News Letter: June 25, 2014

St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church                                       St. Paul’s Weekly E-Newsletter

            A unique Christian community bound by God’s love, sharing our love with others

June 25, 2014

All-church Picnic this Sunday

This Sunday is our annual all-church picnic following  worship. This event is sponsored by AMPT and all are  invited. AMPT is furnishing the BBQ and everyone else  is asked to bring a side-dish. There will be games, music, dancing and food for all!

Worship this week is being lead by Rev. Matthew  George. Pastor Ann will be attending the closing worship service for St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Van  Nuys on Sunday morning.

 Summer Stewardship is Important

Invariably giving and the paying of pledges drops off considerably during the summer months, so this can serve as a reminder to keep your pledge current during June, July  and August. It is through stewardship that we return to God the first portion of all that God has given to us. It is a way to thank God for blessing us with special gifts. Most  of us have made life-long commitments to follow Jesus no matter what the cost and we know that cannot be expressed in just one single action. Most of us would agree that it is a very rewarding way of life in which our personal relationship with Jesus is enriched and deepened every day. It is through the sharing of our time, our resources  and our talents that we make the world a better place, a  safer place and a more peaceful place for all to live. In the  true spirit of stewardship we are asked to give from substance and not just from our abundance. We graciously  give back to God the first portion of all the gifts God has given us. Make sharing a top priority. There is nothing  more rewarding than giving Jesus our best.

Psalm 92: 12-14

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree; they shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who  are planted in the house of God shall flourish in the courts of God. They shall still bear fruit in  old age: they shall be fresh and flourishing.


The Birthday Carpet Campaign

Sunday, July 6th will be the last chance to contribute to Pastor Ann’s Birthday Carpet and Flooring Campaign.  So far we have over $2000 to replace the carpet in the offices. Thanks so much!  Pastor Ann is very HAPPY!

Graduation Sunday to Honor Graduates

During worship this Sunday we will honor our college, elementary and preschool graduates. Plan to be here to offer them your support.

There will be a very important Town Hall meeting on Sunday, July 13th following worship and we want as many people to     participate as is possible. We will offer a light lunch and then we will be     taking a survey as we begin to look to the future of St. Paul’s.


Prt 114 Being Presbyterian

We have been focusing more of our attention toward evangelism and membership lately. We have had conversations in our session meetings about the differences between members and participants, bap-tized members and confirmed members. Some of us have been members since we were small children and others of us have come to an understanding of faith as adults. Some of us have made the decision to actually join St. Paul’s; others of us belong to churches that for whatever reason we cannot attend but we feel an allegiance to so we keep our membership there and worship at St. Paul’s. Other’s of us are from a generation of young folks that find organized religion or membership in any organized entity to be unnecessary or not a part of our experience.

The church has so much to offer people  and it is natural for us to want to share it  with others. The sharing of the love we have received from God with others is a pivotal part of our Christian commit-ment.

Many of us know a formerly or un-churched person (someone who used to go to church but doesn’t anymore). I would like you to engage/talk with them and just find out why. Are they mad? Are they rebelling? Are they feeling awkward about coming back? Is being Presbyterian cool? Being Christian? Is Bible Study important? Is there a new or different way we could engage with them on their spiritual journey? Offer to pray with them. Invite them to join us for  worship this summer.

Do You Know the Bible?

Answers to last week’s questions: (1) Nazareth, (2) day six, (3) Mary Magdalene, (4) “And a time to pluck up what is planted.” (5) fisherman, (6) tax collection.

1. In what town did Mary and Martha live?

2. What did Zacchaeus give to the poor?

3. What did Jesus turn into wine?

4. What type of wood did Noah use to build the ark?

5. What did Noah use to keep the ark from leaking?

6. What weapons did David have to fight Goliath?


Sermon: Seeing God in Others

Seeing God in Others

June 22, 2014

St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church                                                                                                     Pentecost + 2

Scripture: Exodus 4:10-17 (MSG)

10 Moses raised another of his objections to God: “Master, please, I don’t talk well. I’ve never been good with words, neither before nor after you spoke to me. I stutter and stammer.”

