Sunday, August 16, 2015

"Making the Most of the Time"

St. Paul’s Church in Bergen, Jersey City NJ
August 16, 2015

Year B, Proper 15: The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
Psalm 111
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

Making the Most of the Time
            In today’s Old Testament lesson, we heard about the death of King David and the rise of his successor, Solomon, who, understandably, feels like he’s not quite up to the job. He says, poignantly, “I do not know how to go out or come in.”
            And so, recognizing his inadequacy, Solomon asks God to give him wisdom – he asks God to give him “an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil.”
            We’re told that God is so pleased by this request – so pleased that Solomon didn’t ask for the usual stuff, you know, long life or riches – God is so pleased that God grants Solomon his request, bestowing on him the gift for which he is famous to this day: wisdom.
            I think we can all agree that Solomon made a smart – yes, even, wise – request.
            Certainly all leaders need as much wisdom as they can get. But, it’s not just leaders. All of us need wisdom all the time as we face the many challenges and opportunities of life.
            And, you know, one of the biggest challenges and opportunities of our lives is deciding how we use our time. How do we use our precious, fast-moving, all too limited time here on earth?
            In today’s second lesson, the author of the Letter to the Ephesians writes, “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time…”
            Making the most of the time.
            Making the most of the time.
            We’re all fully capable of wasting time. I do it and I’m sure most of us do it.
            But, I think most of us at least try to make the most of the time we’ve been given.  
            Many of our parishioners – many of you - have had to work long and hard in order to support your families, to pay the bills, to create a better life for your children and maybe even for yourself.
            I don’t know everyone’s situation but I know the long hours that many of us put in or have put in at a job – or, sometimes, at multiple jobs. I know the long hours some of us spend or have spent just looking for a job.
            I worry about some of you because I know how long and hard you work.
            And, it’s not just adults. I know how hard kids have to work in school, often, unfortunately, in less than ideal circumstances, and then later they – you - have to deal with homework and maybe an afterschool job or family responsibilities.
            And I know how careful you must be to make the most of the time that’s not spent working or in school. I know that time with family and friends, time for rest and recreation, and to time to pray and to worship is limited and must be used carefully.
            “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time…”
            For a little over two years now, here at St. Paul’s we have done a pretty good job of making the most of the time.
            In fact, it’s been intense, hasn’t it?
            There are many more people here every Sunday. We are the biggest we’ve been in many years. People are choosing to make the most of their time by worshiping here. Our longtime faithful parishioners have stuck with St. Paul’s and in many cases deepened their involvement. Some who had drifted away have returned. And, wonderful new people have found us, put down roots here, bringing exciting gifts, new ideas, and infectious energy.
            We have continued what was already in place and expanded with weekday worship, Craft Guild, Yoga, Stone Soup, and more.
            We have made significant capital improvements – including the air conditioning that I know I’m very grateful for on this very hot day.
            We have made new and exciting connections with the community and are now seen as a community center or as one person said to me,  St. Paul’s is “one of the beating hearts in the body of this community.”
            And, our financial generosity to the church has grown enormously.
            Many of us have pledged – almost everybody, really, and the last few of you still can – and many of us are giving sacrificially, choosing to deny ourselves in order to support the work of the church.
            Those of you who have looked at our budget know that St. Paul’s doesn’t have enough money to pay the salary of a full-time priest and to keep doing all that we’re doing – and to do even more than what we’re doing.
            So, what to do?
            Since I want to stay here and continue the great work we’ve begun together I had just begun to try to think creatively of what I might do on the side to make up the difference in my salary.
            Drive for über?
            Wait tables at Carvao, the cool new restaurant on Bergen Avenue?
            Slice the bagels at Wonder Bagels?
            Deliver pies for Prince of Pizza?
            I was just beginning to try to think “creatively” when suddenly I spotted (on Facebook, if you can believe it!) that St. Peter’s Prep – my alma mater and where I taught before going to seminary - was looking for a Religion Teacher.
            I said to Sue, mostly jokingly, “Maybe I should go for it!”
            But then I thought, “Maybe I should go for it!”
            Well, to cut to the chase, I did go for it and they hired me.
            This amazing and unexpected development solves a lot of our problems.
            I will continue here at St. Paul’s as your rector. Sue and I will still be next door in the rectory. But, the church will only need to pay me half time. And, I’ll get my health insurance through school so that large expense is also taken out of our budget.
            Here at St. Paul’s, we will be dependent only on God and our own generosity.
            And, believe me, we can use the savings for all sorts of things, including some capital improvements like the front stairs, and reducing how much money we take each month from the church’s investments to pay our bills.
            And, as I’ve mentioned to you before, I’ve always missed teaching and this gives me the chance to get back in the classroom teaching religion – uniting both of my vocations as priest and teacher, truly making the most of my time.
            This amazing and unexpected development not only solves problems but it also creates a lot of opportunities for St. Paul’s.
            It’s true that I won’t be able to do quite as much as I’ve been doing here for the past two years. But, you know what? I don’t have to. Because:
            St. Paul’s is stable, healthy, and growing.
            So, now is the time for all of us to make the most of our time– it’s time for all of us to make the most of our time by giving ourselves in loving service to this church and to this community.
            So, go ahead, bring in items for the food pantry or volunteer at Stone Soup.
            Go ahead, volunteer to be an usher, or an acolyte, or a lector, or a chalice-bearer, or a Sunday School teacher. Volunteer to help with the altar guild, allowing us to worship so beautifully each week.
            Go ahead, help the Craft Guild knit prayer shawls for the sick and little hats for babies.
            Go ahead, help with the garden. Don’t worry, a more experienced gardener will tell you if it’s a weed or a plant we want to keep.
            Go ahead, create some new ministry we haven’t thought up yet.
            And, yes, go ahead, make your pledge – or edge up your pledge – to St. Paul’s.
            Because, you know, this is the place where we truly make the most of the time.
            This is the place where we make the most of the time – this is where we receive the living bread – this is where we receive Jesus – who feeds us – who abides with us – and with whom we live forever.
            So, together, like Solomon, let’s pray for God’s great gift of wisdom – the wisdom we need to make the most of the time we have been given – the wisdom to make the most of our time together here at St. Paul’s.
            “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time…”