Does Your Presence Make a Difference?

Sermon by the Rev. Marek Zabriskie on Sunday, February 2, 2020.

Does your presence make a difference?

 

Parents, at the end of the day are you often tired and in a bad mood? Do you feel stressed as you raise your children, care for aging parents and work? Do you ever feel unappreciated or dream of running away from all your problems? Or do you children race to hug you and show you something that made at school and ask you to read them a story? Do you hug your spouse and speak about each other’s day? Do those around you appreciate the sacrifices you make?

 

Does your presence make a difference?

Young people, do you look forward to going to school or does it seem like a chore? Do you wonder who will sit next to you in the cafeteria at lunch? Do you worry about your popularity or whether you fit in? Or do you know that God made you and that there is something truly special about you? Do you look out for students who are struggling to fit in and introduce them to your friends or help them with their homework? Do you join or lead groups to improve your school or further an important cause?

 

Does your presence make a difference?

 

Good Christians, do you debate each week whether or not to go to church? Do you wonder if you’ll like the hymns or if the sermon will be too long? Do you feel like no one knows your name and even God doesn’t know what’s heaviest on your heart? Or do you read a portion of the Bible each day to connect with God? Do you trust God to help guide your life and if your family or you faced a great challenge, your friends from church would help you in a heartbeat? Do you give generously of your time and treasure to help God touch countless lives?

Does your presence make a difference?

 

In today’s gospel lesson, Mary and Joseph took their son, Jesus, to the temple to be consecrated to the Lord. Mary came to be purified after giving birth. That was the custom back then. Joseph and she gave a pair of turtledoves, which was the offering that a poor family gave the temple after giving birth. This is how we know that Jesus was born into poverty.

If Jesus came from Greenwich, he would have come from one of the three housing projects. He would have eaten subsidized meals at school. He would not have grown up in a big house or with a private plane or fancy family vacations. Jesus was a poor. So, his parents presented him in the temple and gave him the name “Jesus,” which means “God saves.” He was a gift from God, and his parents knew that there was something extraorindary about him.

 

When Jesus was in the temple, God was in the house. Ninety percent of life is just showing up. When we show up, good things happen. When a friend is going through a difficult time, don’t worry what you are to say, just show up. When a somebody is facing a challenge, you don’t have to solve their problem. You just need to show up and show that you care.

When Jesus was in the temple, people knew that God was in the house. They were not alone. Hope was on the horizon. God was moving among them. From the shadows emerged an old man. His name was Simeon, and his face was full of wrinkles. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would see the Messiah before he died. Simeon took one look at Jesus, and he saw the face of God. God was present and moving among them. So, Simeon sang out,

 

Master, now let your servant go in peace as you have promised;

for my eyes have seen the salvation

which you have made known for all the world to see….

 

And there was Anna. She was just as old as Simeon, but life had been gentler on her. Her hair was silver, but her face was graceful like an angel. She had been married for seven years and widowed for sixty. Think of all the sorrow she felt. She came to the temple every day to fast and pray as she trained her eyes to see God at work. So, she, too, recognized Jesus as the Messiah.

 

God was present and was moving among them.

My friends, do you think that your presence makes a difference in our church, our community, and your home, your school and your work? I can assure you that your presence makes a great difference to others and to God. We have leaders of all stripes and shapes, ushers, altar guild members, lay readers, acolytes, volunteers at Invictus, Domus, Inspirica, the Midnight Run and a group traveling to Cuba this week to bring supplies to people who are living on $25 a month.

Your presence makes a great difference.

Today, we have Vestry members and committee heads who are stepping down and others who are stepping up. Their presence makes a great difference. Thank you, leaders!

 

Our Deacon Abby Vanderbrug is doing an incredible job of building our children’s and family ministries, along with the Children’s Commission, but they cannot do it alone. We need 20 or 30 of you to contact Abby this week, and say, “Here I am, send me. I want to help!” Your presence will make a difference. Just give an hour or two a week, and God will do the rest.

 

Lauren Johnson and Nick Gage are away with our choristers on their ski trip, but they are doing amazing youth ministry. We want to invest in our children, our teens and those in their early 20s, who are struggling to find spiritual meaning. We want to partner with their parents to help them become healthy, spiritually alive human beings. We want to invest in straight souls and not just straight A’s. We want to work as a parish to care for our oldest members and those who are sick. We want to help eliminate poverty in Stamford, Greenwich and Bridgeport?

 

I guarantee that your presence makes a difference.

 

We have Eucharistic Visitors. Last year, they made more nearly 2,000 visits to bring Communion to the elderly who can no longer attend church. They bring Christ to those who no longer drive and can no longer worship with us.

 

Their presence makes a difference.

 

At Christ Church we are striving to build relationships and working to know every member. We urge everyone to wear a name tag as a courtesy to old and new members. We are inviting everyone to be like Simeon and step out of the shadows and into the presence of God. We are inviting all of you to be dedicated like Anna and to connect each day with God and to give generously to build this church, so that our children’s and youth ministries, pastoral care, outreach, music and spiritual formation for all ages can touch countless lives. Jesus is in the house, and God is moving among us. Can’t you feel it? The church becomes so alive when we live our faith and give generously and joyfully so that God can bless countless lives!

 

Last fall, one of our parishioners got very ill. He nearly didn’t pull through. He has an amazing wife and three young children. When he was hospitalized, a couple in our parish enlisted an army of friends to deliver meals to their home each night for two months. Shortly after he had returned home to his family, his father, who was his best friend, died unexpectedly.

 

That evening, I visited their home to offer pastoral support, to pray with them and to help them plan his father’s funeral. I didn’t do or say anything special. I just showed up, because our presence makes a difference. They insisted that I eat dinner, because friends had brought another wonderful meal to their home. And I thought this is the way that it should be for everyone in our church. Our goal at Christ Church is to surround everyone in need with love.

 

Let me tell you, your presence makes a difference.

 

No one here is alone. We have each other. God is in the house and moving among us. Thank you for being there for God and for each other. Your presence is making a huge difference. As longtime parishioner Buzz Moore says, “Christ Church is back.” More importantly, Jesus is in the house, and God is working through each of you. Amen.