11-12 God said, “And who do you think made the human mouth? And who makes some mute, some deaf, some sighted, some blind? Isn’t it I, God? So, get going. I’ll be right there with you—with your mouth! I’ll be right there to teach you what to say.”

13 Then Moses said, “Oh, Master, please! Send somebody else!”

14-17 God got angry with Moses: “Don’t you have a brother, Aaron the Levite? He’s good with words, I know he is. He speaks very well. In fact, at this very moment he’s on his way to meet you. When he sees you he’s going to be glad. You’ll speak to him and tell him what to say. I’ll be right there with you as you speak and with him as he speaks, teaching you step by step. He will speak to the people for you. He’ll act as your mouth, but you’ll decide what comes out of it. Now take this staff in your hand; you’ll use it to do the signs.”

Mark 3:1-6 (MSG)

1-3 Then Jesus went back in the meeting place where he found a man with a crippled hand. The Pharisees had their eyes on Jesus to see if he would heal him, hoping to catch him in a Sabbath infraction. Jesus said to the man with the crippled hand, “Stand here where we can see you.”

Then he spoke to the people: “What kind of action suits the Sabbath best? Doing good or doing evil? Helping people or leaving them helpless?” No one said a word.

5-6 Jesus looked them in the eye, one after another, angry now, furious at their hard-nosed religion. He said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” The man held it out—it was as good as new! The Pharisees got out as fast as they could, sputtering about how they would join forces with Herod’s followers and ruin Jesus.


Draw us close, Holy Spirit, as the scriptures are read and the Word is proclaimed. Let the word of faith be on our lips and in our hearts, and let all other words slip away. May there be one voice we hear today — the voice of truth and grace. Amen.

Our Experience

The 1964 Philadelphia Phillies will always be known as the team that suffered one of the great collapses in sports history. They let a huge division lead slip away by losing ten games in a row at the end of the season. Despite the collapse, the Phillies season had its share of memorable moments, including a perfect game and a ninth-inning home run by a Phillie to win the All-Star Game.

But the most remarkable moment of the entire season occurred after a game, not during it. Clay Dalrymple, a Phillie pitcher, was asked to assist a blind girl who had requested a chance to walk out on the field. Dalrymple took the girl to home plate where she reached down and felt the plate. Then they walked to first base, second base, and third base before ending up at home plate once again.
While Dalrymple was showing the girl around the bases, he never noticed that the fans remaining in the stadium had stopped to watch him and his companion. He just assumed that the silence in the stands meant the fans had gone home. But when the two of them finally reached home plate, the ballpark erupted. Dalrymple was shocked by the applause. When he looked up, he saw thousands of fans giving him a standing ovation.
Later, Dalrymple told a Sports Illustrated reporter, “It was the biggest ovation I ever got.” 1

Can we imagine what it must be like to be so absorbed in doing a good thing that we could tune out thousands of people surrounding us?  This is often how God behaves towards us; all we have to do is pay attention; to stay tuned.  Now, there are times when staying tuned is hard, even devastating.

Our Experience Expanded

Another illustration. Guy Henry tells this story:  This past summer I went to Wal-Mart for some supplies. I quickly did my shopping, but the people I was with were there more for browsing purposes so I had some time to kill. I wandered off to the men’s department, and started to compare prices on various sock deals. There was a lady nearby looking through a rack of clothes (all right, there were LOTS of ladies looking through the racks!) I hadn’t paid her any notice until I heard a commotion in her direction. Onto the scene burst a little girl about eight years old.

“Oh Mother,” she said out of breath,” Look at this dress!” She was holding a long black dress, still on its hanger.
This was far more interesting than comparing the varieties of socks, so I was watching this typical interchange.
“Do you LIKE that dress?” her mother asked calmly.
“Oh, I LOVE it, I absolutely love it,” the little girl cried out.
“Do you WANT that dress?” her mother asked.
“More than anything!” she said excitedly.
The next words that came from the mother’s mouth almost caused me to collapse to the floor. She said, “That dress is for a pretty little girl.” She paused. Then she said, “And you are NOT a pretty little girl. Now put it back.” And she returned to browsing the clothes rack.
I stood there amongst the socks in shock. I am not very emotional, but there were tears in both of my eyes after witnessing this scene. It wasn’t the cruel words uttered by the mother that bothered me most; it was the reaction of the child. If she had stomped her feet and said, “I can’t believe that you said that!” I would have felt a little better. Perhaps her mother was having a real bad day, a spell of bad judgment. Instead the little girl’s smile vanished, her shoulders dropped, and she turned and left, probably to hang the dress back up. That told me that she had heard this sort of thing before, probably often. 2   And we have to ask why a parent would ever act like that. How could a child’s mother fail to see beauty in her own child?  How could she fail to appreciate the goodness and worth of her own daughter? Such cruelty is indeed difficult to absorb, explain and certainly we cannot possibly be expected to appreciate it.  Even at our worst we are assured that God sees something good about us, something worth saving in us.  Many stories in scripture illustrate this for us.

