Perhaps, like me, you have never gone to a church website and seen a picture like the one shown on ours. Things change. Change wakes us up. It shakes us out of our complacency.
The changes of this past year have shown us how profoundly fragile societal institutions and norms can be. While I hope seeing Bernie and his mittons on our website amuses you, it's also a light version of the heavy changes we have experienced in 2020. The hardships of our world must not be ignored by people of faith. The changes we are witnessing must be evaluated and attended to with faith.
Jesus was walking the earth during a similarly awful time. Jewish practice and tradition was being shaken and challenged by new sects, and by an oppressive regime that cared nothing for the sanctity of life , let alone faith. Jesus faced this reality squarely. He named the evil, challenged the complicity, and modeled what it meant to be a part of the eternal community of God.
In the weeks ahead, my sermons will explore what it looks like to live and speak like Jesus did: truthfully & courageously. We'll think about how to be a courageous community. What would it mean for us to face the realities of the climate crisis, systemic racism, white/class priviledge, and consumer capitalism? How do we need to change?
I'm not just talking about learning more about these problems, I'm inviting us to do something as the church to address them. These are heavy, hard issues. Jesus invites us to walk the way of the cross; to be willing to broken and broken open for the life of the world. Change begins with us. Wrapped in grace, and standing together, we are church in this momentous time in history.
Hopefully, you already know that St. Paul's is officially partnering with St. John's, Tower Grove to share resources and expand our ministries. That's church talk for:
Obviously, we are not going get to do many of these things until COVID is under control. But in the meantime, here are immediate changes you can anticipate beginning February 1:
Please keep this transition in your prayers. I assure you that my commitment to you, your needs, and concerns remains the same. I could not be more happy and honored to be your priest. I am also delighted to widen my ministry and ours together by partnering with and serving at St. John's. -- Pastor Rebecca
Have you ever thought about the word "revelation"? How about the word "apocalypse"? In Christian circles, these words have become almost entirely boxed in with particular books of the Bible. Revelation, of course, is a book. It's about a vision that John of Patmos had and wrote down. It's about the end of time. And that end of time is called the apocalypse. BUT both words have so much more to offer. They remind us that reality might be different than how we have understood it. The Greek word that became apocalypse, means uncovering.
We are currently in an apocalypse. An uncovering. One of the revelations is this: The health of our planet and the health of humanity are completely interwoven. The pandemic is a result of environmental degradation. The effect of the pandemic is the death of millions. A majority of those millions have been locked out of proper health care, nutrition and stability. We are now seeing that the people who are paid least and assumed-upon the most are among the most necessary workers in our web of well-being. Farm workers, nursing home workers, grocery store clerks, pre-school teachers, and so many more create the foundation for American prosperity. Yet they are paid so little.
As the Editors of Scientific American wrote this month:
"It is not only the exploitation of nature that undergirds modern civilization but the exploitation of humans. Systemic inequality, injustice and racism resulting from centuries of colonials and slavery provide the scaffolding of the global economy."
I invite you to consider how we at St. Paul's might respond to such a revelation. Your vestry met last night (11/11) and voted to install solar panels on our flat roof. To my knowledge, we are the first church in the Diocese to do so. Solar panels will save us money as they offset our electrical costs. They will also make a small contribution to the huge crisis of climate change.
What else might we do? Could we pool our money into a micro-loan fund to help those in need with small home repairs? Could we join as a parish in advocating a living wage? What do you sense God calling us to do in response to this time? Let's have a conversation and consider our options. The one thing we cannot do is ignore the signs of the times.
In Christ's Love,
The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri
November 1, 2020
The Feast of All Saints
“Jesus said, ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’” –John 13:34-35
Dear siblings in the Risen Christ,
As the Church throughout the world celebrates the Feast of All Saints, we are reminded of the holy women and holy men who have gone before us in faith. They have followed, as best they could, in the footsteps of our Savior Jesus Christ and sought to love God, love their neighbors, and love themselves. We are now called for such a time as this to build on the legacy of those who have gone before.
While none of us could have imagined the times in which we find ourselves, we look to the examples of the lives of the saints that have reflected the love of God that continues to work in, through, and among us. The saints have taught us that even in the face of tremendous hardship the love of God behind us is far greater than the challenges ahead of us.
***** We continue to see a dramatic increase in cases of COVID-19 in the State of Missouri and across the world and the economic, financial, and mental uncertainty that it has caused. We continue to live in a time of reckoning with systematic racism in our nation. We continue to see fear and division wielded as a weapon by political parties and politicians as we approach Election Day. We are tired. We are weary. We are worn.
Like you, I long to gather with the people of God to join in the symphony of worship as we sing our faith. Like you, I long for a time when we are all judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin. Like you, I long for a time when civility and decency are a part of our political discourse and fear and division give way to “ from many, one.”
While we cannot predict what will come of this time of upheaval in our lives, in our communities of faith, or in the world, we know that the steadfast love of God never ceases. God has been, God is, and God will be our refuge and strength. We know that this pandemic will end and we will gather in worship and songs of praise. We know that the work of racial reconciliation and healing will one day be achieved. We know the season of political division will come to a close.
It is important to us as followers of Jesus Christ to remember and hold fast to the understanding that even in the midst of fear we are called to be a people of love. St. Paul in his writings reminds, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or
resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”1 We know that love is the way and that perfect love will cast out fear. The question is, are we willing to allow ourselves to be people rooted and grounded in a love that is far greater than our fear?
No matter when this pandemic ceases, no matter at what time we are reconciled one to another, no matter the outcome of the election, the work of Christ’s Church continues. Like the saints who have gone before us, we must be about the work of bringing good news to the poor, setting the captives free, healing the sick, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, loving our neighbors, and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. Now more than ever, as people of faith, we are called to be bearers of hope and ambassadors of God’s wild and radical love.
As we face these challenges together, bearing one another’s burdens, I encourage you to join with your siblings in Christ across the Diocese of Missouri and across the Church in being about the work of building the Beloved Community in this time and place. Over the next few day, weeks, and months I invite you to join me in doing three things: pray, act, and care. Pray that we may together endure this time of pandemic and safely gather in worship. Act for the cause of justice and racial harmony. Care especially for those with whom we disagree.
We may be tired, weary, and worn, yet like the saints who have gone before, we walk together in love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us. May we in the midst of all that surrounds us, keep our eyes and hearts firmly fixed on Jesus the Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
Let us pray.
Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated unto you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. -Book of Common Prayer 1979 Page 832
May God bless and keep you and those whom you love, and together may we live and know, as St. Julian of Norwich reminds us, “all shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.”
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Deon K. Johnson
XI Bishop of Missouri
1 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New Revised Standard Version
In Donald Miller’s Business Made Simple Daily, he provided three indicators that a person is not a leader. He said, people are often put into leadership positions when really, by temperament, they are not leaders. When a leadership role is not a good fit, this is what happens:
When we don’t take the risks involved in our faith, similar indicators are present.
It is important for us each to reflect on these things. We are all different and how we “do faith” is different. But my role as your pastor is to make sure you are growing. Like the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Church in Ephesus (3:16-17), "I pray that from God's glorious, unlimited resources the Spirit will empower you with inner strength. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. (NLT)
Together, we are the body of Jesus in our community, time, and place. Please reach out me if you would like to reflect on your faith walk. Your growth in faith brings God great joy!
Rector's Corner posts written by Pastor Rebecca.