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The Charism of Christ Church Savannah

27 Aug

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue preached this sermon
at Christ Church Savannah on August 27, 2017

The Charism of Christ Church
Romans 12:1-8

We can stumble through our lives learning little more about ourselves than a complete stranger could tell us within 15 minutes. Sure, I know myself in a way you never can, Thanks be to God. But some of you may see me more clearly than I can see myself, and in this is the potential for us both to grow spiritually.

I want to draw our attention this morning to how Paul’s Letter to the Romans speaks to the varied gifts God has given each of us. To show you what I mean, let me tell you a story of how some parishioners of a church helped me find my voice and then turn to share how I see that Christ Church is helping Savannah find its voice as well.

As I entered seminary, I needed to find a congregation where I could complete my field education. I told the Director of Field Ed that I wanted to serve at the smallest possible church that was vital to its community. He introduced me to St. Philip’s in Baden, Maryland. The historically black church had an Average Sunday Attendance of 44 when I arrived. I learned that the rural church had the clothes closet and food pantry for the community. They also had received a grant that supported a transportation ministry to pick people up at their homes and take them to the doctor or to the grocery store and other essential trips. Beyond this they had created an 8-bed assisted living facility so the elderly could stay close to home when they could no longer care for themselves. The church might have been small in number, but if the doors of the church closed, the community would have a sizeable hole to fill. St. Philip’s would be missed.

In that context, I began to lead Morning Prayer one Sunday a month and to preach on another Sunday. I had been there for some months when my seminarian committee challenged me. Mittie Gross said, “There is something we all agree on, but it is awkward to bring up.”

“What is it Mittie,” I replied with a little trepidation.
“We want you to preach more black,” he said.
“More black?” I asked.
“You know what I mean,” Mittie said.

I paused, trying to get my bearings. I told them that I didn’t want to do anything that wasn’t me or that some might see as offensive. Then Mittie said, “The thing is Frank. We are not asking you because we want you to be someone else. We are asking, because we see something in you. We want you to stop holding back.”

He explained that they thought a looser style, less tied to the text, and working more with the congregation in a give and take fit who I was made to be as a preacher. And he said, “The best way they knew to put it was to preach more black.”

That was Monday. I was to preach the following Sunday. I decided not to write out my sermon, but to know what I wanted to say and to note the movements of the sermon and then just preach it. On Wednesday morning, I did something I had not done before. After chapel at the seminary, I asked Victoria if she would like me to bring some breakfast from McDonald’s to her and Griffin. She said they would like that and as I left the seminary and headed to pick up fast food, I started preaching the Sunday sermon in the car. And I mean I preached it. I didn’t hold back. Who knows what people in other cars saw, I was preaching.

I pulled up to the microphone at the drive-through, placed the order and then waited my turn to pay. I saw that I could do what my seminarian committee asked of me, but I was wondering if I should. When I came to the first window and a man leaned out to take my money, I looked up and saw his name tag and I knew that come Sunday, I would have to really let go and trust God to get me through. I was going to have to do this thing. I needed to preach.

You see he was wearing a regulation McDonald’s nametag. But there was no name on the tag. Where the name would go, his nametag had one word. It read “Preach.” I paid Preach for my breakfast, drove to the next window to pick up the food and started preaching again as I drove home. That Sunday, I did loosen up and preach. I recall how the first response back from the congregation, that would be followed by a number of amens and the like was Mittie’s Mom said, “Take it slow now” and I knew that the Holy Spirit was in what was happening as that congregation lovingly called something out of me.

I told the story of the nametag to parishioners after church. I shared it with seminarians. Time passed. I began to doubt my own story. I went to the McDonald’s as lunch was ending. I saw the man from the drive through at one of the cash registers inside. His nametag said “James.” I asked him if we could sit and talk for just a minute. He seemed quite unsure, but agreed. They were not that busy and he asked me to give him a minute. When he sat down, I told him my story. He listened quite attentively and smiled. And when I got to the part where he leaned out the window, he jumped in, “It said ‘preach’ didn’t it?’ I said it sure seemed to and nodded toward his badge that said, “James.”

Click here to read the rest of The Charism of Christ Church.

 
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