Agape: April 4, 2020

Agape: The 2020 Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

“The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.” -1 John 4:21

As a child, loving your brother and sisters isn’t too bad. I mean, I could do that. Sure, they can be obnoxious brats sometimes, but I still loved them. So, I’m cool with God, right? But then my Dad set me down one day and very seriously said, “Sandy, God says you must love your neighbor as yourself. Do you love your neighbor?” I had to think seriously about that. You see there was this big 2nd grade girl who hit me several times, knocked me down and broke my glasses and I sure didn’t love her. But she lived down the road a long way (probably 2-3 blocks) so I said, “how far down the road are they my neighbor?”

That is still the question isn’t it? Who are my sisters and brothers and how far down the road do we have to count them? Surely, God doesn’t count that jerk that cut me off in traffic. What about homeless people, or homosexuals, or foreigners, or Muslims, or people of color? Is God okay if we love them from afar without having to associate with them?

Those don’t bother me, but my test came when a man deliberately caused physical and lasting emotional pain to my daughter. I found I couldn’t even pray for him, much less love him. God, are you seriously asking this of me? How can I possibly be called to do this? It is just too painful. What I ended up doing was, I came to church and explained to several of my friends what had happened and asked them to pray for him since I could not.

On the surface, this commandment seems easy, but there are times when we are pulled up short and have to look deeply into our hearts or into our personal prejudices. Other times following this commandment means walking our talk and what you need to do is start making your actions match your beliefs. I know it is easier to love others when nothing is going wrong. But the commandment is clear, and it doesn’t list exceptions.

Dearest Lord God, I know the answer to my earlier question, “God are you seriously asking this of me?” Sometimes I forget that every person out there is a child of God. Help me Lord to always remember that the answer is YES. You have commanded that we love them all as you have loved each of us. Sometimes that is really hard. Help us, Lord. Amen.
-Sandy McDougall

Agape: April 3, 2020

Agape: The 2020 Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

“Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” -1 John 4:20

From ancient times, God’s people have struggled with loving our brothers and sisters. In Leviticus 19:17-18, we are told: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Again and again, we hear similar words from Jesus that we are to love one another. And it’s still hard!!!

Raised in Oklahoma, I attended a segregated school until 1960, my junior year in high school. The little town I grew up in had a white school system and a “Negro” school system and there was little or no contact between the two. When, by court order, the two systems were integrated, the blacks bore the brunt of the change, as their school was closed and they were bused to “our” school. For a while there was fear, resentment, and very little real contact between blacks and whites. However, as we began to know one another on a one to one basis, mutual respect and friendships began to develop. Looking back, the lesson for me is that, unlike our omniscient God, we can’t really love our brothers and sisters en masse. Relationships have to develop one on one.

As Fr. Peter Scholtes so beautifully wrote:

“We will work with each other, we will work side by side
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love.”

Dear God, help us to show our love for you by loving our brothers and sisters. Amen.
-Cathey Frederick

How to Give to St. Paul’s

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You can mail your pledge/donation to:

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
415 S. 18th St.
Mount Vernon, WA 98274

or…

The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia has put an option on their giving page to “give to a church”. To do this, click here and select Give to a church from the option in the “Giving Options” drop-down box. Enter St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in the “Designated Parish Name” box and Mount Vernon in the “Designated Parish City” box.

If this is confusing for you, here is a video that shows how to do it step-by-step:

Agape: April 2, 2020

Agape: The 2020 Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

“We love because he first loved us.” -1 John 4:19

We are to love God, our brethren and our fellow man is understood here because God first loved us by sending His Son Jesus to die for us. He provided the example and we, out of gratitude and following the Way, want to show love to our fellow man.

People watch what we do rather than just taking for granted that we will do what we say. Our church should be a welcoming place for everyone who walks through our doors no matter how society may categorize that person. We welcome everyone to participate in communion, the exchanging of the peace, the Celebration of Life, just to name a few activities. Many parishioners share in supplying and serving food for the coffee hour after the Sunday service to offer a time for new attendees plus other parishioners to join in a time of fellowship and support for one another. We are sharing our love for Jesus with others and hope they will join our community.

I had been looking for a church home for quite a while when Ashley suggested that I come to St. Paul’s with her. I really felt a sense that God was very present in this place, a lot of times moved to tears. I had been to many churches where I had entered, worshipped and left and no one knew that I had been there. I did not feel welcome. It was like a club, and I did not meet the requirements, or so I felt.

