Sermon – May10, 2015
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…. John 15:16
Please be seated.
My parents loved to take sightseeing rides. Every fall, they’d pick a Saturday and we’d travel to some part of Pennsylvania to see the leaves. Sometimes there’d be a destination of sorts…a state park or town, but mostly it was a drive to see the beautiful colors of Autumn.
One year, we drove on a road along the Juniata River, close to where it enters the big Susquehanna River. The road was narrow and winding. It was being widened to 4 lanes, but they weren’t on the same level. Two lanes were close to the flat plain along the river, while the other two lanes going a different direction were built further up the hill. That probably doesn’t seem so odd these days, but it was the first time I’d ever seen a road like that.
My father explained how dangerous the old road had been with its curves and bumps and narrowness. He told us there’d been serious car accidents on that road and how much better the new road was going to be. He stopped alongside the river bank at one point and we were all climbing around and looking at the rocks and probably finding flat ones to skip across the water.
Because of the road construction, there had been layers of earth and rock exposed and probably blasting had occurred. I found a fossil of a plant! I took it home with me and placed it on a display shelf with other things I’d collected. That fossil has come with me my whole life since then. Just a flat, rock with an ancient plant etched in it, sitting on a shelf year after year after year. If that fossil could speak, I wonder what it would say regarding my life and my efforts at “bearing fruit.”
There are a couple of things that popped out at me from our Gospel today.
First of all, Jesus says, “I chose you….” “I chose you….” Doesn’t that bring anxious memories of being in school and playing team sports in gym class and wondering whether you’d be chosen for a team, hoping you weren’t the last one picked? But Jesus says, I chose you, period. Jesus has chosen each of us. Jesus has chosen this St. John’s Episcopal Church in Corbin, Kentucky.
Then Jesus says he has appointed us to go and bear fruit. We are Jesus’ chosen and appointed people. We are Jesus’ chosen and appointed community, chosen and appointed to bear fruit. And the community of people at St. John’s Corbin has been bearing fruit for over 100 years.
When we dug the garden plots, we found part of an old foundation, probably for a building connected with the school that the early church members built. Bearing fruit by educating people.
This past week, a man called from Tennessee. I assume he’s doing genealogy research. He didn’t leave a name, but said he’s looking for information on a man who lived in this area in 1910 and was Episcopalian. Again, bearing fruit through the presence of The Episcopal Church in this region.
Back behind Billy, there’s a plaque from 1921 remembering one of the teachers and church members. Again, bearing fruit in education.
Currently, Vestry has adopted goals and projects for the year, goals and projects to bear fruit to the region. Vegetable plants should be planted this week in the Grow Appalachia garden. There are LOTS of tomatoes and the cucumber plants look great, so I’m told. We’re bearing fruit by working together to raise food, which we’ll most likely give away to people who need food.
We’re repurposing space in the church and creating a functional sacristy, the place where all of the items for our worship are stored and gathered. Bearing fruit through beautiful and uplifting worship.
Another goal is to support an Al-Anon meeting at the church. The Al-Anon group began meeting this past Tuesday and will meet each Tuesday evening from 7-8pm in the parish hall. Bearing fruit through healing and recovery for hurting families and individuals.
We’ve signed up with the Knox County Economic Opportunity Council (KCEOC) to once again use St. John’s Community Park as a lunch site for youth 18 and under. Bearing fruit through feeding children.
We’re working on a welcome statement that says we welcome people of all gender orientations, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender. Then we’ll be listed on the Integrity and the Believe Out Loud websites. Many Christians who are LGBT have been rejected and deeply wounded by the Christian Church, but our decal on the back door and our listing on these websites states that we are a diverse community and love people of all gender orientations. Bearing fruit through loving people as they are.
These are just a few of the most recent ways we as the community of St. John’s are continuing to live out our understanding of Jesus’ command in John 15:16 to bear fruit. People and members come and go. Some stay for a short time and some for a lifetime. Some get angry and leave and some leave when they die. Worship leaders and Deacons and Priests come and go. But the bearing of the fruit continues on and on over many years, with only the stones and wood, and stained glass of our church building as the eternal witness.
Now about that fossil…that rock that has witnessed so much of the passage of time and has traveled with me throughout most of my life. That fossil rock and I are traveling back home…. Yes, I am leaving this community of St. John’s Corbin. I’ve been called as Rector at The Church of the Nativity and St. Stephen’s in Newport, PA, along the Juniata River, close to where it empties into the Susquehanna River. My last Sunday with you will be June 7. I’d like to read the letter I have for you and will be mailed to parishioners that could not be here today.
Today I write with a difficult purpose. I have accepted a position with The Church of the Nativity and St. Stephen’s Church in Newport, PA. My last Sunday with you will be June 7.
You have helped me see how much I want to be fulltime in a parish, so the two part-time positions and the travel have become increasingly challenging for me. In addition, I realize how much I’d like to be closer to my children and grandchildren, especially to attend all of the school and fun events with which my grandchildren are involved.
Together, you have formed an amazing Christian community. Together, you are an important Christian voice in this region. I pray mightily that you will continue to grow and strengthen this vital and necessary community.
You have loved me. You have taught me. Words cannot fully express the gratitude I feel for being able to serve as your Priest. I hope you have felt my love for you. Almost every Sunday afternoon, I feel deep peace for our gathering together in worship and for our community.
Times of transition are challenging. The Diocese will be working with you on what is next and Dr. Kay Collier McLaughlin has already met with the Vestry. I pray that you feel God’s love and care during this time.
Dr. Kay Collier McLaughlin is with us today and will be here after church to answer any questions and hear any concerns you may have about this transition.
If you’re like me, you’re feeling conflicting emotions. Most of you were not expecting to hear this when you came to church today. You may be feeling happy for me that I’ll be closer to my family and also angry at me or sad that I’m leaving. You may feel excitement about what new possibilities there could be for the church and also anxious about what worship will be like. You may have experienced many similar transitions and trust that God will provide a Priestly presence for St. John’s, just like God’s done throughout its history, but also be worried about it too.
I know without a doubt that you, members of St. John’s, will continue to bear fruit here in this place, just like you’ve done for years and years and years. Of that I am convinced. Because you see, Jesus has chosen you and Jesus has appointed you to bear fruit.