Near Emminence, Missouri there is a place called Blue Spring. 90 million gallons of clear water gush from the depths of that spring every day. The water is so mineral rich and yet so clear that the surface appears to be a royal blue. For those who visit, it's this surface that is most often admired.
Church is like that too. Drive by any Christian community and what you mostly observe is the flat facade. Sometimes the building is beautiful, - certainly ours is. But the outside doesn't often reveal much about what's going on inside.
There is a season when Blue Spring becomes easy to see into -- even down into the depths. In high summer, when the sun angles just right, light plunges down into the underwater cave. The textures of the cave wall, the fish and water plants, even the currents are visible.
As we enter this season of newness – me as your Rector, you as my new congregation; we are in that time of light. We are looking at ourselves in new ways. A light is shining down into the depths and enabling us to see how we will be church together. For me, it will be time of getting to know St Paul’s from more than superficial level. For you, it will be a time of getting to know me to the degree you’d like. May the Holy Spirit be our guide as we deepen and strengthen in our common ministry. And may we be a source of fresh living water for Carondelet and beyond.
Let's dive in to the depths!
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 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
Saturday, January 6th is the Feast of the Epiphany. At St. Paul’s Church we will celebrate the Epiphany on Sunday, January 7. In the Western Church this feast is celebrated as the manifestation of Jesus to the world represented by the three foreign sages who followed a star to find him. The Greek origin of the word is literally translated “manifestation” and people have used the word “epiphany” to describe a situation or thought that made something else quite clear or an event that helped that person make a life changing decision. Each of us has experienced some sort of “epiphany” at particular stages of our lives; and for the most part epiphanies result in good outcomes that benefit an individual and others. As you reflect on the “epiphanies” in your own life do your recall the “aha” moment when it all became clear to you.
Unfortunately, we often forget those epiphanies and get bogged down in the drudgery of everyday life. As Christians sometimes we allow our expectations for what we think is best for our church and its ministry cover up possible manifestations that await us when we open our hearts and minds to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Oscar Romero was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador in Central America. He was an outspoken critic of the dictatorship of El Salvador for preying of the lives of the poor and helpless. For this he was assassinated in May of 1980 during the celebration of Mass. He experienced many insights (epiphanies) concerning efforts to protect and aid the poor and homeless; however, he is most remembered for an epiphany he experienced about the kingdom and the part the Church plays in its development.
With our minds and hearts aimed at the future of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, I want to share his epiphany with you.
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us. We may never see the end results (of our labor), but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.
Archbishop Oscar Romero
As we journey forward at St. Paul’s Church, pray that the Holy Spirit helps each of us to remember that we are but workers and it is God who has the master plan.
Fr. Al Jewson
Most of us are familiar with the bragging song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”; however, there is a much deeper religious significance to marking the twelve days starting with Christmas Day, St. Stephen’s Day on December 26, St. John the Evangelist on December 27, Holy Innocents of Bethlehem on December 28, the Holy Name of Jesus on January 1, and culminating on January 6, the Epiphany, Adoration of the Magi.
Our commercially driven society has already forgotten the celebration of the birth of our Savior and has begun thrusting new celebrations with new things to buy onto our paths. After all, society began urging us to celebrate Christmas with purchases way back around Thanksgiving. Advent wasn’t even noted because it would have gotten in the way of Christmas buying. So naturally, it’s time to forge ahead, forget about the birth of the Savior – that’s done and finished. You know, it isn’t the Church that has gotten it wrong. Take time during the remainder of these twelve days of Christmas and ponder the wonderful mystery hidden for so long but now made known. Truly celebrate the Twelve Days!
Fr. Al Jewson
Rector's Corner posts written by Pastor Rebecca.