"Let the Church Say Amen"
By the Venerable U. Yvette Owens, Archdeacon of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia
For the Patronal Feast of St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist & the 164th Parish Anniversary
Let us pray
We thank you, heavenly Father, for the witness of your apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of your Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, what an honor it is for me to come and be with you as you celebrate your patronal feast weekend, St Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist. When I was asked to give the homily for today, I was like, Wow, yes, I would love to! Then I was like, Oh my word, what am I going to say? It’s their patronal feast weekend!
It reminded me of the legendary comedian Bernie Mac in his standup comedy act. When he went into court to adopt his nieces and nephew -- at that time he said their ages ranged from 3, 6 and 8 -- he said, "Aw, America, I know them but I don’t know them." That’s what my first thought. I have been here a few times over the years serving as Deacon, but let me confess that I know St. Matthew’s Church but I don’t KNOW St. Matthew’s. What words do I say? Oh, Lord help a sista out. Anyway, it’s an honor and thank you.
The Gospel reading for today is the reading for Saturday, the 21st of September, which is actually the feast day of St. Matthew. Even though I have already read it to you I would like to read it again.
It says: As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
My dear brothers and sisters we are celebrating the feast of a:
a. Servant of God
b. A tax collector
c. One that was hated in the Jewish community
d. St Matthew was a Disciple then became an Apostle and Evangelist
e. He was one of the Four Evangelists, whom God had called from among the tax collectors
I mentioned that St Matthew was a Disciple but then he became an Apostle and an Evangelist…I googled what a Disciple, Apostle and Evangelist are so that I would not make a mistake on the differences in the three so please be patient with me as I give the definitions:
A Disciple is:
a. A follower and student of a mentor (Jesus was St Matthew’s mentor)
b. A disciple is a teacher
c. Or any other wise person
d. A disciple is someone who accepts and helps in spreading the teachings of others.
An Apostle is:
a. A messenger
b. An Ambassador
c. Someone who champions a critical reform movement
d. An Apostle will champion for a belief or cause.
An Evangelist is:
a. A Preacher
b. A Missionary
c. A Gospeler
d. A Crusader
e. An Evangelist is a person that talks about something with great enthusiasm, by preaching of the Gospel with the intention of spreading the message and teachings of Jesus Christ.
What an honor to be named after such a great man that was once a Disciple by spreading the teachings of Jesus then becoming an Apostle by being a massager to the people and an Evangelist by preaching throughout the country…
St. Matthew’s Parish, with the definitions that I have just given, “YOU ARE” Disciples, Apostles and Evangelists:
a. For the African-American Community
b. The City of Savannah
c. And through your ministries and outreach programs.
In Luke 16 it says, "Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?" My brothers and sisters of St Matthew’s Parish, for 164 years this has been your ministry, imitating the one for whom you are named. You have been faithful to Savannah and for 164 years your true riches have been with you while being in communion with the African-American Community.
I know that this weekend has been full of celebration and honors, the parish has celebrated the lives of all of the church members who are 80 years of age or older by honoring them and calling them, “living legends.” I looked up the definition of “living legend” and it states on Google that a living legend is: “A person who is famous while still living, for doing something extremely well.” I say that while St Matthew’s Parish is not a person IT IS a “Living Legend”, it is living and doing extremely well in Savannah.
How many of you have heard of Mr. Andrae Crouch? He was a famous gospel artist who passed away in 2015. He had and still has a very popular song, which is one of my favorite all time Gospel hymns. Tt’s called: “Let the Church Say Amen.” The lyrics are:
So let the church say Amen
Let the church
Let 'em say Amen.
If you BELIEVE the word
Let the WHOLE church say AMEN.
God has spoken
So let the church say Amen
Lift your hands
Lift your hands
God has spoken
So let the church say Amen
Oh, thank you LORD
GOD has spoken
So let the church say Amen.
I say to you dear ones, “Let the church say Amen”:
Say Amen for St Matthew’s and for being a living legend for 164 years in the Diocese of Georgia. 164 years ago this living legend started with the founding of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in 1855, which they then merged with St Augustine’s church in September of 1943.
