This is one of those weeks that upon first reading, the Gospel can scare us away…not a very inviting image of being Jesus’ follower. I would hate to be a 1st time listener and try to make sense of this today. It really doesn’t give us a good feeling of hope does it?

When we pause, and reflect that Mark wrote this particular Gospel shortly after Jesus’ death, we can understand that Mark was scared…he felt that time was running out and that Jesus was coming back really any day now. He wanted to ensure that everyone was ready…so he didn’t take time for the niceties…Either you understood Jesus’ mandate, acted on it and were saved or you didn’t and you missed the boat! Mark did not think there would be time for second chances.

We can easily imagine John running to Jesus ‘tattling’ on the ‘other’. We might say, he even presents as a bit whiny… ‘Jesus, Jesus look…’ like a young school child. Maybe, John is also feeling an emotion that ALL, yes I mean ALL, humans feel at one time or another…jealousy.

His action shows some real fear in John; he is worried that this ‘other’ is copying and doing things that only Jesus’ tried and true followers are allowed to do…what authority does this ‘other’ have?

How do we create unity if others do things that are not like the way ‘we’ do it?? And…isn’t it doing it one way the best way?? Poor John, Jesus did not give him the response he was expecting; instead he got what sounds like a ‘tongue lashing’…John still had some learning to do… don’t we all!

Why, look at our world today…all we have to do is read the newspaper, turn on the radio, look out our window…there are reasons galore to feel shame at how we’re acting and behaving…it’s tempting to feel hopeless.

But DON’T, don’t succumb to that temptation…every day, if we take time to look for them, there are sparks of hope to keep us going. They help us along the way to be better at this Jesus following thing we’re supposed to be doing.

This week there have been several sparks of hope that I offer up today for you, for me, for all of us to consider when we’re feeling hopeless in our efforts to be REAL followers of Jesus.

Two well known congress persons…one on each side of the political platform…both equally committed to Justice…from their own view. They talked to each other and with each other and decided that they could work together to crack open a door to justice…a justice that they could both live with…it wasn’t easy and it came at the end of a long, painful week…and…whatever happens because of this odd cooperation; at least we have a spark of hope for change in how we address grave concerns, we have  a spark of hope that it could happen again…and maybe, just maybe even again…what would happen then…could change and justice actually occur…a step made by 2 people deciding to cross an invisible line…that is Jesus calling…that is evidence that Jesus’ admonitions in today’s gospel reading might have been heard.

Anne Lamott, well known, national author and speaker shared on her face book page this week several stories about not giving up however ugly life appears…however difficult it may be to see God in our world…don’t forget, she says, that Grace bats last….Wow

As a baseball lover and avid fan of the Minnesota Twins…I really appreciated this bit of allegory….in Congress this week…Grace batted last…not a home run…not even a double…maybe not even a single…just a walk…opening the door a crack…that is how Grace is commonly received, how it is present in our world…in small ways that can lead to changing how a world thinks.

Here’s another spark of hope…we have all felt inconvenienced by the depth of road construction in the metro area this year. Frustration at time delays, bumper to bumper rides, angry responses to a particularly inept driver…we’ve complained all summer about this…but this road construction is so beyond mere inconvenience for hundreds of unnamed people…it’s been devastating for them and it’s created an unusual response by them in the form of a tent community…now we truly have to SEE just how many persons in MN face homelessness daily…and these aren’t even inclusive of the ones who are able to get a one-night slot in the shelters around the cities.

The tent community has gotten a bit of notoriety and in response has been able to receive much support this summer in the way of refuse stations, outdoor toilets, sleeping bags, social services supports etc…however, the weather is getting brisk!! Even chillier than typical…where do all these persons go from here…a spark of hope…several locations were found by the city council that could be built up for temporary housing…however…schools raised concerns…what about the children we are trying to teach…is it wise to have children playing and learning amidst the chaos of these people?  Most of us would say no…we don’t want our children to see the ugliness of despair day in and day out. Then brother stepped up to help brother and now there is a location…broken infrastructure will be razed…and temporary housing will be created for those persons… I realize that it is not and should not be considered a lasting solution for a most difficult dilemma; yet it is a spark of hope. The spark is where we start from. This is grace batting last! It’s in the midst of the most difficult times. Maybe, we humans have heard Jesus’s admonitions from today’s gospel reading.

