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Sermon for July 11, 2021 768 1024 johnpaddock

Sermon for July 11, 2021

Sometimes our liturgical formulations just don’t seem to fit with some scripture texts.

For example, Psalm 137 ends with this line: “Happy shall be he who takes your little ones, and dashes them against the rock.” And the proper liturgical response immediately follows: “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.”

Today we heard Herodias’ daughter, Salome, say:

“I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. 

And then the Deacon said, “The Gospel of the Lord.” And we all replied, “Praise to you, Lord Christ.”

Not everything in the Bible is Good News or even comforting news. It’s just news. Some news is good; some of it’s bad; and some of it’s just plain grotesque. 

So, it seems to me that on some occasions we should instead of saying, “Glory to the Father,” “The Word of the Lord”, or “Praise to you, Lord Christ”, we should have the option of saying nothing . . . silence . . . as we contemplate evil and tragedy.  

Since I don’t have any idea about how to bring good news out of John the Baptist’s head on a platter, I’m not going to try. I can’t, as they say, put lipstick on a pig, and have it look like anything other than a pig.

So this seems like a good time to talk about the Bible. What it is. What it is not. How to think about it. 

Although we think of the Bible as a single book, one volume that you can hold in your hand, the title in koine Greek, common vernacular Greek that was spoken in the first century, the title is “ta Biblia”—“The books.” So the Bible is actually a library of books divided into three sections that we Episcopalians commonly call the Old Testament (39 books), The Apocrypha (13-19 books depending of which are included), and The New Testament (with its 27 books). Jews and Roman Catholics include the Apocrypha in the Old Testament. But because the Apocrypha was written in what we call the inter-testamental period, between the Testaments—Anglicans have traditionally grouped them in their own section. Many other Protestant groups don’t include the Apocryphal books at all. 

But the larger point is that the Bible is a whole library of books that are bound together in one volume. The earliest ones were written around a thousand years before Jesus was born and the latest were penned as late as 120 of the Common Era. They are the work of hundreds of authors and thousands of editors and scribes. The contents include folk tales and ancient myths; wisdom sayings, prose, poetry and songs; histories; prophecies; legal codes; liturgies; worship practices and requirements; gospels, letters, and apocalypses. 

Some individual books were written by multiple authors whose works were combined by later editors into a single book. In Genesis, for example, there are two creation stories, one right after the other, and they’re completely different. There are also two different Noah’s Ark stories that are not side by side, but have been interwoven into one by a clever editor. Hebrew scholars can distinguish them line by line, because the two were written hundreds of years apart. It’s like the difference between Elizabethan and modern English. 

The Bible was written in three different languages:  Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic—and unless we can read those ancient languages fluently, we read them all in translation. And as you know, some things get lost or added in translation. There are some Hebrew words that scholars don’t know the meaning of even to this day—depending on the version, there is either a blank or a wild guess.

None of these books were written to be “Holy Scripture.” Each author had a particular point of view, wrote in a particular time in history, and addressed a particular issue, concern, and audience. Some were the equivalent of today’s “paid political announcements”, stressing a highly partisan perspective, while others were written as refutations of the first. St. Paul, for example, never intended to write chapters for the Bible—rather, he wrote letters to the Romans, Ephesians, and the Corinthians, among others, to address contemporary matters and/or disagreements in those communities.

In fact, the first attempt to collect and distribute Paul’s letters was by a heretic named Marcion who, around 140 CE, edited out the parts he didn’t like, in the same way that Thomas Jefferson created a highly edited New Testament, removing the passages that he didn’t care for. The early church didn’t officially put together the New Testament as we have until 382 CE. Prior to that the only “Bible” they had was the Old Testament. And there was quite a debate about which books to include or not. The most highly contested was The Book of Revelation. In fact, no less a light than Martin Luther once commented that “The Book of Revelation is the most un-Christian book in the New Testament.”

What most of the books have in common is that their authors and editors were engaged in wrestling with God and what it meant to be a people of God. Sometimes they were highly complementary of the Divine and at others they complained about God and lamented their fate to him. Some wanted to dash the heads of the children of their enemies against the stones while others wanted to “love their neighbors as themselves.” Some contrasted the evil in the world like the beheading of the Baptist and the crucifixion of Jesus with the Holy Spirit’s call to live into resurrection life.

So it’s all there in the Bible, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Taken as a whole, it’s a vast range of material, gathered over millennia, that’s the record of people attempting to respond faithfully to God and the stories of their failures to do so. As one Rabbi once said, in that sense the Bible is brutally honest . . . a rarity among books of all kinds and especially among religious texts. 

Several cautions about the Bible. The first is what we might call bibliolatry—making the Bible into an idol that we then worship as a false God. We honor the Bible for what it is—but we don’t bow down to it. The Bible is never an end in itself but points beyond its pages to the Divine. 

