Tonight/today I’d like to talk for a couple of minutes
about one of my favorite architectural features of this church.
And I hope my choice isn’t too controversial,
although I suspect that many of you don’t care for it,
or haven’t given it much thought one way or the other.
It’s not the cross, or the tabernacle, or the baptismal font,
although I love them all, and I could go on for some time about why I do.
The feature I really like, that almost no other church has, are these windows.
Now some of you may not like these windows very much,
because after all the view outside is fairly pedestrian.
Out this one here we have a couple of suburban backyards,
and for all I know every now and then, if you stare out the window long enough,
which I know no one here ever would,
you can see the ordinary people who live there,
maybe they look in here, too, although they’re probably not even Catholic.
And out this other window you see this cornfield,
although I suspect that Father Tim looks out this window and sees a parking lot,
since that’s what he knows we need there,
although I’ll leave the talk on that subject to him and to another day.
Ordinary sights. But these windows are not ordinary.
Some people might want to fill them up with stained glass someday,
maybe that would be pretty, but I hope we never do.
Because the idea about churches is this:
you surround yourself with images that represent the most important symbols
in the life of your community.
And we are fortunate in that one of the most important reminders of what’s important
is right outside these windows:
It’s that mysterious place called outside
where our work and our worship is supposed to be making the world a different place.
Today’s gospel reading from St. Luke, near the end of the Sermon on the Plain,
gives us some of the most famous proverbs in English,
so famous that most of the people who use them probably have no idea where they came from.
And the one that reminded me of these windows
was this reminder that we take for granted:
We know a tree by its fruit.
Good trees bear good fruit, and the only way we know a good tree is by what it produces.
We know this,
and yet it is a threatening saying,
since it means that words alone, and good intentions alone, and lip-service alone,
You recognize authentic faith not by whether it says the right things,
or has the right idea about things,
by whether it loves others and reaches out to them in charity and reconcilation.
You recognize authentic community not by what it says about itself
or even by what goes on inside it,
by whether its life brings about a visible effect on the world around it.
As individuals, we worry a lot abot whether we are doing the right thing religiously,
about whether we pray enough, or read scripture enough, are spiritual enough.
It’s good to be scrupulous about these things,
but we remember today that without love in action they mean little.
Parishes are a little like people, too.
We worry a lot about what goes on inside this building,
from what our children learn to the music we sing.
But it is outside of here where we should check to see how we are doing.
The only measure of our liturgies that truly matters
is whether the liturgies we have here
enable us to change the world around us out there.
The only measure of our religious education program
is whether our children go out into that world out there
ready to talk about the gospel and do something generous for someone who doesn’t deserve it.
Nothing about how we run this place, or what goes on in here,
makes very much difference,
if when we leave here there is no change in the world out there,
no people who have been given hope or encouragement because of us,
no reconcilation or great undertaking that is the result of what we do here each Sunday.
Not many churches have the advantage we do,
these big windows where you can think about what’s right outside this church,
or you can use your imagination and picture all the places
where the results of our lives and this parish’s life might be seen, or might not be.
So I invite you, if you haven’t already, the next time you have a few minutes
during the liturgy,
to take advantage of these windows and think about how we are doing.
Sometimes if I think about it, I can imagine that I see some fruits from our efforts here.
Other times I can’t.
How do you think we’re doing?