November 5, 2017

2017 Nov5

Proper 26 - Year A

A Sermon Preached by The Rev Ian M Delinger


“You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.”


When I first read that, our year of 150th Celebrations immediately came to me! “Remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters.” We have had a busy year, and many of us are looking forward to a restful 2018!!


In two weeks, we will have our next 150th Celebration, and that is to give thanks for our partners.


We partnered with over 60
agencies and
craftspersons over
our 10 events. Over 60 agencies!
That is amazing!


I haven’t tallied the total numbers of people who attended each of the events, but it’s between 600-800.


You might be thinking about Jesus’ warning us this morning: “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” But I think even Jesus wouldn’t mind if we took a little pride in what we accomplished this year. Each event was an example of being servants to the SLO community. As this weekend has been all about the Church – with Convention, with our In-Gathering – We should be thinking about what we as the Church, the Body of Christ, have done – both within ourselves and with the wider community.


After our next two 150th events, we will embark on our next 150 years. Our looking back should cause us to look to the future. The founding fathers and mothers of St Stephen’s established this community keeping in mind that the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement would be here forever. They may not have foreseen a woman bishop and everyone driving to church in these things called cars.


Other elements of our Christian life together that neither Matthew’s community or the community of our founders would have known would have been:


  • Professional staff in a church office
  • Education supplies, since everything was oral until the last century
  • The high cost of insurance and for medical benefits
  • Reaching out to the community through various print and online publications
  • And maintaining a professional kitchen.


Today’s In-Gathering at the end of our Stewardship Campaign points us toward the work…the business of St Stephen’s and how we will fund what we do. You will see what we are calling The Aspirational Budget on the tables when you come for lunch. It’s about 2% higher than the 2017 Budget, and the 2017 Budget was about the same as the 2016 Budget. What is different is that we have a better idea of how the spending priorities are different between Fr Barry, Amber and now me. Other than Diocese-wide staff and clergy Cost of Living Adjustments, the increases in our budget are for more communication with the wider SLO Community through print and online media, and funding the Music program through the Budget rather than through special, private donations.


Does this mean that we are falling into the trap that Jesus is warning about today? Absolutely not! What we are attempting to do is be The Church both in the 21C and for the 21C.

Does anyone know what “phylacteries” are? They are the two black leather boxes containing parchment Scripture that, since at least 2BCE, have been commonly worn on the upper left arm and forehead following the literal understanding of passages in Exodus (13:9,16) and Deuteronomy (6:8; 11:18). What the scribes and the Pharisees were doing was showing off.


Today’s New Testament and Gospel readings side-by-side are difficult. In one, it sounds like Paul is bragging about how good he was at sorting out the Christian community in Thessalonika. And then, Jesus is exposing the boasting and hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. They were wearing their phylacteries and their fringes like their Scriptures were telling them to. But Jesus’ attack is not against a scriptural ordinance, but its observance for self-glorification. So, it’s like buying the most expensive briefcase and carrying it prominently so everyone can see.


What we have done with our 150th Celebrations, and with the work we want to do to start off the next 150 years is to spread God's word: which is also at work in us as believers. Our 150th Celebrations each drew in partners from around the community in order to celebrate St Stephen’s history as a part of San Luis Obispo’s history. (Each of the event leaders is going to be glad when 2018 comes, because their hope is that I won’t use that phrase again!) But what we were doing by having partners was not to show off! Looking at our Celebrations through Jesus’ cultural lens, they were more like acts of thanksgiving for what God has given us. We have not only been blessed with 150yrs of continuous worship in this place, we have been blessed with:


  • Talented artists and craftspersons
  • The moral fabric and the financial means to help the vulnerable
  • People of other faiths who want to share with us
  • A commitment to help children
  • Countless opportunities to express the love between couples and have their love blessed by God
  • The Joy of Music and talented musicians and singers
  • A heart for helping the wider community in need
  • A city full of people who want to serve one another
  • Opportunities to profess our faith in celebration
  • Pets as life companions


Each of our 10 events so far has celebrated the blessings that we have been given, that we have been blessed with for 150 years, and affirming what it means to be The Church. And we did that with over 60 agencies, artist and craftspersons as our partners. We want to start our next 150 years with the confidence we gained in sharing our story with San Luis and illustrating to both ourselves and the wider community that our story has been a part of SLO’s story for 150 years, and we want to continue be a part of SLO’s story for the next 150 years. After that, we’ll let who is ever still around think about the 3rd 150 years.


So, you will see a budget that looks ambitious. But in reality, it’s the same budget that we have been working with for a couple of years. The challenge will be meeting that budget. With our current pledges, we will only make it halfway.


We are in a different era than Jesus, the scribes and the Pharisees in today’s Gospel reading; we are in a different era than the good and faithful people who founded St Stephen’s 150 years ago. We don’t have phylacteries, and our religious garments have no fringes. We are in an era in which our time, money and attention are being pulled in many different directions. And that is for people of all ages.


  • Those who are working are busy with work – California is not a 9-to-5 working culture.
  • Kids are playing sports and undertaking private music lessons, as well as doing volunteer work – that is all outside of school because those opportunities within school have dwindled or disappeared in my lifetime. Working or retired, you are all volunteering for more than one organization.
  • And the world is a smaller place these days – you’re traveling. I have said to several of the grandparents in this congregation, “Back in my day, it was the children who did all the driving with the grandchildren to visit their parents.” And Gail…where will you be on Christmas Day?

The Church – St Stephen’s – is first and foremost your place of prayer and spiritual nourishment.

  • I hope that our Welcoming, Worshiping and Working together leads you further along your spiritual journey.
  • I  hope that the Welcoming, Worshiping and Working that we do is urging and encouraging you and helping you lead a life worthy of God/.
  • I hope that the Welcoming, Worshiping and Working helps you know that God calls you into his own kingdom and glory.


It is here that we come to the altar of God, to the God of our joy and gladness; and give thanks to you, O God my God – as we recited in the Psalm. The busyness of your lives means that coming here is all that more important. And it also means that in 2018, there needs to be less labor and toil and more proclaiming – or receiving – the Gospel. We know that. And a recent-and-ongoing review of our ministries is hopefully going to ensure that every bit of Welcoming, Worshiping and Working we do in 2018 is of a high standard but also an opportunity to “rest in the Lord”.


Through the labor and toil of our 150th Celebrations, we can be assured that we did proclaim to SLO the Gospel of God. As we look toward 2018, let us make provision for our proclamation of the Gospel both within and out-with these walls.


  • Thank you to all who gave your time and Gifts of the Spirit to St Stephen’s. It is part of both the Welcoming and the Worshiping. I have been told all throughout our 150th that the Good People of St Stephen’s are very welcoming and kind. And our worship is so much enhanced by the Lay Eucharistic Ministers and all the Sunday Servers, by the time spent preparing in the office, and especially by our music…even when I shout at them from the Altar…which was the most bizarre thing I have ever done, and am thankful for the forgiveness from the Director of Music.
  • Thank you to all who have pledge money during this Stewardship Drive. We hate to speak the word “money” in the church, but that is what you have given. We are grateful, and we will all benefit. It will support the Working that we do…which includes our Welcoming and our Worshiping.  

Being The Church is what and
who we are. Times are very
different from Jesus’ day and the
Wild West Days of our Founders.
But we can still follow in their
footsteps and discover together
what it means to lead a life
worthy of God, and to be called
you into God’s own kingdom
and glory.

© 2020 St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
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