Have you ever been through a period when you couldn’t get a particular song, often a silly song, out of your mind? That’s the way it’s been with me last week, and the song couldn’t be any sillier. It’s "Oh, Susanna!" You remember how it goes:
I come from Alabama with my banjo on my knee; I’m going to Louisiana, my true love for to see. It rained all night the day I left, the weather it was dry. The sun so hot I froze to death, Susanna, don’t you cry. Oh, Susanna! Oh, don’t you cry for me. I come from Alabama with my banjo on my knee.
When the Vicar of St. Bridget’s Church in Devon, England had served there for fifty years, well past his 90th birthday, the Bishop of Exeter sent what he hoped was a tactful note suggesting that the time might have come to consider retirement. Promptly came this reply from the Vicar: “When I accepted your Lordship’s appointment I was not aware of the fact that it was intended to be a temporary one. Let me assure you that I am settling down quite well.”
FAREWELL TO A PASTOR: A Sermon in Celebration of the Ministry of the Reverend David Poist
Written by Sean Curran
I can’t believe this moment has arrived. There have been some certainties in my life that don’t change. Mr. Jefferson’s spirit presides over the University. The Red Sox fall apart every season. The Episcopal Church fights over something. And David Poist is Rector of St. Paul’s Memorial Church. For a quarter of a century this little Anglican bluff overlooking the Rotunda has been presided over by the same remarkable priest and pastor.
Today’s gospel is a wonderful text for graduation day: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” It sounds so easy, just to love each other, but you know it’s not. Our popular culture, ceaselessly celebrating the careless delights of love, is dishonest. Just as you graduates have learned to think critically over the last four years, I hope you’ve learned to deconstruct our popular culture as well, to appreciate how difficult loving one another can be.
Our Biblical story developed within a totally patriarchal culture and as a result the lives of women were often invisible or at best accidental adjuncts to the lives of men, sometimes necessary to move the story forward, but not significant in their own right. At other times an afterthought, or just an interesting detail. Take for example Lot’s wife – what do we know about her? One thing: as she was fleeing from the catastrophic total destruction of her community she turned around for one last sight of her home and so was turned into a pillar of salt. Nothing about what it must have been like to lose everything, or what her fears were as she joined the mob trying to get away. Except for this one peculiar detail she is invisible.
St. Paul's Memorial Church celebrates and bears witness to God's love in our community, the University of Virginia, the region and the world beyond us. By our worship, our teaching and our outreach we seek to make known God in Christ by equipping our members for service in the world.