“Let the church say Amen” for the living legends, the parishioners of long ago who formed and named this beloved church that is now called St Matthew’s. Each one of us stands upon their shoulders. They are the reason why we are able to be in worship right here and now on this day, the 22nd of September, 2019.
“Let the Church say Amen”. On your Facebook page it says that St Matthew’s is a progressive Episcopal Parish that has served the African-American community in Savannah since 1855. Dear ones, as your Facebook page so beautifully stated…I know you must be very proud of being known as a progressive church, being rich with servanthood and having a fantastic history of being a part of the African American community here in Savannah.
“Let the Church say Amen” I believe that the founding fathers of St Stephen's would have preached the Gospel by spreading the teachings of our Lord and Savior as Disciples, Apostles, and Evangelists just as St Matthew did with his mentor Jesus. I would love to have been there in 1942 as the two churches came together forming a committee to be in discernment with each other and asking the parishioners to be in prayer with them. In September of 1943 with discernment and much prayer they choose the patronal feast name for the union of the two parishes that would become one body. St Matthew…a Saint that was one of God’s chosen.
“Let the Church say Amen” for the founding fathers were DISCIPLES and they spread the word as St. Matthew once did with Jesus. St Matthew’s Parish has become a community of Disciples, Apostles and Evangelists.
“Let the church say Amen”. Can you imagine in 164 years as a Parish all the parishioners past and present? All of the priests, deacons, bishops, and living legends that have come through the doors of this parish that we call our beloved St Matthew’s. My beloved brothers and sisters “YOU as parishioners” with love for God in your hearts, you have kept this “Living Legend” going by being Disciples, Apostles and Evangelists with your ministries and outreach programs.
Allow me to name a few of those outreach ministries.
a. The Martin Luther King, Jr., parade and worship service
b. Your ministries with the Community of St. Joseph which is one of the Diocese's newest ministries, reaching out to the homeless camps
c. You have hosted a clothing and toiletries drive for St. Joseph's homeless camps during Lent.
d. You have the St. Matthew’s Day Care and learning Center
e. You have the “Bread Ministry”
f. And if you were not busy enough with all of your ministries and outreach programs you have just this year added a new ministry called the "Savannah Area Interfaith Justice Ministry.” This ministry raises social issues to the Savannah local politicians and others in power to make changes for the common good. With this being the beginning of a new ministry, you have already been in partnership with about 30 other congregations in the Savannah area. This my brothers and sisters, this is the true meaning of being Disciples, Apostles and Evangelists.
And the list goes on and on. “Let the Church say Amen”!
So, St. Matthew’s, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this beautiful Sunday morning as we celebrate 164 years:
a. Let us continue to pray for many more years to come
b. Let us pray for the ministries and outreach programs
c. Let us pray for this parish to continue to be a “Living Legend”
d. Let us pray that St. Matthew’s will continue to be a Parish that will work with the Savannah Area Interfaith Justice Ministry.”
e. Let us pray that this Parish will continue to raise social issues by coming together with other congregations to talk to the Savannah local politicians and others in power, and to make changes for the common good.
f. Let us pray that St. Matthew’s will continue to be a “Living Legend” to the African-American community and the City of Savannah.
“Let the Church say Amen,” Beloved, as we celebrate this patronal feast weekend. Let us continue to be like St. Matthew. Let us continue to be Disciples who accept and help in spreading the teachings of Jesus; and let us continue to be Apostles by being a parish who will be a champion for critical reform movements and who will be an Ambassador for a belief or cause, for those with any need or trouble. Pray that St. Matthew’s Parish continue be an Apostle and a champion for the poor, the sick, the hungry, the oppressed, and those in prison. Amen.
3. And lastly to be Evangelists: by being a congregation that talks about the “Good News” with great enthusiasm, and by preaching of the Gospel with the intention of spreading the message and the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Dear one’s as Mr. Andrae Crouch once sang so beautifully:
“Let the church say Amen”
(Sing) God has spoken, so let the church say Amen!”
In the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirt