The Rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Jackson Hole, Wyoming also has responsibility for The Chapel of the Transfiguration in Grand Teton National Park and The Chapel of St. Hubert the Hunter in Bondurant, Wyoming. Following an outdoor service on the last Sunday in June each year, the folks at St. Hubert's host a barbeque, to which people come for miles around. Gay and I were privileged to participate in one of those during my interim appointment in Wyoming.
In the service of worship, at which I presided and preached, and in the crowd at the barbeque, I was conscious that I was there on a mission from God. I didn’t just happen by or show up. I was sent there on a mission and equipped by God with “good news” of the kingdom of heaven for all sorts and conditions of people. But when I started out that morning I did not realize that, in the midst of that mission to others, I would experience God’s reign myself.
At the barbeque, seated at one end of our table were two young men from Israel. They were driving along, saw the sign, and turned in to enjoy some genuine western barbecue beside an Episcopal Church. They asked about lodging and things to see on their way to Yellowstone. We took delight in suggesting things we’d seen and done during our brief time in the area. Having been welcomed in their country when we traveled there, we were glad to have an opportunity to extend hospitality to them as they traveled through ours. When they started to leave, we wished each other “Shalom.” In the exchange of that ancient word of peace, our eyes met. We understood one another in some new way. Strangers became friends as our kinship with our Creator was acknowledged. I experienced God’s reign on earth, transcending time and space and even barbecue.
At the other end of the table was a couple from a neighboring state. They have been riding their motorcycles to Bondurant for years to participate in this annual event. After a short conversation, one of them raised the subject of the Church’s view of homosexuality. Gay gently expressed the inclusive view one finds in The Episcopal Church and what that means for so many people whom we cherish. Silence. Then, they opened up and talked about what it means for them, their daughter and her partner. Our eyes met. We understood one another in some new way. Strangers became friends as our kinship with our Creator was acknowledged. I experienced God’s reign on earth, transcending time and space and even barbecue.
On my way to the car, a member of the band that played for both the service of worship and the barbecue approached me. She thanked me for the service and told me that although she was Baptized at an early age, this was the first time she’d ever received Holy Communion. She said that her decision to come forward on this occasion was made when she heard me say, “Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, and wherever you may be on your spiritual journey, you are welcome here.” In that moment in time, in that particular location, she knew that she is included in God’s love and hospitality. Our eyes met. We understood one another in some new way. Strangers became friends as our kinship with our Creator was acknowledged. I experienced God’s reign on earth, transcending time and space and even barbecue.
Our recent readings from Mark’s Gospel concern Jesus during his Galilean ministry, crossing back and forth between Jewish and Gentile territories. God’s reign became evident in the encounters between Jesus and the people to whom he was sent. You and I are called to recognize the signs of God’s reign when we see them in our encounters with others. Even more, we are privileged to be heralds of God’s reign wherever we may be to help others recognize God’s reign for themselves.
Let us pray.
O heavenly Father, you have filled the world with beauty: Open our eyes to behold your gracious hand in all your works; that, rejoicing in your whole creation, we may learn to serve you with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer)
I’ll see you in Church!
The Very Reverend Ronald D. Pogue
St. Andrew’s Cathedral
P.S. The theme of our fall stewardship season is drawn from this prayer. “Open our eyes to behold your gracious hand in all your works.” Consecration Sunday, with one great morning worship service and a complimentary brunch celebrating our life together is October 14. Please make plans to join us!