I was honored to be able to preach my “Senior Sermon” to the students, staff, & faculty of Virginia Theological Seminary. I’m not a senior, I’m an Anglican Studies student, but it was still wonderful to get to consider what I wanted to say to my classmates as we prepare to enter the “professional” portion of our ministry careers.
I still remember the first time I walked into this space. It was over the summer, and I came to a community Eucharist, before I officially joined the community. As I sat and listened, I remember being struck by how the words carry in this space. It’s not just that the words said here echo, they linger on the air. Attempting to get every last ounce of reverberation out, before gently floating away.
As my mind is occasionally want to do, my thoughts also drifted off to instead ponder what I have come to appreciate about words. And I mean the actual words. Not language, not vocabulary, but the sounds we make by twisting our tongues and lips into unique movements and combining that with air. I believe, the words we speak, those words last long after the sounds we make can no longer be heard.
Each word we create, and put into space, it lingers. Leaves an imprint. Looking around this room, listening. Listening as the words echo, reverberate, and fade. I know that as we look with our eyes, it seems like the words stay within this room; the walls creating a barrier around what is said.
But they don’t.
What happens here doesn’t stay here.
What we learn in seminary isn’t limited to things that happen in this room.
We are more than what happens in a sanctuary on Sunday mornings.
Being a priest is more than Sundays. Being a priest is embracing the idea of “other duties as assigned” and being confident that more days than not, there will be something that falls into the category of “well I didn’t learn about that in seminary.”
We are part of something so much more than this. We represent something so much larger than this.
How we dress, the smells, the bells, those are for us. We should never lose sight of that. God wants us. God has called us. All of us. All our hearts, and all our minds, and every part of us.
As the Apostles said in the reading today, “We must obey God rather than any human authority”. And you know what, that is really, really hard to do. People will be enraged when you follow God instead of their human authority, real or perceived. They absolutely will! It has happened to me.
Do it anyway.
Look around this room. God has lead you to this place, and this moment. And yet, what we are called to is not limited to this place, and this moment.
We are part of something so much more. The Anglican communion. The Apostolic tradition. The Holy catholic (with a little c) church! The Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement.
The Jesus movement.
A man whose words are still lingering, still reverberating, still calling us to action, 2,000 years later.
His words still echo long after his physical presence left the earth.
Ours can too.
Use words well. Follow Christ always. When human authorities, societies, or cultural norms tell you to stand down, stand up. Always. It’s what Jesus calls you to do.
We’ve all learned a lot in our time here. But the will and desire to stand up and follow God, that can’t be read in any book or taught in any classroom. That comes from within us.
Stand up. Follow God. Even when it’s hard. Even when it doesn’t make a damn bit of sense according to societal norms and expectations.
Stand up. Go forth. And let the imprint of your life and your words linger long after you have joined the apostles who went before.