Sunday, January 19, 2014

"Hello, My Name is Jesus:" -- The Dean's Address to the Annual Meeting of Christ Church Cathedral

The address preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at the Christ Church Cathedral Annual Meeting Eucharist on Sunday, January 19, 2014

Come Holy Spirit, and kindle in us the fire of your love.
Take our minds and think through them.
Take our lips and speak through them.
Take our souls, and set them on fire.
We don’t usually sit like this in church. We usually sit like we do in a classroom or a movie theater – two places where we aren’t supposed to be talking to the person next to us, and so in church we usually don’t. But we’re not sitting like that today (the Cathedral is set up with chairs around tables), so we’re doing some things differently. This morning, maybe we’re more aware of who is sitting around us because we have had a chance to look one another in the eye.

So, you might have done this already, but I invite you to turn to the people on your left and on your right and shake their hands, and look each other in the eye and say, “Hello, my name is … “and share your name.

Names are powerful. Names define who we are. Each one of us was named by our parents – and every name has a story. For some of us ,our parents simply liked the sound, or maybe we were named after a significant person or family member. I even know a child whose name is the national park where she was conceived on a camping trip!

Perhaps the most moving moment in all of scripture is in the Gospel of John when Mary Magdalene stands at the empty tomb talking in panic to a man she believes to be the gardener asking where they have taken her beloved Jesus. And the man says her name: “Mary” – and immediately she knows it is Jesus. Jesus is who calls us by name. Jesus is who knows who we really are.

But Jesus is more than the one who knows us and loves us without bounds. Jesus is the one who sends us out into the world to know and love the world in his name. Jesus is not just who we follow. In the Eucharist, when we do what we will do here in just a few minutes … when we take our prayers and hopes and sorrows and dreams and gifts and lay them on the table with Christ and then receive new life in return, Jesus … the Body of Christ … is who we become. Jesus is whose name we bear.

“Be what you see … receive who you are” is what I say every Sunday. It is St. Augustine reminding us that Jesus is not just “up there” (in the air) or “up there” (on the cross), but right here (point to each person).

For the past 18, days your email box has been gifted each day with a glimpse of life at Christ Church Cathedral from the past year. 2013 was an amazing year for the Body of Christ at Christ Church Cathedral. We worshipped God with joy and beauty, we brought people from all over downtown together for conversations about hunger and homelessness. We brought hundreds of people into this space to sing blues at the foot of the cross on Good Friday and to launch Magdalene St. Louis. We heard powerful speakers and preachers, baptized and confirmed people young and old in the faith, celebrated our diversity with an amazing photo exhibit and a Pride Festival Eucharist.

We read the Bible together, launched a fantastic 20s and 30s ministry, and heard glorious music offered to God each Sunday and many other times throughout the week and year. We opened our doors to Lafayette Preparatory Academy and a partnership that is providing fantastic public elementary education to 74 children each day, and we bid farewell to some dear, dear friends as they joined the heavenly chorus.

And in 2013, we claimed a mission together. A mission that defines for us what being the Body of Christ at Christ Church Cathedral means for us.

We seek a deeper relationship with God and each other
in Jesus Christ through:
Celebrating the sacraments faithfully
Proclaiming the Gospel boldly
Embracing diversity joyfully
Serving all passionately
as a Cathedral.

As we’ve said so many times before, the core of our mission is that verb “seek” – we seek a deeper relationship with God and each other in Jesus Christ. We seek to do what happens in the Eucharist – to receive and become the Body of Christ. In the words of our Eucharistic prayer, that Christ may dwell in us and we in Christ.

And we do this by doing what we do in here – celebrating the sacraments faithfully. But so much of how we do this doesn’t just happen in here. Proclaiming the Gospel boldly. Embracing diversity joyfully. Serving all passionately. As a Cathedral. That happens out there.

In our Chapter meetings in 2013, we began a practice of inviting guests in from our downtown community to talk with us for 10 minutes or so and to give us a view of Christ Church Cathedral “as others see us.” And consistently a message we heard is “Christ Church Cathedral is wonderful. You have a beautiful space and you are doing fantastic things, and people are starting to notice … but still so many people have no idea you are here.”

