Audio file for Fr Mike’s homily for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost–09/30/2018. File made at the 10:15AM Service. For an almost complete transcript, view the sermon with the same date and title.

You can download this as an M4A file or as an MP3 file.



Fr Michael Rasicci’s homily for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, 09/30/2018. Every year the national office of the Episcopal Church publishes statistics. In 2017, the Average Sunday Attendance at Episcopal parishes in the USA was 54. Over the past several years, this number has been in decline. With our two services, Calvary is above that average number (about 45@8:00AM and 35@10:15AM=80 on 9/30/2018).  (We have more than 100 families in our parish and, while some come and go on any given Sunday, we average between 80 and 100 people attending Sunday Services on a mostly regular basis.)

Sometimes there are concerns about our size and we start comparing ourselves to other churches. When we do that, we do ourselves a disservice. We have our own uniqueness and our own contribution to make to the body of Christ. We are not a Roman Catholic parish or a Mega Church or of many of the denominations who surround us–some with more members than others. We are who we are by God’s call. We are here by the Grace of God. We have been called by God to be part of the Episcopal church.  We are further called to be part of Calvary parish. We have our own contribution to make to the Body of Christ. We have to recognize what we contribute to the world. What do we contribute to the Kingdom of God? Instead of comparing to everybody else, we need to be aware of what we are called to do, called to give. We have our own contribution to make. We are an expression of the One, Holy, and Apostolic Church.

Let’s look at the readings for today. Let’s look first at the reading from the Book of Esther. In the Old Testament, in the Book of Esther, very little is said about God. In the Apocrypha–largely Greek writings–there are other parts of the Book of Esther that kind of fill in the gaps and tell what is going on. Esther was an orphan from a Jewish family. Her uncle, Mordecai, raised her. She was living in Persia and the Jewish religion was outlawed. Jews following the teachings of God were violating the will of the King. Esther was very beautiful and had been attached as part of the King’s harem. Members of the King’s harem were not allowed to speak to the King, especially in company. Haman, the servant of the King, hates Mordecai and the Jews. He wants to see the Jews destroyed. Esther had gained the King’s favor and was asked by the King to speak to him and to tell him her wishes. She pleads for her life and the life of the Jewish people under the rule of the King and denounced Haman as the person set to destroy all the Jews in the Kingdom. Many Jewish people at the time would have resented that Esther dared to identify herself as a Jew and speak for them. Because of all of those things, her beauty, her intelligence, and her craftiness that gave her the ability to communicate with the King. The King acts on behalf of the Jews and has Haman killed.

In Mark’s Gospel, we have an exorcist who is casting out demons in the name of Christ without being a disciple or following Christ. He has listened to what Christ has had to say and knows that, if he asks in Christ’s name, things will happen.  Christ tells his disciples that, “Whoever is not against you is for you.”  This, of course, upset the disciples who had invested themselves in following Jesus and learning the teachings. Even though the disciples were part of the company and the apostles among the disciples, His grace could go beyond the disciples and be touched by Christ. Some were being reached by this man rather than by the apostles. The Grace, Mercy, and Compassion of God cannot be confined to one particular group. His message is life-giving to all.

When it comes to the church, we have to understand that, no matter how large or small we are, we all have our gifts to give. Maybe one of the contributions of the Episcopal church is the ability to reason. We talk about a three-legged stool. Scripture, Tradition, Reason. Our ability to reason and to think is very important. This is one contribution we make in the Christian  landscape in the United States. Our congregation is not the largest, nor the smallest in Batavia. What contribution can we make to the whole scene here. Some may be resentful that we celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday or that we are more visible in our contributions to the community. Each one of us here today is able to touch the life of somebody that is in need of the love and mercy of God, in need of the forgiveness of Christ, is in need of a relationship with Christ. All of us know somebody who is away from God, or is away from practicing their faith, that we can reach out to and relate to.  We can bring that healing into their lives the way James talks about this in the second lesson today. We don’t have to do it in a formal sort of way. By virtue of our Baptism, all of us have a responsibility to share our faith. Even though we are few in number all together, we are still part of the bond of Christ, we are still the people of God, we have our gifts to share. We have been given those gifts by the Great Giver Himself, with the intention that we do work that we have been given to do. We need to share the gifts we personally have been given, that no one else has. Nevertheless, each of us is an important person in this body of Christ. We are called to go to that one person that the rest of us will never know and will never meet. Someone we know and someone we can share something with. The Lord invites all of us here because of His love and mercy. He knows that each of us has particular gifts. He also knows our fears, our limitations. The Lord also knows what we are capable of by the power of His Grace within us. Remember the exorcist in the Gospel today who wasn’t part of the original church. He was able to do good and to bring healing into the lives of people the disciples couldn’t touch because they didn’t know them and weren’t teaching them.

You know the truth for you. You know the Gospel and the way you have experienced it as an Episcopalian has made a difference. This life of faith and of trying to enact that Love, expressed and lived daily, all contribute to our worthiness to make a difference, to live out the mission, regardless of what church you belong to, regardless of the size of our congregation. Even one person who can touch someone else for Christ and His Love and His Mercy is the whole church, the whole body of Christ, the servant of God and His Mercy that someone needs.

(Readings:  Esther 7:1-6, 9-19; 9:20-22; Psalm 124; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50)



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