All Saints and All Souls 2019                                                                                                      The Rev. John M. Atkins

Gospel of Luke 6:17-49

17 Jesus came down and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.
20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
25 “Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

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These words of Jesus have comforted, supported and challenged his followers for two millennia. Renowned saints and nameless souls have faithfully lived Jesus’ teachings. Each generation adds their own story of living God’s love through Christ Jesus.

In 1920, a group of people from Christ Church, Dayton, had a vision of a Church School in the newly forming hill country just south of downtown. St. Paul’s was born by vision, faith and work. By 1926, a building arose to house the budding Church School. In 1939, a chancel, organ and sanctuary (Alar area) were added to the building for weekly worship in the evolving Oakwood community. St. Paul’s Church was dedicated to the Glory of God in 1940.

The present Chapel of the Holy Spirit remains as part of the original 1939 structure. The current lighted entrance to the Chapel houses a crucifix with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and John, the Beloved Disciple, kneeling at the feet of Jesus’ cross. The Chapel’s ambo (combination pulpit and lectern) presents handcrafted carvings of the four Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The brilliantly colored mural depicts the risen Christ free of the cross, with the persecutor, Saul, kneeling at Christ Jesus’ feet (Saul’s conversion), and the newly transformed Saul, name Paul, standing and holding the sword of righteousness as witness and missionary of God’s Good News in Jesus.

The main church was built in 1958 to accommodate this growing congregation. This worship area has beautiful adornments, including wooden carvings of saints on both the pulpit and lectern. Brilliantly colored stained glass windows add magnificence to the nave and chancel. Each window tells part of the Hebrew – Christian story. In fact, that’s the purpose of our entire facility.

The stained glass depictions remind us of those faithful followers of Jesus who have come before us and shared God’s love story – no matter the consequences. The people who built St. Paul’s Church constructed it out of their faithfulness. This building stands for a reason. Our parish and church building exist to tell the story of Jesus Christ for inspiring, impassioning and emboldening us to go beyond these walls and put the Gospel into action. When we live Jesus’ Good News of God’s magnanimous, healing, welcoming love we change lives. We draw people close to God’s heart as we live Jesus’ Good News.

That’s why St. Paul’s exists; for no other reason. This is why it’s important for you and me to respond with gratitude when we enter this sacred place. It does us well to be grateful to God for our life; grateful for Jesus Christ who saves us from our self and the distracting temptations of this world; grateful for our Hebrew – Christian heritage; grateful for our forbearers who envisioned, planted, invested, and built this House of Prayer we call St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

As we continue gathering here and worshipping God here and nourishing our souls here and participating in ministry here, may we never forget to be grateful for all the gifts this building and the adornments represent. And, may we be faithful in living our own story of the God’s Good News expressed in Jesus.