St. George’s Episcopal Church
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Rev. Jeff Grant, J.D., M.Div. – Guest Preacher
Sermon: “The Crush of Our Time”
“It was a privilege and a joy to make arrangements to have Jeff Grant come and visit as our special guest preacher and speaker as the capstone to our church’s Opioids and Addiction month of learning and reflection . His journey and his experience speak as powerfully as his words and his presence. It was fantastic that he could come to the church and make the case for his Family ReEntry vocation and volunteerism (inner city), as well as his Progressive Prison Ministries nonprofit (white-collar). Both his ministries are crucial, even as they serve dramatically different groups of people living in dramatically different contexts. In the era of #MeToo, I’m still remembering his words: ‘we have to teach men how to behave better’. His sermon also gave hope to so many in our congregation who are struggling with mental health or addiction issues, whether personally, in their families or among their friends and colleagues. His life makes the case for criminal justice reform. Personally, it was also a joy to have an excuse to get together with my Union Theological Seminary Classmate in person! I remain grateful for Jeff’s journey, commitment, and ministry.” – Rev. John Shellito, Associate Rector, St. George’s Episcopal Church, Arlington, Virginia
Good morning. My name is Jeff Grant.
I am proud and honored to be here this morning as the Capstone presenter to St. George’s month of Addiction and Opioid learning and reflection. A word of warning: if you came here this morning to hear a sermon you might be sorely disappointed. Disappointed because I don’t do sermons. Instead, I give witness. I give witness and testimony to how I overcame great life obstacles to find a new life of faith, purpose and happiness. And to share with you some thoughts about how you, and everyone, can do so too.
Let me tell you a few things about myself that you might not be able to figure out by looking at me.
- I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict. I’m very proud to tell you that this past August, with God’s grace, I celebrated sixteen years of continuous sobriety. Getting and staying sober has probably been the greatest achievement of my life.
- I suffer from bipolar disorder, a mental illness that has plagued me for my entire life.
- And, I’ve made some very poor choices in my life for which I spent over a year in a Federal prison for a white-collar-crime I committed when I was a lawyer, and led to the destruction of my marriage and estrangement from my two beautiful daughters, whom I greatly disappointed.
Today I’m going to share with you my redemption story, the story of how I turned to faith and God, and overcame many of these great obstacles.
- It’s a story of recovery, and acceptance, and surrender, and turning myself over to God and God’s will in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.
- It’s a story of how after prison I applied to and earned a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary, with a focus in Christian Social Ethics. Today I am an Ordained Minister who has worked at churches in the inner city, and in ministry to some of the most famous and not-so-famous, sick and suffering people in the world.
- And more importantly, of how I again found love in my life. I am blessed to be remarried, to a wonderful woman who is my best friend and partner-in- ministry.
- And of how today, I have a restored relationship with not only both of my daughters, but also my sister, step-daughter, and my three beautiful grandchildren.
I want to take just a moment or two to thank a few people:
- First, thanks to your great Senior Rector Rev. Shearon Sykes Thank you so much Rev. Williams for your very kind invitation to be here this morning.
- Thanks to your Community of Hope committee, that has sponsored this very important Addiction and Opioid series.
- And thanks to my Host and Union Seminary classmate John Shelitto, and his dear wife Haley and adorable son Amos. What I remember most about my friendship with John was how, soon after my father’s death, he accompanied me to see the plaque that had been affixed to my father’s favorite park bench in his honor, in Riverside Park in NYC. Thank you again John for your friendship, compassion and kindness.
And I also want to acknowledge two guests who came to support me this morning, Fellow Travelers and friends who live right here in the Arlington area, whose riches to rags to redemption stories in many ways parallel my own. Doug & Joshua. I hope you all get to meet and talk to these great men at the coffee hour following this service. :
Please join me in prayer. May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all hearts, be acceptable to you, our Lord. Our rock and our redeemer. We gather this morning to speak words of encouragement to you. We gather this morning to speak words of inspiration to you. We gather this morning to bring each of us, humbly and softly into the Presence of All Mighty God. We ask you to invite the Grace of God to infuse this space. Amen.
This great church, this citadel of the faith, invited me to be here and speak today to bring awareness to the: “The Great Crush of Our Time”: The Great Crush of Our Time is addiction. Or addictions in general. This month, we have focused on the opioid crisis, a massive addiction that has this nation in its vice grip. It is an addiction I know only too well.
It is simply not possible for us to gather in such numbers and not realize that sitting in these pews among us are men and women, young and old, whose lives — at this very minute — are being neutralized, and neutered, and exhausted by the power of these addictions.
Right now: there is a “Code of Silence” that grabs these sufferers and their family members and stifles their Voice.
Right now: there is a “Code of Silence” that keeps the sufferers locked inside of melancholies and human indignities that almost never find or see the light of day.
It is the mission our ministry to: “Crack this Code.”
