Today marks six months since the day you called me as your Rector. Every day I wake up and I am so grateful to the Holy Spirit and to you for calling me to serve with you. I am hopeful you recognize how wonderful St. John’s is. I also hope you never take for granted how great this community truly is. Not every parish does things quite the way St. John’s does, and not every parish is as healthy, active, and thriving as St. John’s. After my first six months here, I can tell you I am truly proud to be here. I’m proud of each and every one of you, and I’m pleased to know you love Jesus and you do your part to show others how to follow him. I will tell you the same thing I used to tell my religion students. After listening to me preach and teach, I want you to know two things for sure: God loves you and Father Tim loves you. If you know those two things, then everything else you learn is icing on the cake.
In our time together, you have impressed me with your desire to learn and your drive to share the Gospel with the world. You have inspired me with your hospitality, your generosity, and your willingness to try new things. You are motivated, enthusiastic, and energetic. My clergy colleagues have shared with me that they are jealous that I get to be part of such a thriving place! St. John’s is not the biggest parish around, or the parish with the biggest financial endowment, but you know how to be the Church in the world. That’s what it’s really about. Bishop Reddall has shared with me that she admires the joy expressed in worship at St. John’s. When joy is abundant, that is how we will grow the Church together!
An example of your dedication to the Gospel took place within just this past week. On Thursday of last week, a very strong storm swept through our neighborhood. Trees up and down the street were uprooted. Branches were broken and tossed. Roof shingles were swept away. Our campus took a tremendous hit. The grounds looked like they had been hit by the tornado in the Wizard of Oz. I was half expecting to see the Wicked Witch of the West fly by, or maybe her sister’s ruby slippers sticking out from under the foundation of the church! For a few days, felled branches and uprooted trees were the only things that could be noticed on our property by someone driving down Union Hills Drive.
Then, our parishioners and staff rallied! You made phone calls, sent emails, reached out to the city, and contacted one another. You asked for help and it was help that you got! An eager team of dedicated parishioners showed up on Monday with power tools, wheelbarrows, pickup trucks, gloves, hats, and sunscreen, ready to go to work. We quite literally sacrificed our blood, sweat, and tears during the cleanup effort. Desert plants and their felled branches sure are pokey, and some of us (I’m guilty as charged) did not think about wearing long pants and sleeves to protect us! Within a matter of less than three hours from our start time, the campus was cleaned up. And as good fortune would have it, the city held its bulk pickup day for our neighborhood later that day. By Tuesday morning, piles and piles of rubbish had been taken away. The end result is some trees whose branches look a little thinned out. I also must confess that I took home a branch of felled mesquite that I threw in my grill to make some pretty yummy ribs on Monday and chicken on Wednesday, so the uprooted trees were not lost in vain!
This is just one example of how the people of St. John’s truly come together. St. John’s saw the diocese’s biggest turnout for Faith and Family Night with the Arizona Diamondbacks. A meeting of several dozen parishioners gathered last week to organize the upcoming golf tournament to support military veterans. Every month, we have a couple dozen people serve meals to veterans. And every weekday, dozens of families come through our doors to supplement their food dollars by participating in our very active food pantry. Time and time again, you show up. And time and time again, you do the Lord’s work. I am thrilled to be with you, to get my hands dirty, and to do what I can to support you in your very important ministry!
I am hopeful to spend many, many years with you. You love Jesus and so do I. You love joyful silliness and so do I. You love irreverent reverence and so do I! After these six months together, I am even happier to be here than I was when you first called me. Let’s continue to love Jesus together and to spread his love and joy to the world around us. We are his hands and feet in this place, and I think we do a wonderful job of sharing his joy in this part of his Church. Jesus loves you and so do I. Let’s bring on the icing!