Outreach Sunday

The Very Rev.Tracey Lind
Outreach Sunday
August 14, 2022
MIcah 6:6–8; James 2:14–17; Luke 4:14–21

Great Island, Wellfleet, 2021

Last Sunday, Jesus reminded us that “where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also.” At our annual meeting, I said that the Chapel of St. James the Fisherman, the community of Wellfleet and the landscape of Outer Cape overflow my treasure box. I don’t know about you, but it is in this place and its people that I find my heart.

My heart comes alive in the land and sea: the ocean, the bay, the marshes and the ponds. It finds rest on our sandy beaches and in our quiet woods. It is reinvigorated by the coastal wind: the fresh morning air, the gentle afternoon breezes, and the fierce summer storms. My heart calms with the night sky, so dark that I can see the face of the moon and the vastness of the stars. Every time I cross the Bourne Bridge, my heart leaps in anticipation of the sheer and utter beauty of this narrow strip of land sticking out in the ocean.

On a summer day, my heart is reinvigorated as I swim with geese across a pond, run with birds out in the bay, dig for clams or search for oysters. It is rejuvenated as I glimpse a fox crossing the yard or a seal skimming a wave, as I lose a battle with a striper or a blue fish, peddle my bike with a rabbit hopping along my side, sit in the peaceful cemetery, or watch a turtle cross a sandy road. And I know that you who live here year-round, will say the same as you walk in the autumn woods, brave a fierce nor’easter storm, stare at a crackling wood fire, smell the early bloom of spring, and drive on a nearly empty stretch of Rt 6 when the rest of us are sitting in offices, classrooms and urban traffic.

Many of us find our hearts uplifted as we admire painters by the side of the road or listen to music wafting up from the harbor or Preservation Hall. My heart is nourished as I watch a gardener prune her flowers or a potter shape something beautiful and useful out of clay, as I marvel at wind surfers and skateboarders who seem to defy gravity, or practice yoga on the beach as the oyster boats sail out in the morning.

I also find my heart in this chapel: in its tall steeple that greets us from the highway, strong wooden beams and joists, open doors and windows, cool concrete floor, sturdy benches, skylights that pour amazing light onto a simple altar table, a shell baptismal font that overflows when you fill it with water, a beautiful frontal that reminds us of our patron, and a ship’s bell that calls us to worship. I love the simplicity and beauty of this little church, and I love the people who gather here every summer. It and you are indeed a treasure!

The ocean teaches us a lot about the giving and receiving of treasure. Every fish caught, every clam dug, every oyster harvested, and every shell found is, in the words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, “a gift from the sea.” Today, I invite you to once again consider the Outer Cape and our ability to reside, work or vacation here, as a gift.

Let us thanks for this beautiful and fragile landscape and thanks for our neighbors who work hard as stewards and keepers of this place:

  • The shellfish men and women who harvest our oysters, clams, lobsters and mussels;
  • The anglers who bring us bluefish, stripers and tuna;
  • The farmers who raise our fruits and vegetables;
  • The bakers who make our bread and muffins;
  • The cooks who prepare and waiters who serve our meals;
  • The shopkeepers and drivers who stock, sell and deliver items to meet our every need;
  • The women and men who clean our hotels and houses;
  • The cashiers who ring up our groceries at the market;
  • The yoga and exercise teachers who stretch our bodies;
  • The doctors, nurses and vets who take care of us and our pets when we’re sick;
  • The artists, musicians and writers who feed our spirits;
  • The parking lot attendants who sit in the hot sun and answer the same questions all day long;
  • The lifeguards, police officers, firefighters and EMTs who keep us safe;
  • And the staff and volunteers of organizations that seek to improve the quality of life, meet essential community needs, protect the environment, and provide the safety net for year-round residents and seasonal workers.

But giving thanks is not enough. For our hearts to be enlivened, we need to share our treasure with those around us. We need to keep the gift of the Outer Cape and its people in circulation.

In 1983, the poet Lewis Hyde, wrote a book entitled The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World. In this classic study of gift giving and its relationship to art and property, Hyde suggests that gifts pass from hand to hand, and in doing so, they are enlivened and regenerated through the relationship of the giver and receiver. Isn’t that also the case with our faith tradition—it is passed from hand to hand, and heart to heart, and in the giving and receiving, the gift becomes more precious and is enlivened and reinvigorated by each generation of the faithful.

