Listen to the daily news, look at the overwhelming calamities around us, and perhaps some personal crisis,
and we have good reasons to feel we are living in hopeless times. And yet, we are literally sitting on, looking at, and holding symbols that are an echo of words through which waits to be found
in these seemingly hopeless times.
125 years ago this congregation undertook a massive renovation with one project being the pews that echo with the word in today’s Psalm:
The pews on which we are sitting call us to remember the first to sit on these chestnut benches trimmed in walnut. They bore scars and memories of our nation’s war against the states. Memories now carried forward for us to lift in pray to the same God to Whom we pledge:
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.
Not the “Jerusalem” of a city left behind as Jews were carried off to exile on Babylon, not the temple reduced to rubble by the Romans in 70 AD, not the powder keg city of today,but the “Jerusalem” of the image of God’s promise to touch down to earth and be present and visible as God took on our flesh in Jesus Christ, Who rebuilds our lives into the temple where God’s Spirit dwells…
the hope that sustained the first to sit in these pews;
the hope that has us exclaiming “my highest joy!”
125 years ago this congregation’s renovations replaced small paned, clear glass windows with the best of stained glass that echoes with the letter’s words:
Guard the good treasure!
I thrill to point to the window marked with the words: “Wm” for “Wilhelm Reith, artist, 1891, Philadelphia” and say, “ WHYY station now stands where his studio had been.”
Another thrill is to point to the rich colors and note the countries from which the minerals came to tint the glass,
such as red from France, golden yellow from Germany, cobalt blue from our Northwest.
Especially on this World Communion Sunday we are washed in the hues that come from around the world, calling us to see ourselves as being Christians from all over the world, colors and races and ages, all bound together, like the lead holding the valued pieces of tinted glass, coloring us with the charge read in today’s letter:
Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me,
in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
The treasured “sound teachings” that call us to put our trust in God’s love made real in Jesus Christ.
Light shining through stained glass, washing us in its colors, and warming us, calls us to believe that God is marking us and filling us with God’s presence. The hope that sustained the first to be bathed in the windows’ colors, now marks us with hope in these hopeless times.
In a few minutes our service of worship will center in the Sacrament of Holy Communion where the chalice first used in 1855 is still used today, when the Gospel story of Jesus ends with the seemingly hopeless charge:
So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say,
‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”
We are worthless slaves!
But when we see the Host has nailed scared hands, we remember He called Himself a servant of all,
who invites us to come to His table where we, when we take the wafer, the sign of Christ’s body and life,
we mark it with the print of our fingers, and then we dip that marked wafer into the cup, and our life is saturated and filled with the sign of His love.
When we leave the Table we know it is to become what we have received which Teresa of Avila put into these words:
"Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world."
“Worthless servants” who know a joy beyond price as Christ chooses to serve through us;
a servant church of the Servant Christ!
that is where hope is found in these hopeless times! AMEN.