A few weeks ago, I sent an appeal letter to every member of our parish. I wrote about the theme of our stewardship season, “Wonder, love and praise,” which comes from Charles Wesley’s immortal hymn. And I wrote of our calling as a parish church: We are called to foster wonder, to learn to love our neighbors, and to praise God. This is one calling, and not three separate callings, because each of those items is really an aspect of the same thing. Wonder is about an encounter with the living God. We believe that God is present to us in real ways in our real lives. A concentrated moment of God’s presence is our weekly gathering of Eucharist when we encounter Jesus in the bread and the wine. Our first response to the encounter with the living God is gratitude. This is why we call it Eucharist, Greek for Thanksgiving, in the first place. Along with gratitude comes praise, which is simply the expression of gratitude. We praise God through things like music. But, praising God is also a mindset that can and should inform the everyday actions of our lives. That is where learning to love our neighbors comes in. Scripture is clear: our love for God is expressed in our love for our neighbor. 1 John tells us that if we don’t love other people, we don’t actually love God, which inspired Dorothy Day to write these words: “I love God only as much as the person I love the least.”
Cultivating wonder and gratitude, extending real care to our neighbors, and learning to praise God in every detail of our lives—this is the hard work of being a Christian and a member of Holy Apostles. Charles Wesley’s song predicts that on the last day, along with all the saints, we will cast our golden crowns before the Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and that we will be lost in wonder, love, and praise. In the eternal moment of heaven, everything else will cease to matter, and we’ll be lost: gratitude and worship will come naturally, it will be the only thing we can possibly do. But in this world, oftentimes it is the opposite. We are lost in our daily preoccupations, our jobs and families, the cares, and trials of this life. That’s why EVERY Sunday is so great. Our weekly Sunday Eucharist is an opportunity to experience the splendor of heaven. For a few minutes at least, (and sometimes this takes practice) we can be lost in wonder, love and praise. In Sunday worship, praising and God and loving our neighbors should come easily to us. We should rush to honor each other and exchange the sign of God’s peace with each other. We should revel in our time of fellowship afterward and revel—just as much—In our time of prayer.
All of this is amplified this Sunday because it is the Sunday that we gather together our pledges of financial support for the parish. We have had several weeks of discernment and prayer. We have been asked to consider with gratitude the various gifts God has given us. And now we are provided with the opportunity to express our gratitude to God and express our mutual responsibility and care for each other and for this place of worship, prayer, and peace. After service we will revel together in the possibilities for mutual flourishing that our financial support can bring us. It’s all pretty exciting, and I am truly grateful to each of you for making this church community a place of wonder, love, praise; for making this church community a place to belong.