A second caution is to understand that this book is inspired in the sense that the human authors were motivated by the Holy Spirit to write of their experiences and insights. But it wasn’t dictated by God. The Bible is not the words of God, but it can and does lead people to worship the One who is The Word of God, the Messiah, the Christ. 

A word about interpretation and understanding the Bible. Here are some questions that we should always ask about any particular book or passage.

  • Who wrote it and what was their perspective?
  • When was it written and to whom was it written?
  • What was the situation at the time?
  • How would the message of the text have been understood at the time?
  • And how has the Church interpreted it in different eras?
  • What application does the text have in our own day? 

All this is to say that the Bible is a complicated library. You do not have to have a theological education to read and understand it. But it does pay to have a good Interpreter’s Bible with introductions to each book and extensive commentary. I personally recommend The New Oxford Annotated Bible, New Revised Standard Edition with the Apocrypha, an Ecumenical Study Bible, Fully Revised Fifth Edition, published in 2018. There are many other resources to assist people who want to delve more deeply into the texts, and I’d be pleased to share some of those with anyone interested. But that’s beyond the scope of this sermon. 

I hope and pray that these remarks are a helpful summary to the books that form the bedrock of our faith. May God bless you and keep you.

Let us pray.

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

A Matter of Fair Balance 968 1024 johnpaddock

A Matter of Fair Balance

I invite you to ponder with me the relationship between religious faith and our country. We’re gathered here in church on a Sunday morning, as we contemplate and anticipate the Fourth of July celebration next Sunday. As one looks around this sanctuary, there are  American flags as well as crosses. So we here at St. Christopher’s believe that there’s a relationship. And the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag proclaims such a relationship as we say that we are “one nation under God.”

Of course, when things are going along rather smoothly, questions about God and country might not even come up. But when a former Attorney General of the United States quoted St. Paul to justify splitting up families and incarcerating infants, toddlers, and children, then lots of questions emerged. What should be the relationship between religion and the state? 

There is also idolatry that must be avoided at all costs, where folk can worship the symbols (crosses, flags, bibles) rather than the God and nation to which they point. 

These are not just questions for The United States—they’re being asked and wrestled with around the globe, where some predominantly Muslim countries are being encouraged to substitute Sharia law for the law of the state. Or in Israel where the extreme religious right is often the tail that wags the dog. In India, the current government favors Hindu religion over Islam. In other places there are clashes between religious groups. Which religious laws should predominate—if any at all?

Here in the US, we’re a melting pot of religions as well as various cultures and tongues. There are widely varying interpretations of Christianity. If we decide in favor of Christian guidance for the laws that govern our common life, which of those interpretations should prevail? Fundamentalism? Mainline Christianity? Roman Catholic? Or Mormonism? And within each of these groupings, we find wide varieties and variances. For example, Lutherans and Episcopalians don’t even agree on the wording and numbering of the Ten Commandments – not to mention that the commandments started off as Hebrew Laws; there’s nothing particularly “Christian” about them. Do we simply take a vote on each issue that might arise and follow the rule of the majority? And what about the losers of any such votes? Do they have any rights or recourse?

I don’t propose to resolve these very difficult questions in a short sermon. What I would like to suggest is that there are some considerations to keep in mind as we contemplate these matters—some values, if you will, that our faith brings to the table as we contemplate the relationship between civic and religious life. 

I take as a starting point some words of St. Paul to the Corinthians. He was asking them to give generously to an offering that would go for the relief of the Saints in Jerusalem who were experiencing a famine. He said that “ . . . it is a question of a fair balance . . . . “[1] He was referring to the fact that the Corinthians were rather well off while their sisters and brothers in Palestine were living in poverty. The concept of “Fair Balance” is a biblical value that St. Paul calls isotes, meaning equity or evenhandedness. It’s not that everyone has the same, but rather that everyone has enough: enough food, enough clothing, shelter, security, opportunity and so on.

Another form of fair balance involves justice. Think of the image of Lady Justice—blind-folded to suggest that the administration of justice should be without prejudice or bias. She’s holding a scale, indicating that justice is to be dealt out evenly to all. Justice is obviously a prominent biblical theme. Amos’ famous declaration: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”[2] Or Micah:  

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
   and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
   and to walk humbly with your God?[3]

So the law, and the administration of justice, is to be mitigated with kindness and mercy. No one expresses it better than William Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice:

The quality of mercy is not strained;

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:

‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes

The throned monarch better than his crown:

His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,

The attribute to awe and majesty,

Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;

But mercy is above this sceptred sway;

It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,

It is an attribute to God himself;

And earthly power doth then show likest God’s

When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, . . . 

