From Follow Me in 2016 to Come and See in 2017

State of the Church Address
Annual Meeting of St. Mark's Episcopal Church

Last Sunday our Gospel reading came from John’s gospel (1:29-42) and described a moment in which John the Baptist is telling two of his disciples about Jesus’ baptism. In the midst of his story, Jesus himself walks by and John exclaims, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” John’s disciples begin to follow Jesus and Jesus turns to ask them “what are you looking for?”  They answer, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” And Jesus replies, “Come and see.”

Today’s Gospel, this time from Matthew (4:12-23) begins with Jesus walking along the Sea of Galilee.  He sees two fishermen – Simon and Andrew – and calls out to them: “Follow me.”  And, immediately, they drop everything to do just that.  Likewise, when Jesus calls out to James and John, they too leave everything to follow Jesus.

Come and See.  Follow me.  2016 at St. Mark’s was a “Follow Me” kind of year.  We began with the Annual Campaign’s call to “Build the World We Want to See,” recognizing that God is the master builder and that each of us is invited to come along side and get to work.  God is the master builder calling out to each of us, “Follow me.”  And so we did.

We participated in the Standing with Muslims rally in Fountain Square on a cold March afternoon recognizing that Jesus ministry, like our own, is set amidst ethnic and religious diversity.  We demanded a living wage for workers as we participated in the Fight for 15 rally in Fountain Square on a cold May afternoon recognizing  Jesus shared parables about treating workers fairly (Matthew 20:1-16).  And, after the presidential election we joined our interfaith brothers and sisters in a rally of peaceful prayer, song, witness and repentance in Fountain Square on a cold November.  This time we gathered because we understood – perhaps in a new way – the seriousness of our promise to respect the dignity of every human being.  And when we weren’t gathered in Fountain Square on a cold afternoon, we were at City Hall supporting Evanston’s Welcoming City Ordinance remembering that we too were once foreigners in a strange land. (Exodus 22:21).  We are building the world we want to see. . . . following Jesus.

2016 was also the year in which we followed Jesus’ example in feeding the hungry.  More than 1600 lunches were served on Wednesdays in Cunningham Hall by 37 St. Mark’s volunteers, ranging in age from 5 to 79, along with several volunteers from St. Matthew’s.  In addition, on the 3rd Sunday of nearly every month, you brought non-perishable foods to the church to be shared with area of food pantries or with the men and women who are guests at the Interfaith Action of Evanston hospitality center housed here in St. Mark’s.  On the 2nd Tuesday of the month, St. Mark’s parishioners join others in the community at the Robert Crown Center to sort and distribute fresh produce and bread to our hungry neighbors.  Literally tons of fresh produce each month.  People like Bruce Gaede, Rima Lockwood, and Chris Schultze are there every month and there are months when St. Mark’s makes up 25% of the volunteer force for the day.  We are building the world we want to see. . . . following Jesus.

At our 4-church lakefront services in July and August, we collected funds for Curt’s Café to help young men and young women who are at risk – because they have either already had contact with the   In August and September, we partnered with COPE to collect, sort and distribute backpacks and school supplies for students who would otherwise attend school without the tools they needed to be successful.  In December, St. Mark’s members collected hats, mittens, gloves, and scarves for ESCCA and for the homeless men and women in our community.  We are building the world we want to see. . . . following Jesus.
judicial system or have been headed in that direction.

Inside our own doors, we teach one another about God’s love.  Our worship is the primary place where formation as followers of Jesus happens.  As we worship on Sundays, we are invited to see our daily life through the lens of that worship.  As we hear and read Scripture we are invited to become the story we tell.  As we bring forward the bread and the wine, the gifts of money and other offering and set them on the altar before God, we are invited to consider anew our relationship with the material world around us – remembering that the abundance we have comes from God’s hands (1 Chronicles 29:16).  Yes, we are building the world we want to see. . . following Jesus.

Jesus is walking along the shores of Lake Michigan and he sees St. Mark’s.  He calls out to us: “Follow me.”  And sometimes quickly and sometimes with a bit of hesitation, we drop what we’ve been doing to follow Jesus. 

If 2016 was the year of “Follow Me,” then I would like to suggest that 2017 be the year of “Come and See.”  Of course, we need to continue doing the work we’ve been doing of following; but, as we’ve gotten better at it, as we’ve gotten the hang of things, it is time for us to call out to others to “come and see.” 

Come and See is a phrase that occurs multiple times in our scriptures.  The psalmist cries out, “Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.” (Psalm 66:5).  When Philip finds Nathanael and begins to tell him about Jesus.  Nathanael asks him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” And Philip responds, “Come and see.” (John 1:45-46).  When the Samaritan woman returns to the city after her encounter with Jesus at the well, she says to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!” (John 4:29).

If 2016 was the year when we pushed ourselves beyond our doors to go out into the neighborhood, 2017 needs to be the year when we continue to push ourselves to invite those we meet to come and see.  To come and see how God is at work in our community and in our lives.  In the next month, we will launch our Come and See Campaign.  Like the Annual Campaign, it will ask each of us to make a commitment for 2017. But this commitment will not be for financial resources but instead for a commitment to sharing the Good News by inviting a neighbor, a friend, a co-worker to Come and See what is happening at St. Mark’s. 

If you are in the choir, you might commit to inviting 1 person to “Come and See” what it’s like to sing in the choir for a month. 

If you are part of the Wednesday lunch ministry, you might commit to inviting 1 person to “Come and See” what serving is like at St. Mark’s. 

If you love evensong, you might commit to inviting 1 person who loves beautiful music to “Come and See” the Evensong that will be prayed on our patronal feast day at the end of April. 

If you love your dog or cat, you might commit to inviting 1 person from the dog park or from your veterinarian’s office to “Come and See” our pet blessing in October.

If you love the outdoors, you might commit to inviting 1 person you know from the playground or park to “Come and See” our lakefront worship this summer.

When Jesus called out to John the Baptist’s two disciples, “Come and see,” they went with him and remained with him.  “One of the two. . . was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’. . . He brought Simon to Jesus” so that he too could “come and see.” (John 1:39-42).

We have found the Messiah.  Like Andrew, it is time for us at St. Mark’s to go out and invite others so that they can come and see in 2017.