Fr. Bill Carroll – The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, January 29, 2023

For God chose what is low and despised in the world (the things that are not) to reduce to nothing the things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Tell out my soul the greatness of his might,
Powers and dominions lay their glory by,
Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight,
The hungry fed, the humble lifted high.

Our opening hymn today is a paraphrase of the Magnificat, or “Song of Mary.”  This song, found in Luke, chapter 1, praises the liberator God of the Exodus, the God of the biblical prophets.  And it has been used at Daily Evening Prayer in every edition of the Book of Common Prayer, since the first one in 1549.  Its uses in Christian worship are even more ancient.

In the song, Mary is speaking as a prophet.  The Word of God comes to her, so that she might “tell out” God’s vision for us.  In the power of the Spirit, the Lord still speaks to us today.  He speaks to confront the evil powers that hurt and destroy God’s children.  That means our selfishness and our violence—our contempt for other people.  At the same time, he speaks to us of his great love for us all.  And he challenges us to share that love with other people.  Jesus urges us to share his love especially with “the least of these,” who are “members of his family.”

Today, we hear the first words of the Sermon on the Mount.  There, Jesus announces God’s Kingdom.  God will reign in glory at the end of time, when his love shall be all in all.  But he starts to reign here and now in the ministry of Jesus:

Blessed are the poor in spirit (he says), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Here, Jesus gives a blessing to those who seldom find one elsewhere.  This is Good News for the poor and those who mourn.  It is Good News for the meek and those who hunger, for the merciful and pure in heart, for peacemakers and the persecuted.  It is Good News for everyone who does justice, loves kindness, and walks humbly with our God.

Jesus is calling us today to turn away from things that are killing us to embrace God’s new and better way of love.  But that doesn’t make sense to us.  For we live and die by the same values as the world around us.  Like our neighbors, we seek power, status, and control.  We try to get our own way and to build ourselves up, at the expense of others.

Today, against this tendency, Paul reminds us that, when God called us, not many of us “were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth (he says). But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.  God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world (the things that are not) to reduce to nothing the things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.”

Today, after the service, we are gathering for the annual parish meeting.  As we do so, let us renew our commitment to Jesus and the ways of love.  For we are a diverse community, which the Lord has brought together from every walk of life.  And, like the Church in other times and places, we are well-acquainted with the ways of the world—with all its anxieties, tensions, and frustrations.  With the rest of the world, we are emerging from a long and lonely season.  

According to the most recent parochial report, our in-person Average Sunday Attendance has risen to 100 for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, up from 87 last year. Just last week, we had 109 people in church, including a dozen children.  And quite a few of us are still attending online, at least part of the time.

In 2022, we baptized three children and confirmed eight adults.  And all of them are taking their rightful place in the ministries and leadership of Trinity.  The nominating committee has nominated an outstanding, faithful, and balanced group of candidates for the Vestry and Diocesan Council, which includes some of our newest members, as well as more longstanding ones.  And all of these people share a love for Jesus, a commitment to Trinity, and a passion for the ministries we share.

Last summer, we grieved the departure of Fr. Andrew Armond and his family.  Next Sunday, roughly eight months later, we celebrate the arrival of Mother Vivian Shelby and her family.  As the Search Committee and Vestry have come to know, Mother Vivian is a good, solid priest and a faithful follower of Jesus.  She is eager to serve here as our Associate Rector—and to get to know us all.  Among her other gifts, she brings a commitment to prayer and a powerful testimony to God’s love at work in her life.  

With the help of a generous donation from Bill Keese, we intend to welcome a youth and family minister this summer.  We are partnering with the Center for Youth Ministry Leadership to bring someone to Trinity, who is earning a master’s degree in youth ministry.  This person will be committed to us for the next three years, perhaps beyond.  The search committee and I should be meeting with a candidate, or candidates, in the months to come.  

Thanks to God’s faithfulness and your generous stewardship, the Vestry has adopted a balanced budget for 2023.  It includes commitments to the new clergy and staff, youth and children’s formation programs, and our Scout troops and Cub Scout pack.  Beloved, thanks to all of you, we are ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

No doubt, there will be challenges and setbacks in the years to come, some of them quite painful.  But, by the grace of God, we are keeping our eyes on Jesus.  His love is what it’s all about.  He is the one we must follow.  He is the wisdom and the power of God.  And, in his Cross, we glory.