I have shared with you just 2 sparks that I have noticed despite the typical selfish human behavior that has taken place this week…I am holding them up to all, for us to decide…do we want to blow those sparks out and call those who have stepped out of their comfort zone ‘pollyanna’s…do gooders…non-realists?’

Or, do we want to hold the sparks safe…add to them to create a bigger spark that encourages us all to be the ministers of justice that Jesus has compelled us to be?

Parish-wide Meeting Sunday 13 October (click to view)

A parish-wide meeting will be held after the liturgy where the Wardens will share information on the process to call a new rector and our status in that process. Most importantly, the Wardens and Vestry want input from parishioners on what attributes and skills we should be seeking in a new rector and what we want prospective rectors to understand about who we are. If you are unable to attend but wish to share your thoughts, please feel free to email Senior Warden Meredith Johnson.


August 29, 2019
Dear Saint Paul’s Parish Family,

We are sorry to share so early in our journey with Father Marcus that he has submitted his resignation and will be leaving us October 6, 2019. He has accepted a position at the Diocese of Connecticut. In his new position, he will be the Dean of Formation and will also be working as a Missional Priest-in-Charge of a faith community. This is a wonderful opportunity for him allowing him to continue to strengthen his gifts. The Diocese of Connecticut will benefit as we have from Father Marcus’s passion. Although it is hard to see him go, we have learned and done wonderful things as a parish with his leadership and guidance over the past 2-1/2 years. It will be exciting to watch his continued growth from afar knowing we were blessed to have been part of his early career. Father Marcus’s letter to the parish is included in this email.

So now we begin to look forward. Beth and I will be in contact with ECMN and Bishop Prior to plan for an interim priest and to look at putting together a search committee. We will gather together and consider what we have learned about ourselves during our time with Father Marcus. This is a chance for us to evaluate where we are and to make plans for moving forward: what we want to be sure to carry forward, what things we might want back that have changed, and yes, what might not have been tackled yet that we want to explore? We ask that each of you give prayerful consideration to these questions. They will be foundational to our Rector search.

We know the amazing strength of this parish and are confident we will become even stronger from the challenge that has been put in front of us. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns.

Blessings,
Meredith Johnson, Senior Warden (meredithvj@gmail.com) Beth Carlson, Junior Warden (pbcarlson@comcast.net)


Dear Saint Paul’s,

It is with a mix of sadness and joy that I inform you that I offered my resignation to the Vestry on Monday, August 19. My last day as your priest will be Sunday, October 6, 2019. I have accepted a call to serve as the Dean of Formation for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, a position that will also include serving as a Missional Priest-in- Charge of a faith community there.

Throughout my time as your Rector, I’ve tried to preach, teach, and exemplify a consistent message: each of us is called to grow in Christian maturity to meet the challenges and opportunities of being the Church in this new missional age. Our patron, Saint Paul the Apostle, calls this the “full stature of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). This means taking seriously our individual and collective calls to be leaders, not only within the walls of our parish but also in the wider community. Leading, especially in times of great change, means taking risks, being open to failure that leads to learning, collaborating with others, and standing firmly in our identity and purpose.

People across Saint Paul’s Church have heard this message, stepped up, and stepped forward. Together, we have faced down a major challenge head-on –tackling our budget deficit– and as a result are experiencing a renewal of energy and spirit. We have new ministries popping up all around, a greater capacity for innovation, and deeper commitment to Christ and the mission of God he invites us into. There are others who are still afraid to step forward or unsure where they fit, and that’s okay. Saint Paul’s moves forward together.

My new role will give me the opportunity to help form other ordained leaders in what we’ve done together: translating an age-old faith to a contemporary context. I am excited and honored to be asked by Bishop Ian Douglas to serve the Church in this role.

None of this takes away the anxiety, sadness, or grief that many will feel at this time. Transitions are always hard, especially when it comes when things are going well. I have not served as your Rector for long, but we’ve done a lot together. I will pray for you as you discern what leadership model God might be inviting you to try and who might best step into that role to walk alongside you as you continue engaging God’s mission. Your wardens are two of the most capable people I’ve ever met and together with your vestry and the entire community, as it has for the last 139 years, your journey continues.

There will be time to say goodbye, and I will continue to serve faithfully until my final day. In the meantime, the mission of God calls us onward. There are individuals and communities in need of the Gospel – and it is our job as followers of Jesus Christ to proclaim it, in word and example.

Faithfully, Marcus+

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