Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Apple Festival Sermon

This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD - Exodus 12:14

As I read this phrase, I thought about our Apple Festival. Although, not commanded by the Lord, this Apple Festival and its predecessors these 50+ years have been a day of remembrance and celebration for St. Peter’s.

So many of you talk about fairs and festivals of past years or many years…
-of the events that took place
-of the storms and other interruptions
-of the people who have worked here

For me, the sacredness of this event is the parishioners and friends who year in and year out, plan and participate in our festivities. And in that work you do today, is your ministry to this world.

I am reminded of words from Archbishop Oscar Romero:

How beautiful will be the day when all the baptized understand that their work, their job, is a priestly work, that just as I celebrate Mass at this altar, so each carpenter celebrates Mass at his workbench, and each metalworker, each professional, each doctor with a scalpel, the market woman at her stand, is performing a priestly office!

How many cab drivers, I know, listen to this message there in their cabs; you are a priest at the wheel, my friend, if you work with honesty, consecrating that taxi of yours to God, bearing a message of peace and love to the passengers who ride in your cab. From The Violence of Love by Archbishop Oscar Romero, November 20, 1977

No matter where you are at our Apple festival, parishioner, crafter, through your work you can communicate the love of God to all those we encounter this day. It is a priestly work to living our baptismal faith every day, through our every-day work. Not some big production, just our work.

Why do people come back each year? Pies, sure. Moonbounce, maybe. Or is it because people come and enjoy themselves and feel a love from God through us that they can’t quite put their finger on and yet know it is there. It is you who make this event, as someone said to me just a few years ago, “our parish could never pull this off, you have an amazing parish.” Indeed!

But we don’t do it just for ourselves, I think it really is part of the community. So many people look forward to our event and we want to make it a great festival. Even if someone tomorrow gave us a million dollars, wouldn’t that be nice! We would still do this festival and we still would be exhausted because this place and our time together is indeed sacred.

Let me end with a true story from Tanzania:

Many years ago, two brothers prepared to leave their village to make their fortune in a distant country. Their father gave them his blessing, with this advice: “On your way put marks on the trees lest you get lost.” The two brothers set off. The first brother entered the forest and, as he made his way, cut down some of the trees and marked others with deep gashes. He did this the whole length of his journey. The second brother took a different route. Each evening as he came to a house, he would stop knock on the door. He would be invited in and made friends with the family. He would help with the work and contribute to the family table. Then he would continue on his way, making friends all along his journey.

Finally the two brothers returned home. Their father welcomed them warmly. He then asked his sons to show him the marks they had made on their journey. The first son showed his father the trees he had cut down and marked. Father and son traveled a long way before returning home hungry and exhausted. The next day the father set out with the second son. Retracing his route, the son returned to the homes he had visited and both son and father were welcomed warmly with good food and drink and comfortable places to sleep.

When they returned home, the father summoned the two sons. “Dear sons, I have seen the work you have done. The time has come for me to entrust our family’s fortune to one of you.” To the first son, he said: “I told you to put marks on trees as you traveled. You have cut down many trees and destroyed many others. Where is the profit in all these felled trees?” But he praised the second son: “You left important marks on your journey. You made friendships and established relationships of trust and generosity. These will serve you well.”

The father then ordered a great feast and invested the second son as his principal heir and patriarch of the family. [Adapted from ‘Once Upon a Time in Africa’: Stories of Wisdom and Joy, compiled by Joseph G. Healey.]

And isn’t that what Archbishop Romero is talking about, our everyday encounters, like that second brother who made friendships, who made life, that is a priestly office, what it means to follow Christ, to take up our cross and follow him. Let us celebrate our feast at this altar today and let us remember that what we do today is part of our Godly ministry to reach out our hands with God’s love, welcoming everyone into our midst. Amen.

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