21st Sunday after Pentecost- Deacon Gill- October 29, 2017

October 29, 2017

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love, Amen

The Shema is a liturgical prayer, prominent in Jewish history and tradition, that is recited daily at the morning and evening services and expresses the Jewish people’s ardent faith in, and love of God. It begins:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

The prayer originates from passages in the book of Deuteronomy. The Shema prayer was so influential and important that Jesus used it as the beginning of his answer to the test question from the Pharisees  “which commandment in the law is the greatest”.  When Jesus began His answer with the Shema prayer, he points out that the aim of the law is to orient one’s entire life toward God. And we cannot love God without loving what God loves.

Today our first reading was from Leviticus. We don’t often hear readings from this book which is placed in the Old Testament immediately after Exodus. The setting for Leviticus is Mount Sinai where God is teaching the Israelites how to live as holy people. We hear instruction for our own holy walk with God together with a guide to spiritual living.

In the 18th verse we heard “…..you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” This is a verse which is often used as the pastoral mission statement by churches. What a high ideal  and one which we have adopted at St Paul’s for our goal ‘Loving the Lord and our neighbors’. Our statement comes as a direct command from the Lord.

So today’s answer to the Pharisees joins readings that were well known to them and which they heard regularly in the synagogue. Jesus begins with the Shema and then quotes Leviticus.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

The Pharisees had asked the question designed to trap Jesus. However he replied with a statement that is foundational, really solid, and is unquestionable.

Just a few days after this encounter with the Pharisees, Jesus will gather with his disciples, take some bread and wine, and invite them by eating and drinking to share his very life. After that meal, he will go out from that place of safety to embrace his destiny, going to the cross to show us how much God loves us already, because ultimately the only way we can love each other is first to recognize just how much God loves us.”

Do you know how much God loves everyone in this room?

So what does it mean for us to love God. And for God to love us. Love is important. Love is what everything else is based on. Love is the foundation, the bedrock, it is the essence and the core of who God is. Love wins, love triumphs, love rules. We have chosen to say that  loving the Lord defines us as a community of God’s people here at St Paul’s, meaning that we believe love is our first  priority.

Throughout this year we have been challenged by being a part of or witnessing many disasters. And Father Chris has challenged us to meditate on “What does it mean to you  to say ‘I am St Paul’s’.”

God wants us to love him and to love ourselves and to love our neighbors Let us think back to what has happened in this area in 2017. South Texas witnessed a catastrophic disaster when Harvey struck. Then we saw unconditional love as neighbors helped neighbor as they were saved from the rising water. We saw unconditional love as neighbor helped neighbor gut and prepare their homes for rebuilding. The parishioners at St Paul’s also took time out to love themselves as we helped our families gut their homes, and as we worked to save our church, God’s church. As if we did not have enough going on with the planned construction schedule we then had to prepare to repair our buildings. It has taken extra financing which we had not budgeted for and many of you came forward with extra funds. We have spent the last few months showing our love for God by getting his house back in order. And no one has complained. We are doing God’s work for God.

We have seen how aid has come into the area from many parts of the USA and the world. We have a church in Alabama who wants to partner with us to go out and rebuild homes and lives, next year. We have seen how in a time of great need Houston sent a plane full of aid to Puerto Rico, returning here with people who need shelter. All this is the face of love and loving our neighbor.

2017 has witnessed us being good stewards of time, talent and treasure as we have worked diligently to repair our church at the same time helping others. We have exemplified and fulfilled our vision for 2017.

2018 will be a new year for us. A new bright start when we will have our house in order and can begin to actively welcome our neighbors to be here with us. No more workman around the place, hopefully no more dust. Maybe extra debt but we know we can cope with that. Now we need a period of intentional discernment about our connection, our membership and contribution to St Paul’s. If we all share our  thoughts individually with conviction then come together as a whole, we will be stronger.

And today we discuss the financial element of stewardship and what that means for us and this church. How do we equate our love for God and who we are at St Paul’s. Specifically how do we apply our love for St Paul’s by our financial giving. Yes it may mean sacrificing here and there but you can make it work.

Rod and I pray and discuss our pledging and give to St Paul’s operating and capital campaign and in addition we support several neighboring organizations financially. Each year we review our pledges. Yes now that he is retired we have a fixed income but that does not stop us from talking about our giving and making a plan for the year. For us it is not an automatic exercise giving the same as last year. We intentionally talk about our needs, the churches needs and God’s love for us.

I Invite you to talk to your children about their stewardship. Tell them that you support this church financially and that you arrived at your decision through prayer. You have to discern as a family your level of commitment with possibly children learning to give from their allowance.Attitude is everything and as a family you need to be in it together.

I want to close with a story. The slogan “Attitude is everything” is inscribed on Reggie McAfee’s business card.

McAfee was a child of public housing in Cincinnati, he became a star runner in high school in Ohio and college in North Carolina. Now, he heads a Charlotte-based nonprofit that uses running as a tool for teaching kids persistence. The kids attend a one-hour practice twice a week run by two volunteer coaches, with each practice following a 30-minute session on character, also led by volunteers.

“If you’re used to persevering and setting goals, and if you’re committed, you can achieve any goal,” says McAfee. “Those skills transfer to everything in your life.”

Cross-Country for Youth is a unique fitness program that introduces young people to cross-country training and character-building concepts to develop the whole person. The character development concepts include Integrity, Respect, Sportsmanship, Responsibility, Perseverance, Teamwork, Commitment, Courage, Discipline and Leadership.

Each character trait activity is accompanied by a key message delivered by community stakeholders and screened volunteers.

The kids represent a broad demographic group, divided roughly evenly among whites, African Americans and Hispanics, including both at-risk kids and affluent kids. “This program is not about being great runners,” McAfee says. “It’s more about having kids be great people.” “Attitude is everything”

Reggie McAfee knew that with his persistence he could help youngsters create healthy lives for themselves.

How much or even whether to pledge? Attitude is everything do not be afraid to step out in faith. God loves you.

Service Schedule

Sunday Services
8:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist, Rite I
9:15 a.m. Christian Formation
10:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist, Rite II

Weekday Services
Wednesday 12:00 p.m. Holy Eucharist

Address

St. Paul's Episcopal Church
5373 Franz Rd
Katy, Texas 77493
(281) 391-2785
Website:http://www.stpaulskaty.org
Email:info@stpaulskaty.org

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