Or better still, year-round saints.
Welcome to the Summer! Well, technically, “almost” Summer.
I am excited to share with you that – as the Prayer Book says, “God willing and the people consenting” – for this Summer Season I planned a series of sermons about the saints honored by the Church.
I am not talking so much about the “Big-Shot-Saints” – like St Matthew, St Paul, or St Peter, or even our own St David – but those who left their mark in the life of the church in perhaps unremarkable and yet remarkable ways.
Ann B. Davis, age 88, died about six or seven years ago. The name by itself, may not ring any bell until I tell you that she was the Brady Bunch’s beloved "Alice".
What a lot of people don’t know is that she was a devout Episcopalian and that for the last thirty-five years of her life she lived in a Christian Community presided by the retired Bishop of Colorado, William Frey. She attended Church at St Helena’s, near San Antonio, TX, for the Sunday Eucharist and a mid-week service. She also sang in the Choir.
“The woman millions thought of as ‘Alice’ was far more than her character on The Brady Bunch. She was the kind of person who would spend her days hidden in the back of that homeless center quietly doing laundry or sorting through donated clothes. You should have heard her crow in excitement when she finally managed to make stray socks match.”
For sure, Ann Davis will remain well cherished in the memory of the millions and millions that watched The Brady Bunch, or in one way or other became acquainted with her “hidden life.”
However, I’d like to speak about her Christian witness. In many ways, other than living in a peculiar Christian Community her life really is nothing to write home. In many ways, we can only say that she lived a sort of unremarkable life in a remarkable spirit.
That’s the kind of saints that I have in mind. In the words of Redeemer Baptist Church, “Everyday Saints.”
So, today I would like to share some thoughts about Joseph of Cyprus. Does the name ring a bell? What if I were to tell you that eventually, he became known as Barnabas – meaning “Son of Encouragement.”
As Prof. Dick France wrote a few years ago, “In the part Barnabas played in the early years of the Christian mission this ministry of [encouragement] was seen time and again, as he took the side of the misunderstood and the rejected and proved to be for them a son of encouragement, or as we might put it, a tower of strength.”
But let’s go back to when he was known just “Joseph”. In Acts 2, we learn that Joseph was a Jewish Levite. According to the Law and Tradition, Levites were not supposed to own property individually – “For God was their inheritance”, (Deuteronomy 18:2).
And yet, as he converted to the Christian faith, he was one of those who sold their property and gave the money to the church. In other words, he put his money where his heart was. And, as we learn, later on he had to work to support himself (1 Corinthians 9:6).
For a few years, Barnabas lived a sort of unremarkable life in a remarkable spirit. So much so, that when the Church in Antioch (Syria) began to grow attracting more non-Jews, he was sent to check what was going on. And, perhaps, to lay down the law.
As we read in Acts, once he found out and “saw this evidence of God’s blessing, Barnabas was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord.” (Acts 11:23).
In Antioch, Barnabas heard about Paul, and brought him along, even though, as we know some were not convinced about Paul’s conversion. Yet, Barnabas trusted Paul, and by doing so, he affirmed him into his ministry. Perhaps, just perhaps, without Barnabas vouching for him, Paul may have not become the Apostle Paul that we know of.
As it came to pass, there was a famine in Judea, and the church in Antioch sent Barnabas and Paul with a love offering. And so, it was Barnabas who introduced Paul to the Apostles.
Back in Antioch, “one day as the leaders of the church were worshiping God—they were also fasting as they waited for guidance—the Holy Spirit spoke: ‘Take Barnabas and Paul and commission them for the work I have called them to do.’” (Acts 13:2).
Now notice this. “Barnabas and Paul.” Until one day we begin to read about “Paul and Barnabas.” And we never read that Barnabas, the one that had brough Paul along, now played second fiddle. And Barnabas had no problems with it.
Going back to Barnabas, it is interesting to note that until his later years, Barnabas was just one the folks, doing what had to be done, praying, teaching, giving, and serving. In many ways, what you are doing today here in St. David’s.
In today’s gospel we learn about Matthew’s call. Matthew, working for the IRS of his day – and at the same time taking piece of the action for himself, looks up and finds Jesus looking at him. And the Master said, “Follow me.” And Matthew dropped everything and went along with Jesus.
As we know from the Gospels, John, Andrew, and Peter were called while they were earning their living, like Matthew did, but in a less shady way. But they all left and followed. St Paul, as we know, was knocked down from a horse.
St Francis experienced a dramatic conversion. Then he stripped naked in the public square in order to physically cast off his possessions and give himself over to a new life with God at the center. Many other people had extraordinary visions, like Isaiah.
And what about Mary’s way of experiencing God’s call?
However, Barnabas never had a “mountain top” experience that we know of. From day one he committed himself to the way of Christ and just followed.
Until one day meeting with friends in prayer, and in worship, they all realized that for Barnabas a new chapter in his life would be opening. But as we know nothing changed right away. He kept being who he always was, a tower of strength in the life of the church.
Now, let me ask you. If God were to be calling you, what would you expect?
I am not talking about going full time into the priesthood. I am not talking about becoming a vocational deacon. But perhaps God may be calling you to walk deeper into the realm of His love, serving in a new way. For sure, the church needs such kind of persons.
Why “mute” God off hand? Why not open yourself to God in a new way? Why not going out on the limb of faith?
I am not talking about riding a horse and see if you are knocked down. And certainly, I am not talking about going downtown and start giving away all your clothing either -- Unless you feel a calling to prison ministry!
But some of you are going through a transition in your lives. You have been the “Josephs” of St Davis – or some other church, for that matter – for a long time. I know that like so many in the life of the church, you reached a point where you may have started wondering, “What’s next?” So, I am just asking, “What about giving God a chance?” Would you?
Dear follower in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior: Perhaps today you are reading these lines by “pure chance”. Perhaps not. But whomever you are, and wherever you are, the words above are addressed to you as well. So, let me ask you again, if I may, “If God were to be calling you, what would you expect?”
Of course, God called you into being. And at times, you may have experienced a particular sense of closeness to your Savior. But now, wouldn’t it be possible that God may be calling you in a special way?
I am not talking about going full time into the priesthood. I am not talking about becoming a vocational deacon. But perhaps God may be calling you to walk deeper into the realm of His love, serving in a new way. For sure, the church needs such kind of persons. People like you.
Why “mute” God off hand? Why not open yourself to God in a new way? Why not going out on the limb of faith? What about giving God a chance?
Let us pray: Most gracious God, lovingly heed my prayers and enlighten the hearts of those whom you may be calling to enter into a new season in their lives. Enable them, I pray, to hear your voice more clearly and to follow you more closely, for the welfare of your people, and the glory of your most holy Name. I am asking this in Jesus' name. Amen.