Let’s Party – A Sermon on Matthew 22

Today begins a week with my friends at St. Martin’s of the Field in Severna Park, Maryland. I was originally invited to come here for two weeks while their rector was on sabbatical and meet with current leaders to envision how they could  develop their individual ministry areas (youth, children, music etc) in a way that  builds a transformational community. However, between then and now the church entered into a difficult transition and time of uncertainty  concerning their current leadership – welcome to church!

Meet Rev. Kathy Shanihan, the deacon at St. Martin’s. Kathy has abounding compassion and welcome – I stayed with her last night and within one day she was calling me ‘dear’ and ‘love’ – that’s my kind of woman!

This was a challenging sermon to write, I’m usually clear on what I want to say by Tuesday but by Friday morning I was still struggling. The gospel from Matthew was complex, in fact, some of my friend’s sermons offered quite different interpretations about where they saw Jesus – check out Kris’s powerful message here. It was also challenging because I kept thinking about a wedding in Kenya that I attended (photos below). I couldn’t figure out WHY  but the wedding kept coming back every morning as I sought out what needed to be shared. Thankfully my brother and companion in the way of justice, Jim Hamilton – who is building an awesome community in Canton – helped me piece through it and on Friday it all clicked.

This passage reminded me that God is inviting us to accept an invitation to live in a world where we search out the ever present Spirit, in all our circumstances, and we join in her activity – regardless if we know the dance steps. Despite being a challenging sermon to write it was a very fun one to deliver – I even got my first ‘amen’ shout out from the congregation. A huge thank you to my dear friend Zach for the perfect sermon material and to all the members of St. Martin’s who remained so present during the sermon.

Sermon Link: 

With Dan Tootle a brother and fellow Episcopal Missionary. Dan is wonderful lover of God and of people - I'm so thankful to know him
With Dan Tootle a brother and fellow Episcopal Missionary. Dan is wonderful lover of God and of people – I’m so thankful to know him

Each Sunday I have a clearer idea of what a commitment to the building of transformational communities in the Church will require of me. Not surprisingly, this clarity conjures up a sense of uncertainty about if I’m capable of fulfilling this unconventional and at times daunting call. However, the response I receive from communities I visit never ceases to amaze me. It is their love, their warmth and their eagerness for change that keeps me going. I am not exaggerating to say that I fall in love with almost every community I visit. I’m not sure why God made my heart  so open – it is so inconvenient at times – but it’s that openness that allows me to deeply desire for people to wake up to the potential Christian community has to be a force for good in their lives and in the world. This potential continues to give me great hope and reminds me each week that there is nothing I’d rather do with my life.

Given all the changes at St. Martins I won’t be doing as much planning with members. I will still be working to do some visioning work with them about using their unique passion to embolden the community; in addition, I will be listening for how members are responding to transition. This listening will be a way of  mutually discern how, my support of St. Martin’s during this time of change may extend past my prayers. I invite you to join with us as we pray for the way forward.

In the Blessing, Natalie

Dancing at the wedding in Western Kenya with the groom’s grandmother.
My dear friend Zach, thank you for this memory and for being with me through all of Kenya.



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