Sermon April 14, 2024 by Tricia Gerhard

Ms. Schenk, Mr.McLarty, Mrs.Marshall…do these names mean anything to you?  No?  How about if I said Dorothy Reid, Rhea Yates, Sharon Stanley, Marion and Alan McKay…those names maybe stir a little something in some?  What if I said Shirley and Walter Watts, Judy and Peter Sim, Ruth and Dan Wiwichar, Diane Riordon, …or how about any one of these folks…

             Now there is no reason for any of you to know Ms Schenk, Mr.McLarty or Mrs. Marshall  as one was my a Sunday Teacher, the other my Sunday School superintendant, and the third was a mainstay volunteer for about 105 years in the church that I grew up in.  But the others, along with these fine faces, are likely more familiar to you, as they are the ones who, along with many many others, have made this church family and the ministry we share here at Westworth a priority.  Without the countless volunteer hours that so many offer this place, well, the truth is we wouldn’t be here.

This church, the work we do here and out in the community, it simply wouldn’t happen without all our volunteers.  From coffee time before church, to Sunday worship and Sunday School, to donating Christmas turkeys, to knitting prayer shawls, to concerts and funeral lunches, to singing, fundraising, meeting and dreaming, none of it would happen without volunteers.  I mean ya’ll have seen this place transform for Timeless Treasures right? Talk about volunteers…there’s an army of them pulling together for that project…or how about the coordination and volunteers it takes to feed a crowd meatball sandwich supper for West Broadway… Don’t forget about the sign up sheets…sorry not sorry for the shameless plug.

Point is I can honestly say that there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t give thanks to God for this place and the multitude of hands, hearts, and minds, that have come together for nearly 70 years to live out our faith and answer Christ’s call to discipleship right here.  Today, as we begin National Volunteer Week, I really just want to say that you guys, you’re amazing and I am honoured, not to mention overwhelmingly grateful, to walk this road with you.

The theme for this year’s celebration is Every Moment Matters…and it got me thinking.  I started to wonder if Mr. McLarty, my Sunday School Superintendent  knew at the time he was teaching me the books of the Bible song that he was planting a seed of faith in my 6 year old heart that would never stop growing.  I wondered if Ms. Schenk who tolerated my impatience when she came to do chocolates with us during youth group.  I wondered if the UCW women of my childhood and youth who bravely let me carry the coffee urns from the tables to the kitchen during the congregational teas, knew that by  trusting my teenage attention span made me feel valuable, and that to this day every time I help out at a funeral lunch or a tea I think of those ladies and how no matter our age or ability it’s important to make space for people.  Did those women know in those moments that they were making a difference?  Did they know that the way they lived out their faith would impact the way I lived out mine?

I have no doubt that each of you have your own Ms. Schenk, Mr. McLarty and Mrs. Marshall…people of faith who at some point along the road made a difference in your life.  People who showed you, through their actions, what living a life of faith really looks like.  How serving others is an act of discipleship, how being generous with time and energy is an act of love, how hospitality and trust is an act of hope, and how coming together as a community, in good times and in bad, is an act of peace and healing.  Those people who lived out the story of our faith…even if they didn’t really know at the time that that’s what they were doing.

The post resurrection stories are filled to overflowing with moments when Jesus appears to his disciples.  Last week we heard about Jesus on the beach, offering, along with an abundance of fish, a hope they thought they had lost forever.  We all know the story of Jesus appearing in the middle of a locked room showing Thomas his hands and feet asking him to believe the unbelievable, and this morning, following tight on the heels of the Emmaus Road Story, where Jesus appeared to two followers but only became known to them when he broke bread together with them, we have Jesus telling a group of terrified disciples that they need to remember everything that has taken place, everything he has taught them, and then put that wisdom into action.  The part that is staying with me this week is where he says “You are witnesses of all of this.”

Those men and women stood in those early days as witness to all God had done through Jesus and it was literally up to them to share that Good News with the world.  And you and I are living proof that they did.  But I wonder, in those initial moments did they really have any idea what kind of impact they were ultimately going to have?  I mean I don’t believe that those people left that room that day convinced that they were going to change history.  Not one of them said “you know if we get this right a group of Saskatchewan folk will get together once a week in 2 thousand years and talk about us!”

And yet day by day, moment by moment, they told their story.  And sometimes they used words, but more often they told of God’s love through Jesus by sharing food and mercy and grace and healing and shelter with anyone who would listen, the Acts of the Apostles is full of stories like that.  Jesus showed them his hands and feet that day, wounded and raw, he asked them to remember all that they had learned through him and then he asked that would stand as witness to it all and their response was to become his hands and feet in the world around them.  It was beautiful, and it was hard, and it wasn’t always successful.  But they kept going, moment by moment, faithful action by faithful action, and whether they knew it or not, each of those moments, each of those actions mattered, as they began to build the kingdom of God.

Peter W. Marty wrote “from the earliest story of God molding people out of dirt to the one where Jesus breaks bread one final time before his death, [to him sharing fish and showing his hands and feet after his resurrection] God revels in physicality.  This should remind us, among other things, not to intellectualize the faith.  For all of our fastidiousness in dissecting theological propositions, memorizing Bible verses, and sharing truth claims, we’d do well to remember how involved our bodies are in giving shape to our faith practices.”  What he’s sayings is that the things we do matter.  The ways each of you serve each other through this church, living out your faith…it matters.  The things we do, they matter.

Our actions don’t have to be huge or earth shattering, in fact I think it’s probably the small things that make the biggest impacts, like planting seeds of faith in an uncertain heart, or making space for fidgety kids, or trusting anxious teens with important jobs, or bringing something to share for coffee time which for some folks here is the highlight of their week.

But we put our faith into action, when we become the hands and feet of Christ in this broken and aching world…we become the Mr. McLarty’s and Mrs. Marshalls, the Wendy Moroz’s and Paul Chards…and together we fall in line with those early disciples doing what we can, standing as witness to this kingdom of God that we’re trying so hard to build.

Nadia Bolz Webber wrote “the thing with the kingdom of God, is there is no personal treasure to be had…there are only gifts to be shared…. God’s desire for the wholeness and healing of all creation was started in a world changing way in the life of Jesus and it continues through you…your hands are what God has to work with here….  Just by merit of being here, you’ve been conscripted into this beautiful, redemptive story of God’s love for all of humanity”.  And today I just want to say thank you.  Thank you for taking your place in this story, thank you for making these moments, the big ones and the small ones matter.  Amen.