Our Traditions

Moses from our text this morning is one. There is always Moses and what a character he was.  God had certain expectations of Moses and Moses for a host of reasons couldn’t seem to live up to them.  And we can go back even further in scripture for other examples.

It all started with Adam and Eve. They sinned against God and they tried to hide from God. Out of fellowship, broken, marred by sin they try to cover up. Moses tries to protect his insecurity by refusing to speak. Saul tries to hide his low self-esteem by hiding in the baggage. He tries to conceal the void he felt spiritually. He hides his face, wears a costume so that he can visit the witch and try to find spiritual answers. His successor, King David, also fails miserably.  He attempts to hide his killer lust by killing Bathsheba’s husband. His son continues the act. Solomon tries to conceal his lack of intimacy by surrounding himself with a 1000 concubines; relationships designed to hide his lack of relationship. In Isaiah the nation of Israel boldly admits to its desire to cover up when they say, “We have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves.” We all cover up. We all hide. We all conceal. We don’t want anyone to see our doubt, our pain or our lack of self-esteem.  This legacy can be traced throughout Scripture. It occurs over and over again from Genesis to the Gospel of Mark.         Jesus comes into contact with a man with a withered hand. Now it was obvious to everyone that the man had a disability. His hand was withered. Something strikes me as interesting in this account though. When Jesus speaks to the man and commands him to stretch forth his hand the man stretches out his withered hand. Why didn’t he stretch out his good hand? You may think that is stupid, but that is exactly what we do.  We try to cover up the things in our life that stink or the things that are broken or at least the things we perceive to be less than perfect.  Remember what Mary and Martha said to Jesus when He wanted to uncover Lazarus? “But Jesus, he has been dead four days.  By now he stinks.” Yes, but the only way to get life again is to uncover what stinks. Jesus is always trying to uncover the stinky things in our lives.

It is only human to try and cover up our shortcomings. Do we not respond to the Invitation to Discipleship after every sermon because we want everyone to think that we have it all together? Do we decline to worship with no inhibition or fear because we don’t want anyone to see our withered condition? Like the withered hand, or the outrageous remarks of the mother to her little girl in WalMart, or Clay Dalrymple so engrossed in a little blind girl that he is totally unaware of his surroundings, yet it appears to be obvious to everyone around us doesn’t it? How many of us are totally oblivious to the obvious? We truly think that we have God and everyone else fooled. But just as obvious as the man’s withered hand was to Jesus our issues are apparent to him as well.
I want to declare this morning that we can stretch forth our good hand, our good side, our good act, our good façade all we want and we will never be healed, never be free, never be whole. If the man had stretched the other hand out I don’t believe he would have been healed.

