What is church Membership?
Dear fellow members of Christ’s one body,
This coming weekend (December 1-2) marks the beginning of our observation of the season of Advent. Advent is the anticipation of God coming into our world and dwelling, abiding, being present among us ... being with us and for us. To observe Advent is to both remember and to hope for Jesus’ coming for us, to reconcile our lives, this world and the whole creation to God’s will and good purposes, according to God’s ancient promises.
As God’s baptized people, we are a community that remembers what God has done for us in Jesus Christ and longs for the day when God’s purposes are fulfilled for all people and for all creation. As a member of St. Paul’s you are part of a particular, local community of people that God gathers to remember and to hope together. We also are assembled to embody God’s will and loving purpose for the whole creation as we love and serve each other.
This leads me to believe, however, that there’s so much more to church membership than we might have ever taken the time to realize. At the beginning of a new church year and in a season that is about anticipation, expectation and hope for God’s will to be done in our lives, it may be a good time to rediscover together what we mean when we talk about membership at St. Paul’s. Who knows, a better understanding of our own membership in this body may help us better invite others into the benefits we share as part of this community. So, what does it mean to you when you say you are a member of St. Paul’s?
Make a one-time gift, or reoccurring donation to St. Paul’s today. God’s grace and your generous gifts keep the light of God’s love shining in this neighborhood.
The light shines in the darkness
Dear Sisters and brothers in Christ,
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I am grateful to serve as a pastor of so diligent, loving and generous a congregation as St. Paul’s. Because of your presence, your work in and your commitment to this congregation the light of Christ overcomes the darkness that grips so many. Your financial commitment can literally and spiritually keep the light on ... and that makes all the difference. This is what I mean.
HeArer's Guide to the Passion
Over the next week, we will hear read in worship the story of Jesus' last supper with his disciples, his agony and betrayal in the garden, his trial and condemnation, his crucifixion, death and burial, and then his resurrection from the dead. We call this story, the Passion of our Lord because it speaks of Jesus' suffering and death for us. This story is also called the Message of the Cross. This story is central to faith and life, and it is the power of God for salvation for all who believe. In one way or another, all Christian preaching and action flows from the message of the cross, but this time of year we tend to let this story, as we find it in Holy Scripture, simply speak to us directly -- in passion reading, song and liturgical action.
As we prepare to enter into the mystery of faith, here are some things you can keep in mind as you hear again for yourself the wonderful story of God's love and grace in Jesus Christ. You can read the story for yourself in Mark 11-16.
So what does this mean for us?
Seeds are absolutely amazing ... spiritual things. This one little seed has the potential of becoming a plant many times its size ... a plant that will blossom and bear fruit that will create an abundance of food, as well as more seeds!
You can see why a seed serves as such a powerful spiritual metaphor ... especially as a way of understanding how God’s Word works in our life.
In this week’s Gospel reading from John chapter 12, we hear Jesus saying that unless a seed dies it remains just a single grain, but by dying ... by planting it in soil and water ... it grows to produce abundance of fruit. In order for this seed to become something more than a single seed in a packet on the shelf, it has to be planted.
It’s a way Jesus talks about his own death. Jesus in this case is the seed that will fall in the earth and die so that eternal life can be multiplied and given to all. By Jesus’ death and resurrection, God gives life to the whole world. What’s more by dying and rising and ascending ... Jesus is now present with us and for us ... all of us, everywhere.
In my sermon this week, we’re going to dig around a little to prepare our hearts and minds to receive the seed of the Gospel ... that is, the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection ... by considering how God has acted to save us and the whole world by sending his son to suffer, die and rise again for us.
Next week, as we enter into the Holy Week and Easter, we will simply read and experience the passion story and let the Word speak for itself without comment. But this week, let’s look look to frame the story in a way that will make its hearing ... well, we pray, more fruitful.
So, you could think of my sermon as a little fertilizer... or, on second thought maybe think of it as the spade that turns the soil and gets us ready to hear the good news and mystery of faith, prepares the soil to receive the seed of God’s life giving word for us.
I hope to see you in worship Saturday at 5:30 pm and Sunday morning at 10.
Sunday School starts at 9 am.
And peas ... be with you!
Sermon for Epiphany 5
Love and serve all people following the example of Jesus Christ.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
As we start to live and act as Jesus’ disciples we discover that Jesus leads us to speak with grace and to act out of love. That, I suppose, was central to his teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum that we’ve been reading about these past few weeks. It begins with hearing God’s word and promise -- the good news of God’s kingdom — and responding with faith and trust in God and God’s will and purposes. The first expressive response of faith is simply getting up and following Jesus.
That is as good an entry into reading a Gospel, like the Gospel of Mark, as there might be. When we read the Gospel we follow Jesus — hear what he says, see what he does — understanding that this is to strengthen our faith and kindle our love and to serve as a guide for what will be our words and actions.
Share the good news ... in word and deed!
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The gift of God in Jesus Christ is so truly amazing that it seems almost unbelievable that people would find it offensive.
The grace we receive in the Gospel is the gift of a relationship with God that sustains us in this life and through death to an eternal life. This relationship with God is a gift that gives our life purpose, meaning and direction. In accordance with God’s will and God’s purposes, it is a gift that sets us free, truly free, to live as God’s children, whole and well in God’s praise. And so it seems almost incomprehensible that this word, this grace, this promise would evoke such violent reactions and responses in the hearts of the very people it sets out to love, save and bless.
Behold! I Make All Things New
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This is a night to remember Ursula. Even though remembering makes us feel the sadness of Ursula’s absence, it also keeps her present and part of our lives. Our memories of Ursula can be expressions the love we had and shared together, and so, those memories are simultaneously painful and happy. There are other memories there as well, I am sure. Maybe memories that fill us not so much with love as with regret or guilt or shame. These too are part of the reckoning me all must do at the end of something, a settling of accounts, so to speak. That is why a service such as this reminds us that we will be okay, and that we will not have to bear the full weight of our mourning or grief all by ourselves, but that Jesus himself bears that weight with us and for us so that we might remember love, receive forgiveness and pardon, and live on in hope of the new thing that God Himself is revealing in the world.
Get Up and Get Moving
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
I want to commend you on being present.
I know that it took some effort to get up and get moving so that you might gather here in Christ and receive the benefits that come from hearing God’s Word and participating in the Lord’s Supper. It is the standard practice of a pastor to contact you if you have been absent for a while, to check and see how you are doing, but too rarely do I take a minute to tell you how happy I am to see you here in worship, and how I much I am encouraged by your faithfulness and diligence in persevering in the promise of your baptism.
How have you been changed?
“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me. ... Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” (John 1:43, 45-46)
This may seem a strange passage to use as a superscript for the pastor’s annual report, but in these few verses we find something that can help us understand our life together in Christ. It begins with Jesus’ invitation. Jesus takes the initiative to call us and form us into a fellowship. Jesus invites people into the fellowship and promise of God’s kingdom with a command to follow him. Next, we see the response of the disciple. A disciple affirms Jesus’ choice by hearing and believing, saying yes by getting up and following. Finally, we see how Jesus’ disciples share the good news with their friends. Through that witness, the Holy Spirit draws people to Jesus, changes their hearts and minds and opens their ears and eyes to hear and see God at work in the world.
Among the items discussed at the November church council meeting were:
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