Pentecost – Proper 23
Exodus 32: 1-14; Psalm 106: 1-6, 19-23; Philippians 4: 1-9; Matthew 22: 1-14
THE REV. JAMES M.L. GRACE
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.
About a week and a half ago, I had the honor of visiting the Heights Interfaith Food Pantry. Some of you all have volunteered your time there, and if you have know what a unique place it is. My typical experience of food pantries is that they are not places I would usually describe with words like “joyful,” “fun” or “happy.”
What I am accustomed to seeing at food pantries are clients quickly handed food by hurried volunteers. Rarely have I seen clients asked questions like "would you prefer green beans or carrots? Would you like another loaf of bread?" It's more like "Here's your food. Next."
What I saw walking into the Heights food pantry was completely different. There was Elizabeth McCormick and Ed Amash with these giant smiles on their faces compassionately helping clients select the food they wanted. There was our deacon, Portia Sweet, carefully helping a woman select her food from the counters. "Would you like another beef stew, or how about some fresh eggs?" Portia gently said.
I was floored. I had never seen people this kind, this loving, working in a church food pantry before. You just don’t see that. And of course it was obvious why Elizabeth, Ed, Portia, and others volunteering that morning had such giant smiles on their faces - they were serving God. And serving God always puts a smile on your face.
Today we hear about two servants, both women, who travelled with the apostle Paul. Their names were Euoidia and Synteche, to which the name "Portia" just seems like it fits right in. They, like Paul, were ministers. They worked hard, they served God, and I believe (though scripture does not say) that they conducted their ministry with a smile on their face.
Paul commands the people of Phillipi to receive Euoidia and Synteche and take care of them, as they have proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ alongside Paul. These two women, with nearly unpronounceable names, are unsung heroes in the history of our church. Their names are never mentioned with the frequency of Paul's, but it is clear that Paul thought of them as equals.
Today we honor all the servants of God - whether they are named Euodia, Synteche, Portia, Ed, or Elizabeth. People who serve God are the happiest, most free people I know. And that is the paradox of serving God - obedience to God doesn't stifle or restrain us. It frees us unlike anything else in the world.
There was a jr/sr high confirmation retreat this weekend at the church, led by two of our parishioners - Biz Loeschmann, and Kevin Robertson. They gave up their weekend, time with their families, to share the Gospel with four of our youth. Taylor, Claire, Austin, and Kayla had fun, helped out on the work day yesterday, and learned to pray in different, cool ways through a prayer lab. Last weekend we welcomed over two hundred people to our blessing of the animals.
Right now the men of St. Andrew’s are smoking chickens on our smoker for our parish lunch today. What wonderful ministry is happening inside, and outside our church walls. Serving God is the most perfect freedom there is. How blessed we are to have so many opportunities to do so. AMEN.