Though justice be thy plea, consider this,

That, in the course of justice, none of us

Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;

And that same prayer doth teach us all to render

The deeds of mercy.[4]

Micah also reminds us to be humble. “Walk humbly with your God.” There’s nothing more dangerous than absolute certainty. No nation, no people, no state, no laws are perfect, and we Christians realize that we’ve been wrong before. We were wrong that the earth was flat, that the sun revolved around the earth, that we were created in perfection, that the Crusades were right and just. Many good Christians (some of them Anglicans even) wrote a Constitution with slavery enshrined in it. Just because something is the law does not automatically make it right. Some of us in this room can remember the battles against Jim Crow and legal discrimination. There are powerful forms of injustice embedded in our laws to this day. Humility and the related value of “hesitation to be too certain of our righteousness” are important and useful in community life.

Another value featured prominently in both the Old and New Testaments is hospitality—hospitality to the foreigner, the stranger, the alien. The Torah regularly reminded the Hebrews that they were once slaves and strangers in Egypt, and so they were to be vigilant to welcome those who would sojourn among them. Jesus was clear that those who welcomed the stranger welcomed him: welcomed the very image and being of God.  

A definition of democracy I learned in Junior High School was this: “Democracy is the rule of the majority with respect for the rights of the minority.” There may well be far better and more accurate definitions—but the idea of “respect for the rights of the minority” should never be lost. When that pillar of democracy wobbles, the whole structure is in danger of collapse into some form of totalitarianism. 

I don’t think that it was an accident that when we American Episcopalians last revised The Book of Common Prayer, we made one plank of the baptismal covenant the promise to respect the dignity of every human being. And I might add, without regard for whether they are in the majority or the minority.

And so we Christians, as we ponder our country, bring to our reflection these values. 

  • Fair balance, equity, evenhandedness, and enough for everyone
  • Justice seasoned by kindness and mercy
  • Humility and hesitancy to be too confident in our own righteousness
  • Hospitality, especially for the other and the stranger
  • And respect for the rights and the dignity of every human being.

The question of whether we should be a Christian, Moslem, Jewish or other religious state should be an obvious “NO.” The state should never be the monitor nor the enforcer of religious doctrine or orthodoxy. At her best our country will exhibit those values that are commonly held by what is best in all of the world’s great religions—and even by many non-believers who are ethical people of good will.

As we approach our national day of Independence this Fourth of July, I’m reminded of the words of the old folk singer Utah Phillips who used to say, “Love of country always; love of government when it deserves it.” And I might add, “An insistence that we live up to our most deeply held values—not just giving them lip service but working tirelessly to see them become the reality for all.

Let it be so.

[1] 2 Corinthians 8:13b

[2] Amos 5:24

[3] Micah 6:8

[4] William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene 1.

