En el nombre del Dios, del Hijo y del Espíritu Santo. In the name of God, the Creator, the Christ and the Holy Spirit. My name is Anne-Marie Jeffery and it is my pleasure to serve this diocese as your Canon for Congregational Vitality. I will be speaking a little in Spanish, but most of the sermon will be in English.
Me llamo Anne-Marie Jeffery y sirvo a la diócesis como Canoniga para la Vitalidad Congregacional. Hoy es un día muy importante. Hoy ustedes declararán su amor a Dios. Hoy declararán su compromiso de seguir a Jesús – no de forma privada, sino en voz alta, frente a Dios y a todos nosotros.
Hace mucha diferencia cuando decimos algo en voz alta. Yo creo que esto nos cambia. Cuando te das cuenta de que amas a alguien, y llega el momento en que estás listo para decir “te amo” a la otra persona, algo ha cambiado en tu relación con esa persona, esa relación se ha hecho más profunda y fuerte. Y cuando tú dices “te amo”, tú cambias, así como también cambia la persona que recibe tus palabras.
Today is a very important day. Today you will declare your love for God. Today you will declare your commitment to following Jesus – not privately, but out loud in front of God and in front of all of us.
It makes a difference when you say something out loud. I believe it changes us. You know when you find that you love someone, and you get to the point where you are ready to say “I love you” to the other person.
When that happens, something has changed about the relationship. It has most likely gotten deeper and stronger. And then when you say “‘I love you” to the person, you are changed as is the person receiving the words.
You might be looking through the service bulletin for the place where you say “I love you” to God and you won’t find those exact words but the words we do say are those of love because in promising to follow Jesus, we are declaring our love for God.
Hoy preguntará si reafirmas tu renuncia al mal, y tu respuesta será: Así lo haré. Después te preguntará si quieres renovar tu compromiso con Jesucristo. Y tu respuesta será “Así lo haré, y con la gracia de Dios lo seguiré como mi Salvador y Señor”. Estas palabras son palabras de amor.
Today you will be asked if you reaffirm your renunciation of evil, your response will be – “I do.” You will then be asked to renew your commitment to Jesus Christ? Your response will be – “I do, and with God’s grace I will follow him as my Savior and Lord.” These sound like words of love to me.
You might say, Well, God knows I love God. So why do I need to say it? We say it because when we say these words out loud, I believe we are changed no matter if we have come for confirmation, reception or affirmation. To have witnesses to our words makes this action even more powerful, because those who are here today will support us and be reminded of their own love of God – their own commitment to Christ.
If you know anything about relationships, saying the words is just the beginning. This is where our gospel can give us some direction. Our love of God requires attention, faithfulness and especially persistence. This is not an easy road, this commitment that is so wonderfully described in our baptismal promises – to be faithful in worship and in the prayers, to return to God when we have strayed away, to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, to serve Christ in all persons, to strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being. All this requires persistence and the woman in our gospel is all about persistence.
Amar a Dios requiere atención, fidelidad y persistencia, que es lo que el Evangelio presenta esta mañana. Hay una mujer que necesita justicia y su única opción es este juez que no tiene temor de Dios ni respeta a las personas. No hay nada que lo mueva a ayudarla, excepto las acciones de esta mujer, así que ella no lo dejará tranquilo. Debido a su persistencia, el juez provee justicia, porque él no quiere ser molestado más por ella. Nosotros también debemos ser persistentes en nuestro seguimiento a Dios.
The woman in our gospel needs justice and her only option is this judge who does not fear God or respect people. There is nothing that will move him to help her except her own action and so she will not leave him alone. Because of her persistence, he gives her justice because he does not want to be worn out by her asking.
We have to be careful here. God is not like this unjust judge. We don’t have to wear God out to be in relationship with God. God is not a disinterested distant judge. God longs for us and God will grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night. We are the ones who need to be persistent to perceive and to receive the gifts that God is giving us.
Many of us have been persistent in prayer, in worship, in proclaiming the Good News, in seeking Christ in all people and in fighting for justice and we have not received the answer or results we have wanted. We wonder if God is showing up for us. We do not understand.
La escritora Debi Thomas dijo una vez sobre la persistencia en la oración que cuando ella ora como esta mujer viuda, con persistencia y de todo corazón, algo sucede en ella y su corazón se hace más fuerte.
One of my favorite writers, Debi Thomas addresses this work of persistence when it comes to prayer. She writes, “What happens when we pray like the widow? What is prayer for? I can only speak from experience, but I know that when I persist in prayer – really persist, with a full heart, over a long period of time – something happens to me. My sense of who I am, to whom I belong, what really matters in this life, and why – these things mature and solidify. My heart grows stronger. It becomes less fragile and flighty. Once in a long while, it even soars. And sometimes – here’s the biggest surprise – these good and substantive things happen even when I don’t receive the answer I’m praying for.1
This persistence is needed not just in prayer, but in all of our life with God. I was confirmed when I was quite young – 11 years old. At the time, I was very serious about my commitment to God and the promises I was making. When I got into my 20s, I found myself in and out of church and not sure about my relationship with God. It was during a period of not going to church that I came to realize that I would never find what I was seeking in a relationship with God unless I showed up. I had to persist in coming to worship, praying, studying scripture and living my life as one who follows Jesus. Over time, what I sought came to be and I remember in my late 20s coming before the bishop in a service very similar to this one for affirmation of my vows. I suspect that many of you already have your own story of persistence with God even if you are at the beginning of the journey.
I ask you, as you make your declaration of love for God this day, as you reaffirm your commitment to following Jesus Christ, will you persist in your following of Jesus like the widow persisted with the judge?
Will you worship persistently like the widow, even when life gets in the way? Will you proclaim the good news like the widow when you are afraid to say the words? Will you seek and serve Christ in the most challenging of people? Will you continue to fight for justice when the way gets hard?
When we persist over time, our relationship with God deepens and what starts with saying words of love out loud sinks deep into our hearts and changes us, making us stronger and closer to the people Jesus needs us to be in this broken world.
Los invito a todos ustedes aquí hoy, no solo a quienes han venido para ser confirmados, recibidos o afirmados, a decir las palabras de amor a Dios en voz alta juntos. Recuerden la persistencia que se necesita para seguir a Cristo. Sepan que Dios nos busca en nuestro peregrinar, y nuestros corazones serán fortalecidos y elevados por aquel que nos ama más de lo que podemos entender.
I invite all of us here, not just those coming for confirmation, reception and affirmation, to say the words of love to God out loud together. Remember the persistence needed to follow Christ. Know that God longs for us and in this journey we will find our hearts strengthened and lifted up by the one who loves us more than we will ever understand.
1The Bothersome Widow from Journey With Jesus webzine
Dear Clergy of the Diocese of Washington,
Your bishop, regional deans and diocesan staff look forward to your presence and participation at the 2022 Fall Clergy Conference, October 24-26 at the Maritime Center in Baltimore.
The focus this year will be on clergy wellness and how we walk alongside one another in our call to serve God’s people. We will provide ample time for you to gather with peers and to explore new collegial relationships. And – while the regional deans and diocesan staff are still working on a final agenda –we are excited to announce that The Rev. Dr. Allison St. Louis will be our conference leader.
Rev. St. Louis says:
“I am passionate about supporting individuals and groups in using their time on this earth wisely – to develop their strengths, attend to their growing edges, and live a joy-filled and purpose-centered life!“
We believe this will be well worth your time and that you will leave encouraged and supported.
Please remember that it is our bishop’s expectation that parish clergy will attend Clergy Conference.
Registration will open in early September. For now, we ask you to hold October 24-26 on your calendar for Clergy Conference 2022. Scholarships will be available.
We look forward to gathering with you in the fall.
The Rev. Dr. Anne-Marie Jeffery
Canon for Congregational Vitality
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
Isaiah 58 12
On Thursday, March 17, members of the newly formed Task Force on Black Ministries convened for the first time to consider its charter mission “to study the revitalization of Black churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington…and make recommendations to the Diocesan Council to enhance, revitalize, and empower Black churches and Black parishioners [in the diocese]…” by September 1, 2022.
We began by sharing our thoughts with one another about what the work involved would entail. Immediately the power of listening became apparent as we began to see ideas coalescing and building on one another. The Rev. Antonio Baxter, one of the cosponsors of the resolution that brought this task force into being, shared his passion for ensuring that the Black church continues to evolve and play a role in our communities, particularly in the lives of rising generations – millennials and generation Z. He described the need for the Black church to step in where, at times, there seems to be no hope. Others voiced similar visions for Black churches to once more serve as centers of community support.
From this rich conversation, our first essential task took shape–to reach out to members of our Black congregations for one-on-one conversations. What issues do they see affecting the Black church? What can we do as a diocese to enhance, revitalize, and empower Black church and Black parishioners? And where do we hear the Holy Spirit in this shared work?
The task force members agreed: it will be a challenge to fulfill its mission in the relatively brief timeframe between now and September 1. But each of us is grateful that this task force has been formed. And I am personally grateful for the task force members’ commitment to this important work and the space they’ve made in their busy schedules. We are all motivated to get our work underway.
We invite your prayers for the work ahead, the Black church, and the lay and clerical members of the Task Force on Back Ministries:
Sonia Anderson, St. John’s Mount Rainier, MD
The Rev. Antonio Baxter, Atonement, DC
Timothy Q Grandy, Calvary, DC
The Rev. Caron Gwynn, UBE representative
The Rev. Canon Michele Hagans, Washington National Cathedral
The Rev. John Harmon, Trinity, DC
Rosemary Latney, Our Savior, Brookland
Sibyl Moses, St. Augustine’s, DC
Diane Quinn, St. Luke’s, DC
Charmaine Romear, Trinity, DC
Paul Ruffins, St. John’s, Mount Rainier
The Rev. Ricardo Sheppard, Atonement, DC, Chair of the Task Force
Andrea Thomas, St. Georges, DC
The Rev. Canon, Anne-Marie Jeffery, EDOW staff liaison