Bishop Diane Bruce
St. Nicholas Day 2022
St. Alban’s, Bolivar
I bring you greetings from your diocesan staff – we are here to help you in any way we can. I am especially happy to be with you all this morning as I just love your priest — she is wise, kind, gifted and pastoral. She is also a brilliant writer and an advocate for those who have little or no voice. In other words, she tries her best to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ – and for that I am grateful for her ministry and for her presence as a leader in this Diocese.
As I get to the text of this sermon I will warn you that it is fairly short – when I do confirmations and receptions it’s kinda like half time at the super bowl – you’ll see what I mean when we get there, so the sermon is kept shorter. I hope that is okay with you all….
Now – today as we celebrate the first of St. Nicholas, I’m convinced that St. Alban’s mirrors the love of children and the care of those in need that St. Nicholas is reported to have done. I watched the video feeds of your services! More than giving gifts, although those are always fun, St. Nicholas saw needs in the community and addressed them, especially as it related to children. I see so much of St. Nicholas’ legacy in the people and ministries here at St. Alban’s! I have to confess I love seeing children being nurtured and encouraged — even at a tender age — to make the church their own. To listen to the sacred stories of our faith and to interpret them in their own minds and to participate actively — It reminds me of the gospel reading today — “Let the little children come to me — do not stop them” — do not stop them indeed. What a gift.
Speaking of gifts, if it is okay with you all I want to tell you a story about a little girl and her understanding of God.
My daughter Jardine was about 4. Now, whenever she was playing in her room with the door closed and she was quiet, it usually meant she was doing something she shouldn’t be doing. One day I walked in her room and I saw all her Barbie dolls lined up on two sides of the room (she had a lot of Barbie dolls – everyone kept on giving her barbie dolls) — on one side were all the Barbie dolls with tattered clothes, or whose hair she tried to cut or faces she tried to paint or who went into the pool one time too many. On the other side of the room were the pristine Barbie dolls – beautiful clothes, etc. and the lone Ken doll.
I asked her what she was doing. “I’m playing good heaven/bad heaven.”
I thought, “I’ll bite” — I asked her, “What do you mean good heaven/bad heaven?”
“Mommy I heard you tell Daddy that the Bible doesn’t say much about hell but it says a lot about heaven — so I thought there has to be a good part of heaven and a bad part of heaven.”
“How do you get to good heaven?” I asked her. — “Mommy that’s easy. You are alive. You know God, God knows you. You die and you go up and meet God. You know God, God knows you and God points you to good heaven.”
“Okay — how do you get to bad heaven?” “Oh Mommy! You are alive. You don’t know God, but God knows you. You die and you go up and meet God. God knows you but you don’t know God so God points you to bad heaven.”
“Jardine, can you go from good heaven to bad heaven?” – “Mommy, who wants to go from good heaven to bad heaven?” “Okay, then, can you get from bad heaven to good heaven?” “Oh yes, Mommy — when you wake up.”
When you wake up. The sacred stories interpreted by a 4 year old. When you wake up. I can never forget that story, and how just overhearing a conversation and always being in church and hearing the sacred stories shaped her. I thought so often she wasn’t paying attention to the sacred stories – but she absolutely was.
We are about to welcome anew young ones and ones who are young at heart as they renew their commitment to Christ or are received into this arm of Christ’s body. Their “yes” is not only a reflection of their commitment to Christ, but the dedication of this community of faith in their nurture in the way of love that is Jesus Christ but also of this Episcopal Church. Thank you for your faithfulness!
My charge to you, my brothers and sisters, my siblings in Christ here at St. Alban’s — is to continue to be the loving, caring, Christ-centered community of faith that you are. Love your children, teach them the sacred stories — for they surely will teach you something as they learn. That way, there will be new shoots coming out of the stump of Jesse — new life will spring forth — life that knows and loves God, and that makes God’s love known to this world. Right here in Bolivar.
Be like St. Nicholas. Be like Jesus. Love, love deeply.