October 12, 2014 The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

The Rev. Bingham Powell
Pledge Campaign Sermon # 1

When we think of the important moments in history, we often think of the great leaders, the heroes. When we think of World War II, we think of Roosevelt and Churchill. 
When we think of Civil Rights, Martin Lither King, Jr. Women's suffrage: Susan B. Anthony. The American Revolution: Washington, Jefferson, and Adams. We tend to give these big name folks the credit. The reality, however, is much more complicated, isn't it? These individuals were important, but they did not and could not have done it on their own. Behind Roosevelt and Churchill, behind Washington, Jefferson, and Adams were all of the soldiers on the field, and all those back on the home front supporting the effort. Behind King and Anthony were all of those protestors on the street, and lawyers in the courts, and representatives at the local, state, and federal levels of government changing the laws. Making most great things happen takes a lot more than a single individual. It takes a lot of folks working together, each one doing their part. 

It is the same for the church. When we think of the early church, and how it got started and grew, we tend to think of St. Paul. Having your name attached to most books in the New Testament certainly helps with that impression. And while Paul was certainly quite important - he was the founding leader of a number of early church communities - he did not do it on his own. There were a lot of people who made the church what it is. 

In our epistle today, we get a glimpse of that reality, a glimpse that the work of ministry in founding the early church was not Paul's alone. We hear about Euodia, Syntyche, and this unnamed person that our translation refers to as "my loyal companion." We hear about Clement and "the rest of my co-workers." Maybe he just forgot their names, but I think it is more likely that the list was too long to name them all. The ministry in Philippi was not Paul's alone. He worked side by side with others. He could not and did not do it by himself. It took a lot of people working together, each one doing their part. 

Paul is writing this letter because he is concerned that the people on the ground doing the work, making the ministry thrive, need a little bit of help to work together a bit more smoothly. But he would not be writing this letter if he did not realize how important it was for them all to work together. The work of ministry does not belong to any individual, but to the many members of the church working together. 

Elsewhere in his writing, Paul uses the metaphor of a body to explain his understanding of the church. A body is made up of many members. Different members do different things for the body - the eye sees, the ears hear, the mouth speaks and tastes - but all are valuable and important to the functioning of the body as a whole. And Paul goes on to say that different parts of the body cannot say to each other, "I have no need of you." 

Our continued growing knowledge of the human body only confirms and strengthens this metaphor. Our body is so interconnected. A friend of mine recently was infected by a virus in his inner ear. The inner ear is connected to our eyes and controls stabilization and balance, which goes on to affect walking. Without his inner ear properly working, he couldn't see or walk properly. All parts of the body are interconnected and work together.

Paul says that the metaphorical body which we belong to in the church with all of the different parts working together is the Body of Christ. We are the Body of Christ. By virtue of our baptism, we are part of the body. Building on this metaphor of us as the Body of Christ, Teresa of Avila, one of the classic medieval saints, once wrote: 
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,    
Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.
We work together because we can do more together than we can on our own. But even more importantly, we work together because we cannot be the Body of Christ if we do it alone. Because each one of us on our own is only a part of the Body. 
Maybe we are the ears that hear or the eyes that see or the hands that bless, but we need each other to fill out the other roles of the body. If we are the eyes without the inner ear, we cannot function. There is no such thing as a Christian alone, we are only Christians in this community known as the Body of Christ. 

This week we are launching our annual pledge campaign when we all say how much we think we will be able to commit financially to St. Mary's this year. Our theme for this year's campaign is Hand in Hand Together. The theme is built around this idea than none of the ministry here at St. Mary's can be done by any one of us on our own. The ministry of St. Mary's can only be done hand in hand together. Together. That is the key word here. Together we can do so much more than we can do on our own. Together we can each bring our unique gifts and share them. Together we can be the Body of Christ. 

During the annual pledge campaign, we focus on money because a) the world is obsessed with money, so we have to talk about it at some point. And b) it takes money to run the ministry here of the church. Your pledges are vital to making the ministry here happen. As is your time, of course. And your talents. And your presence. But we need to spend some time focusing on money. And it is the same thing with money as it is with anything else that we do: we do it hand in hand together. It is all of us coming together, generously giving as each one of is able from our means, that allows the ministry here to continue and to thrive. 

Your pledge packets should be coming in the mail this week, (And if you don't get one for whatever reason, we will have some available here at church next week). As you read through the packets, and prepare to make your pledge, I encourage you to think about all the ways that we work hand in hand together. Whether it is all of the hands cooking meals for the Meals in Motion Ministry, which bring food to people after major surgeries or other life events like the birth of a baby. Or all of the hands serving our hungry neighbors at the Saturday Breakfast. Or the hands preparing Sunday School lessons for our children each week, or the hands preparing for the various weekly Bible Studies. Or the hands leading our choirs or playing musical instruments to offer beautiful music to the Lord. Or the hands setting up tables and chairs for various programs here at the church. Or the hands quilting or knitting or sewing in the numerous ministries involved in those activities. Or the hands answering the phones or the doors during the week. Or the hands coordinating the hundreds of church and community groups that use our building each month. Or hands taking out the compost or installing insulation to help care for God's creation. Or the hands taking communion to the homebound and the hospitalized. Or the hands visiting prisoners in the jail. Hand in hand together, we are doing so much more than any one of us could do on our own. Like Paul, Syntyche, Euodia, the loyal companion, Clement, and the rest of the co-workers, hand in hand together, we are engaging in ministry, we are being Christ's continued body in the world. So please join your hands together in this ministry. Amen.