In order to do do this, we search for: “Code Breakers!” Code Breakers. Men and women who will tolerate the silence of substance abuse no longer.
We invite you to join us! We ask and implore you to put on your best self. We welcome you to the expanding world of: “Code Breakers.” We aim and fully intend to Ambush Addiction in our lifetime. We are: “Code Breakers!” We are the movement that brings light and life to this generation.
I’d like to you all to take a moment with me and look around this sanctuary. See members of this congregation.
- See residents of this community.
- See citizens of this nation.
- Smell the swill of last night’s gin and vodka spilled on the living room floor.
- Hear the screams of husbands and wives and teenagers fighting
- Hear the sound of glass shattering against the kitchen wall.
- Catch a glimpse of children running to their rooms in fear.
- Hear the sound of doors slamming shut for personal safety.
- Hear the sirens of police cars, and ambulances. And coroners vans.
- Listen to the parents, and grandmas, and grandpas and children crying as they head to hospitals, and rehabs, and jails, and prisons to reclaim their family members again, and again, and again…
These scenes, my friends, have not been embellished in any way. They are happening in every community, in every town, in every city in our country. They are happening right here in Arlington, Virginia.
This church. This pastor. This leadership team aims to end these human miseries. This church. This pastor. This leadership team has invited me to come and speak directly to you for the express purpose of casting hope into your lives.
So today, when your are asked rise and Share the Peace, I’d like you not only to Share the Peace – but I’d like you to also Share the Truth. Share the Truth – and break this Code of Silence. To be Code Breakers and Share the Truth – reach out and offer peace and comfort to those who need it most. To Be Code Breakers – and ask for peace and comfort if you need them. We are friends. We are friends.
The Rich Young Ruler: Mark 10: 17 thru 31:
In our gospel reading from Mark this morning, we learn about a man who came to Jesus by night. We know some things about this man. We know:
- That his life was filled with opulence.
- That his life was filled with wealth.
- That his life and lifestyle caused him to question where God would find him… and where and how he might find God.
The Rich Young Ruler came to Jesus in a fit of desperation. The Rich Young Ruler fell on his knees before Christ. The Rich Young Ruler asked Jesus Christ:
“Great teacher. What must I do to inherit the eternal life?”
The Rich Young Ruler found himself caught in the Crush of His Time… how to find God’s way and eternal life in the midst of his own selfish ambitions. Ambitions that led him astray. Like The Rich Young Ruler…I too fell to: “The Crush of Our Time…”
My story is well documented. My story is well chronicled. And my story is, unfortunately, so very common.
When you entered the sanctuary today, you were given a collection of materials. In the batch you will find an article about me that was recently published in: “Greenwich Magazine.”
The story—my story—is a universal story of: “The Crush of Our Time.” [Jeff gives an overview].
See if in my story you locate yourself, a close family member, someone that you work with…or simply anyone who right this week finds themselves crushed, washed up and discarded like some useless piece of debris by the side of any street in this nation.
Today, I stand before you and help you celebrate recovery!
For those of you who suffer right now with: “The Crush of Our Time.” For those of you who have immediate and ongoing interaction with the brutalities of addiction, and especially drug addiction,
We speak Hope + Courage + Peace into your lives. We—you and I—are the Code Breakers of our day! We—you and I—speak to “The Crush of Our Time” and we say, the spirit of the living God is mightier than you shall ever be. We—you and I—smash and happily seek to destroy: “The Crush of Our Time.”
If you seek help, or if you have a loved one, colleague or friend who has exhausted all forms of optimism and care because of their addictions, please send them to our Team. We will help them. My contact information is in the materials you were given today. Or simply send them to our website at: www.prisonist.org .
And, please take a moment to meet with me either before or directly after the services today. I will be speaking at the coffee hour between the services today, where I will be available to answer your questions and give you some guidance. Or call me, anytime. I look forward to engaging with you and partnering with each of you.
Together, we will be Code Breakers. Together, we will Crush and Eliminate: “The Crush of Our Time.”
Grace and peace to each of you. May God add his blessings to our words, thoughts and empower our actions.
Rev. Jeff Grant, J.D., M.Div. is an ordained minister with over three decades of experience in crisis management, business, law, reentry, recovery (clean & sober 15+ years), and executive & religious leadership. He provides confidential pastoral and spiritual care and support to individuals, families and organizations in the areas of personal crisis management, criminal justice/prisoner reentry, opioid and substance abuse, bipolar disorder/mental illness, and interfaith religion. He regularly uses his experience and background to guide people faithfully forward in their lives, relationships, careers and business opportunities, and to help them from making the kinds of decisions that previously resulted in loss and suffering.
As an ordained minister, conversations and communications between Jeff and those he serves fall under clergy privilege laws. This is one reason that attorneys often allow and encourage their clients to maintain relationships with Jeff while in active prosecution or litigation situations.
Jeff can be reached at (203) 405-6249, firstname.lastname@example.org. More Info: prisonist.org.