(Homily delivered at St. Paul’s Piney Parish, Waldorf, MD August 3, 2014)
In the name of One God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
The last 3 weeks have a common theme in my life and the life of our diocese. For the last 2 weeks, Camp EDOW has been in session at Camp Merrick right here in Charles County. I had the chance to visit Camp Merrick this past week when the middle school age kids were participating. There were several kids from our own parish there. It was great to see them having fun and being in community.
Three weeks ago was E Y E which I attended as an adult volunteer. E Y E is the Episcopal Youth Event and it brings teens together from all over the Episcopal Church. This event takes place every three years and over 1,000 teens met in Philadelphia on the campus of Villanova University for 4 ½ days of singing, worship, workshops and friends. How appropriate that this took place in the city of brotherly love.
There were many profound moments that I could share. Moments of raw emotion; both of joy and sadness filled every day. I was in a workshop on Confirmation and a young lady from the Diocese of Maryland made a statement that I found worth remembering and repeating. She stood in a room full of nearly all adults and said, “Don’t expect me to be confirmed because you think I should. Make it so that I am confirmed because I want to!” A very powerful statement from a very mature and savvy 15 year old young woman.
On Friday, during EYE, we loaded the convention into 20 charter buses to explore the theme of “Mission” for the event in real-life examples taking place in the Diocese of Pennsylvania. It was an incredible day. It culminated at the base of the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum.
These are the iconic steps that Sylvester Stallone ran up in the movie, Rocky. Now, you haven’t lived until you see 1,000 plus teenagers doing their finest Rocky imitation of running up the steps and shaking their fists in the air in great celebration! Sadly, I got the movies confused and I looked more like the slow motion running in Chariots of Fire!
In any case, to end our day, we shared a buffet of Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches and music from a DJ only to end our day with a bus ride back to Villanova for evening worship.
On the way back in my bus (I was the bus captain) to break up the ride, I told the kids and adults this story from my days as a teen. My bus was full of folks from the Diocese of Ohio, the Diocese of Southern Ohio, the Diocese of Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Here is my story:
When I was a kid, I attended church camp. One of the great parts of church camp besides attending, was being old enough to stay and work. I remember the first year I was old enough to stay and work. It was me and one of my cousins. We grew up living only a block away from each other and were close.
So there we were on the first day of camp. We were part of the kitchen crew which really meant we were the clean-up guys for the dining hall, kitchen and bathroom facilities. The cook was in charge and in her best finger-shaking in our face motion, she made it clear that we were to work hard and no shenanigans! And boy, did we work hard!
The week was great and the best part to us was the last day when were handed $75 for our week of work. Well, I don’t have to tell you how excited a couple of 15 year old boys got about 75 bucks in the early 70’s.
After much deliberation, well not really so much but it sounds better, we decided to spend our money on the Atari Game thingy and play Pac-Man. We were going to share the system and it made little difference since we were constantly at one house or the other.
So we got home from camp and enlisted the help of my older brother to drive us to the mall. I cannot tell you if my brother did it on purpose, but he dropped us at the opposite end of the mall of the store we wanted. So we got to walk the entire length of the mall to buy our very own Atari.
As we were walking the mall to the other end, my cousin said to me, “Don’t look now but there is a woman following us.”
What did I do? I looked anyway! I said to him that he was imagining this, it was just a woman walking.
He kept looking back. Several times he repeated his warning, “I tell you that woman is following us!”
We got to the other end of the mall, entered the Lazarus store and rode the escalator to the electronics department. We got ourselves the game system and my cousin was more concerned with the fact that the woman was in the electronics department. He repeated his warning. In fact, he was pretty freaked out.
On the outside, I was maintaining that it was all coincidence. On the inside, I too was pretty freaked myself!
We took our purchase and went back down the escalator and began our trek back to the other end of the mall to meet up with my older brother.
You have guessed it by now…yes, the woman was still behind us all the way back to the other end of the mall. We began to walk faster and so did she. We got to the exit to go back to the car and she exited behind us.
When we walked out the exit of the mall, my brother had moved the car to the very last parking spot in the row and we still had a 50 yard walk. We were walking very fast by now and were 2 scared teens and as we got nearer the car, my brother, who was leaning against the car, suddenly stood straight up and with eyes as big as saucers, looked at us and yelled. “RUN!” as loud as he could….
You’re all excited right now, aren’t you? If you could see you like I see you, you are leaning forward and you are dying to hear how this turns out. Right?
Now, take that excitement and feel it for a moment because now you are experiencing what 1,000 teenagers experienced in excitement and anticipation in the worship and praising of Jesus in Philadelphia! It is the only way I can think of to help you to share that experience.
And, I want you to take that excitement and anticipation and transfer it to Piney.
Because, you see friends, we are at that same part of our parish life that we can’t wait to see how this turns out! I am so excited at where we are and who we have coming to be our shepherd. It is going to be so wonderful, exciting, full of anticipation and blessing and I can’t wait!
So, for those of you still waiting to meet Maria, hold on to this excitement and anticipation because God has wonderful things planned for us and it will be our turn to run! Amen.
(There is an ending to the story. It is our time now however, to write our own story with Mother Maria Kane and the wonderful congregation of St. Paul’s Piney Parish. Maybe one day, in a few weeks, I will tell you how it turns out. Until then my friends…)