Saturday, September 17, 2016

Reconciliation House, Webster

The Rev. Janice Ford, Rector of Reconciliation,
receiving a proclamation from the State House
My job description includes the phrase "...and other duties as assigned by the Bishop." This week my boss is gathered with Episcopal bishops from across the country and beyond in Detroit for the House of Bishops. In the meantime, there was this amazing dedication of a new ministry at Church of the Reconciliation in Webster. So I got to "stand in" for the bishop there.

I have always enjoyed these kinds of events. Actually, that's not quite exactly right. I always think these events are super important. I've prayed at the dedication service for a new Safety Building in Holden and preached several baccalaureates at high school graduations, and blessed motorcycles to name a few. I know colleagues who graciously say "no thank you" to such invitations, but for me this is an important part of the work and when I get there I always enjoy it. So I really was glad to be there on behalf of Bishop Fisher. In any case, here is what I said...

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Ribbon Cutting at the former rectory, now Reconciliation House
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there…

Some of you may remember this story from John’s Gospel about Jesus’ first miracle, the miracle of turning water into wine. The main difference between a magic trick and a miracle is what happens next: this sign, John’s Gospel says, revealed God’s glory and led to belief.

Now, please stay with me on this…that was Jesus’ first miracle; but definitely not his last. And sometimes the much harder miracle is the work of turning wine back into water: the miracle of sobriety as a gift given and received, one day at a time. And it’s truly a miracle because almost always when that happens, it reveals God’s glory and leads to a deeper faith. 

I’m here today on behalf of my boss, Bishop Doug Fisher. He is very sorry that he couldn’t be here himself but he is gathered with his sister and brother bishops from across this nation in Detroit. He is the kind of leader who, when Janice started talking about this new ministry, said to her, “go for it.” I love working for him for just that reason, because his passion and encouragement free up energy for mission. But my personality and my role on his staff led to a million questions: how will we go for this? How can we be supportive of not just Janice but something that would become a shared vision of this church dedicated to reconciliation in the neighborhoods of Webster? A million things could have gone wrong along the way to prevent this daring, courageous vision from becoming a reality. It truly is a miracle that we are here today: an outward and visible sign of God’s glory that affirms what we believe.

With an old friend, Sheriff Lew Evangelidis
Much has been accomplished so far, and so we rightly pause to dedicate and bless this Sober House and to offer our prayers on behalf of those who will live here. 

But this is only the beginning. The real miracle will continue beyond this gathering: the miracle of second chances in a society that too often locks people up rather than to treat addiction; the real miracle of partnerships between local government leaders and church leaders; and especially the real miracle of people accepting the gift of sobriety one day at a time. Wine into water. 

Thanks be to God!

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