Re-mything Our Traditions

Margaret Slattery, in her book Living Teachers, tells of a community in which a stranger came to settle and to engage in the practice of law. He immersed himself in his legal work; and when he was sometimes seen walking at the eventide, he walked alone, with his head down, and with the look of mental distress upon his face. One day he confessed to an artist who had a studio in the town without going into the details that he had made one sad and terrible mistake in his life. The artist said nothing, but parted from him and went into his studio. Weeks afterward, the artist invited this melancholy and dejected lawyer to come in and view a portrait which he had finished, telling him that it was his masterpiece. The man was surprised and pleased that his judgment should have been sought by the artist, but when he went into the studio to view the portrait, he was surprised to see that it was a portrait of himself, only now he stood erect, with his shoulders thrown back and his head up, ambition, desire, and hope written on his face. Regarding it in silence for a few moments, the man said, “If he sees that in me, then I can see it. If he thinks I can be that, then I can be that man; and, what is more, I will be.” 3 Whose ultimate responsibility is it to see God in others?  Ours and ours alone. It is a high calling.
I am going to close this message with an old puritan prayer.  May it be our prayer? Let us pray:
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, thou hast brought me to the valley of vision where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights. Hemmed in by mountains of my sin, I behold thy glory. Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess everything, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive.
Lord, in the day times, stars can be seen from deepest wells and the deeper the wells, the brighter the stars. Let me find thy light in my darkness, thy life in my death, thy joy in my sorrow, thy grace in my sin, thy riches in my poverty, thy glory in my valley in Christ’s name. Amen.


1 Clay Dalrymple tells a story to Chris Potter Sports on You-Tube


News Letter: June 11, 2014

unique Christian community bound by God’s love, sharing our love with others


 Father’s Day:  Catherine Hughes to Preach


“Our Father” is the title of Rev. Catherine Hughes’ sermon for this Sunday.  The scripture texts will be Genesis 6:9-22 and Luke 15:11-24.  This is also Trinity Sunday according to the liturgical calendar


A New Mantra for St. Paul’s:  “Yes, if. . . not no because”

Last Sunday I introduced to St. Paul’s a new “mantra” for us to put into practice particularly as we begin to talk about the future of this church:  “Yes, if. . .  not, no because.”  This is a great recalibration of our mindset from the negative to the affirmative. It is no longer “We’ve tried this” or “That won’t work here because we’ve always done it this way!” Or my personal favorite “We’re different”. “Yes, we can reach that intended goal if we pray about it, if we plan it well…” now becomes the substitute for “No, we cannot do that here because…” This is like learning a new language, it is about attitudinal adjustment, it is transformational thinking.   It is a great way to put our fears into a new light. This transports us from that worse-case scenario into the realm of distinct possibility.  So it is all about “Yes, if. . . not no because!”  Practice this at home or at school or at work.  Take note of when it is really hard to say “Yes” and when it isn’t. Then ask yourself, “Why is it so hard for me to accept change?”

 Family Fun Day this Sunday

Following worship this Sunday our Evangelism Ministry Team will be sponsoring a Family Fun Day with food and games and prizes for everyone, so plan to stay following worship and engage in this afternoon of fellowship and fun.  There is no cost.


Calling all Graduates

Do you know someone who is graduating this Spring from pre-school or elementary school or high school or college?  Make sure their names get to the church office.  We will honor our grads on June 29th.

All church Picnic Scheduled for June 29th

AMPT will be hosting our annual church picnic on Sunday, June 29th immediately following worship.  They will furnish the meat and the drinks. Please sign up in the Fellowship Hall to bring a side dish.  There will be dancing and games as well.  Invite your friends!

Part 113

Being Presbyterian

This Friday I leave for a week in Detroit where I will serve as an elected commissioner to the PC(USA) General Assembly which is holding its 221st gathering there.   It is an honor to “represent” Pacific Presbytery as one of their teaching elder commissioners.

All of the business to come before this assembly (all reports, Overtures and Commissioner Resolutions) has been assigned to one of 15 committees.  I will served on Committee 13 which involves Theological Issues and Institutions.  Part of our business will be to discuss the Belhar Confession.  Other items of interest to come before this assembly are the Middle East conflict and the possibility of divestment, ecumenical and interfaith relationships, social justice issues, sexuality education curriculum for teens, concerns related to the Board of Pensions and the Presbyterian Foundation, congregational vitality and immigration and environmental concerns to list but a few topics.   Whew!

Following two days of deliberation in committee we will then meet as a group of the whole where the final decisions will be made. There will be lots of worship and mission tours and an exhibit hall and a  Serv gift shop and a Cokesbury book store as well.

We will wrap up our deliberations on Saturday, June 21st.  It is my hope to dispatch news from GA to you while I’m there, but it can be a very busy time, so it will be as time allows.


Church of the Redeemer is hosting a

Juneteenth Celebration

on  Sunday, June 22nd   starting at 4 PM.

