Sermon preached at The Church of the Holy Trinity, PhiladelphiaSunday May 12
2013The Reverend Alan Neale“ A Person of Presence”
Living Together in Christ is the name of our own, our very own, year round program of Christiandiscipleship. Through the year we reflect upon four segments of discipleship – service, giving,prayer and presence. I grow in the conviction that presence is the most fundamental segment of this program – with it we are present to meet God, to hear and to know God ,with it we arecaught up in the flow of being profoundly, psychically transformed ready for the final and eternalmoment when we are present, very present, before our God. It is fundamental, primal, essential.Without presence we are as shades and shadows.On this Mothers’ Day maybe we celebrate that to mother well is to be present. But it’s not allcelebration – some grieve those who have died, some lament that their experience of motherwas damaging and some mourn the absence of children through taking of life or taking of hope. Today is a mixed bag but we can still celebrate the ideal; and give thanks for those who haveshown us motherly affection not forgetting mother church and Mother Mary.Late one night the young man returned home after a fun but tiring evening. He crashed into thekitchen, sloppily emptied cereal and messily poured milk into a bowl. He left a note, with allsincerity, that read, “Mum – leave the mess, I’ll clean up tomorrow”. Even later that evening, hismum returned home – saw the mess, saw the note and… and cleaned the mess. She got to herbedroom and there on her pillow was another note which simply read, “Thanks, mum”.Here is both an example of caring, attentive presence and also a trust in the very same.It is somewhat ironic, pastorally engaging, theologically incongruous that this past week theChurch was remembering not so much the presence of Christ but rather his departure, hisabsence as he ascended into heaven. The Ascension story roundly confirms that the matter of presence and absence, of nearness and distance is one of profound and psychic significance toeach of you and to me.
In today’s first reading from Acts 16, we observe the importance of being present.
Present for God and His service.Present for others and their needs.And, encouraging others to be present for God.Present for God and His service.
v. 16 “We came to Philippi… and were going to the house of prayer”. Paul was definitely a manwith a mission – he did not allow personal suffering, nor physical danger, nor damage tofriendships to impede his mission. But one thing , above all, was primary – wherever he went heplanned to be present with fellow Christians, to be present in worship and prayer. This was apriority.v. 25 “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the otherprisoners were listening to them”. Incarcerated, bound, doomed and yet, again, the primaryimportance of being with others in the presence of God.And make good note of this – that when we commit ourselves to be present with the people of God, things begin to happen in the souls of others. See how verse 2 ends, “And the prisoners