The circle of blessing grows

Epiphany 6C

In the name of the God who made room for us all.  Amen.

One of the great joys I have in coming to work every day at St. David’s is the work that happens in our building with the clients of the Willing Hands program.  In case you’re not familiar with Willing Hands, let me tell you a little about it.  It was started by some St. David’s parishioners as an Outreach Ministry to adults with developmental disabilities.  Over the years since its inception, the program has grown into an independent body, but one that we continue to support as a ministry aligned with our own through our in-kind contribution of below-market cost of our spaces for their use.  It’s one of the many ministries that your support of St. David’s helps to support.

In recent years, Willing Hands has grown more as an organization, and now they’ve begun the process of securing eligibility to qualify as a Medicaid service provider.  This is causing (and helping) them to shape and evolve their services to meet the current needs of the population they serve.

Now, obviously it’s not all sunshine and roses.  The clients and staff sometimes make noise and it can sometimes be a little distracting in one way or another.  But on the whole, it’s easier to overlook those occasional annoyances, because the clients can be so kind.  They see St. David’s as their own.  And, when I began my work here last year, many of the clients began openly embracing me as one of their own, too.

There’s one client who stands by the window in the Parish Hall every morning waiting to see me walk by as I make it in to the office.  I can’t even get my coat off, or unlock the office door before she comes running up to me to ask what I’m doing that day, and if I would like to come over to her house.  There’s another who has a bit of a crush on one of the aides, and she can’t wait to update me on whether or not she’s working with him that day.  Another is almost completely non-verbal, but a few months ago she was standing near me when I dropped my water bottle, and she just thought it was the funniest thing – she exploded in uproarious laughter.  Now, every time she sees me she radiates the biggest, most beautiful smile you can imagine, and giggles at the recollection of our little “inside joke”.  To a person, and each to their own abilities, they’ve welcomed me into their community, and shared a little of the joy that there is to be had here at St. David’s

It reminds me of a theological concept that’s been gaining prominence in the last couple of decades – the idea is that one of the main purposes of this faith we share – one of the main purposes of the person of Jesus in our history and in our future, is to “draw the circle wider”.  Rather than to exclude, it’s the mission of the church include everyone into the love of Christ.  It’s a concept that echoes the words of one of my favorite prayers in the Book of Common Prayer – one that I’ve almost certainly mentioned here before.  It’s one of the prayers for mission that’s suggested in Daily Morning Prayer.  It calls on Jesus as the one who “stretched out [his] arms of love on the hard wood of the cross, so that all people might come within the reach of [his] saving embrace.”  That’s the original concept of “drawing the circle wider”.  And the clients of Willing Hands embody that openness to everyone they meet here.

This morning, in the Gospel, we hear a story that’s probably familiar to a lot of us.  It’s a story of Jesus teaching, and how the crowds began to rush in around him because of the healing power that flowed through him.  As the reading from Luke says, “power [or blessing] came out from him [or flowed from him] and healed all of them.”  The power of Christ’s blessing was so overflowing, so all encompassing, so completely full – that it simply couldn’t be contained in his own, physical body.  It flowed…  It radiated…  The small circle of his flesh couldn’t contain it.  The circle needed to be wider.

As he taught, the blessings continued to flow – farther and wider than anyone could have imagined.  The circle just kept growing:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh…”
and on, and on, flowing forth into unexpected and unforeseen places.  Even in his death, the blessings still couldn’t be contained.  And so, he rose – to keep blessing, to keep drawing the circle wider and wider until all people would come within the reach of his saving embrace.

That’s the lesson that I’m reminded of every day by the clients of Willing Hands: that there’s always room for more love.  That the new people that find their ways into our lives are worth some kindness and friendship simply on their own merits – not because of anything they do, but because they are.

And that’s the continuing message from Jesus – this man who walked the earth more than two millennia ago; the Christ who still keeps making room for more, who still has more blessings to give, and who still keeps calling us to make room for more in the realm of God, and to be the blessings that the world needs in all the unexpected and unforeseen places that the world needs it.  Even where there is poverty, and hunger, and weeping, and every other expression of missing blessing.  Because the blessing isn’t missing – it’s just waiting for us to spread it there.

God has made room for us.  Now we draw the circle wider.  Now we see and share the blessings of Christ where it went unnoticed before.  Amen.