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.
Rector's Corner posts written by Pastor Rebecca.