the following is the homily presented by Sam Leitermann on May 19th
Been in the Storm so long,
I’m singing, been in the storm so long,
I’m singing, woah-oh-oh lord.
Give me some time to pray.”
I have a confession to make, and it’s that I completely rewrote this sermon on Saturday morning. I had a perfectly passable sermon written, meditating on the meaning of John 14, talking about finding our way through life. It was well written, and it was articulate, if I may say so myself, but it lacked a certain passion, a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. And, as I was listening to music on Friday I heard this song, ‘Been in the Storm so Long’, an African American spiritual of unknown origin. This song has always been powerful to me, powerful as a symbol of the power of God, even in the midst of a mighty storm.
Equally powerful is our gospel for this week,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
I remember 2 years ago, May 19, 2012 very well. It was the day I graduated college and like most college graduates I was completely lost. I had a plan, sure, I was going to go to Syracuse, do a PhD, become a professor, get married, have 3 kids, and live happily ever after, but despite all of that I felt overwhelmed and alone in the world, cast a sea to chase the unknown, adrift in a world that was unknown and far to frightening for my tastes.
I would like to say this feeling improved over the summer, but I confess when I reached Syracuse I was still a complete wreck. I missed my home, I missed the security of my parents, I missed my girlfriend, and I’m not ashamed to admit I spent the first weekend I lived in Syracuse miserable and alone in my apartment.
Now, my mother is a smart lady, so when she realized I was struggling she called up Father Craig, a family friend who I had known for all 23 years of my life and asked him to check on me. So that weekend I went to the Swan house and celebrated Craig’s birthday with his family, they fed my stomach lobster and my heart love and sent me off with hugs and assurances that it would get better.
And it did get better, the sun was shining and birds were singing and it’s impossible to be miserable forever so despite my continued sense of uneasiness I felt like things were going to be okay. But, as any graduate student will tell you there remained a small voice in the back of my head that continued to tell me that I would fail and that I was in over my head.
The solution to this voice came from a place unlooked for and unexpected but in retrospect completely obvious. On Sunday, September 2nd I walked into St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. And on that Sunday I prayed to my God that he would help me to find my way, to find confidence to continue forward in the work I feel called to do, and little did I know my prayers had already been answered.
My prayers had been answered by all of you, by the community of St. Luke’s that grew to support me, to cherish me, and to each Sunday work to give me the confidence to move forward. They had been answered by my work with the youth group, where every week I see young people that give me hope for a world that is not as scary as it seems. And they had been answered by love, the love of my God and of my community.
Now, don’t rest on your laurels just yet, because I’m here today not to thank you, but to challenge you. Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” In this passage, Jesus gives us a road map, a way of seeking him in the world that so often scares and disillusions us. And St. Luke’s for me was a physical embodiment of that map, guides to a life in Christ that is fulfilling and whole. As Christians we are called to be symbols of Jesus in the world, to do his work for each and every one of our fellow human beings so that they may know God. And as members of Christ’s church we are called to show others the way, to be spiritual navigators for the lost of this world. In each and every action we take we are called to show others the map of Jesus’ love for them, to show them the way, the truth, and the life. As members of God’s church we are called to do exactly what St. Luke’s did for me.
Because, you can’t always be the navigator, and as Christians sometimes we are also called to be the followers, to even in the midst of the storm pray to God and trust in one another. We are called to trust in our community to bring us out of the storm of violence, of hunger, of oppression, and into the house of our Father, into the dwelling places God has prepared for us. We are called to trust that God’s love and the love of our community will deliver us.
I’ll end today with a joke, because isn’t that how all sermons should end?
A man was trapped on a roof with floodwaters rising around him, and he prayed to God to save him. Pretty soon a man in a rowboat came by and shouted out to him, offering a ride. The man said, “I have faith in God, he will save me.” A couple minutes later a coast guard boat came by, and a woman shouted that she could save him and the man said, “I have faith in God, he will save me.” An hour later a helicopter flew by and let down a ladder but the man shouted, “I have faith in God, he will save me.” Finally, the flood waters rose and the man died. When he got to heaven the man asked God, “Why did you not save me?” God said, I sent you two boats and a helicopter, what more could I do?
All around us there are people needing rescue, and all around us there are rescuers. We are called to spend each day reaching out, showing others the way, and walking together into a life lived for the glory of God, and seeking God’s kingdom.