Hi everybody! For those of you who do not know me, my name is Karen Conner and I have been coming to Church of the Ascension since I was about five years old. I was confirmed here, grew up here, and learned to understand God here. Initially, when I was asked to give the sermon this week, I was completely sure I would have no idea how to. However, once I read the Gospel I instantly connected with it. Being here at Ascension, I have both been fed with bread, and been given the opportunity to feed the world. There has been a constant affirmation of love for me all throughout my experiences here at Ascension.
When I first came, my family and I had tried out two other churches in my memory, both of which I loved. I did not think this place would end up having such a special place in my heart. I recall feeling relieved by hearing the familiarity of the Lord’s Prayer, and realizing I was still in a church and we were still worshipping the same God. I remember how when I would go to children’s church I would sit in the back and wish that I had enough confidence to dance to the songs Ms. Tiffany played on the guitar. Once I began to come to church regularly and become involved by coming on Wednesdays, I was instantly comfortable doing all those things, I did not understand why we were dancing while my parents just sat and kneeled, but I knew I was filled with joy.
The line “When you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and go wherever you wished” takes me back to leaving right after communion and running the halls of Church with my friends. When I was more interested in coloring in the bulletin then paying attention to the sermon. But as I started listening to what Ms. Tiffany was saying as I did crafts in Sunday School, and started connecting it with what was happening in church, I was once again greeted by that familiarity of worshipping God.
This led me to be able to “stretch out my hands and let someone else fasten a belt around me and take me where I did not wish to go.” Because I was more interested in games than I was in taking that terrifying, complete plunge of faith. Much did not make sense to me about God. I never understood as a child why he did all that he did. Why create us all? I was only half heartedly worshipping him, and suspected everyone else was too. So why would he create this beautiful world and fill it with us all? It seemed too selfless to me, I couldn’t understand what he got out of it.
Once I started to acolyte and stopped talking the whole way through, I started to listen, because it seemed there was nothing else to do for the whole, what felt like, four hours. Slowly I started learning the ways of God in church. Which is a wonderful thing, but mostly I feel that I have learned it in other people. The people that go here are filled with the kind of love that had me again wondering what one got out of that. Every reception, Wednesday dinner, and post-church conversation led me to wonder this. Why are these people being so kind to me when they don’t even know me? When I have never done anything for them? I did not understand as I started forming bonds with people three rows over, that the feeling of love and communion went both ways. I started to enjoy acolyting somehow, so why do people thank me for serving? When I was 11 years old, I just did not comprehend that all of the kindness being given to me, was me being fed spiritually. I thought it was only spiritual if I was kneeling reciting the Nicene Creed.
Being at this church has fed me with an immense amount of love. The sermons helped, but in all honesty, seeing love in other people is what truly made me comprehend the whys of God bothering to create us. Once I realized I can see God in people, I began to see it everywhere outside of the Nave. I see him in the sun shining through the clouds, in a single daffodil blooming, in my cousin having a baby, in the coincidences that seem like absolute magic. I see it in beautiful words and smiles, and I didn’t even understand how much that is all because of the communion and friendships that I have formed in this very church until I was laying bed thinking of what I could say and going over my years here.
Eventually, I decided to join the New Beginnings program, in some attempt to feed someone in love, the way I have been fed. I met Pearlie in August of my freshman year, and had absolutely no idea what to do. I heard that it was important to bond, not just try and tutor at first. I had no idea how, I could do her first grade math but I had no idea how to be a mentor, I was just prepared to tutor. I did not comprehend the amount of emotional energy I would need to pour into this. Pearlie seemed completely unwilling to work, so I started to try and balance games with homework, which totally failed the first half of the year. Slowly, she began to pronounce “was” right, and do arithmetic without me having to prod her, and I felt so accomplished. This past year, we have grown even closer. We talk at dinner following up on things going on in each other’s lives and she doesn’t sit under the table as much. When we work together, every week without fail she pulls out at least three drawings of us, with notes telling me she missed me and loves me. Now we do homework and then play or draw or just talk. I had never dedicated myself like that to a stranger, I didn’t know what I was getting into. It was just a church program with a chance to volunteer. I had no idea that when I gave back, I would get so much from it. There is a feeling of complete fulfillment in my heart because of the opportunity that this church has provided to me.
That is what makes me understand why God did so much for us. Why Jesus would die on the cross for us. Feeding others with spiritual food fills you with that same food. Being fed with that love, makes me want to go out and feed others. That cycle of love is what gives me absolute hope in the world, and that is what makes me understand what God created.