In our opening school Eucharist service with the entire faculty and staff, we gathered on the stage and worshiped in the round. It was a unique and profound experience. Our Baton Rouge community had been through a long and difficult summer. But as we gathered, rather than looking at the back of someone’s head in the chapel, we looked across the stage into the eyes of our friends, our colleagues, and our neighbors.
This is the message that I was privileged to deliver to them that day-not knowing the challenges that we were about to face together.
Our first reading was from Ecclesiastes. “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun,” and “it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.”
It is indeed a difficult business that we find ourselves engaged in and that is, as the writer says, nothing new. But going back to the way things had been is not good enough. It’s what got us here. We have to fight that temptation. We have to want more and we have to hope for more.
In the lesson from Romans we heard about hope. “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” And, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
Things hoped for are things unseen-even things that seem impossible. People in the 19th century would have thought it was impossible for our industrial society to exist without slavery-but we made that happen. I have worked with parents at Children’s’ Hospital in NOLA and the only hope you can give some of those parents is to help them believe that there will be a better day in the future-even when that future seems unimaginable. In the midst of all that we face as a community, we have to hope for a better future, we have to hope for a better world and we have to teach for it.
A student came to talk about architecture in the church for her Honors Thesis and we talked about the obstacles and barriers to the sacraments that used to be part of a church’s “set up”, as opposed the modern setting we were using today-in the round. Today we are not removed, we are not above, we are not separated from the people we serve. We are in the midst of the lives of each other and the students we serve and we have to teach them a better way.
And finally our gospel lesson was from Luke-The Good Samaritan. And the question that prompts Jesus telling the story is, “Who is my neighbor?” We have to teach our students about who their neighbors are and we have to teach them how to be a neighbor to everyone.
The story is interesting because of the question that the young man asks Jesus. We all know the story but this is what prompted it. “Who is my neighbor?” It was a question of limitation, not inclusion-who do I have to love-and Jesus turns his expectations upside down. At the end of the story, Jesus answers with another question, “Who was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” And the answer is, “The one who showed him mercy.” Not the one who was right, or shouted the loudest, or got the most likes on their FB post, but the one who showed mercy. That is what being a neighbor is all about. It recalls the passage from Micah-to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.
As we are all gathered on this stage, we are not all of one mind but we are all of one purpose. We are here because this is a difficult business and we have to make something new, we are here to teach kids to hope for things unseen and, maybe most importantly, to teach kids not just about who their neighbors are, but that showing mercy is what it means to be a neighbor.
This is what we do here. We do more than teach kids material or skills, we teach them how to be, how to live and how to love. Just as the love of God is made real in the midst of us today, we make God’s love real to the students that come to us, every day. Amen.
The Rev. Kirkland “Skully” Knight
The Rev. Kirkland “Skully” Knight has served in Episcopal schools for 23 years. The first 10 were spent as a teacher and coach and the last 13 years as a teacher and chaplain. Skully joined the Episcopal team in 2011 and serves as the Sr. Chaplain and Associate Head of School for Service Learning. Skully earned his bachelor’s degree from LSU and his M. Div. from The University of the South at Sewanee.