For those of you following the past couple of weeks, you know that Matthew is heavy into forgiveness as one of Jesus’ main themes. Matthew would probably add forgiveness to Paul’s list of gifts that never end – like faith, hope and love. Forgiveness is a fount of generosity, flowing from God into our lives – and through us to one another. Forgive – “how many times,” asks Peter? As many as seven? – which I am sure he figures is excessive. Jesus responds, “No, try seventy seven” – Wow. Translated, Jesus means forgiveness has no limits. Don’t count the times – just keep forgiving. That’s how God is – life-giving, healing, and effusively forgiving.
I am reading a new book Recovering Hope for your Church. I haven’t lost hope for us, so don’t worry – not yet. People today thirst for faith that makes a difference in lives and communities. How is faith making a difference in our lives – as we seek to identify in the VIVA process? And what is festive to celebrate that God is doing through us? No sermon – ha ha. Sorry – you are preaching the sermon. Today the sermon time focuses on this parish’s generosity expressed in ways faith makes a difference in our lives, and in turn in our communities. We have a lot to celebrate, bless, commission and dedicate today. That is seventy times seven – and even more. We celebrate what we do when we gather – for prayer and worship, fellowship and formation – so we can scatter and each be priests serving Christ in the world. Here are a few ways God working through, in and among us.
(At this point we noted, blessed and commissioned various individuals and groups to celebrate the ministries in which people are involved in the life of St. Paul’s. We celebrated our Children’s Ministry of Sunday School, commissioned the teachers in youngest group, and in the older children’s group, and blessed the children as they begin Sunday School next week.
Deacon Sheila introduced the Eucharistic Visitor Ministry and named those who will be taking Communion to homebound or people in hospitals from the Altar on Sunday mornings. Other Eucharistic Ministers commissioned include our Chalice Bearers, the Altar Guild, Lectors and other readers. We will continue to recognize other groups who assist in Christian Formation and Worship. We have a lot of people involved in using their gifts in ministry.
Our Adult Choir was back from summer, and we thanked and commissioned them, and Tim Benson, Choirmaster. We dedicated a recently acquired Steinway piano that is in the church.
Our Vestry members stood at both services and they were commissioned for their leadership ministry as vestry and leaders in the V.I.V.A process.
The newly renovated Community Room (formerly known as the parlor) was dedicated. People are thanked for their gifts during the 175th Anniversary and beyond, both financial and in-kind. Committee members who worked tirelessly to make this happen are: Mary Beth Haubrich, Chair; Carrie Barbee, Suzy Brennan, Joanne Filmanowicz, Steve Sanders, Rand Schmidt, and Karen Teague. Appreciation is also expressed to Dean and Kathy Thome for “recreating” the church library during the renovation transition.
Other ministry of our members is noted and appreciation is expressed for those who support St. Paul’s with their gifts of time and money – those who pray daily and give thanks for our people on birthdays and anniversaries – those who volunteer to support the organization, administration and functioning of the church; for the work God does through us as we reach out beyond our walls – bringing food each second Sunday for distribution, serving meals at the Gathering and providing backpacks and supplies for school children, volunteers at the Thrift Shop – Common Ground – Our Next Generation, Interchange; Greenfaith; Christ Church in Oforola, Nigeria – the Endowment Fund challenge initiative, and the new contributions that members have given, thanks to Richard and June Seaman; the spirit of generosity alive in our parish that is willing to share this space so the greater community can experience God’s grace through music and our windows – Doors Open volunteers…preparing meals for families, and in each place where a member works and lives that’s where we as St. Paul’s make a difference.)
So, today – let’s celebrate all God is doing through us. We are here to strengthen lives to love and serve the Lord – serving and being transformed into priests for the world. Where is St. Paul’s Church? It’s the place where we serve Christ in the world for the love of God. We are here to listen for God so we can respond to God. Whatever you do in the church – you have a passion, a gift and a calling. Each has a story. Maybe we should share more of them.
Decades ago a 90-some-year old church lady said to me, “Son, I’m old and I can’t do much anymore. But I can pray – and I will everyday – for you. I need the practice, and you certainly can use the prayers.” Amen, Sister – God never stops working through any of us – that is the only hope for the church.