This is Trinity Cathedral: Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost


I want you to take a moment this morning to just look around this space. This is Trinity Cathedral. Take a moment to imagine what it must have been like for the first few people who, in 1856, gathered to form an Episcopal Church in Omaha. Imagine what they must have left behind to come to this new place. Imagine how crazy family and friends thought they were when they told them they were coming to Nebraska. Imagine what it must have been like, when the blueprints for this magnificent cathedral were first drawn up. Imagine what it was like to dream about this place, and try to figure out how to pay for it, and then, twenty-seven years after the congregation was organized, to finally see it completed in 1883.

Take a moment to look at the three largest windows in here. Each of them is given in memory of a missionary bishop who gave up the comforts of an eastern city, a handsome salary, a stable, reliable flock to cast out into the deep waters of an unknown land. For John Coleridge Patteson and George Selwyn, it was literally the deep waters of the South Pacific. Patteson’s stand against the abominable injustice of slavery cost him his life. For Jackson Kemper, the deep waters were miles and miles of open prairie, and he traded afternoon cocktails with the rich and powerful for endless journeys by horseback or covered wagon across Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Montana. This is Trinity Cathedral.

Today, we’re officially kicking off our new strategic plan, which we’ve called “casting into deep waters.” It’s the culmination of all of the working, and planning, and discerning, and focus groups, and whatever else that we’ve come through over the past three years. I think there are some exciting things we’ll be working on together over the next several years, but really, what we’re doing now isn’t any different than what we’ve always done. Casting out into deep waters– launching out into the uncertain and unknown, trusting that, as Francis Drake put it, the storms of the sea will only serve to show God’s mastery–is what we’ve always done as members of Trinity, as citizens of Omaha, as the people of Nebraska.

We’re going to cast into deep waters again by doing the same things that Christians have done since day one. We’re going to teach people how to follow Jesus, how to do the things Jesus did, how to know the power of his love in their daily life. We live in a world where death, and enmity, and evil are present in really tiny mundane ways, and in really big ways. We are going to be radically focused on teaching people how to know the truth that in Jesus, love wins, death has died, and the darkness cannot contain the light in their ordinary lives.

We’re going to continue to offer weekly encounters with that love, that life, and that light by relentlessly pursuing excellence in the very best Anglican liturgical and musical traditions. I hope we will become more and more a center for music and the arts, that we will continue to support those movements in the city, because all art really comes from the same impulse as religion, a desire to transcend the normal limits of our experience, a deep longing to connect with something more powerful than ourselves.

We’re going to serve the poor and needy who are right outside our doors, because that’s what Jesus did and commanded us to do. We’ve already started to do that in really exciting ways in our emerging Downtown Episcopal Outreach ministry, and our ministry at the Yates Center. I hope that we will greatly expand both of those efforts in the coming years, even as we remain open to the new ways the Holy Spirit moves us to care for the poor whom Jesus loves.

We’re going to focus on making sure as many children as we can reach know that God loves them, and that they know from the earliest possible age that no matter how the winds of life blow them about, God’s love will not let them go.

Following in the steps of Jesus, transformational worship through the excellence in liturgy and music, serving the poor and lonely, nurturing children and their parents. I can’t think of anything more valuable to give one’s life to.

But to do all these things, to cast out into deep waters again, we need you. Each and every one of us has a critical role to play in this moment at Trinity, just as each and every person was needed to get this church organized in 1856, or to lay the last stone in 1883.

Each of us is given exactly one life. That’s it. Long after we’re gone, our children, our children’s children, the 22nd century members of Trinity Cathedral, won’t remember us for what we had, they won’t remember us for what we accomplished, they will remember us for what we gave. Just like we remember Jackson Kemper, Henry Clarkson, Jack Fricke, Liz Longacre, Dan Loring, Gloria Dunbar, Woody Thelin for what they gave, what they risked, how they shone God’s light in their day.

This might be a new day, this might be a new age, but we are the same Trinity. Today we are being called to cast into deep waters like every member of Trinity has before us. I can’t think of any more important way to spend the life we’ve been given. To really do what God is calling us to in this moment we need you, you, to join us. This is Trinity Cathedral.

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