November 9, 2014

Pentecost – Proper 27 – COMMITMENT SUNDAY

Joshua 24: 1-3a, 14-25; Psalm 78: 1-7; 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18; Matthew 25: 1-13


In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.

During the time of Jesus, the customs surrounding marriage were different than they are today. There were no wedding coordinators, no destination weddings, no getting married in Las Vegas – it was different back then. One of the ways wedding custom of Israel were different involved the bride and the groom. On the day of the actual wedding, the groom would go with a group of friends to the home of the bride – usually in the evening.  

Once at her parent’s home, the family of the bride would present her to the groom and the bride and groom would go to their new home, and once they arrived there, this would begin a wedding celebration that would last for several days – that’s a lot of wedding cake. 

Young women from the groom’s family would wait in the house at night until the 
wedding party arrived. No one knew when the bride and the groom would return to their new home, so their arrival was never predictable.  

In the story Jesus tells today, ten bridesmaids wait in the home for the groom. It is evening, and each bridesmaid has an oil lamp which they keep lit because it is dark. Five of the bridesmaids came prepared with extra oil for their lamps in case they needed it, while the other five bridesmaids did not bring extra oil. For the five who did not have extra oil for their lamps, when they ran out, they asked the other five who had extra oil if they could borrow some, but they did not have enough to share.  

So the bridesmaids who had no oil left the house in search of more. While they were gone, groom and bride arrived and the party started. When the bridesmaids returned, they found themselves locked out of the party. Because they left to look for more oil, they missed the couple’s return, they missed their big moment, because they were not prepared. 

The message of the story is summed up in the two words of the Boy Scout motto: “Be Prepared.” In the story, Jesus is the bridegroom, and we are the bridesmaids – waiting for them.  

The question pointed to each of us is simple – do we have enough oil in our lamps? Are we prepared? 

Thirteen years ago, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School opened its doors to students for the first time. There was much careful planning that occurred prior to its opening – teachers were hired, rooms were outfitted for Montessori education. Everything was ready, every preparation made, and the school celebrated its opening day…on September 10, 2001. There are some things even the most careful preparation cannot account for.  

We are often unprepared for what comes next in our lives, despite our constant preoccupation with the future. Sometimes a premature ending takes us by surprise. On other occasions, we are unprepared for something to take longer than we had anticipated. We find ourselves thinking we have all the time in the world to achieve an important goal, to discontinue a bad habit or begin a new one, to take care of ourselves, to develop a relationship with God, to read an important book. But how much time do we really have?  

Today is Commitment Sunday at St. Andrew’s. What that means is that in a few moments after the altar is prepared for Eucharist, together we will, one by one, come forward and place our filled out pledge card into this basket in the chancel. If you have already submitted your pledge card, wonderful – please fill out another one - I promise we won’t count your pledge twice – and join us as we present what we have as a gift to God. 

The dollar amount you write on your pledge card is truly the oil for our lamps at St. Andrew’s.  We are prepared to step out in faith, to do the work that God has called us to do. St. Andrew’s is prepared because of each of you – because of your generosity, and your ministry. So - until the bridegroom returns…AMEN.


October 5, 2014

Pentecost – Proper 22

Exodus 20: 1-4, 7-9, 12-20; Psalm 19; Philippians 3: 4b - 14; Matthew 21: 33-46


In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.

In the Bible, a vineyard was a common image used to describe the people of Israel. That’s how Jesus uses it in the story he tells today. During the time of Jesus, vineyards were fairly abundant, dotting the countryside with some frequency. Most of the vineyards in Jesus’ day were owned by foreign landowners, who entrusted the day to day operations of the vineyard to other employers, or tenants, as Jesus says in the parable.

Tenant farmers rented the vineyards from the foreign landowners, and they worked long hours for long seasons, returning the majority of their profits over to the absentee landowner. The tenant farmers were barely able to put food on the table, while the wealthy landowners received more money than they needed. 

So how do you think the religious and civil authorities reacted to Jesus’ story where the mistreated tenant farmers got fed up with the situation and took matters into their own hands? Imagine how shocked those who heard this parable were when Jesus used the image of the hated absentee-landowner as an image for God?

In the story he tells, the vineyard represents the people of Israel, the absentee landowner we know already is God, and the slaves sent to bring the owner produce from the vineyard are the historic prophets - people like Isaiah and Jeremiah who endured insult, imprisonment, beating, and even death to bring God’s message to Israel. And the son of the landowner, is of course, the Son of God – Jesus.

The point of the story is simple – to each of us a vineyard is given, and God entrusts its care to us. The vineyards in our life are all different – your vineyard might be your family, it might be this church, or it might be St. Andrew’s School. How well do we take care of the vineyards God has entrusted us with?

Today marks two important occasions at St. Andrew’s. First, we are celebrating Episcopal School Sunday. St. Andrew’s Episcopal School started over thirteen years ago and currently has fifty-three enrolled students in three classes: Toddler 1, Toddler 2, and Early Childhood. According to our Head of School (and member of St. Andrew’s), Nancy Simpson, there are fifty five children currently on our wait list. So, there is clearly room for the school to grow. In your Service Bulletin there is an insert that provides information about Episcopal Schools, and on the back of your service bulletin, you will find printed the names of all staff and members of the School Board of Trustees.

The second occasion we are marking today is the beginning of our annual stewardship campaign. Today, and continuing for the next five weeks, you will hear stories from parishioners who sit in the pews next to you. They will share with you what St. Andrew’s means to them, how the ministries of this parish have drawn them closer to God. As you hear their stories, I hope you will see that financial stewardship at this church is all about gratitude. My hope is that you will see financial stewardship as a way of caring for this vineyard God has so 

generously given us. How blessed we all are! AMEN.