Friday, September 28, 2012

Peeps Sunday

Scripture for the 17th Sunday after Pentecost includes Proverbs 31:10-31; James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a; Mark 9:30-37

As tempting as the passage from Proverbs is… this preacher wants to keep in mind that this is an unusual Sunday, with a Ministry Fair awaiting us at the finish line, and Lady Wisdom (whose characteristics we heard last Sunday, and aren’t they echoed in that sketch of a capable wife?), Lady Wisdom whispers to me to remember the KISS principle: keep it short and simple today.

We could call today our Peeps Sunday. We need people to embrace ministries that serve all who come through these doors. Jesus embraces little children: we need peeps to embrace mostly little tasks (little, at least, in the great scheme of life), and to discover, as Jesus invites his disciples to learn, that God is served in little tasks as well as in big ones.

Cradle the little ones, Jesus says, and you will cradle God.

What a contrast to the strategic scheming those disciples were up to. They were writing their acceptance speeches while their master was doing his best to reveal what true servanthood requires. How gently he whistles them in. He realizes it’s a deaf ear they’re turning to him, so he waits until they’re gathered at the table and then asks them, “What were you discussing on the road?”

The silence… was deafening. A capable disciple, who can find?

We’re blessed with a lot of talented, dedicated, generous disciples here at St. John’s. You’re going to see some of them at work here today. I think what distinguishes a disciple from a volunteer by any other name is the commitment to learn, to observe how God is at work, and to allow that discovery to shape the work we do.

This observing, this allowing of discovery, this shaping finds expression in two moments of our weekly worship. One is the silence, the other communion. In silence, servant love is conceived. “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given…” In sacrament, servant love is nurtured, repaired, and built.

In our silence, we clear the decks. We offer a little time, sabbath moments, for doing nothing but listening. No turning of pages to keep up or get ahead. No checking our smartphones to keep up or get ahead. No mental list-making to get a leg-up on the week. Just breathing—catching our breath, perhaps for the first time today. Lapsing from control to submission, consciously choosing to be still, letting-go the inner chatter, discovering that it is up to us what we pay attention to.

In communion we find encounter with the God who feeds us, we find solidarity with the people who (like us) need this feeding, and we find purpose renewed in the call to go and feed the people who fill our weekday hours. And we try not to rush out from here when we’re told the liturgy has ended: we keep practicing communion as we greet old friends, meet new ones, and gather around yet another table where food and drink are set for us, giving time and place for yet more encounter, solidarity, and renewed purpose.

Jesus put a child in the middle of the room. Today, Peeps Sunday, several people will locate themselves in this room, inviting you to embrace one or another of the ministries they represent. Even if you’re not ready to embrace one more task in your life, cradle the information you’ll get when you approach one of these people (they’re ready to share with you what their particular form of service involves, and what it gives).

And to sweeten the encounter, refreshments will be served right here today.

Plain-speaking St. James says, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” We have ministries that need peeps, disciples, learners. Today, we’re asking!