The 125th Anniversary sermon from the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels. Listen here.
I have encountered all sorts of spiritual pilgrims in my 14 years at St. Michael’s by-the-Sea. Some have been on the road awhile, others are just starting out. Some are passing through, others have called this place home for generations. Each soul is driven by a singular combination of hurts and hopes.
The composition of community in this place is truly kaleidoscopic; a slow and fluid churn of faces and families, neighbors and travelers, babies and baptisms, weddings and requiems, transfers and transplants, all moving and merging and intermingling with Divine Light.
At first I found this dynamism troublesome. I puzzled in vain to find patterns; and to strategize some plan towards an imaginary stasis. Until one day Our Lord gently revealed to me that this steady flux, this ebb and flow, is in fact the providential product of the very mission of St. Michael’s. This is not a static community. That is not God’s will for this place. It is not a private residence, isolated removed, enclosed, or a world unto itself. It is more like a way station; a public house along the pilgrims road.
St. Michael’s by-the-Sea is a lighthouse. It is a beacon of God’s Truth and Love, perched on the edge of the map to illumine the pilgrim’s path with the true light that has come into the world, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Many faithful Christians have, and do, and will continue to call this place home. There are those who mind the lantern and love and serve God and others in this place. But there are just as many migrants seeking safe passage as they travel the road from brokenness to belief. They are on The Way, and St. Michael’s by-the-Sea serves as a holy resting place to be refreshed and nourished.
Amidst the brokenness of humanity, and indeed, the brokenness of the Church, St. Michael’s beckons weary travelers to the beauty of this coastline, and the infinitely greater beauty of the life-giving and soul-saving gift of Our Lord Jesus Christ and his One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. He is the rock upon which this beacon is built. Whoever you are, and wherever you find yourself on your journey of faith, there is a place for you at St. Michael’s by-the-Sea.
Perhaps you are a pilgrim who has been on the road for many years who is tired, or wounded, or both. In this place you can rest your weary soul in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, be encouraged by the Good News of the Gospel, and fed by the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. You can attend a daily prayer service in the chapel, or a weekday Eucharist, or the Friday noon healing mass. You can receive healing prayer from the prayer team. Or share your prayer requests with the community.
Perhaps you are just beginning your pilgrimage, or starting out again after a long hiatus. In this place you can study the Scriptures with others in the mens or women’s ministries. You can explore the faith in the Catechumenate class; and ask questions in a safe and supportive environment with fellow travelers, seeking, learning, and growing together in Christ.
Perhaps St. Michael’s has become your spiritual home, and you desire to go deeper in service to God and the mission of His church. There is much to do around the beacon.
The center of the community, the heartbeat, the source of Divine Light that emanates from this beacon is the worship of Almighty God, with the angels and archangels, at His Holy Altar. There are so many hearts and hands who take part in fanning this flame of Divine worship. Servers, readers, acolytes, ushers, altar guild members, welcome and hospitality ministries, Childrens and Youth ministries and caregivers: All these join together principally to keep the fire of God’s Divine Presence in worship glowing for the salvation of the world.
There are many, many of the faithful in the community who are sick or infirm, recovering from surgery or illness, and those who are nearing the end of their earthly pilgrimage. These are visited and cared for by fellow Christians, those whose ministry is Pastoral Care and Outreach to those in need. These loving ministers carry the light of Christ in the blessed Sacrament to those unable to attend corporate worship. They meet with and pray for those in need or distress. They keep the community connected through their ministry of loving presence. I can assure you the demand for spiritual care always far outweighs the supply of those who are hurting and lonely. Perhaps God is calling you to minister to others in this way. I promise you will discover that in the end it is you who are being ministered to.
Of course even a Way Station has administrative needs. They may not be the most glamorous roles in the community (not sure which ones are actually glamorous), but they are critical to the health and well-being and governance of the beacon. Vestry members, finance, investment, property and safety committees; all these are populated by those with specific gifts and calling to serve the beacon in this way.
Whoever you are, and wherever you find yourself on your journey of faith, there is a place for you at St. Michael’s by-the-Sea.
God has seen fit to place this Way Station under the guardianship of St. Michael the Archangel, Chief Commander of the Heavenly Hosts and Defender of the Faith. Among his many roles, St. Michael works tirelessly to rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, and to champion God’s people.
Today we lift up our hearts to God in praise and thanksgiving for 125 years of Christian worship and ministry in this place. God has accomplished so much through our spiritual forbears. We are the direct heirs of the fruit of their faithfulness. It is inspiring, not only to see God’s mission at St. Michael’s continue to bear fruit in our own day, but to know that our faithfulness today will also be a source of blessing to those who come after us.
Under the guardianship of St. Michael the Archangel and all the hosts of heaven, may God the Father in His mercy and grace continue to inspire us in every area of the spiritual life, that we would shine forth as a beacon of Christ’s Truth and Love, through the power of the Holy Spirit, for our salvation and that of the world.