Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral at the Annual Meeting Eucharist on Sunday, January 18.
|The Eucharistic Annual Meeting of Christ Church Cathedral|
Life is about choices. Most of them we don’t notice. We make them without thinking.
Paper or plastic?
Do you want fries with that?
Get up or stay in bed for just five more minutes.
And then there are choices that mean everything. Crossroads where we are asked to choose our future in a way that will impact us forever.
Do I take the job?
Will you marry me?
Follow Jesus … or just keep fishing?
Philip was from Bethsaida, a small city on the sea of Galilee. Tradition holds like so many of Jesus’ other disciples he was a fisherman. We can imagine he made a good living, had fishermen friends like Andrew and Peter. Life might not have been great but it probably wasn’t bad.
Then along came Jesus. And Jesus said, “Follow me.” And Philip had a choice.
Follow Jesus … or just keep fishing.
This is the annual meeting of Christ Church Cathedral. And part of the reason we have this is that Christ Church Cathedral is a nonprofit organization — boy ain’t that the truth — and every nonprofit has to have an annual meeting and election of board officers and other business conducted.
The church as an institution functions in that not-for-profit world. It’s a world of bylaws and audits, of best business practices and tax exemptions. And these are all important things and they provide a structure for our continuing existence. But they should never be confused with the reason for that existence.
We are not just another nonprofit. We are the Church. We are the body of Christ. And that means we do things differently. We have a different call. And if we are following that call, sometimes people will look at us and think we’re kind of crazy.
We are the Church. The Body of Christ. We are Philip and Nathanael. And that means we have a choice:
Follow Jesus … or just keep fishing.
Following Jesus is the hardest and most wonderful thing we will ever do. That’s why we are never followers of Jesus by ourselves. That’s why as soon as Philip said yes to Jesus, the first thing he did was to go get Nathanael. Because following Jesus is too hard to do alone and it is too wonderful to keep to ourselves.
Following Jesus is hard, and following Jesus is messy. And what we learn from our Gospel this morning is that following Jesus requires three things from us:
It requires looking each other in the eye.
Jesus saw Nathanael. Nathanael saw Jesus.
It requires having the real conversation.
Jesus spoke his truth about and to Nathanael. Nathanael spoke his truth about and to Jesus.
It requires making a choice – a choice to follow Jesus and not to just keep fishing.
We're in a really messy time here at Christ Church Cathedral, and I am so deeply grateful for it. Because this messiness comes out of our looking each other in the eye and having the real conversation. This messiness comes out of our deepest desire to follow Jesus and not to just keep fishing.
For this past year we have been trying to live into a mission statement that says “We seek a deeper relationship with God and each other in Jesus Christ.”
When we are bold enough to say “we seek a deeper relationship with God and each other in Jesus Christ.” When we are bold enough to choose to follow Jesus and not to just keep fishing, we should tremble. We should tremble in anticipation of the wonder. And we should tremble in anticipation of the mess. And we have had plenty of cause to tremble this year, and we have plenty of cause to tremble right now. And all I can say is thank God. Because it means we are looking each other in the eye. It means we are having the real conversation. And it means that we are at least trying faithfully to follow Jesus and not to just keep fishing.
By now, I hope you have heard about our financial situation. Last Thursday, Chapter approved a budget with a $51,000 deficit for 2015. And that deficit is after we accounted for the income from Lafayette Preparatory Academy. That deficit is after we committed to use the last of the money designated for program and staff from the Pope Bequest. And it was not a conversation where your chapter agreed on what the most faithful thing was to do. It was a group of faithful people who had some differing opinions about what faithful looked like. And again to that, I say “Thank God.”
Now this deficit is not new. We have been running deficits for the past decade and much longer than that. And this year we looked each other in the eye, and we had the real conversation. And we are still having it.
The real conversation is naming that the congregation of Christ Church Cathedral will never be able to sustain these buildings by ourselves. The real conversation is naming that wonderful things are happening here, that we are growing in new faces and vitality and impact in the community, and also that some people have left and some are unhappy with how things are changing. The real conversation is naming that even the wonderful combination of living our mission and getting income from Lafayette Preparatory Academy is not even a short-term answer to our financial situation.
I wrote you a week ago quoting my friend Bishop Greg Rickel when he said “Never let an economic crisis go to waste.” The real conversation we are having right now is that this economic crisis is not new, but what is new is we will seize the moment and not waste it. What is new is that we will look each other in the eye, we will have the real conversation and we will claim this moment as an opportunity to follow Jesus and not to just keep fishing.
And so, this week at the unanimous request of Chapter, your incoming senior warden Lorraine Kee and I sat down with Bishop Smith and Canon to the Ordinary Dan Smith and began a process of exploration of how we might work together to while keeping this space as our worship home, liberate us as a congregation from the burden of caring for these grand old buildings. And at the same time explore how these buildings might be an opportunity to do what Cathedrals do … to be a catalyst for mission that involves not just ourselves but the diocese, downtown and the entire St. Louis region. To explore how we can bring everyone together in a vision for our buildings and create something here that all will support because it is for the good not just of one congregation but for the common good of all.
