The Sunday Sermon: June 21,2015: Jesus calls us to be with him
(This is a written approximation of the sermon I delivered on Sunday. It is unedited as I gave the sermon without these notes at each service)
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
If you keep up on the news lately, you may have car accident on I-87 just south of exit 23 on Friday evening. I want to share with you this morning my own experience of what happened that night.
It really starts earlier that day when the paramedic in charge of scheduling text messaged me and asked if I would be willing to take a shift. I had to go down to and pick up my mom around 6:00 so I knew that I wouldn’t be able to start until 9:00 p.m.
At 9:00 p.m. I stopped by the squad building to check in with the paramedic on duty, the same one who called me earlier. I told him I would be listening from home. I arrived home around 9:15 and went up to the office, expecting to do some work on my sermon so that I could take all of Saturday off to spend time with my mom and also to go down to Crandall park and play radio with some of the guys from the radio club.
At 9:26 p.m. the pager went off for an accident on the on ramp. At 9:33 I drove the ambulance on to the scene. Looking ahead of me, I could tell the accident was bad. As we approached, a State Trooper, officers usually know for being level headed, calm, cool and collected, approached the driver side. The words and the way he spoke were unnerving. I knew this would be a bad call.
For 45 minutes firefighters from the WFD cut the mangled metal away from the patient so he could be extracted from the wreckage. For 45 minutes, though barely, he was alive. He never regained consciousness. Within a few minutes of being removed from the vehicle, due to the nature of his entrapment and the length of time required to move him, his body was no longer able to sustain life: he went into cardiac arrest.
In the back of the ambulance paramedics and firefighters tried in vain to save him. A call was made to a doctor. Orders were given to secure which means we had tried everything we could but there was no hope in saving this man.
Three firefighters sat back in their seats. The sweat pouring off of them was testimony to hour of hard and exhausting work we spent trying to save the man.
We placed a sheet over the body and exited the ambulance. There was more to be done: Equipment had to be gathered and stored. Police had to be spoken to. The whole scene had to be cleaned up and the northway had to be reopened.
There’s a well-known anecdotal story about St. John the Evangelist who was found one day relaxing in a garden. Someone comes up and asks him what he’s doing in the garden and not focused on some greater matter. St. John in reply asks why the hunter doesn’t keep his bow constantly strung – to which answer is made if you the bow constantly strung, when you need it, the wood will be warped have lost the spring which makes if work.
St. John replies – so it is with the mind – we must relax the our minds from time to time – so that when we need them they are fresh and ready.
I tell you that little story because for me riding the ambulance and helping with EMS is one of the ways in which I unstring my bow and relax my mind. It allows me to take my mind off for a short while the cares and concerns of the church and to focus energy on something else so that I can come back refreshed and renewed and ready for action.
I tell you that not only so that you know why I do EMS, but also because of what happened on that call Friday night.
I was in my EMS mode – I was focused on trying to help save a life – a physical life, that is. Like any Christian should, I said a prayer here and there as I went from one thing to the next.
But as I walked back from the wrecked car for the last time, a firefighter came up to me. It was the one who for 45 minutes had held the victims head between his hands from the back seat of the car while they cut the metal away.
He ran up to me from behind – “Father, will you say a prayer with me?” We walked to the back of the ambulance and holding hands several of us prayed. In my own weary way, I tried to vocalize our thankfulness that no firefighters or EMTs were hurt. I prayed the knowledge that we did all that we could and would give us some comfort and give us his peace and I prayed that God would help us to understand and accept his will. And I prayed for the departed soul.
As we drove down to the hospital, something I learned in seminary became real to me. Because of my ordination, I never really stop being a priest. At my ordination, that’s what the Holy Spirit came and did to me: He made me a priest and as such, I can never not be one until the day I die.
It was for me, a moment of self-discovery. Something which I had known mentally, I experienced in way i had never before.
In the gospel this morning, we find the Disciples on a boat with our Lord. They have been called apart by Jesus – and Jesus was in their midst – right there with them on the boat.
But when the storms arose – they became full of fear. They forgot that Jesus was with them and there was nothing that could overcome them. Their faith was shaken. When Jesus awoke and calmed the storm, he rebuked his disciples for having little faith for with him in their midst there is no need to fear.
I tell you all this – because in the same way that I was changed at ordination by the Holy Spirit into a priest, each one of us was changed and called apart by our Lord at our baptism. And each one of us, regardless of where we find ourselves can never leave that identity behind. We are alway in the boat with our Lord, no matter how bad things are.
Each one of us is marked as Christ’s own forever. And as we go about our daily lives, we need to remember that Jesus is in our midst by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And there in our midst, as the stormy and dangerous conditions of life rage around us, Jesus calls us to have faith in him and his power to protect us and to guide and to heal us. And what’s more, he also calls us to live our lives according to his example of self giving love and service to the Kingdom of God, which is grounded in faith and hope in the love of the Father for us, and which is the work of healing and forgiving, of being healed and being reconciled to one another and to our heavenly Father.
May God grant us the grace of the Holy Spirit to see his beloved Son in our midst this day and everyday – as we live out our vocation as Christians, marked as Christ’s own forever. Amen.