                                                 All are welcome!                                                

              For more information call (310) 753-1372

Do You Know the Bible?

The answers to last weeks questions:  (1) A heart that understands the difference between right and wrong (2) Four days (3) Esther (4) Jesus or John the Baptist (5) 100 (6) Leprosy.

  1. 1.      What town did Joseph and Mary live in when the angel Gabriel        visited them?
  2. 2.      On what day of creation did God create man and woman? 
  3. 3.      To whom did Jesus first appear after his resurrection?
  4. 4.      Complete this Bible verse from Ecclesiastes:  “A time to be born, and a time to die, a time to plant. . .”
  5. 5.      What was Peter’s profession in the Bible?
  6. 6.      What did Zacchaeus do for a living?


Sermon: Receiving the Spirit, June 8, 2014

St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church                                                                                                   Pentecost Sunday

Scripture: Acts 2:1-4

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.


Perplexing, Pentecostal God, you infuse us with your Spirit, urging us to vision and dream. May the gift of your presence find voice in our lives, that our babbling may be transformed into discernment and the flickering of many tongues light an unquenchable fire of compassion and justice. Amen.

Our Experience

My roommate in seminary was a young woman named Georgia. Georgia was in her mid thirties working as an office manager when the call to ministry took her by surprise. When she got her first church she was fine with program planning, working with volunteers, even leading small groups, but preaching scared her to death. When I lived out in the Reseda she was serving a church out in the Antelope Valley so we would meet at various coffee shops out on the 14 freeway, have breakfast and then do exegetical studies of the scripture text together for her next sermon.

Now scarrier than familiarity with scripture for Georgia was the whole idea of getting up in front of a room full of people and saying something that was from God that could change lives.  Georgia, in spite of her seminary training, hadn’t planned on doing that, but as God would have it her call to this particular ministry included one sermon a month!  She would be so nervous the week before she could hardly function. She’d get up on Sunday and look out over the congregation. Everybody sitting in their section “like season ticket holders” she’d say. The adult ladies Sunday school class section, the rowdy teenagers section, the men who would rather be out playing golf section and the young parents with children section. Georgia thought of them as “the Crayola section,” because the kids spent the worship hour quietly drawing pictures and coloring in their children’s church bulletins at a small table in the back of the sanctuary. They would draw the soloist’s beehive hairdo (with bees), the dove on the banner hanging in the chancel, their take on the plants in the courtyard; whatever they saw they drew.
Georgia was so nervous about preaching that she resorted to prayer. Every day for 20 minutes she would do creative visualization prayer. She would picture herself preaching with Jesus standing next to her with his arm around her shoulder. Every single day! She told me one day, “Annie, it wasn’t a magic cure, but each time, preaching got a little more bearable and a little more bearable, degree by degree. Then one day it actually seemed kind of fun for a few seconds. I am making progress.”

One Pentecost Sunday I visited Georgia’s church and I was standing in the back of the sanctuary following worship waiting for Georgia when a young mom came up with her daughter, Ashley. I knew about Ashley because Georgia had told me that she was seven and she was painfully, painfully shy. Her mom said, “Pastor Georgia, Ashley has something to show you.” Georgia knelt down to be at eye level and Ashley held out her children’s bulletin. She said, softly, “Look at what I drew today. Here is you, Pastor Georgia. And guess who this is.” She held up another piece of paper smeared with bright blue finger paint with all kinds of squiggly lines in it.  Pastor Georgia looked at it and exclaimed as the best of us do that it was a beautiful blue picture!  Ashley put her hands on her hips, stamped her foot and said, “Pastor Georgia.  I finger painted the Holy Spirit for you!”  That was the day that Ashley came out of her shell and Georgia learned to trust her own ability to preach God’s word.

Our Experience Expanded

Today is Pentecost Sunday as I explained so eloquently in German during our time with children this morning. It is the Sunday when churches everywhere are filled with the color red, symbolizing the flames of the Holy Spirit, and we celebrate a story from the church’s earliest days. On Pentecost we remember how the Holy Spirit came to the early disciples like a “mighty wind” and rested on them with “tongues of fire”. As they received the Spirit they were able to speak in languages they did not know, and all the people gathered around them in Jerusalem, a host of nations, were able to understand what the disciples were saying.

