Proper 19C’22 [Rally Day}
11 September 2022
Luke 15.1-10
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone <+> 

Loving Shepherd who will not rest until all of your sheep have been found and brought safely into your fold: May we each be found by you, and then join with you in the joyful work of seeking and finding your sheep, one beautiful life at a time. Amen.

Do you remember a time or times in your life when you have gotten lost? I remember getting separated and lost from my mother in a large department store when I was 6 or 7. I can still remember the awful feelings of anxiety and fear, with the shot of adrenaline that caused my heart to beat faster and faster! Finally, after what was easily longest three to four minutes of my young life, she found her wandering and frightened child.

Many years later, my wife and I discovered that adults can also get lost. There was an important meeting at Holy Trinity Church in Hot Springs Village. As we drove up to the gate of the village, we were greeted by and older gentlemen who was the security guard and he asked us who we were going to see, we told him, and he asked if we knew how to get there, and we told him ‘No,’ but that we had our ‘trusty GPS to guide us.’ He quickly warned that a GPS could be very inaccurate in ‘The Village.’ We told him not to worry. As we drove passed the gate, I remember us looking at each other with one of those looks that can only be translated here in the south as “Bless his heart” he probably doesn’t understand the modern marvels of satellite technology. When we drove to the red dot where the church was supposed to be we were in a driveway of a private residence – no church! So, as we continued to meander the curvy and crooked streets of the village, still confident that we could find it. Minutes turned into an hour. We tried calling the church but there was no answer. We were experiencing the adult version of being lost, though not quite as primal as what I experienced as a child, it was none the less uncomfortable. When we finally did find the church, no thanks to our GPS, we discovered that the meeting had ended and people were leaving! When we are lost, our bodies give us clues that something isn’t right with the present situation of separation. Once we are either found by someone, or we, through trial and error find our destination, our adrenaline level decreases, our heart rate returns to a normal rhythm and we have a sense of relief.

About this time each year, and for at least a couple of hundred years, churches that are part of a mainline denomination, have something called “Rally Day.” It may not be a High Holy day like Christmas or Easter but is nonetheless important. We get a clue to its importance by looking at the etymology and definition of the word “Rally” – it comes from the 17th cen. French word, “Rallier” and it means, “to bring together into order again, by urgent effort, to reassemble to unite again.”[1]

After the separation of summer filled with traveling and vacations, we are summoned to return to church at the beginning of the school year and the church’s fall program. Rally Day reminds us that we are each important to God and wanted and needed by the Church. It will be our joy later in the service to welcome a new member, Sandy Coffey, a retired Latin teacher from California! Sandy symbolizes the One sheep that Jesus describes in his gospel parable, desired, needed, and sought.

I’ll never forget my first clergy conference after becoming a newly ordained priest. I was approached by an older priest nearing retirement, an Englishman by the name of Norman Amps. He reached out his hands and held my face in his hands, looked me in the eye and with a gleeful smile he said, “Ahh, a baby priest!” He then gave me a piece of sage advice, “Carey there will be many things you will be called on to do, and many people to serve as a priest but don’t forget the one thing, Jesus was always ministering to individuals.” Basically, he was telling me not to become so focused on the 99 sheep of the larger church that I forget the individual who needs reminding of how important to God they are.

We all can get lost from time to time, particularly after a two- and half-year period of pandemic; and become distracted and separated from what matters most – God’s kingdom of souls as well as our own souls! Rally Day is your personal summons to return from wandering to be reminded that you are desired, needed, and loved more than you can ever know.

The word “summons” comes from a 13th cen. French word and means, “to call, to send for, to ask the presence of.”[2] A summons is a call for us to ‘show up!’ and that is what Jesus, the Good Shepherd is doing, calling each of us to show up, to show up for God, for our families, for ourselves, for our communities, our schools, and our churches. Today, on this Rally Day how is the love of God summoning you to show up? As the poet Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”