But this love needs to go beyond the borders of our church to reach out to our community. We participate in organizations like Family Promise that reaches out to the homeless, Friendship House that provides food and lodging for some of the homeless and Habitat for Humanity that helps people build their first homes. Our church building is used by the community for theatre practices, memorial services, weddings, and a place for many to meet with a common cause.

Lord, please help me to live so others will see Jesus’ love reaching out to them. Amen.
-Marilyn Allen

Agape: April 1, 2020

Agape: The 2020 Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

In September 2000, the leadership of my school’s chapter of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship thought it would be a good bonding experience for all of us to take part in the high ropes course, and I was talked into doing it by Mike, one of my staff workers, despite being severely afraid of heights. After being given a safety lecture, fastened with harnesses, and handed helmets, we ascended the course. A key feature of our safety lecture was the assurance that the daisy chain, a piece of webbing material with multiple loops on it, would hold our weight and catch us if we fell.

I made it across the first five elements without a problem as they were pretty basic bridges and things like wooden balance beams, and I found that I could forget about how high up I was if my focus was on the tree in front of me. On the sixth element, we had to walk a wire strung between two trees, grabbing a series of ropes hanging down from above as we edged across sideways. I made it probably 20 feet out onto wire before I realized that I was looking out into the distance and that I was 60 feet in the air, being suspended by a webbing cable. Any confidence I had in my ability to get across the wire instantaneously vanished, and I did the most logical thing I could think of doing… which was to break into literal hysterics. I was screaming in fear and sobbing my eyes out, and all I remember is the voice of my friend Erik yelling encouragement to me to keep going.

“Jen! You’ve got this! Take two more steps and you’ll be at the next rope. Grab it! OK, now just scoot along holding that rope! You’re almost at the next one!”

I eventually made my way across, clipped my carabiner to the tree on the platform, and wrapped my arms around it. I was sobbing my eyes out, and when my Erik made it across, he hugged me tightly and told me repeatedly how proud he was of me. Eventually, I was talked into continuing and made it across the next element before Mike and I hit the one where we would have to go across sideways, using each other for balance. This was going to be tricky because Mike was a good foot taller than me, but we prayed quickly before starting, and we managed to inch our way halfway across before I suddenly fell backward.

To my surprise, my daisy chain caught me.

I was suddenly suspended 60 feet in the air, completely supported, and it was the most amazing feeling. Somehow, Mike and I were able to get me back up onto the wire and in a standing position, and we managed to inch our way slowly to the next platform. At that point, I had complete and utter confidence that I wasn’t going to fall, and I literally ran across the last element to the final platform where I was able to climb down.

One of the lessons I learned that day was that I needed to keep my focus on God during times like these when my depression and anxiety hit. I never have to worry about Him catching me as I fell because His hands are big enough to catch me.

Gracious God, help us to remember that You are holding us in your hands and will never let go of us, even when times are hard. Amen.
-Jen McCabe

Agape: March 31, 2020

Agape: The 2020 Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” -1 John 4:18

Fear can be a terrible paralyzing emotion to live with. There is the fear of an illness making your family bankrupt due to the high cost of medical care. There is the fear of losing your job and not being able to support your family. All these fears, if realized, will bring a “punishment” to those involved whether ostracization, bankruptcy and/or homelessness.

We, as Christians, can put our trust in God and feel the perfect love from Him that casts out the fear and allows us to live above the fear surrounding us. We also have the opportunity through an organization such as Family Promise, to provide a safe environment for those families who have lost their home due to a family illness, a loss of a job or both. St. Paul’s participates in Family Promise along with Trinity Lutheran Church in providing our clients with a free place to stay, meals provided by church members and the support of the church community while they save their money for their rent deposits.

When we provide the meals or chaperone our clients through the night, we have an opportunity to hear their stories. I will never forget the young couple a year ago New Year’s Eve, that shared their story about being pregnant and living in their car. They were so appreciative of the Family Promise program that was giving them that second chance to rise above the fear and shame of their situation. Hopefully, they realize that there are Christians who care and want to share His love with others. What a small inconvenience we experience having to sleep on a cot for one night when there are those who live with the fear of not knowing where they will sleep tonight or how they will ever be able to provide for their family.

Lord, help me to be a beacon of God’s love and hope to those who live in fear. Amen.
-Marilyn Allen