eLantern for June 23, 2021 150 150 johnpaddock

eLantern for June 23, 2021

Last week the Diocese of Southern Ohio revised the guidelines for in-person worship. Most of the precautions and limitations have been removed, leaving it to clergy and Vestries to decide how to apply them at the congregational level. At Sunday’s meeting, the Wardens and Vestry reviewed the revised guidelines and here are our decisions.
The guideline reads, “No mask is required for any person who is fully vaccinated. Masks are required for persons who are unvaccinated or in the presence of persons who are not able to be vaccinated, such as children or the immunocompromised.”
At St. Christopher’s we will reserve the front four pews on the Epistle side (the right side as one faces the altar) for individuals or groups who voluntarily wish to distance and wear masks. Others who are fully vaccinated will be able to sit in any of the other pews, masked or unmasked as they choose.
We will not require proof of vaccination. We trust the people of our parish to love their neighbors and to do what is best for the common good and for the protection of those who may be vulnerable.
The diocesan guidelines now allow for full communion using the common cup. However, we feel that it is too soon to allow for this. We need to obtain a second silver chalice and to determine how best to protect the vulnerable. We will revisit this at the August Vestry meeting. In the meantime, we will continue to have Holy Communion in one kind (bread) only.
Capacity and Choral Singing
We will return to full capacity (with distancing requirements in the first four pews on the Epistle side).We will resume processing and recessing behind the cross.Choral Singing without masks is permitted.We will continue to refrain from passing the collection plate.Regular sanitation practices should continue to be followed.
Coffee Hours and Receptions
Diocesan guidelines read, “Coffee hours and receptions can be resumed. However, if food is served, it is recommended that items be individually wrapped or provide a server for buffets to avoid common utensils.”
At St. Christopher’s we will resume coffee hours on Sunday, July 11. This will give us time to obtain disposable cups and to plan details about food. Please keep an eye out for further information.
If you have comments or suggestions regarding these parish guidelines, please contact me and/or the Wardens, Hayward Learn and Cindy Feltz.
Faithfully,John Paddock
Holy Eucharist at 10 am—in-person and on Facebook Live.
Healing and Holy Eucharist, Tuesday at noon, in-person.
SUNDAY, JUNE 27, 5th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8B Service Details
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27Psalm 130, p. 7842 Corinthians 8:7-15Mark 5:21-43(Clicking the above links will redirect you to the full reading at
Prayers of the People: Form II, p. 585Eucharistic Prayer A, p. 361
Bob and Lois, Eleanor, Toni and Ed, Judy, Debbie, Steve, Melissa, Aaron, Jessye, Dorothy, Camden, Chuyi, David, Nora, Evelio, Dee, Stephen, Kim, Dora, Barb, Quinn, Alma, Cindy, Patty, Cathy, Betty T., Mel, Kelli, Linda, Mark, Angie, Joanne, and Anthony.
Returning to in-person worship for some and sharing the service with others on Facebook presents us with some challenges. This “Hybrid Church” creates some pitfalls as the requirements of online are often different from those of in-person experience. As we live into this new reality, we will be experimenting in various ways.
One of those is to shorten the service a bit by having only one lesson (Old Testament or Epistle) rather than both. Due to many factors, we have fewer people to serve the altar and read the lessons, so this will help in that regard.
Before COVID, we had Worship Leaders, Lectors, Chalice Bearers, and Acolytes in addition to clergy. Ed Smith is continually reminding us to KIS (Keep It Simple). So with that as a goal, we will:
Discontinue the term “Worship Leader” and the role. The Episcopal Church has a category of lay minister called a “Worship Leader”. However, these people complete a course of training and are licensed by the Bishop to lead worship when clergy are unavailable. But St. Christopher’s does not have any such trained and licensed folk. So it’s confusing. Let’s just let it go.
Each week we will have a “Vested Lector” who will lead the Psalm and the Prayers of the People. This person may also serve as crucifer, server, and/or Lay Eucharistic Minister.
We will discontinue the term “Chalice Bearer”. Back in the day, this term was used for laity who served the wine. But a number of years ago, the Episcopal Church started to use the term “Lay Eucharistic Minister” (LEM). LEM’s are authorized to distribute both bread and wine. At the moment, we are not sharing the wine. Should the need arise, a LEM may distribute the bread. We will train “Vested Lectors” to be LEM’s if they are not already.
Unvested lectors will read the lesson each week. They will come up from the congregation to read. In order to make it move more quickly for the “online congregation”, we ask that the unvested lectors come forward during the Collect of the Day or even earlier in order that they be ready to read immediately after the Collect.
All participants are encouraged to be ready to go as soon as their role is required. This will help reduce any “downtime” during the service. This is especially important for the online participants.
The appropriate response at the end of a lesson is “Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church” or “The Word of the Lord.” Nothing is generally added at the conclusion of the Psalm.
Psalms are read “Antiphonally by half verse”, “Antiphonally by whole verse”, “In unison”. On some occasions the Psalms may be chanted, but that will take careful preparation with the choir.
We will continue to change as we adapt to COVID regulations, available personnel and other circumstances. We will begin implementing some of these changes beginning in July. I invite people who are assigned to a particular role to come at 9:30 on the Sunday they are assigned in order to go over everything before the service.
—John Paddock
An in-person meet and greet with Bishop Smith will be held on July 10. Watch for more information!
Please contact Parish Secretary, Kay Mitchell, to sign-up to donate Altar Flowers. Please specify the date you are requesting. Hollon Flowers will provide two altar arrangements for $25; please make your payment two weeks before your requested date.Have you tried St. Christopher’s online giving site? St. Christopher’s has partnered with Shelby Systems to develop an online giving site for donors to make their gifts to St. Christopher’s electronically. Use this link or the button below, marked Donate to St. Christopher’s, to access the giving site. For more information and details see the article on our website, here.
Happy Birthday to:
Becky Wood on July 6, Jamie Faller on July 9, Tyson Jones on July 20, Diane Cannon on July 26
Happy Anniversary to:
Brooke and John Blackman on July 2
FISH Fairborn recently debuted their new website at: On that website is up-to-date news about FISH as well as a list of immediate pantry needs.
On June 25, a mobile health unit will be at the pantry from 1-4pm providing COVID vaccinations to anyone eligible who wants one. Pre-registration is not necessary.
At this time Fish Fairborn urgently needs: Jelly and cereal. Adult Depends (Size XL and Large)
By category other needs include:Basic Foods: Hearty soups, stews, peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheeseMeat/High Protein Group: Canned meats, canned fish, nuts and seeds, rice and beansBreads, Cereals & Pasta: Hot and cold breakfast cereals, baking mixes, pasta and canned saucesDairy Group: Puddings and custardsFruits and Vegetables: Canned fruits, canned juices, canned vegetablesOther Items: Cat and dog foodNon-Food Household Products: Toilet paper, bar soap, diapers, personal care products such as deodorant, shampoo, laundry soap, etc
Monetary donations to FISH Fairborn can always be sent to FISH Fairborn, P.O. Box 1484. Fairborn, Ohio 45324. Of course, anything you can give helps. Items donated at St.C’s are collected and delivered to FISH once weekly, either Tuesdays or Fridays.
Information about In-Person Sunday Worship 150 150 johnpaddock

Information about In-Person Sunday Worship

What to Expect
In order to maintain proper distancing during Sunday worship, there are a limited number of seats available. Call today to reserve a seat at 937-878-5614 or email Details about what to expect follow below. Service will also be online on Facebook Live.

