Sermon Text: Surprised by Father Louxn
When I retire, Fr. Louxn retires as well. So I thought you might be interested in the history of this guy.
I have had this puppet for over 30 years. From 1987 until 1990, I was the associate rector of Trinity Church in Wheaton, Illinois, outside Chicago. I had been called there from my first church assignment in St. Louis. Trinity Church was a big parish, with a rector, an associate rector, and four deacons. I loved the clergy and people of that parish.
It was a happy time. But then it was time to leave, and my wife and I hoped to move back east, to be near family. I was called to be the rector of a church in a small town in Pennsylvania in 1990. As I was leaving Trinity Church, a family in the parish gave me a present. It was this puppet. They said that Trinity had all those clergy, so I needed to take a clergyperson along to help me out. It was a charming gift.
So when I moved to that small church in Pennsylvania, he went, too. There were a few children and youth in that church, and I wanted to draw them in more deeply and get more kids, too. And over the time I served that church, it happened. One of the things I did was to offer a kids' sermon instead of the regular sermon once a month. And that's when this puppet made his debut.
The teens in that church loved to tease me. This has been a pattern throughout my ordained life. Some of them referred to me as a goober. So I named my puppet. I wanted him to be a French Canadian, in honor of my own heritage. So I called him "Father Gouxb" -- GOUXB. I wanted to teach people that my last name is pronounced
Giroux -- in French, oux is ooo. And I wanted to pick back at the kids about that goober thing.
Well, we left that parish at the end of 1994 because we needed to be in New York State to get more help with our disabled daughter. Father Gouxb came along, of course. And I began work at St. Mark's in January of 1995.
I found out that my predecessor here had something called "The Children's Moment."
After the sermon and prayers and the passing of the peace, the Sunday school kids would come upstairs for communion. And they would come down front for this children's moment. Every week.
I was used to once a month. "EVERY WEEK?" I lamented. Those things for the kids were harder for me to come up with than the adult sermons. I didn't like the name "Children's Moment," so I called it "Kid Stuff."
And here's the thing you may not know. Back in seminary, my buddies and I would talk about what we wanted to do when we became priests. We all had one thing in common. "I'll do anything -- anything -- EXCEPT WORK WITH YOUTH."
We did not want to be youth workers. So of course, since the day I started working as a priest in churches, I have always always worked with youth groups. I was the world's most reluctant youth worker.
The lesson here is that you should never let God overhear your plans.
But it turned out that I loved working with children and youth. I have had a blast. So much so that one kid of St. Mark's years ago said, "Father Mark is just a kid in grownup clothes...Well, almost grownup clothes."
So I get here and it's Kid Stuff every week. Every week! I got used to it. Sometimes the wheels would come off, especially when very young children lost interest in what I wanted to do and decided to take over. All the members of our congregation who are public school teachers used to LOVE it when that happened.
When I got here, I renamed Father Gouxb. He became Father Louxn, still using the OUXN thing to help people remember it's Giroux not Gireau. And sometimes when he talked, things would happen in front of him and I couldn't see it because I was behind the stage. So of course people loved seeing the mischief of whatever child was at work rather than what I was trying to say with Father Louxn!
Eventually, I expanded my collection of puppets -- adding Leo the Lion, Percival the Talking Ape, Purdy Birdie, and a whole bunch of other ones. I never thought back in seminary that I would become a priest performing with puppets, but it sure has been fun.
I think the adults like it even more than the kids. One time for a wedding, my arm was twisted by the bride and groom and Fr. Louxn actually gave the wedding homily. I am not making that up. Right, Steve and Marcia?
Anyway, I want to say all this partly to celebrate Fr. Louxn and the kids of St. Mark's.
And I also want to remind you of this lesson. Remember that I never intended to work with children and youth, and that I have done just that for 34 years.
The moral of the story is that you just never know. Serendipity happens.
So like my daughter tells me to do, go with the flow. Follow the wind....follow the Spirit.
You just don't know. So go with the flow!