Moving from Point A to Point B
During his time at St. Paul’s, Fr. Al has taught us that in order to succeed, we must be willing to change and growth, moving from Point A to Point B and back again to start the cycle anew in response to God's call. This is good, transformative, and sometimes challenging and exhausting work; but God is with us, and we support and help each other along the way, too. This Sunday, after much hard work, change and growth, we come to the final leg of our journey to "Point B" at St. Paul’s and will say goodbye to Fr. Al. At both the 8:00 and 10:00 services, we’ll have a presentation of gifts from the Vestry and congregation; and we’ll host a special coffee hour after the 8:00 service and a pot-luck luncheon after the 10:00 service. Please bring something to share for whichever celebration you attend. (If you missed the Annual Meeting potluck, here’s your second chance. We have some amazing good cooks in this parish!) Come ready with share fun stories about Fr. Al. Plan to attend this important event in the life of our parish this Sunday, January 28. We’ve worked hard together getting from Point A to Point B, and especially Fr. Al!
A New Beginning: Point A
After more than a year of planning, prayer and discernment, St. Paul’s Vestry has called the Rev. Rebecca Ragland to be our next Rector. We are very excited to welcome Rebecca and her family to the parish! Rebecca and her husband, Scott, live in Webster Groves with their sons Wesley, Owen, and Jose. Pastor Rebecca’s first Sunday with us will be February 4; she’ll preach and celebrate the Eucharist at both the 8:00 and 10:00 services; and she’ll be available to meet the congregation in the parish hall at coffee hour afterwards. Please mark your calendar and plan to come welcome our new Rector. It’s an exciting time of new beginnings at St. Paul’s!
When I was the Vicar of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Springfield, Missouri, one Sunday morning I overheard a parishioner comment to his small group of coffee drinkers, “I don’t care what the bishop said, this is our church!” That man was correct but more incorrect in his statement. We must always remember that the Church does not belong to us; rather, it belongs to Jesus Christ. He is the one who died for it, rose for it, and through the power of the Holy Spirit birthed it. It belongs to Jesus Christ and he will return for it someday. In every era from the beginning of St. Paul’s Church to the end of time, my prayer is that its members will be able to hear Christ say, “Well done, good and faithful servants.
God has a purpose for each of us, a Divine plan that unfolds throughout our lifetime. Part of God’s plan for you is that you worship in and work for the sake of the kingdom of Jesus Christ through this particular community of faith. It is God’s purpose that you are part of St. Paul’s Church. But God does not intend for you to be content only to worship here, only to live your community life together in fellowship, for God’s plan extends beyond your personal spiritual needs and comfort of fellowship.
Your personal spiritual needs and comforts are important parts of your faith journey; for to live in God’s abundant grace is wonderful. It is wholesome and refreshing to be fed at the Table of the Lord, both through Holy Scripture and by the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus, to be part of a loving and caring community, and to know with assurance that God loves you and eagerly seeks you.
However, your lives as followers of Jesus cannot stop there. In Eucharistic Prayer C we pray; “Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only and not for renewal. Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the world in his name.”1 To this prayer the people gathered respond: “Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the Bread.”2 We eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ for reasons greater than our own, for such becomes our strength to do the work of the church in service to the world. In word and sacrament we are renewed personally and reconfirmed in the Baptismal Covenant to make Christ known to the world.
In the Gospel from last Sunday, Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”3 It is really a “both and” situation for us with God. Part of our life in the Church is to bask in the glow and presence of the grace of God. We are fed nourishing spiritual food and drink, have our sins forgiven, and are refreshed and renewed. The Prophet Isaiah wrote, “Those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”4 It is in our worship that the purpose of our waiting as individuals and the community is fulfilled.
From the beginning of my time with you – we have talked about waiting, waiting together, and waiting knowing that your expectation as parishioners of St. Paul’s Church was already planted as a seed in you through baptism. We wait for God’s will and purpose to be revealed to us, yet we wait knowing that the promise is already in us through Jesus Christ. But waiting is not all that we do, for we wait in action. We do not wait idly but actively working in and through the kingdom.
