Pulling the Curtain Back on Time

Like most Episcopal churches, St. Paul’s probably started as a small, one room building. There were probably modifications through the years, and like many of the small churches that have had to expand, this one seems to have kept its architectural style intact.

Most of the episcopal churches I’ve seen have been done in either Tudor or classic styles as this one shows. In Ormond Beach, Florida, quite a ways north of St. Paul’s, St. James Episcopal, a large, much more modern building, presents a less common architectural style for its congregation. In keeping with that bent towards our current cultural styles, St. James is also a bit more updated in its worship style, offering a very relaxed mass on Sunday evenings, which is informal, and draws those who still like the structure of a liturgical mass, but don’t want the rigidity of a service that could’ve taken place in the 1800’s.

Going back to St James to worship after not having been there for decades, I was pleasantly surprised at Father Harris’ approach and teaching style, while still being able to recognize elements of the mass that I grew up with. It has made me curious as to just how much some of these churches HAVE changed, and if the Episcopal church has become more evangelistic and aware in nature since I was confirmed some 42 years ago. I would like to visit St. Paul’s one day to see how it compares.

If you grew up in a more formal church, it can be comforting to return and find the structure still in place. However, there are things about liturgical churches that I have a beef with. Though I grew up going to the Episcopal church, and studied its catechism before confirmation, there was never an emphasis on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It was always an "I’m here and He’s waaaay out there" kind of feeling worshiping there. We weren’t taught that there was a conscious decision to be made; it was implied. While the structure was designed to bring someone up from infancy through being confirmed as a believer, it was too nebulous. Many of the people I knew who went to the churches I did were not what I would consider "born again", a term in scripture denoting the transformation that takes place when someone repents and turns their lives over to Jesus. There was still the more worldly mindset that weighed good against bad, and assumed if you had more good going for your character than evil, you would go to heaven, and if you really messed up, like committing murder, you would go to hell. This is not even remotely biblical, as the Apostle Paul, for whom this church was named, would define in his many epistles.

Paul was a Pharisee. A Pharisee was a Jewish leader, who knew the law backwards and forewards, and basically determined if the people were guilty of breaking it, and what should be done about it if they did! These were the guys who met in the middle of the night to unjustly try Jesus without a fair trial, and who pushed Pontius Pilate into having Him crucified.

Paul was a young man when Jesus walked the earth. After the crucifixion and resurrection, as he gained more prominence and became thoroughly educated in the law, he was so opposed to what the early Christians were preaching, thinking it was heresy, he took on the task of persecuting them, and having them tried and killed for their beliefs. Paul called himself the chief sinner, and a murderer. He spoke of how, after the Lord blinded him on the road to Damascus, and spoke to him, he surrendered his life to Christ and began to preach the gospel himself! Of all of the people in the New Testament, Paul was probably the most influencial, and despite his knowledge of Jewish law, was chosen by God to go out and preach to the gentiles, not the Jews. For 2000 years his words have been reaching across time and space, telling people that no matter WHAT they had done, they could still have a fresh start and be righteous before the Lord by faith in what Jesus did for them on the cross. Nothing they could do would ever earn it, and only the sacrifice of Christ could have saved them.

St. Paul was a zealous man, first for the law, which condemned man’s sin, and then for the cause of Christ, who provided the answer for it. He suffered greatly, being beaten, stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked, snake-bit, and mocked. In the end, being a Roman citizen, he appealed to Caesar to be tried in Rome, where he was sentenced to death, and beheaded. He believed that for him to live was Christ, and to die would be gain. On that sliding scale we set up in our minds, I don’t think he would ever have been able to convince himself that his good outweighed the evil he had done persecuting the church he ended up nurturing, because he knew he wasn’t good…no one was. He knew it was all about what Jesus had done on that cross, and that accepting that and believing in it was all that could ever remove the weight of sin from the balance of his life. It wasn’t about him; it was about Jesus, and he knew it.

As a child, the liturgy of the Episcopal churches I attended spoke of those things, and the gospel was read weekly. The same prayers were prayed over and over, (something Jesus warned against as being the wrong way to talk to God,) but despite the fact that I had a relatively high I.Q., and understood King James English, the words reached my mind, but not my understanding. Understanding has to do with the heart, not just intellect. It wasn’t until two years after I was confirmed that someone sat down with me and explained how simple it was to come to Christ, and that it was individual and personal. Looking back, I feel pretty dumb not having grasped it by what I HAD been taught in church, but when I realize that most of the people I knew hadn’t really grasped it, either, I knew that it wan’t because of my ability to think. It was because of my inability to take what I’d learned and apply it. That came with personally asking Jesus to come into my heart and change me.

When I see churches like St. Paul’s, I remember that though I didn’t come to Christ there, the seeds which drew me to the Lord were planted there. The word of God was preached, and that word has the power of God to transform lives. When I look at a little steeple like this one, or see those pretty, stained glass windows, I thank God for setting me on the path to Him, and for all the things He did to redeem me and get me to want Him. it boggles my mind sometimes. God is so good….

Those of you who follow my stream know that things have been difficult for me for some time. I’ve been working as a floater with Mattress1One, and they finally gave me a store to manage. After working there for a few days, I realized that it would be hard to make the money I needed to be able to pay my back property tax by the December deadline I’d be given, since I’d be driving about 100 miles a day, and the store was in a slow location. Mattress sales have been good lately, though, and as a floater, working between several stores, I’ve been able to hit commission often, and finally started getting a little money together.

Presidents Day, I received a call from my boss saying he needed me in Port Orange because the manager had gone home very sick, and her sister was handling the store alone and was getting slammed. As soon as a floater arrived, I left to rescue the other lady, and when I got there, found out that it was really slow! Her sister went in the hospital the next day, so I was scheduled to work in Port Orange after that, because they don’t have many people who can cover this area, or cover a very busy store. At first I was upset, since it looks like they’ve taken yet another store from me, but the sales have been really good, and I realized hitting commission a few times in a row could raise that tax money for me! The store I’d been given was not only very far from home, but very slow, to boot.

Last night when I got home, I checked my mail. There was a letter from the county saying my home could be auctioned as early as APRIL 1! (I was told DECEMBER!) Initially, I freaked out, but I sat down on my computer and looked at my finances and realized that I should have all the money needed for the 2009 tax next week….as long as nothing else creates financial issues, and I don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars in gas! So, pray that for the rest of the day and on Saturday and Sunday, when I’m back in the store that would have been mine, I get some big sales to ensure I can make it. God has been blessing me, and I need those blessings to continue so I can save my home! I see His hand in this, and know that He’s made things come together just as they have done. God is good, start to finish….

Discovered on Flickr (Chris C. Crowley ) for this monstrous evil building. Original date: 2012-02-29 18:15:07