Gospel of Mark 9:2-10
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and
led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was
transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to
them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter
said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three
dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did
not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud
overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This
is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked
around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no
one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen
from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning
what this rising from the dead could mean.
Sermon & Rector’s Report 2017
Sunday, February 11, 2018
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Oakwood
The Transfiguration of Jesus is a wonderful, mystical story about
Jesus’ appearance miraculously being altered as three of his disciples
looked on. Jesus’ clothing became dazzling white, an ancient symbol of
purity or holiness. But the story is about so much more.
This story is about transforming our understanding of God from a
violent, vengeful, divine, law-giver and warrior as expressed through
Moses, Elijah and throughout the Old Testament to a nonviolent, self-
sacrificing God of universal love.
FEBRUARY 9, 2018 BY ADAM ERICKSEN
Jesus brings us a new revelation of what God is really like – a God
who creates us and cares about each one of us more than we can imagine.
God’s voice was heard from the mist: “This is my Son, the Beloved;
listen to him. As followers of Jesus, we must listen to Jesus, anticipating
him leading us into places new and unexpected.
I believe Jesus speaks to us in many ways. One means of speaking to
us is in our everyday conversations.
After arriving at St. Paul’s Church on February 1, 2017, members of
the Transition Committee, especially Chris Saunders, orchestrated 17 Meet
& Greet. Each one offered an opportunity for me to speak with and listen to
the people of St. Paul’s, active and inactive members alike.
The following 11 points reveal the heart of those conversations:
1. St. Paul’s is a friendly & caring church – responding to one
another and needs within the community. (Welcome & Nurturing
2. Passion for helping others in the broader community. (Mission
3. Love of music, especially the choir and organ. (Music Ministry)
4. St. Paul’s is a place of acceptance. (Welcome & Nurturing)
5. St. Paul’s is community-oriented. (Location & Mission Outreach)
6. St. Paul’s is a place where people are spiritually fed. (Spiritual
7. Desire for inspiring sermons that grow our relationship with
Christ and are relevant to everyday life. (Spiritual Growth)
8. Intellectually stimulating sermons and educational
opportunities. (Spiritual Growth)
9. Changing from an elitist church to a welcoming / accepting
church. (Welcoming & Nurturing)
10. Accepting St. Paul’s as a smaller church today, as opposed to
years past, and the need for changing structure, ministries and
expectations to keep St. Paul’s vibrant. (Reality & Possibilities)
11. Finding renewed purpose. (Exploring Our Calling to Mission)
These 11 points are extracted directly from conversations with over
244 people during my first 9 months of being at St. Paul’s Church. I’ve
articulated the points as best as I recall from my notes. I’ve interpreted
these points into categories. Welcome, Nurturing Mission Outreach,
Music and Spiritual Growth are the top topics of those conversations.
The other topics are important as well, but not mentioned as often.
With this information in mind, these important characteristics of
ministry are sprinkled within my comments and proposal for beginning a
revitalizing vision of our purpose and mission.
I value the history of St. Paul’s Church. It is more than interesting to
me to discover the stories and personalities who have helped shape the
community life and ministry of St. Paul’s. Among the most valuable one-
on-one conversations I’ve had with parishioners and former parishioners
include the conversations I’ve shared with George Lytle and Tom Creager.
I’m blessed to have had these eye-opening dialogues with two of the most
dedicated people to St. Paul’s Church.
As George grows older and weaker, I still enjoy our bi-weekly talks
and sharing Holy Communion. I miss Tom, but now he’s very well cared
for in God’s heaven.
Upon my arrival at St. Paul’s, I told leadership and the congregation
that I wanted to listen to them and live in this faith community before
suggesting any enhancements. Others encouraged me to make a few
liturgical changes, which are natural for a new priest because he or she has
never before worshipped with the new congregation.
After four months of ministry at St. Paul’s, I was asked to guide the
Stewardship Campaign. Again, my desire was to assist rather than guide
my first year. But because of certain circumstances, I took over the
leadership of the Stewardship Committee for 2017.
