Sermon & Rector’s Report 2019 (for 2018)

Gospel of Luke 5:1-11
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and
the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God,  2 he saw
two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone
out of them and were washing their nets.  3 He got into one of the
boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little
way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from
the boat.  4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put
out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”  5 Simon
answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught
nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”  6 When they had
done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning
to break.  7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come
and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they
began to sink.  8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’
knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For
he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that
they had taken;  10 and so also were James and John, sons of
Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon,
“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”  11 When
they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and
followed him.
+ + + + + + +
Luke’s story tantalizes our senses. His telling allows us to imagine the sounds of
the sea and inhale its smell.
We can picture Jesus along the shoreline speaking with Simon Peter, James and
John, inviting them to be his disciples.

Those men were common, Jewish fishermen with no social status and little
education. They had to fish when fishing was good, so respecting religious
requirements took the back burner.
In a society shaped by religious traditions and rules, fishermen were judged by
pious Jews as sinners, since they were unable to fulfill Judaism’s strict
Face to face with Jesus, Peter froze in time. He looked into the eyes of acceptance,
forgiveness and welcome. Yet deep inside, Peter felt insignificant and dirty.
Falling on his knees, Peter cried, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinner” (St.
Luke 5:8). But Jesus chose not to go away. There was no pondering the past
rather, gazing toward the future.
Jesus spoke softly, “Don’t be afraid, Peter; from now on you will be fishing for
people” (St. Luke 5:10).
It does us well to remember that commercial fishing was and is about the skill of
using a net, not a rod and reel.
Jesus foretold that Peter would be gathering people into community, a new, vibrant
community of faith, a community of witnessing Jesus as God’s love for the world.
You and I are members of that one community, the Body of Christ; and St. Paul’s
is part of that Body.
One year ago, I shared topics of interest gleaned from the introductory
Meet & Greet opportunities in 2017.
Welcoming, Nurturing Spiritual Growth, Mission Outreach, and Music
are the core topics from our conversations. With the help of several of our
parishioners, this information was considered, and intentionally integrated into our
First Impressions Count coordinated by Judy Mitchell focuses on intentionally
greeting and welcoming our Sunday guests. This new initiative augments our
already vital Hospitality Ministry, now also coordinated by Judy Mitchell with the incomparable support of Linda Miller.

Adult Christian Education resumed with vigor, presenting offerings of challenge and growth, coordinated and presented by Jean Berry, Aimee Hill, and Daniel Linquist. While the Diocese of Southern Ohio closed one venue for mission outreach of food and clothing in West Dayton, the Youth Mission Project focused on hunger reduction, once again, thanks to Spencer Izor and Jean Berry. In the early months of 2018, we attempted to share a hot meal once a month with those in need, but that didn’t work out as planned. Volunteers dwindled. We discovered guests were uncomfortable coming to Oakwood. And, the metro bus system was uncooperative with our time frame. Yet, a community dinner to be cooked at St. Paul’s and taken off campus is in the works.
And, a new invitation has been extended to anyone in the parish having ideas for future mission outreach. This gathering will take place in the near future.
A Music Committee has formed under the coordination of Chris Saunders. The
purpose of this group is to guide, plan and evaluate an eclectic musical concert
All of these opportunities are exciting. Each gives us a channel to meet and touch the lives of people within our parish and beyond our walls.
Truth be told, it was difficult for me to concentrate on our ministry from
September through the first of January. Coughing, flu, pneumonia,
depletion of my good bacteria, and possible carbon monoxide poisoning
complicated my life. After 5 days in the hospital and 6 weeks recovery at home,
I entered 2019 with renewed focus and a stronger constitution.
I am most grateful to those who contributed to the health of our ministry this past year, and especially while I was out on sick leave.
Many of you worked together. You live the truth: the face and ministry of St.
Paul’s is not the Rector, rather the face and ministry of St. Paul’s Church
is the community of faith, the people of God gathered at St. Paul’s.
I want to take this opportunity to thank to recognize several individuals:

