Second Sunday after Epiphany

Homily January 16, 2022
Paula Shepard

I have a person in my life that means a great deal to me. She has been a part of my family since
I was a baby. We call her Mary Mary. She represents for me adventure and laughter and big
love. She spent summers with us. She and I share a birthday. Today is her 68th birthday.
Everyone loves her. Her love was so special you couldn’t wait to be the one that her love was
shining on like beams of sunshine.
When I was 8, she lived in Galveston, Texas. That summer she came for a visit and wanted me
and my sister Shelly to go on an adventure with her. We hopped in her 1978 Monte Carlo
which was fancy, and she drove fast. The car was filled with singing. We stopped at a
restaurant, and I ordered my first chef salad and it had Thousand Island dressing. I felt very
grown up. On the way I learned about alligators and how to dive into the pool. When we got
to Galveston it was straight to the beach. It’s my first memory of being in the gulf. We made a
cake in her tiny married student housing on campus. I know that I remember all these details
so vividly because the emotion of the trip was just so real.
A few weeks ago, Mary Mary was in town for visit. I’m always extra glad when she’s in town
because she’s my daughter Lily’s godmother and I want Lily to know Mary’s joy in living.
Mary Mary was on an extended trip visiting all her friends. So basically, she was driving from
town to town staying three or four days at each stop without a plan. She has some health
issues, so I wondered if this was something of a farewell tour for her. Perhaps one last road
trip adventure while she was still able to travel by herself.
When she was telling me about her trip I said, “So you are driving everywhere and just loving
on the people you love.”
She said, “You know, that’s my gift from God. I love people.”
Two weeks ago, I went on a different trip, a COVID-safe trip, along with my husband and my
two cousins that are like sisters to me, and we visited my actual sister in Gulfport, MS. My
cousin Felicia cleans like a mad person. There was never a dirty dish or unwashed towel. She
washed the sheets and swept the floor. That’s who Felicia is. Whenever we are together, she is
always coming behind us cleaning. It is her gift.
What is your gift? In the gospel Jesus just performed miracle.
In chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians Chloe has her people write to Paul. They write something like,
“We have a problem. These gentiles, these new Christians are dividing up into teams. Over
here we have team Peter believing that they are worshipping Peter. And over there is team
Paul and these people think that worshipping Paul is the true way. There’s a team Christ. And
nobody can get along and agree on who or what we’re worshipping here. Which one is the
most important?”
I imagine Paul smacking himself in the forehead, “How do I make these former pagans
understand?” Their ways in the past would have them believe that various gifts were to be
attributed to different gods; for example, wisdom to one, power to another, and so on. Paul
tells them, (a) that while there are diversities of graces, or different gifts bestowed on
different persons, they all proceed from the same Holy Spirit; (b) that while there are diverse
ministries, some are Apostles, some are bishops, some priests. They all depend on the same
Lord, Jesus Christ, who is head of the whole Church.
I have been substituting the word gift where I could more accurately use “gracious
endowment.” Do you know yours? You should know it. Write it down. That makes it more
real. I wrote my gift is that I’m good at storytelling.
Our area’s largest employer, the hospital, isn’t successful because they have good doctors. The
work of the custodian is equally as valuable. They need Anna to be an ICU nurse.
Our St. Alban’s family is the same. Xavier gives his gift to our congregation. He is the usual
cross-bearer. If I were Xavier I would write down, “My gift to the congregation in 2022 is that I
will bear the cross.”
What is YOUR gift? Maybe you just having willingness. Willingness could be your manner of
Think about it—in 2022 how will you personally participate in our church family? Gale says, “I
can be a lector, or reader.”
Are you thinking, “I don’t see what I can do?” So, look at it from the other direction: What do
you have? What is in you? What gracious endowment?
I’m preaching today. It is totally out of my comfort zone. But at the end of 2021 I was
wondering what I could do. Specifically, I was thinking how we ask too much of Mother Cathy.
She used to be a paid priest for this congregation. And then she retired. This is her retirement.
Sometimes she is paid a small amount. But when there is not money, Mother Cathy doesn’t
get paid. Yet here she is. She spends hours every week giving us free pastoral care. She writes
the newsletter. She does reports. She holds this congregation in her two strong hands.
What can you do?
Christianity isn’t easy. I spent many Sunday mornings as a child in the pew listening as Pastor
Fred preached that faith was enough, no works were required. As for me, as a Christian I feel a
hunger to do something.
That doesn’t mean small acts of kindness, though they are not bad. But buying breakfast for
the car behind you in the drive thru does not make you a Christian. Please do it. It will give you
a warm feeling. But you gotta do more. We could talk about community outreach, too, but
today I think it is important to discuss each of our roles in our church family.
Grace is a gift empowering each of us to do some miraculous work. Healing is a gift, but it
rarely happens in the wild like spontaneous combustion. If we are about doing the work that
Christians are called to do, day-after-day until it becomes a habit. If we use our power and
concentrate our power and practice our power, then we are called on to perform a miracle,
we are ready. There are multitudes of stories of the Apostles and their healing. They studied.
They listened. They prayed. When they were called, they were ready.
Remember the pledge cards that Father Jos mailed to us a few weeks ago? Did you write
something down on it?
St. Alban’s moves from one financial crisis to the next and can barely keep the lights on. Did
you write down that you could contribute $5 a week? Just in 2022, not forever. Did you think
of writing down that you will stay after church one Sunday a month and clean the restrooms?
You could write down that you will make coffee after church when you are here. You could
lead the children in a craft or activity while their parents participate in adult Sunday School.
We need your gift. No one but you will know what you have written down. I’m not going to
chase you down in the parking lot to ask where the coffee is. It is not that kind of
arrangement. I’m just asking if you could make a pledge to yourself to share your gift with St.
Alban’s in 2022.
Thanks be to God.



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