Truth be told, several people graciously stepped in to augment my
leadership, including Judy Mitchell and Chris Saunders. With their time,
skills and talents, as well as the other gifts kindly shared by the other
members of the committee, our ideas were put into motion.
Because of all these tremendous people giving their time, talents and
skills to this year’s campaign, we helped in continuing to shift the parish’s
focus from Stewardship equaling finances to Stewardship expressing our
Gratefulness to God. Thus, we now call our Stewardship Grateful Giving
of time, talents and skills, and treasure. This emphasizes the entirety of our
lives as gifts, and God’s desire for us to enjoy, be grateful, and share for the
sake of others some of what we have lovingly been given.
Our Stewardship Program is continuing development and will be a
year-round opportunity of gratefulness.
What I propose as an overall parish theme for 2018 and 2019 is this:
Nurturing Gratefulness, Exploring Expressions.
With this theme in mind, I suggest the following 8 priorities over the
next two years:
1. Define a Renewed Purpose and Mission of St. Paul’s
2. Stream the 10:30 AM Sunday Holy Eucharist Live Besides
Recording the Liturgy for Television Viewing.
3. Uplift Faith Expressions, including Parish Ministries,
Individual Passions & Services put into Action Out in the
4. Explore Music Ministry Opportunities and Invite more
Musicians from the Community into St. Paul’s.
5. Invite Speakers to share how they are Making Differences
in Our World.
6. Explore, Experiment and Evaluate Mission Outreach
7. Evaluate Current Ministry Structure Regarding Relevance
for Defined Purpose and Mission.
8. Continue Opportunities for Building Community within the
Parish and fostering relationships in the Greater
I hope our Vestry, other leadership and all our parishioners will be
encouraged as I seek support for these priorities.
The work on our collective vision for St. Paul’s can only be
accomplished with help from each of us. This is not a Rector-centered
vision. It is a St. Paul’s community shared vision coming directly from
conversations with you that I’d like for us to begin and see where God may
be leading us together.
One new adventure of Mission Outreach will begin in March. We will
begin hosting a Community Dinner on the third Friday of every month for
2018. This offering is intended to feed those in need, provide community
building, and allow us to put our Christian faith into action through caring
for those who are hungry. You will hear more about this adventure soon. I
ask for your support as we explore and evaluate this much needed
Before I end, please accept that I continue feeling privileged to serve
as your Rector. God uses us and whatever we choose to offer in
gratefulness, in order to build our community and spread God’s
Also, I must thank my staff: Lois Smith, Jean Berry, Sue Starner,
Ginny King, and Loretta Graner. Each one of these dear people is a
talented gift to me, to this parish, and to God.
I call them “my staff” because they all work directly under my
authority. Taking a Biblical reference, whatever you do or say to these, you
do and say to me. I am very protective of my staff because one of the
uncomfortable bits of history of St. Paul’s I’ve discovered is that staff have,
at times, been treated not as equals, but as servants. That will not happen
under my watch. If it happens, the person or persons will hear from me. I
hope I make that clear – in love.
Also, please, no person is to call or appear before one of my staff
demanding something to be done immediately. Their priorities are my
business as chief of staff.
While staff of St. Paul’s, they do not work for you. They work with me
for the good of the entire parish. Again, this has not always been clearly
understood and lived out, and this needs to change now.
By sharing this with you, I’m not singling out any one individual or
even a number of people in particular. I’m simply asking for your support
in caring for my staff. I am a servant of Jesus Christ. I am no person’s
servant. Neither are my staff members, and neither are you. We are
beloved children of God. Equal in God’s eyes. Equally deserving of respect
and love. Equally called to serve our Lord Jesus.
I must add that I am grateful that so many of you are involved in our
parish ministries. While I’m not able to name all volunteers and
participants of ministries, please know that each of you has my sincere
Thank you for calling me to be Rector of St. Paul’s Church. I look
forward to many years of working together in sharing the Good News of
God’s Love expressed through Jesus Christ and us!
God Bless You All – as we serve Christ together, Nurturing
Gratefulness and Exploring Expressions.
– Father John