Monday, August 24, 2015

The Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew Sermon: August 2, 2015

Hello! You can listen to my sermon here or read it below.

I hope you enjoy!

<3 Alejandra

May the words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing to you oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer. AMEN.
Hello friends, I want to begin by thanking you for allowing me to stand up here in front of you and share a little bit of my story.
The reason I am here is because this past February I was accepted into the Church's Young Adult Service Corp, otherwise known as YASC. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this program, it is a ministry within the national Church that sends young adults ages 21-30 around the globe interested in exploring their faith by living and serving in the Anglican Communion as missionaries.
Before I get more into that, I would like to share how I got to be at this place in my life.
Five years ago I was going through a difficult time. I was dealing with my family being deported, a divorce, and homelessness all at once. During what I believe were the darkest days of my life, came God. A friend I had worked with a year prior was taking a Spanish course with Deacon Cecily at the University of Delaware. There, Deacon Cecily asked the class if they knew of anyone fluent enough in Spanish who would be interested in going to the Dominican Republic as a translator for a mission trip with the Church's Episcopal Campus Ministry. My friend gave her my information and Deacon Cecily contacted me. I was hesitant at first, not only was I going through a difficult transition in my life but I knew nothing about the Episcopal Church, I didn't even believe in God at the time. After meeting with her a few times, I agreed to go and boy am I glad that I did.
This trip changed my life, Deacon Cecily, the Episcopal Campus Ministries, St. Thomas, Fr. Paul, all changed my life. After a great experience with the Campus Ministry and returning from the Dominican Republic, I decided to attend the Sunday services at St. Thomas as well as become more involved in ECM. Slowly my faith in God and myself were restoring. Slowly, but surely. After a couple of years, Fr. Paul asked me if I would be interested in helping with the St. Thomas’ youth group.
I will be finishing up my second year with "The CREW (Christians, Ready, Equipped, and Willing)" this summer. During this time I was also asked to be a part of the committee in charge of our new companion relationship with the Diocese of Mexico as well as voted into the Diocesan Council this past winter at our annual Diocesan Convention.
Without the support, love, and more importantly, faith, I have received from Fr. Paul, Deacon Cecily, St. Thomas, Bishop Wright, the Diocese, and all of you, I would not be standing here today, and I would most likely not even be in this country. I would have never had the opportunity to be a part of something as great as the Episcopal Church and I would have definitely not have had the opportunity to travel abroad for a year to do mission work, God's work.
Five years ago, I didn't even believe in God. But because of the church and because of having the opportunity to meet and work alongside individuals like yourselves, I can truly say from the bottom of my heart that I KNOW God lies within each and every one of us. How can he not, I mean, looking at your faces from up here is proof enough that God is within you and that the love of and for God connects us all.
During a discernment weekend this past fall in Maryland for young adults, that Fr. Paul and Deacon insisted I attend, I felt a calling to God, not quite like any other feeling I've ever felt before. This one was different, this one was deeper, and much more personal. I continue to explore this calling today and I have faith that YASC will help clarify some questions in my life.
Last week we read in John’s Gospel about Jesus feeding a crowd of 5000 with only 5 loaves of bread and because of this miracle, his followers wanted to make him King. I imagine how tempting this must have been for Jesus, looking out into a crowd of 5000 hungry people and for a quick second thinking it would be easier to become King and simply feed bread to the needy. But as we know, “We do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Jesus follows the same thinking when he tell his followers to “not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.”

The NLT translation for verses 26 and 27 in today’s Gospel read as follows, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the son of Man can give you. For God the father has given me the seal of his approval.”

“Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the son of Man can give you… don’t bes on concerned about perishable things like food…”

“Can’t you give us food as Moses did, How will you prove you are the Messiah?
Jesus answers confidently, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Instant satisfaction doesn’t create justice. Jesus speaks more about justice for the poor and hungry than on how to get to heaven. In no way would justice have been served if he became King and fed the poor and hungry as Moses did.

Jesus is clearly asking us to be in a deeper spiritual relationship with God. Jesus is asking us to love God with all our heart, soul and mind; and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

For years now St. Thomas Parish has opened their doors to an older homeless gentleman. Greg would come in several times a week to clean himself up in our bathrooms, have an opportunity to eat, and rest on a comfortable seat. We allowed him in with hope that he would be inspired to better his life in some way as well as to provide a safe space for him. In the last few months we realized that he was not respecting the church nor its people. He would come in and leave a mess in the bathroom, would take food clearly marked otherwise, and would inappropriately fall asleep on the couches where the kids would often play. Finally, Greg was approached by the leadership team about this several times without change and eventually his privileges were revoked. Because a lack of respect, he could no longer use the church.

We can give someone a place to clean up, food to eat, a place to rest, but we cannot give people meaning, or purpose or hope. These things come from the realm of the spirit. Successful people are those who have found a purpose to live. Certainly basic needs for food and shelter are essential. It is challenging to find meaning and purpose when life is in chaos or/and basic needs are unment.

