2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19, Psalm 24, Ephesians 1:1-14, Mark 6:14-29
This week and I guess the coming weeks will be different, not only for me but for you too. This is the last sermon I will give at St Aidan’s and so it marks an important moment in time for all of us. A week today we will say farewell to one another. In my mind at least, it is not goodbye. Some of us will undoubtedly bump into one another along the way with Synod and other Diocesan events that may cross our paths. But for now at least, I am preparing to leave but I know that I will take you with me in my heart.
How could I not? St Aidan’s was my very first appointment in the Diocese of Melbourne. A significant milestone in my life and ministry. It is the place God called me to be for this season. And it has been quite a momentous time in many ways. I celebrated with you when I became a Deacon and once again when Ordained a Priest in 2019. However, little did any of us know that 2020 would thrust us into a worldwide pandemic which would require a vast change in the way things are normally done around church. Face to face services were replaced by recorded services and service documents and communion sent out in envelopes across the parish. 2020 seems like a blurr upon looking back. Even though it seems we may still be thrust back into lockdown, (let’s hope not), I do not think anything compares to our experience of 2020. However, I learned a lot about you, the people of St Aidan’s and I learned a lot about myself along the way. It is surprising to see what we are capable of in times of stress and anxiety. It was surprising also to see just how well we managed here at St Aidan’s.
My time here has been touched with moments of great joy, loss and sadness. Celebrating baptisms, a confirmation service, the Ladies Guild Corporate Communion in 2019, the Fete, the Trivia nights and so on. Conversely their have been funerals to conduct and for me it has been an absolute privilege to do so. I have laughed in those moments of fun and laughter and felt the grief at the loss of loved ones too. Christmas and Easter services, even during lockdown were special moments in our faith journey, celebrating together the birth and death and resurrection of Jesus.
I have learned and will indeed go on learning about what it means to be a priest to the people of God in front of me. Here it has meant getting to know each one of you, loving and appreciating you for who you are, and what you bring to this place, even over the many changes that have taken place here in the short time I have been here.
I love that your generosity not only extends to this Parish, but also to the many organisations you support or by donating food to St Mark’s in Fitzroy so that homeless people are provided with food or well needed supplies.
I have also experienced the wonderful gesture the Fete is to this community and beyond. No doubt this year’s fete will most likely be a scaled down version of the usual fete but it is good hands. It’s a great opportunity for St Aidan’s Preschool, the dance school and hopefully this year for Alison’s Baby Sensory to be involved in some way and hopefully the Strathmore Scouts as well. My hope is that it will be another wonderful year no matter what form the fete will take this year and wish you all the best with it.
There is so much I could say about the work of St Aidan’s in this community, but I would risk forgetting to mention something or someone. Instead, I want to encourage you, continue to do what you do best. Continue to support and help one another in all you do here. Pray for one another, pray for the incumbency committee, the Wardens and the Parish Council. Pray for those who need help and support. Pray that God will touch the lives of those who live within this community beyond these walls, whether it is through the various functions St Aidan’s hosts, or Easter and Christmas services. Pray for the life of St Aidan’s. You have many gifts among you. For example, I have really enjoyed watching Hugh and Christina develop a music ministry here when an organist has not been available. I hope you continue to support the Parish with your gifts of music. I have loved the way Heather, Siobhan and Christina have sung a hymn during communion and often felt the stirring of the Holy Spirit among us. I have loved your faithfulness, your commitment to want to be here in this place to bring your hearts, your minds, your soul’s to God and to be fed through word and sacrament.
John the Baptist had a very special role in preparing the way for Jesus coming. He was a humble man, living his life in the wilderness, dressed in camel hair, eating honey and locusts. But he was also someone who knew the scriptures, who knew what the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures said about Messiah. And it was this knowledge and his experience of setting himself apart for God, that God chose to use John the Baptist in a very unique way. It may seem shocking to us the way John met his end, but I am sure he knew that his life was in God’s hands.
Each one of you is in God’s hands. My encouragement is this, continue to place your lives in God’s hands and see what he will do through you. Change is often difficult, but it can also be the catalyst for good things to come. John the Baptist suffered a brutal death, but Jesus went on taking the message of the Good news of the Kingdom of God to those around him, he went on healing the sick, freeing those who were tormented and spent time teaching the people and those closest to him. I think that is a very good model for us to follow. Keep doing the things that enable the kingdom of God to be felt in this community by sharing God’s love with all you come in contact with, whether it is through plant stalls or fetes or services or fashion shows, or trivia nights. Jesus said, ‘You are the light of the world…. So let your light shine before others, so they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven’ (Matt 5:14-16).
Over this next week spend some time reflecting on what you love about St Aidan’s, the good stuff. It’s easy to get bogged down by all the news right now. But focus on what is going well, what is working, what you want to see continuing into the future.
I would like to finish by reading the twenty-third psalm, and I want each of us to consider how much God is caring for each one of us in this journey through change. I invite you to close your eyes if you wish…
The Lord is my Shephard, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures
He leads me beside still waters
He restores my soul
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I fear no evil
Your rod and your staff – they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
In the presence of my enemies
You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me
All the days of my life and I shall dwell in the
House of the Lord my whole life long. Amen.