My best friend, Steven, collects transformers. I suppose he’s a big kid, really; and while I lack his enthusiasm for these toys, there is something fascinating about their ability to change their substance. I once sat in the nave of Saint Mark’s with a nine-year-old boy named Silas. Silas, too, loved transformers. I asked him to tell me — in his wildest imagination — what he saw when he looked up at the roof of the nave of Saint Mark’s. His answer: “A ship at sea!” Yes, yes, Silas, a ship! Today it is a ship at sea!
Saint Mark’s is not just a product of gothic revivalism. It was born out of the Oxford movement and built during the industrial revolution. Sometimes, in my imagination, the nave is, as Silas said, like a ship at sea whose destination lie east toward God’s kingdom. But other times, I imagine that the nave is more like an industrial steam engine, nose to the wind, pushing through a world of hunger, fear, injustice, and oppression.
We are graceful, and built for worship, yes; but, make no mistake, we are also gritty and made for God’s work. We are both things! A little bit Mary and a little bit Martha. Give us a hymn to sing and we can challenge the angels with our voices; but when prayer has ended, give us work to do. Give us a coffer to fill. Give us a project in Christ’s name. This is when our lives are best — when we are worshipping and working together toward the fulfillment of God’s kingdom. There is so much that we can accomplish here when the prayer is finished and the work begins. The evidence this year alone is staggering!
So I challenge you, brothers and sisters, pray on your pledge. Imagine what we can accomplish! Here’s how I do it. I close my eyes and envision myself at the west doors of Saint Marks looking east at a candle that never goes out, on a journey toward Paradise, full steam ahead and for the good of all mankind. What is my part? How much is my share in this enterprise? There is a screeching sound even when the pipes are silent. That is no steam whistle; that is the sandstone singing to me, one hundred and seventy years of prayer ricocheting off the stone and through my heart. The saints are so noisy! “Stay as long as you need,” they say, “then carry on!”