded in showing people Jesus. Great job! Outstanding!

But there’s even more. Because showing people Jesus is also a ministry of blessing. Of being out in the community looking for things that look like Jesus and when you see them, blessing them. When you see them saying in ways that nobody can miss that God says this is good. That this makes God dance. That this looks like Jesus.

St. Louis is one of the most segregated metropolitan areas in America. But there is one Saturday morning when we all come together – races, classes, creeds, you name it.  It’s the Saturday in June when we hold the largest Race for the Cure in the nation. All of God’s people gathering together across their divisions to work together for healing. We looked at that and said, “Hey, that looks like Jesus!”  So we decided to let people know it.

The race’s starting line was only a block from the Cathedral, so we got a crew of people to climb into our bell tower and ring the Cathedral bells for the full hour it took the 60,000 people to cross the start line. And then we had another crew waving streamers and ringing handbells and our clergy asperging the racers with holy water. 

The race organizers loved it. They even moved the starting line back a block so it could be right at the Cathedral so our tower bells could be the starting gun. And there is not one morning the whole year where we bless and pray with and anoint and show more people Jesus than we do on that day.

And you know what? It’s fun!

What is happening right outside your doors, in Balboa Park, in the streets of your city, that looks like Jesus to you? What is already happening out there that you can burst out of these four walls to celebrate and bless and anoint and asperge … and cense?

We show people Jesus by gathering. We show people Jesus by blessing.

Every church is called to this mission, but Cathedrals are uniquely positioned historically and institutionally to do this for the city and the region.

While parish churches are designed to be the family living room, where the parish family gathers to eat and be together, Cathedrals are less living room and more town square.[1] Cathedrals historically are gathering places for the whole community. Where everyone comes together to celebrate, pray, learn and work for the common good. Where everyone comes together and we show them Jesus.

As a Cathedral, you have a platform and an opportunity to show not just yourselves and not just this neighborhood but all San Diego Jesus in a way that will literally transform this city. Amidst the cacophony of voices claiming that Jesus hates and Jesus divides, you can be the voice that shows people the Jesus who loves and unites. Showing people Jesus through how you live your life as a Cathedral for all San Diego. Showing people Jesus through how you live your faith out loud.

How many of you remember Kellen Winslow, tight end for the Chargers?

Now when I say Kellen Winslow, I’ll bet there’s one specific game that jumps to your mind immediately, right?

January 2, 1982. AFC Playoff Game. Chargers-Dolphins. 41-38 in overtime. Arguably the single greatest individual sports performance in San Diego history. Kellen Winslow, 13 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown … and what else did he do … he blocked a last-second, potential game-winning field goal by the Dolphins to send the game to overtime.

All this playing with a pinched nerve, dehydration, cramps and a gash on his lower lip that required three stitches.

I’ll bet you Kellen Winslow hasn’t paid for a drink in this city since January 2, 1982. And it doesn’t even matter that the Chargers lost in the Ice Bowl in Cincinnati the next week. We remember.

32 years later, San Diego remembers Kellen Winslow because when it mattered the most, he showed us something. He laid his body on that field – literally, he had to be carried off the field after the game – he laid his body on that field for his team and his city. And we remember.

You have something to show San Diego, too.

And in this time of racial and economic strife. In this time of social and political division. In this time where more and more young people are convinced the church is irrelevant and the loudest voices shouting Jesus are the ones preaching hate. This is the time when it matters most.

People of St. Paul’s Cathedral, you have the opportunity to do something extraordinary. You have a chance to lay your life on the table with Jesus for the healing of this city.

It’s time to show San Diego what you’re made of.  It’s time to show San Diego who you are in a way this city will never forget. It’s time to let San Diego see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

It’s time to show San Diego Jesus. Amen.

[1] I am indebted to Dr. Mark Jordan for the living room/town square image for parish churches vs. Cathedrals.


Lisa Fox said...

Is an audio version of his sermon available?

St Paul Blog said...

Hi LIsa, me again (S). Generally sermons are posted here:

I'm assuming Dean Kinman's will also be posted there, but that's in someone else's portfolio!

Unknown said...

What a clear and concise statement of what a church/cathedral is all about. Thanks Pastor Kinman; you did good.