It's been an interesting semester, to say the least. I did a good bit of traveling in late October and November, but when I returned to address the Upper School on November 30, I felt like there were some things that needed to be addressed in regards to our core values and the future we hope to build at Episcopal. This homily, or short sermon, is what I delivered to the Upper School students and faculty that day. - The Rev. Kirkland “Skully” Knight
Good morning. As I was thinking about chapel this week, I realized how long it has been since I have been in here with you. Between my recent travels, our guest speakers and the holidays, it’s been a while since I, personally, have spoken to you. A lot has happened. The last time I spoke to you in chapel it was the very beginning of November, right around the time of the election.
Now before you think we’re about to go and get all political here, we’re not. We’re going to do what we’ve always done. We’re going to preach the gospel. We’re going to talk about how God loves us and wants us to love each other. We’re going to talk about gratitude and serving others. We’re going to talk about this community and what is expected of all of us as members of this community.
In all the recent events, in everything that has happened to us—the summer and violence that we have had and continue to have in BR, through the flood and through the election season and its aftermath, I want you to know something. Nothing has changed.
That may sound a bit aloof and as if I am just choosing to bury my head in the sand and pretend everything will always be ok and that I don’t have to deal with the realities of life. But it’s just the opposite, actually. I mean that we, here at Episcopal, are going to deal with the daily realities of life the way we always have.
We, as a school and its faculty and staff, are here, as we say in our mission statement, to prepare you for purposeful lives. We are here to prepare you. There’s no better time to talk about preparing than during Advent. We are in the first week of Advent. In the Christian tradition this is a time of preparing for the coming of Christ into the world - God in human form - incarnate - as a little baby, to live and die as one of us.
It is also a time to prepare for when Christ will come again. And when we listen to today’s gospel reading from Matthew (Advent 1 Readings) and perhaps lots of other things we might hear, it’s likely that we might think that when God or Jesus comes again “to judge the living and the dead” as we say in the Creed, that it’s going to be the end of the world - the apocalypse. Well it’s not. It’s not the end of the world, it’s the beginning of the world. It’s the beginning of the Kingdom of God. But even that can be a little scary for some people.
When we act out of love for each other and not love of power, sometimes people don’t know how to react to that. When we work to serve and care for others, and see them as real human beings instead of treating them like a problem or a nuisance, it might throw some people off. When we hold up tolerance and mercy and forgiveness above greed and hate and the desire to trample others down, there will be people who won’t always understand.
But that’s how we prepare for the Kingdom of God, that’s how we start to make the Kingdom of God real. We prepare for God by doing the things that God has given us to do. In the baptismal covenant it says that we are to seek and serve Christ in all people and respect the dignity of every human being. All people. Every human being. Man, woman, gay, straight, immigrant, Native American, Jew, Christian, Muslim, black, white, and everyone in between.
All people. Every. Human. Being. That is not politics. That’s the gospel. Same as it’s always been.
Nothing has changed here. To teach you, the students at Episcopal, to better understand God’s love and to teach you how to share that love with each other and with the world is what we’re doing here. I know it’s what I’m doing here. I love you all and I care about the people that you are and the people that you are going to be. We are all here to prepare you for the world. For your purposeful life. But your purpose isn’t college or a job, or money. Or a big house. Or security. Or even success, whatever that may be to you. Those things are fine and they are great goals, but they’re not a purpose.
Our purpose is our why. Why are we here? Why does our life matter? Why do we do anything? Why? Our purpose is kindness, patience, mercy, generosity, service. Our purpose, your purpose is to make the world better. It’s love. To love one another. In a way, your purpose is to end this world and make a new one. A better one. Thus the beginning is near.
Some people are worried about the state of things - how divided we seem - the anger, the discord, the violence and even hatred that’s out there. Some people are concerned about the state of things in the world, and if you watch enough news and you spend enough time online you might think that. But I don’t.
You see, those people don’t stand where I stand. They don’t see what I see. They look at their screens and watch and see a world that seems to be coming apart. But I stand here, and when I look out, I see you. I don’t see a world that’s coming apart, I see a world being built by smart, young, courageous people that I’m proud of. I see a world being built on a foundation of intelligence, understanding, acceptance, and love.
You know each week of Advent has a theme, and the first week of Advent is about hope. And when I stand here and look out at the world, when I stand here and look out at you, that’s what I see. Hope. 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.