You see, we simply cannot stand back and wait! The spiritual waiting of the Christian is not idleness, but rather, action, attempting to discern the will of God and then having the courage and faith to act upon it. When we do this, we do it well; but we also have a tendency to step back and say, “Let’s see what happens with this.” One of the loudest laments in any organization is the cry that all its members want the benefits yet are willing to allow only a few to make these things happen. All need to pull together to make the work of the kingdom through be heard in this community and surrounding area. St. Paul wrote, “Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.5” That small church in Corinth was divided into clicks. Each group believed itself fiercely loyal to the church and the other groups not loyal. As my work among you comes to its end, I am confident that St. Paul’s Church is blessed in the fact that it is not at all like the church in Corinth. Your loyalty to St. Paul’s Church is shared as individuals and groups work together for the sake of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
I invite you to reminisce about the early days of this church and remember your spiritual forbearers. There we see evident a pioneer spirit trusting in God and stepping out in faith. The heritage that has been left us is not one of weakness and lack of decision, but rather, one of courage and willingness to face hardship and an unseen future. It is that enthusiasm, courage and trust in God’s guidance that built this church and has enabled it to thrive as a center of God’s love and grace these many years. With your continued trust and faith in God’s guidance and God’s grace and love, you too will be able to go forward to build and grow the kingdom.
Father Alfred Jewson
1. Book of Common Prayer, pg. 371.
3. Mark1:17, New Revised Standard Version.
4. Isaiah 40:31, NRSV.
5. 1 Corinthians 1:10, NRSV.
The International Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began on January 18, with the feast of The Confession of St. Peter and ends on January 25, the feast of The Conversion of St. Paul! For more than 100 years, Christians around the world have taken part in an octave of prayer for visible Christian unity. By annually observing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (WPCU), Christians move toward the fulfillment of Jesus' prayer at the Last Supper "that they all may be one."The theme for the 2018 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, "Your Right Hand, O Lord, Glorious in Power," is taken from the book of Exodus 15:6.
Throughout the Biblical narrative of salvation, an unmistakable motif is the unrelenting determination of the Lord to form a people whom He could call His own. The formation of such a people, united in a sacred covenant with God, is integral to the Lord's plan of salvation and to the glorification of His name. The prophets repeatedly remind Israel that their covenant demanded that relationships among its various social groups should be characterized by justice, compassion and mercy. Reconciliation often demands repentance, reparation and healing of memories.
As Jesus prepared to seal the new covenant in His own blood, His earnest prayer to the Father was that those given to Him by the Father would be one, just as He and the Father were one. When Christians discover their unity in Jesus, they participate in Christ's glorification in the presence of the Father, with the same glory that He had lived in the Father's presence before the world existed. Therefore, God's covenanted people must always strive to be a reconciled community that serves as an effective sign of how to live in justice and peace for all the people of the earth.
Today, the Bible continues to be a source of consolation and liberation, inspiring Christians to address the conditions that currently undermine the Body of Christ. The Church, like Israel, is called to be a sign and an active agent of reconciliation.
I wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phones?
What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?
What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?
What if we flipped through it several times a day?
What if we used it to receive messages from the text?
What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it?
What if we used it as we traveled?
What if we used it in case of an emergency?
What if we upgraded it to get the latest version?
This is something to make you go … hmmm… where is my Bible?
Oh, and one more thing. Unlike our cell phone, we don’t ever have to worry about our Bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill.
The Annual Address of the Interim Rector will take the place of the Adult Sermon and there will be a Youth and Children’s Sermon. Following worship we will enjoy a potluck meal, hear about the state of St. Paul’s Church, its finances from 2017 and its budget for 2018; and elect vestry members and delegates. There will be time allotted for discussion and questions about the future of our church.
Another very important part of our Annual Meeting will be an opportunity for all of us, both younger and older, to invest part of our time and talent for the good of St. Paul’s Church. You will be given the opportunity to sign up for various programs and ministries. Some of these ministries already have individuals or couples who are assisting with them; however the Holy Spirit wants us all to share our interests and talents.
Here are some examples: teaching – children, adults, internet skills, artistic and other creative skills, assisting with office work and finances, helping to prepare and fold bulletins and other items, working with the weekly internet newsletter, even writing articles, taking Holy Communion to the sick and shut-in, being an acolyte or a lector, singing in the choir, working with the altar guild, gardening, painting, small repair jobs, helping to organize events, helping organize pot lucks, coffee time. How about learning to play a musical instrument? What if we invited local artists to gather and share talents? The list is not limited to the above. Use your imagination, let the Spirit guide you.
St. Paul’s does not exist only for worship on Sundays. We do not exist only for our occasional gatherings. Our church sits empty most of the week. We have space, we can reasonably purchase needed supplies. Just what is God calling you to do? Remember think outside the box – that’s the way the Holy Spirit always thinks and guides us!
Fr. Al Jewson
Rector's Corner posts written by Pastor Rebecca.