And so in those Chapter meetings, which we moved from the Guernsey Room right here to the sanctuary so we can do what we are doing this morning – realize that there is no division between our worship and our work and so we can be reminded by the cross that everything we do is about Jesus – in those Chapter meetings we have started talking about “turning the Cathedral inside out.” How can we take the beauty and power that is so evident when we are in this space … an turn it outward. How can we be what God proclaimed to Isaiah, what we just discussed in our table groups “given as a light to the nations.”

In this week’s Gnaw on This Gospel email, I wrote about the story we hear in this morning’s Gospel. We see John hanging out with two of his disciples and he sees Jesus walk by and he points him out: "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" And how that's what we get to do -- we get to point out Jesus to a world who doesn't know him.

And then I asked the question: So how do we spot Jesus? How do we know when the "Lamb of God" has come into view?

We know when we see people following the commandments Jesus gave us.

When we see someone touching someone on the margins with compassion.

When we see someone surrendering power for the common good.

When we see someone giving God the glory instead of grasping onto it for themselves.

When we see someone emptying themselves with joy for the love of the world.

But there’s a second part to that. When we do these things ourselves. When we celebrate the sacraments faithfully and proclaim the Gospel boldly and embrace diversity joyfully and serve all passionately, people look at us and see Jesus. When we do those things, we are being what we see and receiving who we are. When we do those things, our presence no longer goes unnoticed

But it is not just our presence as Christ Church Cathedral or our presence individually with the names we were given at birth.

Because when we do those things, we take on a new name. In the life of the world out there we bear and become Jesus the Christ. And that is our mission this year and into the future as we turn this Cathedral inside out. To not just draw people into this space – though we will certainly continue to do that – but to go into the world, into the places we live every day, and be Jesus. Celebrating, proclaiming, embracing and serving.

This is not some new idea. Nearly 500 years ago, the Spanish mystic St. Teresa of Avila sung these words:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Christ's compassion to the world;
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless now.

We are Jesus.

On your tables you’ll see an envelope and inside it are some name tags – ones that say “Hello my name is…” Pass those around your table. Now, I invite each of you to take one of those and grab a pen and write one name on that.

Write Jesus.

Now put it on.

Now turn to the person to your right and your left and introduce yourself again to one another, only this time say what’s on the nametag. Say, “Hello, my name is Jesus.”

Now let’s say it all together “Hello, My Name Is Jesus!”

Again, louder, and with joy:

Hello, My Name Is Jesus.

I know it might feel silly, or it might make you feel uncomfortable, but in wearing that nametag, each of us and all of us are making a profound statement. We aren’t giving up our own names. We still have them and Jesus still calls us by those names and loves us without bounds. But in claiming the name of Jesus, each one of us and all of us are claiming a joy of bringing Jesus and his love to the world.

How do we do this? Well, you already have at least one or two ideas of how you do this from your table conversations. Ways each of you can live out our Cathedral mission. Gifts each of you have for mission and ministry and maybe an inkling of how God is inviting you to use them both in this place and out there in the world.

Again, this is nothing new. We are standing in the footsteps of the first Christians to whom Paul said, “You are ambassadors of Christ, since God is making God’s appeal through us.” Ambassadors speak with the authority of the one whom they represent. Being an ambassador of Christ means with every word and action we say to the world “Hello, my name is Jesus.”

The days of Christ Church Cathedral being the best kept secret in St. Louis are over. Because from this day forward we are sent as a light to the nations. We are Christ Church Cathedral. And we seek a deeper relationship with God in Jesus Christ through:
Celebrating the sacraments faithfully,
Proclaiming the Gospel boldly
Embracing diversity joyfully
Serving all passionately
as a Cathedral.

We are Christ Church Cathedral. And individually and together, in the Eucharist we become what we see and we receive who we are.

We are Christ Church Cathedral, gathered in Jesus name and sent out into the world to love and serve the Lord.

We are Christ Church Cathedral, and when people see us walk by, when people see us celebrate, proclaim, embrace and serve, they will know that we are Christ Church Cathedral. And that our name is Jesus. Amen.

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