There’s a tendency in our culture to think that everyone is supposed to learn our language. But if we look at the Pentecost story, we find the exact opposite is true. The Holy Spirit could have easily touched everyone around the early disciples so that they could understand the language the disciples spoke. But instead, it was the disciples who were transformed. They were the ones who learned new languages.

The Pentecost story also reminds us that witnessing to Christ can involve being surprised. Actually, it is about being radically transformed like Ashley by the Holy Spirit so that we can speak the language (literally and metaphorically) of those God wants us to love and serve. Pentecost also tells us that we cannot sit back and wait for people to learn our ways. We have to be the ones who learn new ways.

Our Traditions

According to Diana Eck “It is clear in the New Testament that the Spirit is a gift, not a reward.  The descent of the Spirit upon Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan, often depicted as a dove with wings outspread diving downward toward him, comes before his initiatory period of testing in the wilderness, not after it.  In most initiation sequences, one would expect the order to be reversed; after testing and trial, one is confirmed with a new cloak of blessing.  But the empowerment of the Spirit is not earned, it is freely given.  And so with the early church at Pentecost, it was not their courage or clarity that evoked the blessing of the Spirit, for they were vulnerable and confused.  The Spirit is a gift, not a possession.  The Spirit inspires and gives breath of life to the church, but the church does not encompass, contain, or own the Holy Spirit. . . it is the Holy Spirit that drives us beyond the comforts and certainties of what we know.” 1

So what does it take to be a Pentecost church in urban Los Angeles in 2014?

Re-mything our Traditions

I did some homework on this and this is what I found:  First, a Pentecost church today has a social media presence.  I perused 10 very diverse church websites, I read several articles on church growth, I also went back and read the report we got when we participated in the New Beginnings study here at St. Paul’s and I concluded that a presence in cyber space was decidedly number one.  Now the articles acknowledged the overabundance and over-reliance on social media of our younger generations: Facebook, Twitter, texting, and the like are seen as distractions and barriers to community. Indeed!

But there was also consensus that social media can be a wonderful way to build community. I don’t believe it can ever replace face-to-face interactions, but it can help to spread our message. If we were to talk to our Generation X and Millennial young folks, they would probably tell us that the days of looking in a phone book for a church, or even just knowing where a church is located, are over. For many a Google search will be their first stop in their search for a new church.

How many of you have checked out St. Paul’s website?  Has it been helpful to you?  Have you read any of my sermons which are posted on it?  Have you looked at the pictures?  Have you “friended” us on Facebook?  Have you asked your friends and family members who live in faraway places to “friend” us?  One picture or message posted on a Facebook page with 100 people ”liking” it has the potential to reach 1000’s of people.

The second manifestation of receiving the Spirit according to my research is getting out into our community.  Our Evangelism and Social Justice Ministry Team has been working on this, but there is plenty for all of us to do with this.                                                                   Without a doubt St. Paul’s is one of the warmest congregations in the world when people step inside our doors. But for the vast majority of our community, we are just another building that they have never been inside. As untrue as it sounds to those of us who are churchgoers, church buildings are often seen as private clubhouses. Others might be curious about what is going on inside, but it’s going to take more than a little bit of curiosity to go in. This is especially true of the growing number of us who are younger and those of us who did not grow up in the church.

So instead of waiting for others to come to us, we have to figure out how to go to them. How do we get involved in the Baldwin Hills or Baldwin Village communities? We could host events like concerts and lectures. We could invest in ministries of hospitality and make our building as accessible as possible to local non-profit groups needing a space to meet. We could host AA meetings. We could make sure that every homeowners group and every Neighborhood Watch knows that our Fellowship Hall is available for their regular access. I know that historically we have hosted scout troops and tutoring programs. This is more than just being a landlord. The Pentecost Spirit is telling us to be a gracious host. Sharing our building through ministries of hospitality can indeed be a service we provide to the community.

