Sunday’s Sermon, June 16, 2024: Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

The Rev. Dawn Stary

Happy Father’s Day and happy pride

I will change the Roman Catholic Church from within!

I will, through my will, bend it towards the acceptance of women’s ordination and acceptance of LGBTQIA folks.

I will, I will, I will…mold the church of my childhood into the church I so desperately hoped it would become.


These are some of the thoughts that floated through my head and bubbled up in my conversations when

I was much younger earning first a bachelor’s degree in Roman Catholic Theology and then a Masters degree in pastoral care and counseling from another Roman Catholic institution.

These ideas that I held resolutely were on my mind when I cried in despair that perhaps the beloved church of my childhood and young adulthood

 might not change, might not ever allow me to follow my long felt call to the priesthood.

These notions that I had unwaveringly held for so long started to lose importance when my only child began to grow inside my belly.

Even as I attended Catholic mass each Sunday, before my son was born,

I wondered if I could defend to my child the Catholic Church’s stance on the treatment of my LGBTQIA siblings, regardless of his sexual orientation or what his gender turned out to be.

I do not stand here today, to bash the Roman Catholic Church.

In fact, I still love the Catholic Church. How could I not love the church that laid the foundation for my faith?

How could I not love the church that taught me to fight for justice for all God’s people and to push back against human structures of injustice?

But also how could I not push against the church’s stances and choices that I find harmful?

Because to love as God calls us to love requires us to shed light on our mistakes.

The irony is that it is because of the Catholic Church that I stand before you today!

My Catholic education which spanned kindergarten through my first graduate degree taught me the value of curiosity, of questioning, of challenging societal norms,

of forging a path that follows God no matter how difficult that path may be.

Today, I recall my memories of my time as a Roman Catholic to remind myself and all of us that God’s hopes for us are always bigger than our own,

because God’s imagination is grander than our imagination.

I did not belong in the Roman Catholic Church. I knew this deep in my bones from an early age, but I refused to see it.

I didn’t not belong because the Catholic Church doesn’t offer people a place to meet God and grow in their faith,

because the Catholic Church is a place where many people meet God and grow in their faith.

I did not belong because God was calling me from an early age to be a priest.

And because God was calling me from an early age to work towards creating a more just world for all people including my LGBTQIA siblings.

However, I stayed too long in the Catholic Church because I thought that I knew what was best.

Despite the truth God had revealed to me that I was called to be a priest,

I could not see past my assumptions that this call meant I had to be the one that forged ahead making women’s ordination a reality in the Catholic Church.

Of course, I am truly thankful for the trailblazers, the ones who put everything on the line to make institutions change and become more open, more affirming, more welcoming.

Next month we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first women ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church.

Fondly called The Philadelphia 11 because of the number of women ordained and the location that ordination occurred,

words cannot explain the gratitude and awe I feel for the women brave enough to be ordained and the male bishops brave enough to do it.

But we are not all called to bear the level of change that the Philadelphia 11 women bore.

God has plans for each of us, and God’s plan for me was to be in a church that accepted me just as I am!

And let me tell you! When I finally said yes to God, when I finally left the Catholic Church and began attending worship services here at the Cathedral, my whole life changed.

All the doors that had been shut in my face before I entered the Episcopal Church flung open.

All the windows that had been slammed in my face were now unlatched, ready for me to open them and accept the milk and honey on the other side.

When I said yes to God and God’s will my life began to blossom in a way I could not have dreamt of before.

My saying yes to the uncertainty of leaving the church of my childhood gave way to a beauty and

wonder that has nourished me and that has molded me into a person with even deeper faith,

a person with even greater willingness to stand up for and with those that society ignores or mistreats.

And I did not say yes to God just that one time. I am constantly saying yes to God.

I will admit there are times when I don’t want to say yes because I know that God is calling me to stretch myself beyond my comfort.

But I remember that saying yes to God is a gift that is given to me, a gift that broadens my abilities to do God’s work better,

a gift that enriches me and draws me closer to God and God’s goodness.

Today’s gospel reading reminds us of the goodness that God gives,

and it reminds us of God’s power to create and grow.

It reminds us that when we follow God’s will great things can happen.

The smallest seed transforms into a glorious shrub.

This gospel reading reminds us too that God’s way is not our way, because who among us would imagine our greatness being presented to the world in the grandeur of a…bush?

Perhaps there are some who could imagine this for themselves, but I myself would prefer the whole world knows my deep faith because it is transformed into a majestic jacaranda tree crowned with a glorious purple wreath.

But God’s ways are not our ways. God’s ways challenge us to lean on God, to follow God’s will not our own.

God’s ways remind us to seek goodness in those places we might otherwise ignore, in my case in a church that would happily accept and affirm me as I am,

and in the parable given us today in a tiny seed.

A tiny seed that with no help from us and only with God’s help cracks open to become a shrub,

a piece of foliage we don’t usually capture photos of to post on social media,

but a majestic bush that is strong and beautiful, and actually much larger than I imagined.

Someone scatters the seeds about the ground and then rises day and night and the seed sprouts,

yet he does not know how.

He does not need to do anything, but watch with wonder;

to watch with the knowledge that this little unassuming seed will burst forward and grow with firm branches that will support the birds of the air!

God’s love and goodness grow despite our interference or neglect.

God’s gifts of beauty and strength, of courage, benevolence, and righteousness blossom even when we ignore those gifts.

And God’s great imagination for all of creation remains present and steadfast even when we presume to know better than God.

And best of all, God’s goodness and all of the gifts that God offers are there for us when we are ready to accept them and say yes.

It took me a long time to say yes to God, but when I did my life flourished in unimaginable ways.

And amazingly enough, despite the fact that I said no to God for so long, that I turned my back on God’s call to follow my will,

God’s love, God’s generosity, God’s dreams for me were right there waiting for me.

It can be difficult to say yes to God. It can feel scary to put our trust and  faith in God instead of putting it in ourselves or our human creations,

but know that God’s goodness will grow and thrive even when we turn away from God and towards ourselves.

And know that all that wonder and awe that God offers us, will be there when we are ready to say yes.

And like the tiny mustard seed, even if we do nothing, the glory of God will always flourish.

In closing, let us consider the words of a poem by Sir Francis Drake.

He writes, Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,

To venture on wider seas

Where storms will show your mastery;

Where losing sight of land,

We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back

The horizons of our hopes;

And to push us into the future. Into your future.

In strength, courage, hope, and love.

Dear God, we thank you for showering us with your love and imagination,

we thank you for waiting for us to say yes, and we thank you for being there for us, for tending to us, to helping us blossom

Just as you helped the mustard seed bloom into greatness, so too do you help us bloom.

In your son’s name. Amen

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