Following is the sermon I preached twice this morning on the 3rd Sunday in Lent at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Capitol Hill, based on John 2.13-22. I’ll have the pleasure of giving it once more at 5pm this evening.
Good Morning my St. Mark’s brothers and sisters! When Michele asked me to consider preaching during Lent, I promised her I’d look at the readings and get back to her. After reading and reflecting, it was Lent 3’s Gospel that resonated most with me and I hope that as I share why, it will resonate with you as well. I’m a very visual reader so as I read through the Gospel I was visualizing Jesus in the temple throwing folks out for selling animals and other items and giving change as if they actually were in a market. I tried to imagine how angry Jesus must have been.
Now, let me give you another visual… I want to take you back 12 years to my very first Sunday here at St. Mark’s. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I stepped into the Nave and the very first thing that got my attention was how loud it was in here! There was a man selling tickets to what I now know was a St. Mark’s Players event, women were gathered in a circle laughing and chatting away, there was a huge box that people were dropping can goods into and Lord have mercy people were even eating snacks and drinking coffee right here in the Nave! I thought to myself, “Where is the reverence that’s supposed to be going on in here. What kind of church is this????” I was raised in a church where there were only three acceptable things that could occur in the actual church space. Those three things were listening, praying and singing. I had so much Zeal for God’s house and how I BELIEVED it should be, so I wasn’t sure what to make of St. Mark’s, the place where “we do it all in this space”. I wondered to myself if God would want to throw y’all right out of here!
But over these past 12 years, like many of you my life has changed dramatically…My Mom was diagnosed with dementia and she no longer has any idea who I am. My beloved aunts who were two of my best friends in this world died, as did my sister and only sibling who would have turned 68 years old today. And most recently of course I lost my beloved Tim. In a cruel irony my sister and my husband died on the same day five years apart and during my lowest times I truly feel like an orphan! We’ve also changed as a congregation too…. we completed a major renovation, several Assistant and Associate Rectors departed and most recently and significantly we’ve had a change in Rector.
Over my time of “being active” here, I began to embrace everything that goes on in this space!! I too have talked loud, laughed and cried, spoken at Sermon Seminar, danced, eaten snacks and dinner and drank coffee, made friends, signed books, comforted others and been comforted…things I never would have thought about doing in church space prior to my time here. I feel bad for Jeff on some Sundays as he tries to get us to “keep the noise down” so the choir can rehearse.
I’ve embraced all this that is St. Mark’s because even though at times there is chaos, disagreement and even anger here, I believe that our individual Zeal for this place and our quest for love, justice and acceptance for ALL would please God in a huge way! I’m pretty sure none of us would be thrown out of here because the only “wares” being offered here are love and fellowship especially as we share open communion in our large circles. St. Mark’s is definitely a different place, but I feel it’s our Zeal that makes us Special!
I’ve thought a lot this Lent about my life on the road over the past few years as a speaker providing knowledge and hope to caregivers. This work has taken me to hotels, country clubs and event centers, memory care facilities, hospitals and churches large and small, where I fully embrace the people and whatever our sacred space is for our time together. I take with me every day the Zeal of my love for life, my love for God and my love for this work I’ve been given to do that is simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating. Then I drag myself back here – here to my St. Mark’s home to recharge my soul, so I thank you for embracing and energizing me over these last 12 years. I’ve learned that expressing our Zeal can be hard and can definitely take us out of our comfort zones but I believe it’s a necessary component for us to live the lives we are supposed to live. As Lent 3 concludes I ask you to consider one question….where is your Zeal and how are you applying it to become the person you’re supposed to be? I’ll look forward to hearing or reading your answer and in the meantime let’s all go out into this tumultuous world with all the Zeal we can muster! Amen.
Thank you, Loretta, for sharing your sermon text. I trust the response was as enthusiastic, verily, as zealous as I believe was your intention and your delivery. Carry on!
The response was absolutely very enthusiastic and quite a few tears were shared at sermon seminar too!! More emotional than I thought would be. I can’t thank you enough all your support of this sermon and my previous ones as well. Much love!
Loretta, I am happy for you and happy to have been a part of your preaching. Thank you and love