« Back


Annual Meeting Sunday

Welcome to annual meeting Sunday. We are not quite in the middle of Epiphany season, but we have certainly started Epiphany season. The Season of Epiphany is about manifestation and revelation.

Epiphany began with the star that the wise men from the east followed for what some say two years where it eventually rested over the house of the holy family in Bethlehem. There they presented their gifts of gold, frankincense, & myrrh to Jesus and Mary; and, I'm assuming Joseph who wasn't there at the time – maybe he was down at the shop. Our tradition tells us that those men were the first to recognize Jesus as the new king and something special. We recognize this event as the feast day of Epiphany, the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.

The first Sunday after the Epiphany saw Christ's baptism in the river Jordan. After he was baptized the heavens opened up and a dove descend upon him and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased.” In that moment we had what we call a theophany: a time where we see the physical presence of God. For us Christians we see a manifestation of the Holy Trinity – God the Father speaking about his Son, the Holy Spirit (the dove) descending upon Jesus, and Jesus the Son of God.

On the second Sunday after the Epiphany we heard the call of the disciples, but in a different way. In the gospel of John we are told that John the Baptist was gathered with his disciples and he saw Jesus walking along. John pointed out Jesus and said, “Look! There is the Son of God. On him I saw the spirit descend.” The two disciples who had been following John, and had been waiting expectantly for the coming of the Messiah heard that, left John, and followed Jesus. They asked him, “Where are you staying?” Jesus said, “Come and see.”

One of those first two disciples was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. After he had spent some time with Jesus went to his brother saying, “We have found him of whom the scriptures have foretold,” and he brought Simon Peter into the fold.

This morning we heard a more familiar call story. Jesus is walking along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and comes across two fishermen, Simon and Andrew, in their boats. He calls to them, “Come, follow me.” Immediately they get out of their boats and begin following Jesus. Walking a little further down the shore he sees two other fishermen, James and John, and calls them to follow him. They also leave their boats, and their dad, and begin to follow Jesus.

If we are paying attention, all through this Epiphany season we will see and hear places where Jesus is being pointed out, where he is being manifested and revealed to us as the Son of God.

I think 2023 is our Season of Epiphany. The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light. We all know we have spent the last few years with the darkness of COVID, with shutdowns and quarantines. Some of us have been infected with that virus. Some of us may know people who have died from that disease. I don't want to say we are post-COVID, because we aren't. It is still with us. So make sure to take care of yourselves. Wear your masks when you feel appropriate or when you are in a large group of people. Make sure you are up to date on your vaccinations.

But in that darkness of COVID, the light of Christ can shine through the people of Saint John's. It shines and manifests itself when we welcome people into our midst. Over the past few months we have seen more people and visitors come through our doors as things begin to open up.

This light of Christ is manifested through us and revealed through us in our worship. We are unashamedly Episcopalian. We do things a certain way, with all things being done decently and in order. We don't do the big movie screen – except for when Dave Calendine comes to play the organ for silent movies. We don't have the little bouncing ball to show you where the lyrics are. We do things a particular way. We have incense on occasion. We have a form to our liturgy. This is how we worship: with the Word and Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.

We aren't for all people, and that's okay. But we offer a form of Christianity that is fulfilling, that is challenging, and that offers learning. Our worship reflects that.

In our Epiphany season of 2023 we are beginning again to serve in a variety of ways. Service and Outreach is becoming more active. Fabric and Grounds is becoming more active. We are doing more and more things. And in a parish like this, there are a lot of things that need to be done. Evvie Williams and the Altar Guild work hard to ensure that everything is prepared ahead of time so Sunday worship goes off without a hitch. There are plenty of other opportunities for people to step up and serve in a variety of ways and in a variety of Commissions. In a season of Epiphany when Christ is manifested and revealed to the world, this is the time I challenge you all to stand up and serve.

In this 2023 Epiphany season of ours, we also encourage people. We will look for people to find ways to use their skills and talents, and to help educate people both in our Episcopal tradition and other things. Years ago I was asked by my bishop to serve on a committee in which I had no interest in doing. But when your bishop calls to ask if you will do something, the answer is most often yes. I learned a lot by serving on that committee. So don't be fearful of trying something new, or of encouraging people to step into new roles and new directions.

Epiphany is also a season of change. Jesus changed how we see and relate to God. Jesus changed how we see and relate to others. Over the past few years, especially with COVID, we have changed and adjusted to certain ways of doing things. Now that we are opening up in a variety of ways, with gatherings and with singing and with worship, and with everything else that is going on in the world around us, how will we help change the lives of people around us by shining the light of Christ? How can we change how we relate to others? Not only among people inside this parish, but with the people outside our walls? How might we change how we relate to the people who sleep on our steps every now and then? Or those who need food and shelter?

COVID changed how we did things. We are continuing to learn how to do things with COVID, making minor changes here and there. I won't say we are getting back to “normal,” but we are learning to adjust in this season of change.

As I mentioned earlier, we have seen the arrival of new people. We've seen the return of long-time parishioners who have become more comfortable with moving around in the world. Mark King is retiring. January 29 is his last Sunday and there will be a celebration after the 10:15 service. I encourage you all to attend that special event. Katherine Foreman has stepped down as treasurer. We are in the midst of finding replacements for those positions – not to replace and forget, but because we continue to need to have a music program and we continue to need to have someone watching over our finances. But it does throw a monkey wrench into things. And despite what I have told Mark for years – that he was not allowed to leave until after I retired – he went ahead and did it anyway. But these are changes we have to deal with because people come and people go.

There are other areas in church that garner more interest in others, or attract different interests or different passions. Change will always be there. It just so happens that at this particular time we are faced with a major time of change in the parish.

I think, on this annual meeting Sunday, that this is why Saint Paul wrote what he did to the Corinthians. Because I have a sneaking suspicion that his letter was written to the Corinthians on the occasion of their annual meeting. “I appeal to you by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you all be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.”

That is not to say that we all have to conform, because conformity is one thing; but unity is something else. There can be differences within unity, but as long as we remind ourselves that we are united in Christ, that we are united in sharing his love to the world, that we are united in reflecting the love of God to those around us, everything else will fall into place.

It is never the time, but especially now with all of these changes going on, to say, “I belong to Paul,” or, “I belong to Cephas,” or, “I belong to Mark,” or, “I belong to Todd.” We all belong to this parish, and we all belong to Christ. Change happens. In the midst of change, let us all be grounded in Christ.

Epiphany season is a season of manifestation and revelation. Wise men saw the star and followed to Bethlehem. Jesus was acknowledged as the son of God and seen as part of the Holy Trinity. John pointed out Jesus to his disciples and they left him to follow Christ. Jesus called four fishermen, and others, to follow him and they did.

2023, I believe, is our Epiphany season. So let us be intentional about manifesting God's presence here in this place. Let us be intentional about revealing the presence of Christ to others. And let us be intentional about inviting others to follow Christ. If we do those things, with Christ as the leader and the head and the light, things will be good. Not perfect, but good. For even at the end of creation God never said it was perfect – but he did say it was very good.

May we work to make the light of Christ shine within us. May we work to invite others to be part of this community. And may we work to be unified in Christ, so that all we do may be very good in this 2023 Epiphany season.


« Back