Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost by The Rev. Martin Elfert

Lessons:

Proverbs 9:1-6
Psalm 34:9-14
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

Does not Wisdom call
From the heights,
On the Way?
At each crossroads
Wisdom is taking her stand.
To you, O people,
Wisdom calls,
And her cry is to all who live.

  • Music and words by the Reverend Sylvia Miller-Mutia, based on Proverbs 8:1-4

110 or so years later, we are back under a tent.

As many of you know, Grace Memorial began in a tent. Before there was any kind of building at 17th and Weidler, there was canvas held up by poles.

Back then, like this morning, there was no concrete, no linoleum, no soaring beams holding up a ceiling.

And back then, like this morning, there still was church.

Grace is not as old as some parishes in, say, Europe. It is not 800 years old or 1500 years old. But it is old enough that no one here today is a founding member of the parish. Everyone who gathered to worship God in this place near the beginning of the 20th Century has gone to their reward.

And yet, together, we remember our beginning. We have this corporate recollection of that day circa 1909 when the tent first went up and the first hymns were sung and the first words from the Book of Common Prayer were prayed in this space. Now, a century and change later, there is an echo of that day across time.

Our return to the tent is a small, a modest illustration of the famous aphorism:

History does not repeat itself.

But it does rhyme.

In this holy rhyming moment, I am wondering about the people who stood here 112 years ago. I am wondering about their dreams – their dreams for themselves and their dreams for this place and their dreams for what Jesus might do in their midst. I am wondering about what kind of community they sought, with God’s help, to imagine into being here. I am wondering what they guessed about the future, how much of their path heading forward they saw.

Who did they know – or want – themselves to be? Who did they know – or want – their new community to be?

I am wondering about this stuff not just because of the tent but also because we, like our ancestors at this parish, are planning on building something new here outside of the tent. Our plan is to build affordable housing, amazing space for Art Camp and PHAME, and a new parish hall.

Now sometimes, when folks hear about this project, they will ask:

Why in the world would a church thinking about doing that?

You may have noticed that, here in the Pacific Northwest, church doesn’t always have the highest popularity rating. Some of our neighbours are suspicious of Christians. And in fairness to them, some churches have given them really good reasons to be suspicious of Christians. Their question is a fair one.

As I’ve thought about the question, however, I realise that in order to answer it, I need to reframe it a little. Because the question actually isn’t

Why is Grace thinking about doing this project?

It is

Why did Grace, beginning 112 years ago, choose to understand this physical location and the community that is rooted here as a gift to our city?

Because think about the Friday Feast. That is, and always was, about being the hands and feet of Christ, and feeding people. Think about Art Camp. That is, and always was, about being the hands and feet of Christ, and creating beauty. Think about our partnership with PHAME. That is, and always was about being the hand and feet of Christ and creating community.

This place has always been (or at least it’s always tried – sometimes we have failed) about Wisdom, about building Wisdom’s house.

You that are simple, turn in here,

Wisdom says.

Come,

Eat of my bread and drink of my wine.

Wisdom invites us to build a place where everyone is welcome where everyone gets fed. To build a place where none are strangers, where all are neighbours. To build a place where everyone is invited to find freedom, to find joy, to find wonder. To build a place where love can dwell. Where Jesus is known and made known.

That is what is we have been seeking to do in this place for 112 years. The campus development project isn’t something brand new. It is a new expression, yes, a new rhyme. But what it rhymes with is the history that began in that tent 112 years ago, that began in Jerusalem 1900 years before that.

From the very beginning, from the very first tent post driven into the ground, our goal has been to share the bread and the wine and the good news of Jesus in this place. Why did we do it then? Why do we do it still? Because it’s what Wisdom calls us to. And in saying yes to that call we find joy and freedom and love. At our best, we share it with the world.

Does not Wisdom call
From the heights,
On the Way?
At each crossroads
Wisdom is taking her stand.
To you, O people,
Wisdom calls,
And her cry is to all who live.