Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sermon: Wilfred Thomason Grenfell

Sermon for October 9, 2014 ~ 11:00 HE I
Feast Day of Wilfred Thomason Grenfell,
Medical Missionary
St. Philip’s In The Hills Parish, Tucson, AZ
Thursday, Holy Eucharist Rite I
The Rev. Vicki K. Hesse
For online access to the readings click here
I speak to you in the name of One God:
Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit. Amen

Today is the feast day of Wilfred Thomason Grenfell.
What do you know about this missionary?

We hear that he was
·        Born in Cheshire, England in 1865
·         Studied medicine
·         Met in England the evangelist Dwight L. Moody
o   Known for Moody Bible Institute and great evangelist of the 19th century.
·        After earning his medical qualifications, joined the “Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fisherman” as a medical missionary.
·        1892 went to Labrador – coast of Newfoundland
·        Built there the first hospital, few boarding schools, hospital ships, & clothing distribution centers
·        1912 “Int’l Grenfell Assoc” to support his work
·        Died 1940 in Vermont

As we heard from 1 Corinthians:

“4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;
5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;
6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.
à7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

God blessed Grenfell with gifts, services, and activities
that he used for the common good.
Grenfell invites us, today, to consider our gifts, services and activities…
think of the gifts that God has given you…(handout)
How are you using our gifts for the common good?
As I read Grenfell’s auto-biography, this paragraph described Grenfell’s motivation:

“In 1891 … Lord Southborough…[discussed] service among the fishermen of the northwest Atlantic, and [he asked…]

“Would I consider crossing the Atlantic in one of our small sailing vessels, and make an inquiry into the problem?

“Some … friends have thought that my…decision to go was made under “strong religious excitement,”
and in response to some “deep-seated conviction”
that material sacrifices or physical discomforts commended one to God.

“I must, however, disclaim all such lofty motives.
I have always believed that the Good Samaritan
went across the road to the wounded man
just because he wanted to.
I do not believe that he felt
any sacrifice or fear in the matter.

“If he did, I know very well that I did not.
On the contrary,
there is everything about such a venture
to attract my type of mind,
and making preparations for the long voyage
was an unmitigated delight.[1]

So we have this man who was so gifted
and offered these gifts for the common good –
but it seems that his “motivations”
were not necessarily spiritual nor religious.

Rabbi Abraham Heschel once wrote that
“the act teaches you the meaning of the act.”
He said, “I don't care why you're doing the good deed. Do the good deed.”

And the example he gave was this:
a musician may be playing a concert
to earn a lot of money.
But if when he’s playing the concert
he’s concentrating on all of the money
he’s going to make, he’s going to play a lousy concert.
While he’s playing the concert,
he has to be in the moment.
He has to be concentrated on the music.
And if he’s concentrated on the music, he’ll play well.

Rabbi Heschel would say,
“Don’t worry about it, forget about it.
I don’t care why you’re doing it.
Just do it, it doesn’t matter;
if you do it with your whole heart,
it will purify your motive.”[2]

The Gospel for today offers this water walking story:

49But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out;
50for they all saw him and were terrified.
But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
51Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased.

I think this gospel text was selected
for Grenfell’s commemoration
not only for the obvious “boat” reference
but for the good news that
Jesus got into the boat with the disciples,
just as Grenfell got into the life in Labrador.

When we offer our gifts for the common good,
Jesus says, Do Not Be Afraid.
When we offer our gifts for the common good,
Jesus affirms our gifts
and strengthens them even more.
When we offer our gifts for the common good,
Jesus gets in the boat with us,
And that adverse wind ceases.

So for today, may Grenfell inspire you to simply
          Do the deed
And recognize Jesus’ presence in your life.

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