What to do and expect when returning to Sunday in-person worship:

-Make a reservation.
-Dress appropriately for the weather since windows and doors will be open.
-Plan to arrive early so that we have time to admit people at the door, one individual or pod at a time.
-Wear a mask covering both nose and mouth. We have extra masks for those who may need one.
-Once inside, your temperature will be taken with a no-touch thermometer.
-We will sign you in and make certain that your contact information is correct in case we need to do contact tracing.
-An usher will seat you, filling from the front to the back. (Two pews near the back will be reserved for larger pods).
-Offering plates will not be passed. They will be on a table or stand near the back of the church.
-There will be instrumental music only. No Singing!
-Ushers will release one individual or pod at a time to go forward for Holy Communion.
-The priest, deacon, or Lay Eucharistic Minister will drop the bread into your hand as you stand. Then return to your pew before consuming it.
-When the worship is finished, ushers will release each individual or pod one at a time, beginning from the back of the church.
-There will be no coffee hour. And worshippers will be encouraged to go directly to their cars without visiting in the parking lot.
-For those who will be watching on Facebook Live from home, we have obtained new equipment so that you can get a better viewing experience. Please be patient as video and sound operators learn to be comfortable with the equipment and software.
Sermon for the 3rd Sunday of Easter 580 427 johnpaddock

Sermon for the 3rd Sunday of Easter

“Peace be with you.” That’s the word of Jesus to his followers. “Peace be with you.”

But we’re not at peace.

We’ve been fighting this COVID-19 for over a year, and just as we get the vaccines to keep people healthy, we see the numbers of sick increase and the number of variants grow and new waves of infection spread around the world. The greatest spread here in the U.S. is among our neighbors in Michigan and Pennsylvania—Ohio’s numbers are growing. Too many people not wearing masks and distancing even while the new variants are demonstrating that they are far more contagious and dangerous to younger people.

“Peace be with you.”

But we’re not at peace. 

There’s another pandemic—a pandemic of gun violence. A graphic in yesterday’s NYT shows the number of mass shootings this year alone from Georgia to California, from Texas to Indianapolis. Many claim that the more guns we have the safer we are. The population of the US is approximately 330 million and the estimated number of guns in America is 434 million. We’ve got 104 million more guns that we have people. This should be the safest place on the planet if more guns were the answer. 

“Peace be with you.”

But we’re not at peace.

This week we observe Earth Day, number 51. Earth day is the annual reminder of the degradation of our environment and the rapid pace of global climate change. Despite all of the proclamations, the planet is in far worse shape today than it was in 1970.

Peace be with you. 

But there is no peace in a nation where there are, on average, three police shootings a day. That is too many. Justified or unjustified, we have got to work together as a people to find better ways to do policing in America. 

“Peace be with you,” says the Lord. This was not and is not a proclamation of what is . . . rather, it’s a prophetic call to action for us to create with passion the Divine will of God. It’s not enough to say, “Ain’t it awful,” and then go back to doing whatever it was that we were doing before. The call of the Gospel is a call for repentance and transformation.

For far too many people Christianity is all about getting to heaven.

This kind of thinking is alive and well. One can see it along the freeways. There’s a series of billboards asking, “If you died today, do you know where you would spend eternity?”  And there’s a display of the Ten Commandments as a kind of roadmap to help drivers locate the happy side of eternity.

But there’s another point of view in the Gospels and in subsequent Christian theology that thinks about sin in a very different way. Rather than understanding sin primarily as bad behavior that prevents us from getting to heaven, and rather than understanding the cross as Jesus substituting himself for our sins and paying the wages of sin with his own death—so that we can get to heaven—this other perspective isn’t even primarily about heaven. It’s not about ghostly spirits, wing-ed creatures, or wispy beings in lives and worlds beyond this one. It’s about earth, as you and I know and experience it. The death and resurrection of Jesus happens where the very real body of Christ has been broken — in this world and in this life. 

That’s the point of these post-resurrection stories about Jesus having people touch him, walk with him, eat with him. The Gospel writers were affirming that the risen Christ isn’t a ghostly apparition drawing us to an existence in another realm . . . the Christ, rather, is very much a part of this reality, and it’s here that we’re called into mission. It’s not that the afterlife is un-important, but we’ve got plenty to do right here and right now.

Christian theology affirms that Sin with a capital “S” is not so much about bad behavior as it is separation from God. So that’s what Jesus was doing when he came down from heaven and became incarnate among us. He is fully human and fully divine—in himself he brings humanity and God together. The theological term is atonement—at one ment.. No division between us and God. That’s why the writer of I John says, “No one who abides in him sins . . . .” It is not abiding, not being one with God, that is Sin. All bad behaviors are just symptoms of this root cause.