But more importantly, we have to go outside of our doors. We need to be involved in community celebrations and let folks know who we are and where we attend church. We could serve lemonade and cookies over there at the bus stop on the corner of La Brea and Coliseum. I’m guessing that some of us have children or grandchildren who play on a soccer or Little League team we could be supporting and sponsoring! I am sure that there are more than ample opportunities to volunteer at Audubon Middle School (although I’m sure it involves being fingerprinted!). When we visit Bob Engleton at his assisted living facility do we also offer words of encouragement to other patients and their families or the staff of that community? Have we been in touch with his daughters to see if there is any kind of support they may need? We have a wonderful network of black Presbyterian churches to work with, but maybe there are other churches in the community that we could be coalescing with. Whatever it is, we have to find out what matters in our community and then figure out a way to contribute. We can’t serve a community that we don’t know and love. St. Paul’s has been on this corner since 1949 so we have a vested interest in the life of this community.                     Now, the third item on my list of attributes for a Pentecost church is a reminder that some of the people we hope to attract to St. Paul’s did not grow up in the church so when we recite the Lord’s Prayer or sing the Gloria Patri or the Doxology at a particular point in the service every Sunday, there may well be those in our midst who have not a clue as to what this is all about. How does a visitor know when to stand or when to sit during the service?  And now we have two hymnals, as if finding our way through one wasn’t challenge enough. Is it always understood when we serve communion that all are welcome, and is it clear that we are using grape juice and wine (an important consideration for many)? Are you sitting next to a visitor?  Is there some helpful information or guidance you could afford them?

I took our fourth aspect of being a Pentecost church from the blog of Rev. Emily C. Heath who is a United Church of Christ pastor. 2 This involves our openness to being transformed. I am going to share a secret with you this morning: bringing new people into the church is going to change everything. I actually think more churches realize this than let on, and I believe that, subconsciously, a lot of churches have chosen not to grow as a result.

When new people come to a church they bring with them new stories, new gifts, and new energy. They also bring new needs, new ideas, and new perspectives. And St. Paul’s will be changed by them. Or else it will not be. And they will leave.

We like to think of St. Paul’s as “our church”. But it has never been “our church” It is Christ’s church. We are just the stewards of the church in this time and place. And when new people are brought into the church, they join us in that role. And even though we may have been here thirty years and they have been here one, they are equally important. And that can be frustrating.

There is a tendency to fall back on “we’ve always done it this way” in these situations. Resist that temptation. It is wonderful to know our history; in fact, I think if we all knew more of it we’d find that we haven’t always done it “this way”, but we cannot become a history museum. We must be willing to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, just like Georgia and Ashley speaking in new ways through new voices. That’s what being the church is all about.

So when young families arrive with their kids, we must let them teach us about what will keep their kids engaged. The old Sunday school models might not work anymore and our Parish Education Ministry Team is taking that on. When young adults come, we need to be open to letting them shape their own programs. Maybe they want to meet for a “faith on tap” discussion at the local pub on a Wednesday night rather than for Bible study on Sunday mornings. And when someone brings that new idea to deacons that makes everyone tense up and want to say “but we don’t do that here”, give it a minute. Hear them out. And ask if this is how God is leading us into the future. It’s scary, but it’s also full of promise.

Toward the goal of establishing not only these four hallmarks but other marks of a Pentecost church as well, I am proposing for us a new mantra: It is “yes, if. . . not no because.” This is a great recalibration of our mindset from the negative to the affirmative.  It is no longer “We’ve tried this”, or “That won’t work here because”, and, my personal favorite, “We’re different”.  “Yes, we can reach that intended goal if…” now becomes the substitute for “No, we cannot do that here because…”.   “Yes, we can plan an exciting future for St. Paul’s if…” now becomes the substitute for “No, we cannot do that here because…”.  This is like learning a new language, it is about attitudinal adjustment, it is transformational thinking.   It is a great way to put our fears into a new light.  So “Yes, if. . . not no because!”  3

I close with a remarkable quote from Brennan Manning “The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that Jesus lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to and then receive openly the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian.” 4  Amen.


Great God, may this day be a new Pentecost — a day in which you will pour out your Spirit and put a new heart within us; a day in which our faltering spirits will be revived, and our enthusiasm will be renewed; a day in which you will equip us for service, and send us out to change your world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


  1. 1.        (Encountering God:  A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras, p. 134)
  2. 2.       (
  3. 3.
  4. 4.        Brennan Manning 1934-2013 at

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