The baptismal covenant, which I really do believe is the Episcopal Church’s greatest liturgical gift to the wider church, encourages us to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ; to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself; and to strive for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being and all creation.

Our inherited faith, passed from one generation to another, is a call to action. The Christian life is not just a head thing—it involves our hearts and hands. With so much facing our nation and our world—climate change, gun violence, detention and deportation, economic injustice, political corruption, bigotry, ignorance, and hatred having free reign on social media and in the public square, and now COVID—it’s sometimes hard to figure out what to do—how to follow and act in the name of Jesus.

Being a Christian in today’s world is really about thinking globally and acting locally. The scriptures remind us of what it means to do just that—to live out our faith in the world and in our daily lives.

As the prophet Micah says to the seeker: God has told you what is good and what is required—do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly. Do, love, and walk are action verbs. They require us to get out of beach chairs and help our neighbors.

As the writer of James reminds us: faith without works is dead. As the old camp hymn reads: “They will know we are Christians by our love. We will work with each other; we will work side by side. And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride.”

Jesus challenges us to bring good news to the poor, the captive, the blind and the oppressed. In Matthew 25, he makes it really clear. When you feed, shelter, clothe, visit, and advocate for the least of your brothers and sisters—you feed, shelter, clothe, visit, and advocate for Christ himself. The Gospel is not only about personal salvation; it’s a summons to action—to helping build the commonwealth of God on earth.

For most of our 70 years in Wellfleet, this summer Chapel has been committed to the practice of loving our neighbors by supporting programs and services that benefit the lives of year-round residents and seasonal workers on the Cape. We aim every year to give 50% of the offerings we receive directly to groups that support those in need on the Outer Cape. This past year, we gave $40,000 to the following organizations active in Wellfleet, Truro, Provincetown, and Eastham, most of whose names describe what they do:

  • 246 Kitchen
  • Alzheimer’s Family Support Center
  • Cape Abilities
  • Community Development Partnership
  • Dexter Keezer Fund
  • The Fleet Fund
  • Habitat For Humanity of Cape Cod
  • Helping Our Women
  • Homeless Prevention Council
  • Lower Cape Outreach
  • MASS Appeal
  • Mustard Seed Kitchen
  • Outer Cape Health Services
  • Wellfleet Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary Campership Fund
  • Wellfleet Housing Affordable Housing Trust
  • Wellfleet In Need

Today, we are hosting our third “Outreach Sunday” so that we might learn more about the ongoing needs of local residents and seasonal workers and the services provided by various social agencies to meet those needs.

As our grant recipients will attest, the lack of affordable housing, the ongoing Covid pandemic, climate change, immigration issues, supply chain interruptions, and now inflation only make their jobs more challenging and the lives of many of our neighbors harder.

I hope you will stick around this morning after church and greet the folks who do never-ending work of caring, serving and advocating for those who live with physical, economic, mental and spiritual challenges:

  • Senior citizens who need help, support, and companionship
  • Residents and seasonal workers who can’t afford the high cost of housing, food and clothing on the Outer Cape
  • Abused women who have nowhere else to turn
  • The sick and injured who require medical care in communities that have limited health facilities
  • The hungry among us who need food – on a regular, year-round basis
  • Local children and youth who can’t afford summer camp
  • Year-round residents who need energy assistance in the middle of the winter
  • And individuals, care partners and families living with dementia

I also hope you will be intentional in your generosity so that we, as the Chapel of St. James the Fisherman, can really make a difference in our outreach grants. Over the next three years, we hope to substantially increase our giving through a generous matching grant from the Tucker Family Foundation.

Dorothy Bass writes that Christian practices are shared patterns of activity in and through which life together takes shape over time in response to and in the light of God as known in Jesus Christ. Woven together, they form a way of life.

Supporting these agencies on the Outer Cape is one concrete way for this Chapel to practice our collective faith. It is also a way of saying thanks for the gift of this place and those who keep it running.

So friends, let us remember that we are called by God to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly, and that when we demonstrate compassion for our neighbors in need, we care for Jesus himself. This is what it means to bring good news to the poor, the captive, the blind and the oppressed. And this is what it means to call the Chapel of St. James the Fisherman, our spiritual home in Wellfleet.