The early Christians talked about the stone rejected by the builders, which became the head of the corner or capstone in an arch. It was a metaphor to speak about Jesus, rejected and despised, whom God raised from the dead and made the center of human existence. In God’s economy, the rejected stones and the injured people are the ones to whom Christ’s broken body is offered.

The Christian life isn’t about escaping this world. It’s about transforming it—making it a residence for the Risen One . . . a residence that exists “on earth as it is in heaven.” 

And so we bring our message of God’s love and abiding in Christ to the world. We do that by sharing the message in our families, neighborhoods, places of work. We insist on letting leaders in business, government, and our local communities know about our aspirations for the Peace of God. Write letters, emails, texts, and make phone calls. Pay attention to the issues of the day and subscribe to EPPN, the Episcopal Public Policy Network and join your efforts with theirs.

I often hear anxiety that St. Christopher’s doesn’t have a signature outreach program like a food pantry, clothing bank, or homeless shelter. I suggest we make working for the peace of God our mission—peace where fewer people are getting sick or shot—peace where the Climate is moving in a healthy direction, peace where there isn’t as much need for food pantries, clothing banks, and homeless shelters. Peace—on earth as it is in heaven. 

That’s a signature mission program that comes straight from Jesus.

God bless you. God bless this parish family. And may God’s peace be with us all. 


Sermon for 2nd Sunday of Easter 580 682 johnpaddock

Sermon for 2nd Sunday of Easter

Doubting Thomas. You all know the story. We just heard it read once again. The heart of the matter was that the other disciples had encountered Jesus on Easter evening. They had evidence that Thomas didn’t have. And so he was skeptical. 

I recently participated in a focus group that was considering proposals for changes in our homeless system in Montgomery County. In one exercise we were asked to divide the proposals into three categories: I approve, I’m conflicted, I disapprove.

I imagine that Thomas was in that middle category: conflicted. His friends believed in the resurrection and seemed to be enthusiastic about it. But resurrection? I imagine Thomas’ interior dialogue going like this. “I’m devastated by Jesus’ death. I desperately want to believe that he’s alive. I want to trust my friends’ testimony. But this kind of thing just doesn’t happen in normal experience. Maybe the others are deluding themselves. Perhaps they buried their sorrow in too much wine. I just can’t bring myself to go there without more evidence.”

The people who scare me the most in this life are those who are absolutely certain. You may know what I mean. We encounter folk like that in almost every walk of life and in every arena: true believers. Among some in the Christian world, it’s expressed in the mantra: The Bible says it. I believe it. And that settles it. 

The world is flat and was made in six days, and Eve talked to a snake who talked back, and there was this Tree, and God is Up and is a He, and boys are better than girls, and sex is only for baby-making, and there will be Pie in the Sky Bye and Bye. And so the blessing Thomas gets for having doubts is turned, by some, into a kind of curse against those who raise their hands at the end of the lecture, because they still aren’t completely convinced.

I’ve lived much of my life with doubt. To say that the Bible says something doesn’t fully settle the matter for me. I find myself asking questions like:

  • Does the Bible really say that? 
  • What does the Hebrew and Greek say?
  • Are there other explanations?
  • When was it written?
  • Who wrote that text, in what context, and with what agenda?
  • Has it always been interpreted that way, or have there been other perspectives?

As a boy and a young man I thought that I had things figured out. But then I started discovering that certain people weren’t quite as bad as I thought. Discovered in myself mixed motives. Realized that some of my heroes had clay feet. Ideals like freedom of speech, capitalism, and democracy have both upsides and downsides. 

For the longest time I said the creeds with fingers figuratively crossed behind my back, because they contained words or phrases that stuck in my throat. There were times that I thought that I was a fraud for being a priest and questioning some tenet of the faith. 

I’ve come to learn that this is a particularly Anglican sensibility. We’re true to our British roots, muddling through as they say. Even to this day the British are hard pressed to be clear about whether they want to be part of the continent of Europe or not. They like to look at all sides of a question. 

And you know what? Because I’ve doubted myself, I’ve never wanted to excommunicate, shun, or banish anyone else – with the rare exception of those who were so certain that they were willing to throw others off the bus for disagreeing or differing with them. 

Doubters save us from Nazism.

Doubters prevent us from engaging in genocide.

Doubters mitigate racism.

Psychologist and Middle East reporter Lesley Hazelton once delivered a TED talk entitled Believers and Doubters in which she called for a new appreciation for doubt and questioning as the foundation of faith and an end to fundamentalism of all kinds.

Hazelton points out that the prophet Muhammad was convinced that his first encounter with God was either an hallucination or evidence that he was possessed by an evil spirit. He was overwhelmed not by conviction—but doubt. In fact, Hazelton insists that doubt, rather than the opposite of faith is actually essential to faith. Faith arises out of struggle. Mohammad struggled to understand his experience. Jacob wrestled with the angel. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness striving with satan. Thomas strove with himself for a week—and out of that struggle he knew exactly what questions needed be answered in order to come to faith.

