How is God calling us? Who is God calling us to be? What does it mean when our calling changes? Do we change with each new calling?

In the midst of having our rector leave to become a bishop—trading in one calling from God for another—I’ve been thinking a lot about this community and how, just like Bonnie, it’s calling has changed and morphed over the years. 27 years ago, when this place was on the verge of closing its doors, God was calling All Saints’ to survive—to band together and to say that this place is worth fighting for…the people in this community (inside and out) are worth fighting for. With the help of a charismatic spiritual leader, this place changed and so did it’s call. It took years—years of fellowship, years of prayer, years of teaching, years of sharing stories, and years of ministry that involved loving others as we love ourselves—but this community’s call morphed from survival into a place with people are transformed. Think about the person you were before you started coming here, and then look at yourself today, in this very moment. Something happens when you walk through those doors—experiencing joy, laughter, love, acceptance, vulnerability—these are the works of the Holy Spirit—God working in and through us, and when the Holy Spirit is involved, the only result can be transformation. But, the reality is that with change and transition, comes an altering in God’s calling. So, on this first Sunday without Bonnie here, with such a massive change, I’m left wondering what is God now calling this community to do and, more importantly, are we ready for it?

I think about my dad every day, but especially around All Saints’ Day, and being in the presence of these beautiful tributes, I’ve reflected a lot on how just how amazing he was. Last week, Bonnie read the prayer flag I wrote for him and you learned that he was many things other than a priest—beekeeper, master gardener, industrial engineer, and Christmas tree farmer. He was so many things but one major thing I left off the list was that my father was also a white-water river rafting guide in West Virginia.

Pause—And you thought you were done hearing kayaking type sermons!!!

For those of you who don’t know, the white-water rafting in WV is the best rafting east of the Mississippi, and it is big business for the state. He was one of the first guides on the river at the beginning of the outdoor/adventure tourism industry and he knew the river like the back of his hand. He knew every bend in the river, every rapid and, most importantly, he knew how where all the holes and rocks were to avoid ensuring a fun and safe trip down the river.

White-water rafting is amazing—it is such a fun a wild ride, but it is very dangerous. Without proper instruction, you could hurt yourself or others. Knowing this, my father always spent significant time going over the basics of river rafting before even getting into the raft.

In the raft itself, there one guide and six to eight people and each person has paddle. The raft itself is large, and my father would always say how it is nearly impossible for one person in a raft to safely navigate the river—he would say, “I need all of you, working together, to move this boat properly.” So, what does that mean? It means that whatever the guide says, you do. If they say, “right forward” everyone on the right paddles forward together to move to the faster to the left, “left back” everyone on the left paddles back together to slow down and move the right. But the most important command is “all forward” meaning everyone, right and left, paddle forward to together to increase speed—this was the command you hear when you’re perfectly lined up to face the rapids head on.

After my father had spent all day with a group on the river—after they had proven themselves competent in their abilities—after they had proven to each other that they could work together by paddling in sync and move in the right direction—right before the last rapid, my father would stand on the edge of the raft, look at everyone, and then say “HAVE FUN!” and then he would jump out of the raft!!! The rafters would all look at my father swimming away, then look at each other, and then look at the fast-approaching rapid up stream. After the initial shock of no longer having a guide in the raft, the rafters would always pull together, straighten up the raft until it was perfectly lined up, and then they would say “all forward!” This would be terrifying, but in the midst of it, it was also exciting and gratifying, knowing they could not only get down the river alive, not have fun doing it—together!

My father was integral in helping the rafters navigate the rapids of the river, keeping them safe, building their confidence, and ultimately giving them a story a to remember—a story of how when they work together, when they are united by a common goal, when they challenge themselves to use the gifts and tools they already have, they realize they can do the impossible—like they can do anything!

As important as my father was, he was not responsible for people getting into the boat. The people that came to the river were thrill seekers…people yearning to test the limits of this human life, they are risk takers and there was nothing that could stop them from seeking and finding something more to life.

I firmly believe with every fiber of my being that God has called us to this place. God has brought us to this boat, God has given us everything we need, and God has called us to this moment, and God is calling us to paddle “all forward” like our lives depended on it. God is calling us to remember that when we have each other we can do anything God calls us, and when posed with the question of “are we ready?”, even if we are scared or uncertain, because of our faith that God has brought us here, the answer will always be “yes!”

AMEN.