|Christmas Day, Year A||December 25, 2016||Christmas Day, 2016||Isaiah 52:7-10, Hebrews 1:1-4, Psalm 98, John 1:1-14|
|The Eve of the Nativity||December 24, 2016||Christmas Eve||Isaiah 9:2-7, Luke 2: 1-20|
|Third Sunday in Advent, Year A||December 11, 2016||Third Sunday of Advent, Year A||Psalm 146:4-9, Matthew 11:2-11|
|Second Sunday in Advent, Year A||December 4, 2016||Second Sunday of Advent, Year A||Matthew 3:1-12|
|First Sunday in Advent, Year A||November 27, 2016||First Sunday of Advent, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Ps 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44|
|Christ the King Sunday, Year C||November 20, 2016||Christ the King Sunday, Year C||Jeremiah 23:1-6. Ps 46, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43|
|Twenty Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||November 13, 2016||Proper 28, Year C||Malachi 4:1-2a, Ps 98, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-19|
|Charles Sydnor’s sermon, Nov. 6, 2016, All Saints||November 6, 2016||All Saints, Year C||Luke: 6: 20-31|
|Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||October 30, 2016||Proper 26, Year C||Isaiah 1:10-18, Psalm 32, Luke 19:1-10|
|Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||October 23, 2016||Proper 25, Year C||II Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14|
|Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||October 16, 2016||Proper 24, Year C||Luke 18:1-8, Genesis 32: 22-31|
|Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||October 9, 2016||Proper 23, Year C||2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c; Luke 17:11-19|
|➤Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||October 2, 2016||Proper 22, Year C||II Timothy 1:1-14|
|Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||September 25, 2016||Proper 21, Year C||Luke 16:19-31|
|Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||September 4, 2016||Proper 18, Year C||Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-33|
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
Sermon Date:October 2, 2016
Scripture: II Timothy 1:1-14
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 22, Year C
Rev. William Friend’s grave. First grave in the graveyard. Served longer than any other minister. Founder of St. Peter’s and Grace Church, Corbin among others.
Letters make up a large part of the New Testament.
As editors Grunwald and Adler point out in the introduction to their book, Letters of the Century: America 1900 to 1999, letters hold a certain power.
“Letters are what history sounds like when it is still part of everyday life,” they say. And that history resonates because of the intimacy of letters.
The letter that will be with us for the next several weeks in the lectionary readings, the one we know as The Second Letter of Paul to Timothy, is the letter from a leader in the third century church who is writing to a younger leader. In his letter, this older leader blesses the younger leader, and encourages him to carry on the work of the church with faithful endurance, even in spite of suffering.
If we received a letter from a leader of the past, what might it say?
What if we got a letter from the Rev. Friend, our first rector, whose grave is right outside our door? I love the fact that he, like so many of our ancestors, is buried here, in fact, the first person to be buried here, in this church graveyard, a visible reminder of his on-going presence with us.
At his death, Rev Friend joined the communion of saints, so he is still with with us each Sunday when we gather with one another to worship God, the gates of heaven open. Those who have gone before us and are gathered at that heavenly banquet, are also gathered with us around this table as part of the communion of saints.
What would the Rev. Friend write to us, eight generations later, to encourage us? The people of St Peter’s have been faithful, and have endured—these doors have been open for over one hundred and eighty five years now. What advice would he give us now to help us to continue our faithful endurance?
Maybe the letter would sound something like this.
William Friend, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,
To all of you at St Peter’s, my beloved children.
I am grateful to God for you. I see how the sincere faith that I shared with you through our Lord and Savior has lived down through the generations of families here at St Peter’s, and now lives in all of you.
For this reason, I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you, for God gives to you, as God gave to me, a spirit of power and of love, and of self-discipline.
People of St Peter’s, rely on the power of God.
God saved you, and God is calling YOU with a holy calling, not according to all the works you have done and are still doing, but according to his own purpose and grace.
Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit that lives in us.
The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.
William Friend really could have written a letter like this to us, because in his own life we can see how he lived out his holy calling according to God’s purpose and grace.
Much of Friend’s work centered around guarding the good treasure that was entrusted to him, the treasure of the sound teachings and traditions of the church.
But do you know how he guarded the good treasure?
He gave that treasure away, over and over!
Ralph Fall tells us in his book Hidden Village that William Friend spent thirty-eight of his sixty three years on this earth in this area of Virginia. In that time, Fall says that he was instrumental in the founding of nine Episcopal churches in this area:
St Margaret’s Church in Ruther Glen
Christ Church, Spotsylvania County
Grace Church, Corbin
Trinity Church in Bowling Green, which we know today by its parish name, St Asaph’s
St Peter’s in Port Royal
St John’s in King George
St Peter’s in Oak Grove
Emmanuel Church, Port Conway
St Matthew’s Church in Champlain, Essex County
Of these nine churches, six are still active, over a century and a half later.
Friend’s work represents an incredible generosity of time and energy on his part. In order to accomplish everything he did in his lifetime, he had to be open to God’s spirit of power, love and self-discipline.
On Sunday, May 15, 1870, as Rev Friend was preaching over at Grace Church in Corbin, he was seized by paralysis and he died the next morning.
The Vestry resolved later that month that “in the death of William Friend, the Church has lost one of the most devoted and venerated rectors…that during his connection with St Peter’s Church for the last 38 ears, his life has been marked by the most inflexible integrity of purpose….resolved, that the beautiful church edifice in which he has so long and ably officiated, which was rebuilt (in 1850, after the fire) chiefly by his energy and influence and near which his remains now repose, stands by his grave an enduring monument of his zeal and love for his pastoral charge….”
So William Friend, who guarded the good treasure of our faith by giving it away, continues to witness to us through all he accomplished by serving God whole-heartedly.
And of course, none of what William Friend did in his lifetime in this area would have been possible without the vision, support and generosity of the people who wanted the churches that he helped to found to thrive and be places of worship and meaning for them.
And the six that are still alive and well, guarding the faith, are standing because of the generations of parishioners who have passed through these doors over the years, and have guarded this treasure of the faith by giving it away.
One example of what this generation has done to guard the treasure of faith is on the wall behind me—
William Friend would have known the words on these panels as intimately as we do, since he would have gazed at them every Sunday for the last seventeen years of his ministry here—
And it is our hope that these powerful words will continue to be available to the generations of parishioners who come after us in this church.
But in order to make that happen, and to restore the panels, we had to part with some money so that the work could be done. I think William Friend would have approved, and would be glad that this beautiful church is still open, still thriving, still generous, a lasting testimony to his own holy calling, and not just his, but of all of those who have come after him.
If we wrote a letter to those who come after us in this place, what would our letter to them say?
Hopefully, the letter we are in the process of writing together is a lasting testimony to God’s spirit of power, love and self-discipline working in us as we live out our own holy callings.
Hopefully, in the words of our letter people will be able to see that we have a deep and abiding relationship with God. They will read in our words our willingness to serve God and our willingness to share.
Hopefully, they will read that we too, like our ancestors here, have guarded our treasure by opening our hands and giving what we have for spreading God’s work in the world through this church.
Grunwald, Lisa, and Adler, Stephen J., eds. Letters of the Century: America 1900-1999. New York, New York: The Dial Press, 1999.
Fall, Ralph Emmett. Hidden Village: Port Royal, VA: 1744-1981.
Copyright 1982 by Ralph Emmett Fall.