What is often mistaken for faith is fanaticism, an absolute conviction that those who believe like we do possess the truth with a capital “T”. “Without doubt, what is left is absolute heartless conviction.” Others, who do not accept our truth are then disposable as infidels, from the Latin, meaning “faithless”. It was applied by Christian Crusaders to Muslims and more recently, by Muslim extremists to Christians, Jews, and even fellow Muslims who disagree with them. In fact, says Hazelton, fundamentalists of all stripes are the infidels, the faithless, because they have no questions, only answers. It’s the perfect antidote to thought and struggle: certainty. 

Real faith has no easy answers. It’s difficult, because it requires an ongoing questioning of what we think we know. It goes hand in hand with doubt. 

This understanding is why many of the more certain churches grow and have large campuses and numbers. It’s why many of us in the mainline of Christianity are witnessing declining membership. Because too many are not willing to engage in the hard work of doubt and coming to faith. 

Of course, there are many other factors at play which are beyond the scope of this reflection. But Be encouraged to know, as you struggle with what to believe and question certain affirmations, that you are being faithful. You are faithful to the traditions of the world’s great religions and to our own Anglican and Christian heritage. As cracks may appear in your faith from time to time, they are allowing an opening for the Holy Spirit. As our United Church of Christ friends say, “Do not put a period where God has only placed a comma.”

In the name of God: Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier of life. Amen.

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Sermon for Easter Day

The story goes that little Johnny was asked about Easter. Johnny responded, “Isn’t that when Jesus comes out of his grave, looks around for his shadow, and then goes back in for six more weeks?”

 Johnny had part of it right. Jesus rose from the dead. 

  • But why? 
  • What is the meaning of Easter? 

Of course, in order to understand what Easter is about we need to know why Jesus was in the grave in the first place. 

The stories of the Passion—the Suffering of Jesus in all four Gospels make it clear that Jesus was arrested, tried, and was nailed to cross in a collaborative effort between Temple authorities and the State. Jesus was a threat to both religious and secular order.

We’re familiar with his many conflicts and arguments with the Scribes and Pharisees  It’s clear from Gospels that the Temple authorities were keeping track of his many violations, and they were looking for opportunities to put an end to him and his heretical teachings. 

The threat was that they had a religious system in place where the authorities and hierarchy were in control—where everyday behavior was regulated—where conformity to established norms was the order of the day, where wealth and privilege went to a select few. Jesus’ laser focus on justice and the welfare of all and his growing popularity couldn’t be ignored. 

What may not be so obvious is why Jesus was perceived as a threat to the might of Rome. Empires maintain their hegemony by force and threat of violence. They understand that any challenge must be addressed forcefully before it grows and expands. The Pax Romana (the Peace of Rome) was based on violence. Military legions patrolled the Empire putting down both internal rebellion and external threats. Historians speak of how the Appian Way, the main road into the city, was lined with crosses—with bodies in various states of decay as a warning and means of social control. “Step out of line—and see what awaits you.”

Jesus’ followers had begun to refer to him as Messiah, Anointed One, Lord, Prince of Peace, Son of God, Born of a Virgin, Savior of the World—all titles and attributes affiliated with Augustus Caesar and the Emperor cult. When Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God, he was talking about a realm that was in direct opposition to the Kingdom and the values of Rome. 

The earliest creed of the church was the simple statement, “Jesus is Lord.” To make that affirmation was also to deny that “The Emperor is Lord.” 

In the several days after Jesus’ Palm Procession into the City of Jerusalem, hailed as King and cheered by crowds, he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and merchants in the Temple—and called into question whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. They had to get rid of him.

So Jesus was arrested, found guilty of heresy by the Temple Authorities, guilty of sedition by Pilate, and crucified as punishment for his crimes. A mockery of his kingship and his kingdom was made with a crown of thorns, a purple robe, a cross as his throne, and a sign attached to the cross, announcing for all to see, that here reigns the King of the Jews. 

The contrast between Jesus’ peaceable kingdom and the violence of his murderers was emphasized at the time of his arrest when one of his disciples raised a sword. “Put down the sword,” he said. “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.”[1]

In his dialogue with Pontius Pilate, Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’[2]

Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann suggests that against this background, Easter is subversive of the death-dealing dominant culture with its focus on security, order, enforced social norms, short-term gains, and ignoring the common wealth that trades on fear, violence, and death.

Quoting Brueggemenn:

There is a countertruth that surfaces in Christian worship. It is a small counterpoint without great voice or muscle. It has been a minority perspective for a very long time. The ones who practice the counterpoint know very well that ours is not and will not be a dominant voice. It is a sub-version of reality, one that sounds beneath the loud sounds of the dominant version, one that flies low beneath the radar surveillance of the dominant version.