Diana Sebaly (Senior Warden),
Paul Sampson (Junior Warden),
Jenni Roer (Treasurer),
Lois Smith (Parish Administrator),
Jean Berry (Education & Communications),
Loretta Graner, (Organist & Choir Master),
Randy Young (Acolyte Master)
Shea Sampson (Assistant Acolyte Master)
Lin Jenkins (Scheduling and training our Lectors & Eucharistic Ministers),
Leigh Walters-Baumgardner & the Altar Guild,
Chris Saunders & the Music Committee,
Judy Mitchell, the First Impression Count Team & the Hospitality Committtee,
Sue Starner (Finance & Property Administrator),
Ginny King (Registrar),
and Morg Bruck & Sharron Lewis-Watts (Office Volunteers).
Also, I want to thank our Vestry Members for their support and prayers, as well as
our organist, Dr. Loretta Graner, and the clergy who assisted in our Eucharistic
celebrations and Morning Prayer while I was away:
the Rev. Mr. Otto Anderson, St. Paul’s Deacon,
the Rev. Gregory Sammons,
the Rev. Margaret Sammons,
and the Rev. Canon John F. Koepke,
as well as lay leaders Mike Miller and Randy Young.
I want to thank our Eucharistic Visitors and our Stephen Ministers for their
invaluable assistance in sharing with me the responsibility of pastoral care.

And, on behalf of this parish, I thank Charles and Ann Simms for providing the
resources for our new security system. This gracious gift is essential for
the safety of Little Acorn Pre-School and our church staff. The security system
allows staff to monitor whoever enters our facilities while preserving a welcoming environment for God’s House of Prayer.

In the Fall, I called together a group of 8 people to discuss and evaluated St. Paul’s present ministry and configuration, as well as brain-storm and envision
possibilities for St. Paul’s future ministry. In a world of change we must attempt to be ahead of the curve. Over the years, St. Paul’s has changed in many ways. Many of you are aware of this reality. Life teaches us that things never stay the same. This group I called together of 7 dedicated parishioners plus one is given the task to be proactive in formulating future opportunities to be presented to the 2019 Vestry for their envisioning, evaluating, refining and applying in 2020.
I chose these participants because my heart, mind and spirit motivated me
to do so. The group consists of:

Diana Sebaly (Senior Warden),
Paul Sampson (Junior Warden),
Deborah Bielecki,
Steve Ireland,
Mike Miller,
Debby Schenk,
Randy Young,
and the plus one, me.

So far, our meetings have been very productive. Unfortunately, our work came to a standstill when I was out on sick leave. But the Evaluation Task Force is now back at work. Please pray that we are guided by God’s Holy Spirit.

Last year I proposed as a theme for 2018 and 2019: Nurturing Gratefulness,
Exploring Expressions. The 2018 financial portion of our Stewardship Ministry was coordinated by Alan Armitage and Daniel Linquist. Having a lower profile was intentional. The process emphasized ‘gratefulness’ as well as our ‘responsibility’ in sharing the resources God has entrusted to us.
‘Exploring Expressions’ is being considered by the groups I mentioned earlier.
Recently we placed a new ad in the Oakwood Register that read:
Connecting, Belonging, Empowering: Explore your possibilities. At the bottom
of the ad was St. Paul’s Logo.
Finding creative ways of capturing the attention of non-church-going people
is a vital role of being Jesus’ disciples. As a Christian community, St. Paul’s
continually needs to prepare for welcoming all who seek God, inviting all who
have questions, and supporting all exploring their faith. By our baptism, we each play an important role in the life of St. Paul’s Church.
Through baptism we are Ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our
responsibility as Christian Ministers, members of the Body of Christ, according to the Prayer Book includes sharing the good news of Jesus, living God’s justice,
peace and love, and restoring all people to unity with God and each other in Christ (BCP p. 855).
St. Paul reminds us that, with the companionship of Jesus and the grace of God’s Holy Spirit, we are able to accomplish infinitely more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). I look forward to many possibilities coming to fruition at St. Paul’s in 2019 and beyond. And, I continue being honored serving as priest, pastor and your rector.
As Jesus called Simon Peter, James and John to follow him, so we are called to
follow Jesus and gather people into the embrace of God’s love.
May we, the people of St. Paul’s, be true to our calling. And, may God’s Presence and Blessings always accompany you and me. – Fr. John