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The 16th Sunday after Pentecost, 10:00 a.m.; Philippians 2:1-13

Have you seen the movie Pay It Forward? In this movie, a Grade 7 class is given an assignment to come up with a plan that will change the world for the better. One boy’s plan is based on the networking of good deeds, being that you pass along a favour rather than paying it back – hence, pay it forward. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, I’m sure you have heard the phrase. This took off in our real life society in such a way where people can go into a restaurant and find their order prepaid; or you ask how you may repay someone for helping and you’re told to ‘pay it forward’ instead. Seems to me Jesus proposed this sentiment in the Sermon on the Mount when he said: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

Now, I never quote Paul because he and I have very different points of view, however, he obviously knew what I was going to talk about this morning as we listened to the second reading. Here are the first four verses as written in the Good News Bible:

Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. I urge you, then, to make me completely happy having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had.

I think Paul is ahead of his time with the ‘pay it forward’ concept.

The things you see me doing during worship are the icing on the diaconal cake. Preparing the altar for the Eucharist and cleaning up afterward shows the Deacon’s role as a service ministry. Presenting a homily is where I get to share some of my thoughts of living in a Christian world and how the events of the mysteries of faith come to life. And passing along the great words of the Gospel to receptive ears – well, that’s what it’s all about. Sharing the thoughts and words of Jesus.

As I said, these things are icing. A Deacons place is, for the most part, outside the walls of the building. Being involved in outreach both in our church community and in our world; our city; our neighbourhood. In this regard, each one of you does the ministry of a deacon every day in the way you portray your faith and beliefs. I’m not talking about standing on the corner with a Bible in your hand, but in the things you do and say. Showing Christianity and doing for others; demonstrating what we have come to know as the Golden Rule. Paying it forward.

It is my choice not to dress in the visible attire of ordained clergy. You will hope you never see me in a collar as the only time I wear one is when visiting the very ill – usually in hospital. I don’t need to ‘look the part’ to share a Christian outlook. I’m not proficient in biblical knowledge so I really hesitate to share theology. I’ll leave that to Fr. Gerry.

I get to do the good stuff. I get to forget about administration, balancing the books, how the roof leaks and there’s no coffee. I get to minister all the time, usually to people who don’t even realize they are receiving. My role lies in taking the prayers and strength of this community to people in our cities who are in need; who are unwell; who are no longer able to leave their homes. Paying it forward is what I try very hard to do. Each one of you comes with me when I visit. Especially when taking out communion from reserved sacrament. Matthew writes: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” All of you are always present in the giving of the bread and wine. All of you are remembered to those we don’t see every week. The people I visit will sometimes close their eyes to listen and recite prayers while imagining and remembering when they were here among us.

You won’t hear me refer to what I do as a job or work, because it is neither. This is what I love to do.

When my son in law comes over, he will glance at my calendar and takes great joy in teasing me: when do you have time to be retired? Sometimes I don’t. As the needs of the ‘outside’ community grows, time to be able to give to each outreach is cherished. I feel privileged that you accept my words and allow me to speak with you as I am this morning. However, these words take time to put together. Writing does not come easily for me. It has become necessary to make some decisions concerning balancing my time to allow for family, church and interests. I have asked to be relieved of participating in the preaching roster. This allows me the time needed to prepare and see through the community side of my ministry. It also gives me time to be retired. Having said that, don’t be surprised if every once in a while, when some thought just won’t leave my head, you find me up here on a Sunday morning. I’m very sure Canon Rob or Fr. Gerry will not mind having a week out of the pulpit.

Even though I won’t be in this spot very often, I will be taking on the formal role of the Deacon during worship time beginning in November. I’ll be up here each week doing whatever needs to be done to help make things run smoothly. I’m always available for conversation or keeping up to date on what is going on with you. I may be sitting in a different place but that’s the only thing changing. I enjoy nothing more than being in the midst of this community, helping out and worshipping.

Thanksgiving is but two weeks away. At our family dinner table, I usually go to each person and ask what they are thankful for. This year, I think I’ll put them on the spot by asking – how can you share that with the world around you? The most honest, sincere answers are always from the youngest ones. Children see things as they are. They recognize the good in people that we sometimes miss. If you’re not sure how to go about paying it forward – listen to the children.

Copyright © 2014 by Kay Baxter