How can we use this moment to follow Jesus and not to just keep fishing.
It is a process that will take several years, and the Bishop is absolutely supportive of it. It will take lots of looking one another in the eye and having the real conversation — not just in this congregation but in the diocese and throughout St. Louis. And in the meantime, we will have lots of real conversations. Real conversations like the ones we just had around our tables about where we see God moving in unexpected ways and what things just aren’t working and helpful for us anymore. Real conversations about the loss we are experiencing and how that feels to us. Real conversations like the one we will have at Chapter next month about how we can faithfully deal with the deficit budget we have passed and best use the resources dedicated to the Gospel mission of Christ Church Cathedral to follow Jesus while this whole exploration process is going on.
And because real conversations are hard and we don’t have a lot of practice in having them well, we’re bringing in a wonderful teacher, the Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, to spend an afternoon with us on Saturday, Feb. 28 to give us some skills in how to look each other in the eye and have these fierce conversations well. There is information about this in your packet and I hope you will make every effort to be here.
I have never and I will never be anything but honest with you. And so I need to stand here and tell you that there are no guarantees any of this exploration will succeed in securing our financial future. And frankly, that’s a big clue that we’re being faithful. Because following Jesus is never about security in anything but the security of his love for us. That we know we will never lose. But as for the rest, all we have to do is look at our history from Jerusalem to Selma and even into today to know that sometimes the end of our faithfulness is death. Philip ended up martyred, crucified upside down. Dr. King ended up slain by an assassin’s bullet. But we remember them not as failures because they died but as saints because of how they lived.
Because they made the choice to follow Jesus … and not to just keep fishing.
Our job is not to survive. Our job is to be faithful. If survival happens, it happens. Our call is to follow Jesus. To live extraordinary lives. To seek a deeper relationship with God and each other in Jesus Christ. To celebrate the sacraments faithfully. Proclaim the Gospel boldly. Embrace diversity joyfully and serve all passionately as a Cathedral.
That is what we have done this past year and what we will do this year and in years to come. Because we are Christ Church Cathedral. We are not people of fear. We are not people of conventional wisdom. We are not people resigned to the way things always have been.
We will look each other in the eye. We will have the real conversation. We will choose to follow Jesus and not to just keep fishing.
And we will do it not just in here but we are going to do it out in the world. We are at an incredible moment in history. We all know it. And it is happening right here in St. Louis. The call of Jesus is challenging us in this hour and is asking us to stand up and be counted. To stand up and raise our voice. To stand up especially as some are telling us to sit down.
At this moment in history, Jesus is challenging us to stop just fishing and follow him into the midst of all the systems that keep people in poverty and homelessness and dependence on emergency services. To follow Jesus and to stand up and say no more.
At this moment in history, Jesus is challenging us to stop just fishing and follow him into the streets where women who have been abused since they were little girls are bought and sold and into every corner of our society where women are objectified and commodified. To follow Jesus and to stand up and say no more.
At this moment in history, Jesus is challenging us to stop just fishing and follow him into the courtrooms and leasing offices and places of employment where gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender images of God are treated as less than that image just because how they were created makes some people uncomfortable. To follow Jesus and to stand up and say no more.
And yes, at this moment in history, Jesus is challenging us to stop just fishing and follow him into the streets of Ferguson and all over this city with the young nonviolent leaders this new civil rights movement is raising up, to follow him into the boardrooms and into the schools and everywhere that microaggressions happen and decisions are made that intentionally or not say that black lives matter less or not at all. To follow Jesus and to stand up and say no more.
The disciples had a choice. Were they going to answer the call of Jesus? Or were they going to just keep fishing. The easy choice is to just keep fishing. It’s good work. It keeps you alive. It’s not risky. And no one is going to criticize you because you really haven’t stepped out and done anything. The easy choice is to just keep fishing. Because it’s conventional wisdom. It’s what everyone does.
The hard choice is to say “We’re going to follow Jesus.” The hard choice is to stop fishing and follow -- not knowing where Jesus is going to lead. But history is not written, the world is not changed, and liberation and salvation do not come to those who just keep fishing.
Life is about choices. Most of them we don’t notice. We make them without thinking. And then there are choices that mean everything. Crossroads where we are asked to choose our future in a way that will impact us forever.
We are at that crossroads now. And we are standing up. Because we are Christ Church Cathedral. We are not people of fear. We are not people of conventional wisdom. We are not people resigned to the way things always have been.
We are Christ Church Cathedral. And we are Christians. We are disciples of Jesus Christ. And we have made our choice.
We choose to look each other in the eye.
We choose to have the real conversation.
We choose to follow Jesus and not to just keep fishing.