Fourth Sunday after Epiphany- Fr. Chris- January 28, 2018

Printable Version of Sermon: Year B- Epiphany 4- St. Paul’s- 2018.01.28

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Denis was the bishop of Paris during the 3rd Century and was a renowned preacher who happened to get crosswise with the local Roman authorities. As was the norm of the time, the Roman governor ordered that Denis be beheaded. According to legend, to everyone’s surprise after the gruesome deed, Denis stood up, picked up his severed head, and walked away still preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. It is said that he walked an additional 6 miles up the road in this manner before he collapsed and finally died. Today, Denis’ final resting place, where he collapsed, is where you will find the Basilica of St. Denis, dedicated to the memory of a man who would not let anything stop him from preaching the gospel.

Then there is St. Columba of Scotland who, according to tales written in the 6th century, was moving across the highlands to preach the gospel. He came to the town we today call Inverness. There the locals were burying a man by the nearby loch or lake as we call it. The townspeople in fear explained that a water beast had dragged the deceased man underwater which led to his drowning. And so Columba sent a traveling companion to start swimming across the loch. Columba followed close behind in a boat and when the water creature reared his head up, Columba ordered it in the name of Christ to go back at once into the depths and never show its face again. As you might have guessed, Inverness is where you will find Loch Ness and the tale of the Loch Ness monster which goes back over 1400 years. At the heart of the story of Columba and Nessie is a tale of courage and protecting a vulnerable people in need.

And what about a more famous saint, Saint Francis? He is often known for his preaching to animals… literally, he would give sermons to animals, but there are so many more stories about Francis than just these. For instance, Francis came from a very wealthy family and legend states that his father was angry with Francis for giving away his inheritance to the poor. Therefore, Francis’ father petitioned the bishop to intervene because Francis was not obeying his parents as the Ten Commandments instruct. The bishop reluctantly agreed and asked Francis to return whatever was left of the fortune to his father. Francis, wanting to obey his father and the bishop, immediately removed his clothes and proceeded to walk away naked for he had given everything away except the clothes on his back.

Now, I don’t know how factual these legends are, but in their own quirky way they share truths about the saints’ virtues of courage, fortitude, and persistence as guided by a calling of faith, hope, and love. I share all of these tales because there are churches all over the world that carry the names of these saints and many other saints with equally wonderful stories. Each saint shines forth an example of virtuous living and I wonder… I wonder if those virtues are somehow part of the DNA of the churches that bear their name.

This past Thursday was the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, our namesake. The name St. Paul’s was picked nearly 60 years ago and although we have some very long tenured members, we have no original members. What was the consideration in picking the name St. Paul’s? And I wonder if the virtues of Paul’s life are somehow part of the DNA of our church? When it comes to St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, he, first and foremost, loved the people he encountered no matter their background and he wanted them to know the love of Christ. And through that he showed prudence, courage, and temperance as informed by his faith, hope, and love.

And now here we are on the Sunday of our Annual Parish Meeting just days after the Church celebrated Paul’s conversion. Now is a good time to reflect upon how we here in our church family live into the legacy of St. Paul. This past year at St. Paul’s has indeed been full. We have laughed together and we have cried. We have worked side by side in serving others and we have given generously to people in need and to further build up the kingdom of God. We have studied and we have played. We have shared meals around a table together in fellowship and we have broken the bread of communion around the altar as the Body of Christ. In short, we have sought to be a church which lives into the legacy of our namesake St. Paul.

2017 brought many challenges. After years of preparation, we finally took the first steps in our larger master plan toward addressing our capital needs by first renovating our facilities. 2016 ended on such a high note with a successful capital campaign and 2017 meant we needed to make that dream a reality. However, it was slow going with designs and diocesan presentations and price negotiations. Nonetheless, through persistence here we are with a building that doesn’t leak, a beautifully renovated church, air conditioners that are all working, and a parking lot that is not crumbling. And as you all know, this whole process was complicated exponentially by Hurricane Harvey. Nonetheless, what I witnessed was in the days, weeks, and months since the storm is a community in tune with our neighbors. Neighbor helped neighbor, friend and stranger alike.

Within our ministries we continue to see growth and commitment. Through it all we sought excellence in all we did. Excellence is not perfection, but rather the best we have to offer… and God deserves nothing less than our best efforts. In fact, the further details will be [were] given in the annual parish meeting, but I am excited to share that despite all the ups and downs of this past year, we ended financially in the positive and on budget in our general operating fund, insurance remediation project, and the renovation construction. This is incredible!

And so I want to say, thank you for making St. Paul’s what it is. In the end, church is so much more than bricks and mortar. We are people seeking to Love the Lord and our neighbors. We are people seeking to worship and service our God. In the end, it is the people that make St. Paul’s who we are. In the Annual Parish Meeting booklet, you can read a small snap shot of the many things going on from our staff’s perspective, but this is also just a small glimpse into the larger story of everything going on. In fact, there is a story in every member of our parish.

And now we sit ready to make plans for our future, guided by the Holy Spirit. What does God have in store for us next? We are currently having deep conversations in our “Glory into Glory” class. Then the Vestry will begin discerning goals for St. Paul’s that will help guide us into the future that God has instore for us. Please know that your voice is important in this conversation. It is not too late to join us for the last two “Glory into Glory” sessions on February 4th and 11th in the parish hall during the Sunday School hour starting at 9:15am.

Periodically, we have to ask ourselves why does St. Paul’s exist and only then can we turn to the question of how. As in how will we share this incredible community of faith with those around? How will we invite others to experience the love of the risen Christ in this place? How will we love the Lord and our neighbors more fully, more broadly?

This program year, I have given the challenge to reflect on what it means to be St. Paul’s. What does it mean for you to claim for yourself the statement, “I am St. Paul’s”? How do we as a parish and as individuals live into the legacy of our namesake? What would our future look like if we all committed to this challenge? How would lives in our community be transformed? As I often say, the possibilities are limited only by our willingness to step out in faith. And so just like our namesake, we too are given the opportunity to experience the risen Christ and then receive our commissioning to go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Together, the Church can change the world as witnesses of Christ’s love, and our part starts here on the corner of Franz and Drexel and then permeates beyond our walls.

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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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