Here are some opportunities for group formation!
Discussion Group with First Church of Christ, Scientist – Sunday, May 24, 7:00-8:00 PM. We will discuss the article “Isolation, Loneliness, and Marginalization.” Please join us to build friendships and discuss important topics.
Reconciliation Team (anti-racism) – Monday May 18, 7:30-8:00. Join us on Zoom on the 1st and 3rd Mondays to talk about resources, current events, and action steps. We will discuss the first 2 chapters of Ibram Kendi’s How To Be Anti-Racist, but come even if you don’t get a chance to read it!
Bible study continues – Wednesday nights at 7 PM. All are welcome any week! We are studying Acts and stopped around chapter 10.
Walking with you on Jesus’ Way of Love,
Attention families with children: Family Sunday School is now available! Click here for a 14-minute video with Bible story, prayer, song, and activity suggestions especially for families.
Family Sunday School Lesson
It’s almost Pentecost, and we need YOU! We are looking for pictures or short videos (10 seconds or less) of you: wearing red, blowing bubbles, speaking in different languages, strong winds, flames in your fire pit…any creative ideas! Send them to Jennifer V. to be included in a montage on Pentecost.
Environmental Stewardship Team
Let’s talk about a sustainable approach to food! The Environmental Team will be providing ideas and tips. Here are some new pictures from Jane Weber, who updates us on Eden’s Bounty Garden!
Eden’s Bounty is off to a great start thanks to volunteers who have been busy raking, weeding, planting, and watering. Special thanks to Margo Puffenberger, friend of St. Paul’s, who helped create this year’s plan, and Denise Hersch, who arranged for plant donations from Bostdorff’s Greenhouse. If you do business with Bostdorff’s, please be sure to mention our appreciation! If you’d like to help, it’s a great way to get some fresh air while maintaining social distancing!
A Sermon on the Sixth Sunday of Easter
By The Rev. Dr. J. Paul Board May 17, 2020
The last time we gathered for church was the 3rd Sunday of Lent. Today is the 6th Sunday of Easter. It’s been nine weeks since we have been together. (It’s also been nine weeks since I had a haircut). I suspect it will be a long time before we can be together again. Bishop Mark has made an arrangement with the bishop of the Diocese of Southern Ohio. They agreed however and whenever we open up, we will do it as two dioceses working with the same guidelines. Their reasoning is we are already living in the same context. We have the same governor and the same health department. Whatever the guidelines coming the governor’s office, both dioceses have the same context.
Within this desire to be consistent and similar, there are still discrepancies in the way we open. The debate will occur at the parish level. Should you wear a mask? Or not? Some people don’t believe in masks. Some people refuse to wear them. There is good science that masks don’t work. They give people a false sense of security. And some masks don’t actually have a protective quality. The material doesn’t filter germs.
So how does it work? You come to church and you are wearing your mask, but the person sitting behind you is not wearing one. What do you do? How do you feel about that? Does vestry have to make a policy? Can we agree to be of one mind?
I can’t speak of other churches. I can only speak for ours. I can speak for my own faith. What will I do?
Every time I read the Bible I learn something new. Every time I preach, I learn more. The scriptures speak to us in our lives in our context. They are relevant to us today, not just relevant 2,000 years ago, but today.
Peter’s first letter does this for me today. I can’t read anything in the Bible without thinking about COVID. Peter’s first letter is poignant and I see something new I have never seen before.
Peter says, “Baptism saves you– not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience.” This gives me comfort and purpose, but we should look at it in context. Peter says, Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord.
Peter is talking about suffering. He makes a distinction for suffering from doing good verses from doing evil. You would expect evil to cause suffering. That makes sense. In Peter’s context, the suffering he speaks about is persecution for faith in Jesus. Belief in Jesus is causing pain because the christians are being persecuted for their faith. The persecution is evil, no doubt. But the christian endures in doing good and suffers for it.
We are suffering from Covid in so many ways and we didn’t do anything wrong. In fact doing the right thing causes suffering. We don’t have the contagion. I’m not talking about getting sick, or being sick. That’s terrible if is happens. The shut down causes suffering. Sheltering at home causes suffering. Going out in public causes anxiety. Job loss is more than anxiety. It’s real financial suffering. The good that we do to mitigate the virus causes suffering.
So we have a battle coming in the way we open our economy. We have a debate that is not resolved in how we gather in public. I saw a protester on the news. He had a sign in the background of some reporter talking about protests against the governor of some state somewhere. It was the sign that caught my attention. The sign said, My rights don’t stop where yours fear starts.” Well, that’s exactly where your rights stop. Because I don’t want to live in fear. I don’t want to be afraid for my life because you don’t want to wear a mask in public. That’s exactly where your rights stop.
I want to do the right thing. I want to be good. And I know it limits my freedom and yours. I know this is hard for all of us.
Peter said, Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.
I see these crowds on the news protesting and it makes me think of crowds in the bible. There are lots of examples of crowds behaving badly throughout scripture. I read those stories and I think, how can they be so foolish? They behave so badly. It’s not just the crowd screaming to crucify Jesus. A week earlier they had been shouting Hosanna. Now they want Jesus dead. There are other crowds. The Hebrews ought to be grateful God saved them from slavery in Egypt. But they quickly turned on Moses and God. They complained in the wilderness, “Did you bring us out into the desert to die of thirst? And hunger? We had a better life with the Egyptians.”
Peter reminds us Noah. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.
God didn’t want to redeem the people in Noah’s time. They didn’t seek the good, as Noah did. Noah was ridiculed as he built the Ark. But he persevered. He followed God’s instructions, down to the cubit. The crowd was no different ridiculing Jesus, who died for them.
Now we have the same choice. We can choose what is good, even if it is hard. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you– not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
This is my learning for today, which I never thought about before, until Covid. Baptism is an appeal to God for a good conscience. God doesn’t cause suffering. But sometimes suffering is the better choice because a good conscience says so.