Help us Lord to be masters of ourselves, that we may joyfully and consciously respond to and participate in your creation. Take our minds and think through them, our lips and speak through them, and take our hearts and set them on fire.

My name is Tom Gossen and I stand before you today as a representative of St. James’ Endowment Funds Board as we celebrate our annual Legacy Sunday at St. James.

In some ways 2020 and 2021 have been one long celebration of Legacy at St. James Church as we have weaved bits of our 100th Anniversary activities into the variety of restrictions imposed by the COVID pandemic. Where would St. James Church, Wichita, KS be if it were not for the legacy of those from 1920 on that made all the facilities possible that we enjoy today for worship, work and service to the wider community? Thanks be to God for their love and generosity.

Today you see a single rose on the altar signifying the recent legacy financial gifts received by St. James from members who are no longer physically with us and some who have preferred to make a legacy cash gift while still living. We are most grateful for their generosity and desire to contribute to the growth of our Perpetual Memorial and Endowment Fund.

Everyone has an opportunity to participate in the ministry of legacy giving. But, when you complete an enrollment form and publicly declare that you have made provisions for a gift to St. James Endowment in your estate documents, you become enrolled in the Legacy Society and have your name added to the plaque in the church entry hallway. Today after the 10:45 service we will gather to rededicate that plaque with the five new names added in 2021.

Perhaps you’ve thought about enrolling in the St. James Legacy Society, but you’re not sure what to do first. Know that the members of the Endowment Funds Board are available to assist you. Simply contact the church office and ask that someone contact you.

Or perhaps, you’ve not made up your mind about why you should care about leaving a Legacy Gift to St. James, or to any other cause for that matter. I invite you to consider just what being a member of a faith community has meant to you during your life.

Recently, I’ve traveled down memory lane that has awakened a number of fond memories of the past 50 years. The occasion was the need to install new flooring in my home office, which required me to unpack many years of records beginning with the 20 years I spent leading the Episcopal Network for Stewardship and working with the Stewardship Office of the Episcopal Church Center. When I retired and packed these files away 10 years ago, I was convinced that I would be needing to refer to them. Foolish me!

The hours I spent looking at and tossing those files flooded my mind with many happy thoughts of annual conferences, diocesan workshops, parish leadership retreats and many one-on-one conversations with remarkable people of faith throughout the Anglican Communion. There were the trips to Canada and England for joint conferences and a visit to Lambeth Palace for lunch and meetings with the diocesan stewardship leaders of the Church of England. So many places I’d been. So many wonderful people I’ve met. But how did it all start, I thought?

And then it hit me. “It” started about 50 years ago this month when Diane and I first met with Fr. Robert Terrill at St. Christopher’s on south Bluff in Wichita, KS. Diane made the appointment at the suggestion of the secretary at St. James because St. James was without a rector at the time. From that first meeting we knew that we were warmly welcomed into the household of faith of the Episcopal Church and the following February we were married. We’ll celebrate the 50th anniversary of that event in February 2022.

Once “received” into the faith community by the Bishop we began actively participating in parish life. For me there was youth program sponsorship, then outreach and time on the board of Episcopal Social Services, and then parish and diocesan stewardship work. So, so many memories!

Recalling those memories, reinforced my feeling that we made the right decision some years ago to provide for a planned gift to our faith community when we no longer have need of our earthly assets. We accomplished that by purchasing a life insurance policy that pays after both of us have gone to our eternal reward.

Life insurance is only one way to make a legacy gift. For us, it seemed like the right approach in order to make a gift that will contribute to the ongoing support of St. James Church. 

What are your memories of church life / spiritual life? Do you have a desire to join with other parishioners in building up our Endowment Fund for continuing support of our parish? There are many different ways you can do that.

Our gospel lesson for today shares an example of Jesus’ teaching that there is not only one way to accomplish good for the kingdom of God.

In this week’s gospel lesson from Mark, Jesus continues his teaching from what we heard last week when Jesus chastised the disciples for arguing about who among them was the greatest. The disciples were operating with the wrong set of social values and expectations, so Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all. By all, Jesus meant ALL, not just those with a higher social standing and not just other Christians, but everyone they met regardless of their place within society.

To make his point, Jesus placed a child in their midst, not as a symbol of innocence but to represent those who lacked legal rights or social standing in the wider culture. Jesus did not talk about becoming like a child but about welcoming those who, like children, lacked social standing. In today’s reading, Jesus continues the theme of Christian hospitality.

But the moment that Jesus finishes emphasizing the need to serve and welcome everyone, the apostle John recounts an incident in which the apostles tried to stop an exorcist from exorcizing demons in Jesus’ name because he was not one of “them.” John is expecting to be commended, but he has fallen into one of the pitfalls of being preoccupied with one’s status – concern with being the greatest can lead to preventing others from doing good.

Jesus replied to John, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.”

My prayer for you today is that your memories of your faith journey spur you to action to participate in building up the St. James Church Endowment Fund so that its perpetual growth provides significant assistance in supporting the ministries of this parish into the future so that future generations not yet born might benefit from engaging in ministry here. Amen.

Tom Gossen, Preacher
September 26, 2021
St. James Episcopal Church, Wichita, KS