3 West 65th St | New York, NY 10023 | 212.877.6815

Who You Gonna Call?

The Rev. Wilbert S. Miller
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity-Manhattan
July 3, 2016 (Seventh Sunday after Pentecost-Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20)
“Who You Gonna Call?”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

I am aware that I should exercise extreme caution when interpreting the words of Jesus, especially on my first Sunday with you.  You are on high alert as you well should be. You know that Jesus doesn’t lie and you want to make certain your new pastor believes the exact same thing!  With that said, there are occasions when I wonder whether Jesus is a bit fast and loose with his conversational style.

Take for instance, “I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Goodness gracious, Dagmar and I just drove 3,800 miles from sea to shining sea, even in 120-degree heat in the Mojave Desert.  Jesus, are you serious, “I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves”?

And then this pesky tidbit—and I am not making it up: “Whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off against you.’”  We are all praying mightily that our life together goes better than that.

I have studied Holy Trinity’s history, I am aware of your famous Bach Vespers, and I have gawked at your stunning stained glass windows and glittering mosaics.  I was most dazzled, however, to discover only days after you called me on April 24 that you have your own signature call hymn. It is not a fancy shmancy Latin hymn like Veni Creator Spiritus.  I have asked our cantor, Donald Meineke, to humor us and to play a few measures of this world renowned hymn…

(Cantor Donald Meineke plays the theme from “Ghostbusters.”)

And the words in case you do not travel in lofty cultural circles:

If there’s something strange in your neighborhood,
Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!
If there’s something weird and it don’t look good,
Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!

You apparently decided not to call those misfit Ghostbusters of cinematography fame as your next pastors, the ones who frolicked with the charming gargoyles on Holy Trinity’s rooftop above us.

Nonetheless, Jesus tells you when something strange is going on in your neighborhood, you should call somebody to proclaim, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”  You have done just that; you have called me.  It is important to point out, though, that we will need to proclaim, “the kingdom of God has come near,” together.

Beginning to do ministry together in Christ’s name can be nerve-wracking. We want to get this right and so our knees are knocking.  Poor Donald, has anyone ever asked you to play the theme from “Ghostbusters” on the pipe organ?  And, you dear Holy Trinity members, you have heard through the grapevine that Dagmar and I have been Californians for the past eleven years—and you know what Californians are like.  To make your knees really rattle, you have caught wind that I grew up in West Virginia. You may be aware that Mountaineers take today’s gospel reading literally when Jesus gives us authority to tread on deadly serpents.  You may be worrying whether my highest liturgical instincts lean toward professing that “church ain’t over until the snakes are back in the bag.”

Dagmar and I are nervous as well.  In preparation for our move, we took Jesus seriously and got rid of purses, bags and sandals—or so we thought. We unloaded priceless high school yearbooks, a vintage 2000 Toyota Camry and even sold Dagmar’s magical garden. Many of you have soothingly reminded us that our beautifully renovated 1000 square foot apartment is akin to living in Downton Abbey luxury and yet we do remain a wee bit jittery as do those who helped us unpack boxes yesterday and are befuddled
as to where we plan to fit all our stuff.  By the way, in utter candor, our Boykin Spaniel, Cisco, is positively infatuated with the exotic smells of his new front yard, Central Park; he thinks his new home is better than Downton Abbey.

So, who you gonna call?  Jesus doesn’t just send out one or even two to proclaim the joyful news that the kingdom of God has come near.  Jesus sends out seventy—about the number here this morning.   For our wonderful congregation to be vibrant, we must each do our part.  On Tuesday evening, I saw this in action. Dagmar and I had dinner with Patty McGreevy at “Blondies” on West 79th —great spicy wings by the way.  Patty introduced us to the maître d’ and to one of the bar patrons—a St. Olaf College grad! That, dear friends, is evangelism—taking Jesus to the local pub, to our condo, and to our job, telling any and all in our own unique way that the kingdom of God has come near at a place called the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity at 65th and Central Park West.

So, as your signature call hymn would ask, “If there’s something weird and it don’t look good, who you gonna call?”  If you are sick or someone you love is dying, please call me immediately, night or day, and I will come! I must warn you, though, I will not come with impressive stuff like a stethoscope and white starched coat with my name embossed in red. When you call me, never forget what Jesus tells us this morning: “Bring no purse, no bag, no sandals.”  I will come only with a miniscule Bible given to me by our oldest son, Sebastian, on his first Christmas, and a tiny box given to me by my parents on my ordination day which contains a little wine and a few measly wafers.  I pray that in this small stuff, you will be enthralled to hear and to taste the kingdom of God lurking near you, just as the kingdom of God is lurking here this morning.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.