In the name of God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Oh! I love it that in this season after Pentecost we begin our readings from the Old Testament (otherwise known as Hebrew Scriptures). This morning we have the story of creation, which, ironically, takes me back to remember some of the early steps of evolution in my faith. In high school I was still taking in the idea that the story of creation presented in Genesis wasn’t a factual account and that I did believe (mostly) in evolution. I’ve come a long way since then. I’m probably not alone.
In his book, The Heart of Christianity, Marcus Borg writes of a Native American storyteller. I imagine a group of people sitting around a campfire when one of the young people among them asks, “Where did we come from?” The old storyteller began telling his tribe’s story of creation: “Now I don’t know if it happened this way or not, but I know this story is true.”
The actual events described in Genesis may or may not have happened. Regardless, we know that the story is true. God really has and does create everything there is: seen and unseen.
God is the Creator who was present before time and forever. Today we celebrate the doctrine of the Trinity. Three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit present in One God. And just like creation, we don’t know exactly how to explain the Trinity, but we know it is true. God, the One in whom we live and move and have our being, is beyond what we can imagine. God is not like us – something far greater and beyond human comprehension. We call this mystery the blessed Trinity.
This trinity of three persons in one God sets the standard for the way we are to be in communion (and community) with each other. As I’ve said before, there is no such thing as being a Christian alone. That is because Christian life includes participating in a religious community and sharing tradition of practice with other Christians. Participating in community and tradition helps us feed and understand our relationship with God. The community contains wisdom. The people in the community help us escape the little bubbles we live in. We help each other do away with our limited ways of seeing that we seldom recognize (on our own) as a form of blindness.
This kind of thing happens if you are really in community. If you only ever come to St. James for a worship service and for no other reason, if you don’t linger after services and spend time getting to know your fellow parishioners, then you’re really kidding yourself if you think you are creating much community here for yourself. At St. James we have a large enough congregation that you don’t know every person in it. Worshipping at some of our larger services, you could easily hide anonymously among the many – you could come and go without a word to anybody. But why? Because your chances of actually meeting God in the face and words of another human being in this congregation are great!
This is why small groups are so important at this parish. Small groups put an end to feeling lost in the crowd. All of a sudden a handful of people have names, they are your friends, and many will pray for you. This is true if you join a fellowship group or the finance committee. Be in a book group or a Bible study. This fall we will have a variety of education and formation offerings from which to choose. If you’re not in a small group now, find one to join this fall.
Now, here is some news from a small group you helped to create: the vestry.
Your vestry is undertaking some big repairs on our church building: a new chiller, a new boiler, and a major roof repair – all at a cost of something like $50,000.
Because of the generosity of previous generations, we can afford to make these repairs, and we will depend on the generosity of our current and future members to keep up with the maintenance and repair needs of this wonderful facility.
Remember a couple of years ago when we did a parish survey? One of the very top reasons people cited for first choosing to come to St. James in the first place was the architecture of the church. People love the beauty of this building and this sacred space. It draws people in.
When new people come to St. James, we are blessed to welcome them not only to a beautiful church, but to a well-maintained parish. Did you know, however, that nationally there is a statistic which says that of all newcomers to churches, most will leave after six months because they won’t have found their place in the new church.
When people come to St. James, they love it right off the bat. It’s beautiful, we’ve said that. People can also tell that we are a loving congregation, that they are welcome and that we are not eaten up by strife and anger among our members. We’re healthy. When you see new people at St. James, talk to them, get to know what interests they have. See if you can help them find their way into their first small group. One small group experience shows people that they have found a home. From then on, joining other groups seems exponentially easier. When you go to breakfast Sunday and large parish gatherings, even when you arrive to an event alone, you’ll always have friends to sit with. St. James will be your family.
What a wonderful gift we give each other and ourselves by maintaining this facility, participating in the community, and worshipping together.
In further updates about our community, we’ve lost a staff member and will be adding new clergy members to our community:
Joyce Haynes, after 6 years as our bookkeeper, has retired for the second time in her life. We wish her well. We are seeking to fill the bookkeeper’s part-time position now.
On Sunday, July 9th we will have a new deacon intern who will be with us for the coming year. She is Diane Kruger from St. Stephens parish. She is being ordained on Saturday the 17th in Topeka … all are invited. She will share liturgical duties, pastoral care and her deacon’s ministry which she is still discerning. She is a nurse, and active with the K2K program. Those affiliations and experience will probably be part of her discernment.
Mother Sarah Stewart is in the process of moving to Wichita and will officially join our congregation as our Associate Rector on the weekend of July 1 and 2. When you meet Sarah you will see that we have hired the best candidate for the job!
The ordained men among us with valuable ministries are: Father Sam Criss, Father Joseph Bayles, and Deacon Jeff Roper.
Please note that there will be no parish breakfast in July and August.
Start up Sunday on September 10, 2017 will include breakfast, a Ministry Fair and the kick-off for many activities and small groups.
Not only did we have the genesis reading about creation today, the epistle, in its brevity,advised us to be cheerful to one another and to keep things in good repair. The gospel reading today reminds us of our mandate: to share the good news with the people around us.
We have to work together not to get too comfortable in our own bubble. Encourage ministry in ourselves and others. Invite friends and neighbors. Help new people get connected. Be the embodiment of the Trinity today. A living community.
If you join a small group, I can’t predict what specific things might actually happen, but I know it will be real and everything that happens will be true.