Sermon Text: Now Here This
By now most of you have heard my news.
I am retiring as of September 1. And smart people say that retirement is huge. It's a big transition point. My wife retired a couple of months ago after serving most of her adult life as a church musician. And now it's my turn.
I almost lost her to cancer eight years ago. I never took her for granted before that, and I certainly have not done so since. This lockdown has reminded both of us how much we enjoy our quiet life together.
I've been ordained for 34 years now. That's a long time to be on-call 24/7, a long time to focus on leading a church, a long time to be in church every single Sunday.
It's time for a change for me. It's time for the next chapter of my life. It's time to figure out who I am when I'm not being Fr. Mark.
Over 30 years ago, a little kid gave me my title. It's a title better than "the Reverend" or "Father" or "Pastor." As I've told you many times, I was a young priest visiting a young family in my Chicago church, and the 5-year old child of the family saw me pull into the driveway, ran inside and said, "Mom! Mom! The Church Guy is here!"
I have used that title proudly ever since. The Church Guy. But now it's time for me to stop being the Church Guy. It's time for me to be just a guy.
Now, I bet you are familiar with this phrase: "Now hear this! Now hear this!" It's a call to give attention to an order or a command about to follow. It's used a lot in the U.S. Navy. And I heard it from time to time on the "Star Trek" science fiction series. Most of us understand "Now hear this!"
Well, let me tell you about a friend of mine. Her name is Carrie. She is funny, she is smart, and she is artistic. She is also a priest. I've known Carrie for 20 years. In fact, I was serving on the Diocesan Standing Committee 20 years ago when she was being approved for ordination.
Carrie has always been one of my favorite priests. At clergy conferences in the past, I loved it when she and I and a few other experienced clergy folk would sit together during a social time and tell stories. We would make each other laugh, and we would share our delight in working as priests for churches.
I was once at a meeting at Carrie's church in Liverpool, and I noticed a cool poster on her wall. I expressed my admiration for it, and she told me she had made it herself -- I said she's artistic. She made it on a spiritual retreat. Well, a few years later, she made a gift of the poster to me.
And here it is: "NOW....HERE....THIS."
Carrie used the "Now Hear This" phrase we all know and turned it into a spiritual meditation. Any worthwhile spiritual practice will help us deal with where we are right now, in the moment. We need to live in the present moment, not the past, and not the future. We should, as they say, "Be here now."
So St. Mark's Church needs to deal with what is now and what is here. And Mark Giroux needs to deal with what is now and what is here.
I became your rector when I was 39 years old. In September, I will be 65 years old. It's time for me to retire. It's important for me, because it's time for the next chapter in my life with my family. And it's important for you, because it's time for a different leader.
The world has changed with the pandemic. The church will have to change as well. Technology is going to remain a hugely important tool for the church. I don't know who your next priest will be, but she or he will certainly be better with technology than I have been. I try, but I'm a 20th-century guy.
I'll still be doing sermons for you through the end of August, along with prayer services and skits for kids. We can talk on the phone or email back and forth for the next six weeks while I'm still your priest. And we will continue to pray for each other.
Now. Here. This.
The good news is that God has not changed. "Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever." God will love and lead St. Mark's Church in the coming 25 years every bit as much as God has loved and led St. Mark's church in the past 25 years, and the past 60 years. So don't be afraid.
By the way, the bishop's staff will help the parish, and especially the wardens and the vestry, do what has to be done in the coming transition. Our diocese has a priest called "The Canon for Transitions and Church Development." This priest is very talented. This priest is my friend Carrie, who made this poster.
So don't be afraid. You have a great team of leaders -- wardens, treasurer, vestry, office manager, and web master. You have support from my friend Canon Carrie.
And above all, you have the strength and love of the God to whom you and this church belong.
We'll talk some more next week, so stay tuned!