Jesus gave his followers food so they immediately wanted him to be their King. Greg was at our church for the wrong reasons, he was trying to make the space HIS. Just like the people attempted to make Jesus theirs. Objectify- own him. That is exactly what Jesus is saying to us… don’t get caught up with that, this is nothing. Take it for what is actually given to you, what is being provided to and for you. Have Faith in God. He says, I am the bread of life, if you come to my father you will never be hungry. We don’t own anything, nothing belongs to us. All we can do is honor our blessings, come to God and honor them, and food and shelter will not be an issue.

It’s easy to get caught up in the superficial, the physiological. But if we have Faith in God as Jesus is asking us to, we will fight through with the strength given to us by God the obstacles and temptations we encounter on a daily basis.

Life is not meaningful just because our first level of need in Maslow’s hierarchy of basic human need is met. We need community, love, hope and purpose to truly be fulfilled in life. Remember what Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Once the stomach is full, we hunger for love and connection. We hunger for the bread of life.

Jesus’s followers ask him, ““What must we do to perform the works of God?” Faith. The answer is Faith.

Once I found faith and gave myself to God, I have been deliberately and cautiously stepping into my “power.” The power Paul is trying to teach us about when he say’s “I, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” God has chosen us to be representatives of Christ on earth, Paul challenges us to live lives worthy of the calling we have received, lives with purpose. He is offering himself to us as a cure for true hunger and thirst.

He continues to say that “there is one Body.” But unity does not just happen, we have to work at it. Instead of concentrating on what divides us, we should remember what unites us: one body, one Spirit, one future, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.

I believe with my whole heart that God gives each and every one of his children a gift. And it is our duty and responsibility to share our gifts with the world.

I express my gratitude for the constant opportunity to wisdom and to expand as an individual.

Today's Gospel shows us that we are all Joyful Witnesses to God's love and that God's glory is the revelation of his character and presence. The lives’ of Jesus' disciples reveal his character, and he is present to the world through them. I ask you today, does your relationship with God, your life, and those around you reveal Jesus' character and presence? Jesus was asking that the disciples be united in harmony and love as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united—the strongest of all unions. The title of my sermon today is 36 People, 16 Countries, ONE Mission. I think it relates well to the idea that we be united in harmony and love.
Out of 36 young adults from all over the country including Hawaii and Puerto Rico, who were asked to attend the discernment weekend, 30 of us have accepted the mission and will be traveling all over the world. We will be in Costa Rica, Panama, Brazil, Uruguay, El Salvador, Honduras, Ecuador, Haiti, Philippines, Italy, France, England, South Africa, Tanzania, Hong Kong, Japan, and the US.
Myself and another young lady will be living and working in San Jose, Costa Rica, more specifically, Barrio Cuba. Barrio Cuba is one of San Jose's poorest neighborhoods. Kate, the other young lady and I, will be working at a school founded by the Episcopal Diocese of Costa Rica about 50 years ago called Hogar Escuela, meaning "home school" in Spanish. This school serves the children of single and battered woman from Barrio Cuba.
I will have the honor of working as the school's ESL (English as a Second Language) Program Coordinator, in an effort to create a language program for its children. Kate will be working part time as a teacher and part time at the Diocesan office. I have been working with English Language Learners for the last two years at a local dual-language immersion school and can say that one of God's greatest blessings to me has been the ability and love to work with children, especially high-risk learners. I feel confident about the position I have been assigned and have never felt more certain about a direction in my life.
Now, It costs the National Church about $25,000 to send each missionary across the world. The Church’s Mission Personnel requires that each YASCer fundraise a total of $10,000 to contribute to this cost. Thanks to Bishop Wright and his generous contribution as well as the gifts of other individuals, I am well on my way to collecting the $10,000, but truth be told, I have a long way to go.  
I ask that you join me and that we unite like the disciples united in harmony and love in faith of the Holy Trinity. I cannot do this alone, nor do I wish to. Only with your support, help, and prayers will I have the strength to go on this path God seems to want me to do his work and help others in a different part of the world. I am excited to have the opportunity to work in a community surrounded by people I can relate to because of my own past. I am excited to say that I can look back at my darkest days and realize that God put those trials and tribulations in front of me in order to gain the strength needed to stand up here today, speaking to all of you, and to travel thousands of miles into foreign land to bless others because he has blessed me with so much. I am grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of the Episcopal Church and I am even more grateful to have a growing relationship with God and his people, with you.
I hope to go to Costa Rica with Kate and build lasting relationships with the country, San Jose, the Diocese, Barrio Cuba, Hogar Escuela, and especially all of the women and children it serves. I am excited to take God's gifts to me and share them with the world. I ask that you take God's blessings to you and share them with me as I travel abroad and try to make a difference in the lives of others and my own.
I will leave you with this question in mind, does your relationship with God, your life, and those around you reveal Jesus' character and presence?
Thank you and God Bless.