This delicate tension between dominant version and sub-version, I believe, is the true character of worship. The claims made in the sub-version, claims such as “Christ is risen,” are a deeply felt, eagerly offered truth. And yet in its very utterance the community at worship knows that the facts on the ground, the data at hand, contradict this and give evidence that the odor of death is still very much in play.[3]

Johnny was right about Jesus coming out of his grave. But the Resurrection of Jesus is about so much more than simply one individual who escaped the tomb. 

But we continue to affirm that “Jesus is Lord” and “Christ is Risen.” It may be a minority report. But that doesn’t lessen our confidence that it is the ultimate reality, rooted in the One who is the Ground of Our Being. 

We live in an age of violence and death, real, imagined, threatened. Gun violence, terrorism, nuclear sword-rattling, Climate Change, and this past year, a Global Pandemic. Some days that’s all that we can see or hear. Easter invites to embrace the alternate vision of a non-violent order and a different way—where lions lay down with lambs, where swords are beaten into plowshares, where universal human rights are connected to universal resurrection, where death is not the last word. This is the poetry, the deep meaning of Easter.

Brueggmann again:

“The church, by its words and by its odd acts of generosity and emancipation, opens the world to new possibility that make all the old possibilities impotent . . . .  The powers of death did their best—or their worst—on Friday; those powers did not prevail. They are shown to be helpless before God’s power for life. And the church continues to mock death and to celebrate God’s gift of life that will not be defeated.”[4]

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen, indeed! Alleluia.

[1] Matthew 26:52

[2] John 18:36

[3] Walter Bruggemann, A Gospel of Hope, Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville, 2018, p. 14

[4] Ibid., p. 18

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New Online Giving Site Activated

Early in the pandemic, the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio developed and provided an online giving site so that southern Ohio parishes could continue to receive donations that previously would have been collected during services. The diocese has asked that parishes who have found the online giving site a help, establish their own similar sites. After discussion with the vestry, St. Christopher’s has set up an online giving site similar to the one the diocese provided.

There are several ways a donor can access the online giving site:

  • A “button” has been added in your eLantern. Near the bottom of this newsletter is a block of buttons, the top button reads, Donate to St. Christopher’s. If you click the button, you will be redirected to the giving site.
  • When accessing the St. Christopher’s website, a button is located near the top, right of the page that says Give Online. Clicking the button will redirect you to the giving site.
  • You may access the giving site directly by entering this web address into your browser’s search bar:
  • A free app can be downloaded to your tablet or smartphone that will link you directly to the St. Christopher’s online giving site. To find the app, search your App Store (Apple or Android), the App is called “Shelby Giving” and the app icon will look similar to one of the icons below.

When making a donation from the St. Christopher’s online giving site a nominal processing fee will be incurred. Paying the processing fee is completely optional, you may choose to help St. Christopher’s by paying the fee or not. Processing fees for bank transfers (ACH payments) are 75¢ [cents] each and fees for payments made through a credit card are $1 each.

For help or more information about online giving, contact Hayward Learn or Andrea Haberecht.

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Holy Week

Maundy Thursday (April 1), 7 pm. Holy Eucharist. Also on Facebook Live.

Good Friday (April 2)

  • Noon: Good Friday Liturgy in church and online
  • 1-6: Church open for self-guided Stations of the Cross and prayer

Easter (April 4), 10 am, Live and online. Reservations required. See Palm Sunday above.

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Palm Sunday and Easter

On March 28, 2021, we will return to in-person Sunday worship at 10 am. In order to maintain proper distancing, there are a limited number of seats available. Call today to reserve a seat for Palm Sunday and/or Easter at 937-878-5614 or email to Let us know how many people will be with you or if you will be alone. Details about what to expect follow below. Services will also be online on Facebook Live.

What to do and expect regarding return to Sunday in-person worship:

–Make a reservation.
–Dress appropriately for the weather since windows and doors will be open.Plan to arrive early so that we have time to admit people at the door, one individual or pod at a time.
–Wear a mask covering both nose and mouth. We have extra masks for those who may need one.
–Once inside, your temperature will be taken with a no-touch thermometer.
–We will sign you in and make certain that your contact information is correct in case we need to do contact tracing.
–An usher will seat you, filling from the front to the back. (Two pews near the back will be reserved for larger pods).
–Offering plates will not be passed. They will be on a table or stand near the back of the church.There will be instrumental music only. No Singing!
–The service will be shorter than usual.
–Ushers will release one individual or pod at a time to go forward for Holy Communion. The priest or deacon will drop the bread into your hand as you stand. Then return to your pew before consuming it.
–Blessed palms on Palm Sunday will be available for pick up when worshippers come forward for communion.
–When the worship is finished, ushers will release each individual or pod one at a time, beginning from the back of the church.
–There will be no coffee hour. And worshippers will be encouraged to go directly to their cars without visiting in the parking lot.
–For those who will be watching on Facebook Live from home, we have obtained new equipment so that you can get a better viewing experience. Please be patient as video and sound operators learn to be comfortable with the equipment and software.
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