In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
They walked down from the mountains, some of them barefoot. In oppressive heat they came from miles around to this little town called Chalmeca, to see the only doctors they would see for more than a year. A father and son both badly infected with pneumonia and TB, a teenage girl carrying her 3 year old brother who was close to death because of an infection, a man with a deep machete wound in his hand, scores of people with badly infected gums and rotting teeth. Old and young, men and women, families of all shapes and sizes gathered early in the morning to see the 19 of us who traveled from St. James s to give them what little care we could.
The clinic in Chalmeca is a small cinderblock building originally built for the Diocese of Honduras by an Episcopal Church in Wyoming. Consuelo the wonderful and dedicated nurse who presides over the clinic has little more than Advil and Tylenol to work with but she faithfully loves and cares for her people. Everyday while we were there Consuelo and the local priest passed out tickets to the scores of people waiting to be seen by our medical mission team to ensure that no one would stand around all day in the heat without seeing a doctor.
On the first day, we arrived in our rented yellow school bus totting 19 duffle bags and suitcases weighing 50 pounds each, loaded with thousands of dollars of donated medical supplies including almost $6,000.00 of medication purchased with funds raised at our own Mardi Gras. In addition, we had as our guests six high school girls, each15 year s of age, from the Episcopal Cathedral School in San Pedro Sula. All of them spoke excellent English and they did a wonderful job translating between the patients and our nurses, doctors, dentists and pharmacist. Every day we worked, breaking for lunches of PB&J sandwiches, trying to see as many people as possible. By the end of the clinic, 977 people had been seen and thousands of prescriptions had been filled. It was amazing.
This medical mission trip was a dream I first started talking about several years ago and I cannot tell you what a joy it was for me to see it come to fruition. Everyone who went on the trip did an incredible job. You should be proud of them all and I am not exaggerating when I say that they are my heroes. They wanted only to serve. They wanted only to make a difference in people s lives and they did exactly that. It was an incredible week we will never forget and I thank everyone at St. James s for making it possible.
Obviously you don t have to go to Honduras in order to make a difference in someone s life. You don t have to go on a mission trip in order to show God s love or do God s work in the world. What we did for a week in Honduras was wonderful but as a sort of radical departure from that kind of large event I want to share with you a letter I received this week from a woman outside of Fort Worth, Texas. A letter that should remind us that as the people of God we can make a difference in all kinds of ways – sometimes in ways we never fully realize. Let me read you what she wrote: Dear wonderful parishioners at St. James s, I want to write a word of thanks from a very grateful mother. Our Son just graduated from the University of Richmond, and during his four years in your wonderful city found St. James s and loved going to church there. What more could a mother ask for than a call on Sunday afternoon reporting that, Mom I heard a great sermon this morning . . . Thank you for doing all you do to make your church a thriving happy place for a college student, he truly loves St. James s and will forever use his experience with you as a touchstone as he makes his way in the world. To put it in perspective after lots of activity the Saturday before his graduation as we were saying goodnight to go to the hotel he told us, I ll pick you up at 8:45 for church. We were stunned, thrilled and delighted that our son wanted us to go and begin a very special day worshipping for the last time in your beautiful church. Keep up your momentum; you have a very special place!
Whether it is mission trips to far away places, pounding nails for Habitat for Humanity, mentoring struggling children, cooking food for the hungry, cooking for Wednesday night suppers, helping to plan for the Bazzar, WomanKind, and the Feast, or just taking time to genuinely welcome a college student into our midst what s important is that all of us do what we can in the name of Jesus Christ to make our mark on the world. That is the message of the gospel. That is what Jesus prays when he says – Father, as you have sent me into the world so I have sent them into the world. We are to go and be like Christ. In big ways and in small we are called to model Christ s love, Christ s compassion, Christ s hospitality, to a broken and hurting world.
On this Memorial Day Weekend as we pause to honor and remember the thousands of men and women who have given their lives for our country, I would like you to think about your own memorial. After you are gone from this world what will you be remembered for? After all your hard work is done and life ends what will be your legacy? It is an important question.
My father was a veteran of the Second World War and I am proud of the service he gave his country during the many long months he spent on the Island of New Guinea. He died in 1991, and while his military service is important, it is only a small part of the legacy he left for me. By far what I will remember most, what I have learned from, and what I value is the mark he made on me by his service to his family and his community. He was always there. He was always faithful to his commitments. He was always ready to serve others. He had a quiet strength that deeply impressed me when I was young and it was his quiet strength that I sought to emulate as an adult.
Each of us has an opportunity to leave our own mark on the world, on our families, on the people we encounter day in and day out. It all depends on how we choose to live our lives. Halford Luccock a famous preacher and long time professor at Yale Divinity School once said, I am convinced that if I asked any one of you suddenly to recall five sermons you have listened to, you would be hard put to answer. But if I should ask you to name five persons through whom God has put his hand on your life, you would not hesitate a moment. On this Memorial Day may each of us become more conscious of our own legacies. May each of us strive day in and day out to be the people through whom God s hand touches the lives of others. This is the meaning of discipleship and it is our Lord s deepest prayer for us all. Amen.