Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Conversation with Dee McMahon

I am so privileged to have the opportunity to visit with members of St. Thomas to talk and share Life Journeys. Today was special because I had never had the pleasure of just visiting with Dee and it was a delight.

Dee’s mother was from Tampa and her father was from Lakeland. After they were married they moved to St. Petersburg and found St. Thomas Church. This was in the early sixties. Dee was born in St. Petersburg and baptized into the Episcopal Faith at St. Thomas.  When Dee was nine years old her parents were divorced and they went to different churches but Dee never left St. Thomas.  She and her husband, Bill, were married at St. Thomas by Father Christopher Thompson. Dee’s roots are very deep in St. Petersburg and St. Thomas Church. Bill and Dee now have two beautiful daughters.

It was no surprise when she told me that when she is at St. Thomas doing her work or attending meetings she always has a sense of Peace.  It is more a feeling within of warmth and serenity.

Her father passed away when she was twenty years old and although he and her mother had divorced when she was nine, he had a great influence in her life.  Her mother’s parents, who lived in Portland Oregon, had also had a big impact on her life. She and her brother spent their summers in Portland
doing a lot of fun things with the grandparents.

In 2008 she had been working in Wholesale Sales at Sun Trust Bank and when returning to work after her maternity leave, the market had changed and she was out of a job. This created serious problems for the family and some very great hardships. However, Dee was always spiritually connected to God and she never let go during this time. She believes that this difficult experience caused her to become a better listener to God. She says that now she lets Him lead. It was difficult letting go and letting God be in charge.  Dee is after all is a leader, but God had the plan or the blue print. He leads. When we let Him lead everything falls into place.  Soon a position was open at St. Thomas and she now works a schedule that fits perfectly with her family’s schedule.

Just another example where all things work together for good.

In March, her husband Bill lost his job and The Prayer line was praying that a door of opportunity would open for Bill. Dee didn’t know this, but she wanted to share with me how that door opened.
She said that after Bill spoke to the Wednesday night group, Stan Shaver called Bill and suggested that he should contact Ceridian where his son Frank works. Stan didn’t know if they were hiring or not, but he thought it wouldn’t hurt to try. Bill did as Stan suggested and he got the job. He now works with Frank.

This, says Dee, is how God works through our St. Thomas family.  I am sure the Prayer Group would want me to thank Stan for being an instrument in bringing about the answer to our prayers.  I am reminded of the song “I sing a song of the saints of God, for the Saints of God are folks just like me, and I mean to be one too.  Isn’t it amazing how opportunities are right there in front of us every day? If we act on them it can make such a difference in some ones life.

Thanks Dee for taking time out of your busy schedule to share thoughts with me today.

Mary Hochadel
July 26, 2011
The St Thomas Blog

Sermon Notes: Miracles

Father John's sermon was based on today's gospel reading from Matthew 14:13.  He started by noting that it features the only miracle reported in all four gospels.  Jesus had just heard from the disciples of John the Baptist that he had been executed by Herod and was attempting to "withdraw by boat privately to a solitary place." Father John noted that John was not only the person who announced Jesus' coming, he was also his cousin and his senseless death (see versus 6-11) clearly saddened Jesus.  Fr. John pointed out that Jesus often retreated into solitude when he needed time for reflection and renewal, but in this case, his reputation did not allow for this and he had thousands follow him.
In spite of his situation, Jesus had compassion (Fr. John noted that interestingly "compassion" is derived from"compassio" which means "with bread") on the crowd and healed the sick.  Then his disciples, who Fr. John reflected often seemed preoccupied with worldly things, told Jesus to send the crowds away so they can go to local villages and buy food.  Jesus responded that this wasn't necessary and asked them to gather what food they had yielding five loaves and two fish.

Father John then observed that we all have to come to our own conclusions regarding the nature of the miracle that followed, but that he knows that while God could have obviously multiplied the food to provide for the crowd, he believes that the nature of the miracle has its roots in the generosity of the people who were acknowledging gratitude to Jesus for their healing.  As the food was passed, many of the people were making net contributions to the baskets because they had likely brought food for themselves.  The miracle is manifest in the fact that it is normally our nature to take rather than give and in that situation, you might have expected a crowd this large to have taken more than they needed at the moment because food was a much more precious commodity then and they could have used what they took the next day. 

Father John reflected on how fortunate we are that so few of us have experienced literal hunger, but discussed the joy that comes from not worrying about the future, counting on and knowing that God will provide for our needs each day.  He reminded us that the Lord's Prayer requests that He "give us this day, our daily bread," and reinforced that "bread" for us is more likely not actual food.  But since we all face worldly and spiritual trials, and that if we can shift our focus in terms of what we should be seeking from God to just what we need in terms of our daily sustenance, we can all experience miraculous lives in the spirit of the fish and loaves story.   

submitted by M. White

Altar Flowers for July

The Altar Flowers are given to the Glory of God and in thanksgiving for their 30th anniversary by Jack and Mary Jane Cartier.

Flower designers:  Pam Holley and Vicky Steinwender.

July 10
The Altar Flowers are given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Dick Merriman by Gloria Ellinwood and Richard G. Merriman Family.

Flower designer:  Keith Tulloch

July 17
The Altar Flowers are given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of William F. Warner, Jr. by Burrage and Mary Lou Warner.

Flower designers:  Elizabeth Walters-Alison and Caron Burgess.

July 24
The Altar Flowers are given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Esther McLeod Shaver by Stan Shaver.

Flower designers:  Deenie Miller and Vicky Steinwender

July 31
The Altar Flowers are given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Helen and Bob Evans by Anne Morgan.

Flowers Designers:  Elizabeth Walters-Alison and Linda Sordan.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Patience and Hope

July 17 Sermon Notes

Father Chris opened this past Sunday's sermon by explaining that typically, the Collect for each Sunday represents a good summary of the lessons from the Bible planned for the day.   While this Sunday's Collect expresses a true and beautiful sentiment, Fr. Chris reflected that the primary theme that all the lessons shared is the importance of patience and hope for what God has in store for us.

In Genesis 28:10-19, we have the story of Jacob's ladder which reveals a connection between heaven and earth. Even with God's promise to always be with us, life is full of disappointment, pain and requires patience and hope. The Psalmist describes a restlessness regarding what we want to be and our dependence on God to lead us and our hope for the everlasting. Similarly, the lesson from Paul's epistle to the Romans ends with the theme of hope and patience:

"For in hope we have been saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."

Finally, the Gospel reading from Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 is a parable imploring us to live lives of faith with patience. All of the lessons show us that we have to be at peace with things in life that we don't fully understand.

Father Chris then suggested that we consider where we feel the need to be most patient and write our own collect for today's lessons...a collect is comprised of two parts: 1) a prayer praising God; and 2) a supplication for patience in the area where we most need it. He closed with a quote from Teresa of Avila:

"Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee; All things pass; God never changes. Patience attains All that it strives for. He who has God Finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices."

submitted by M White

Saturday, July 9, 2011

photos from Vacation Bible School

more photos: slideshow

Men’s Bible Study

Men’s Bible Study, Proper 10, 10 July, 2011-  Continuing Saga of Abraham’s Family;  Paul’s explaining how the Law of the prophets can’t solve Man’s problems of selfish desires; and Jesus explaining the parable of the Sower and the seeds.
Genesis 25: 19-34
The saga continues from last Sunday’s lesson where Isaac’s servant finds a wife, Rebekah, for Isaac; and we know that they loved each other.  The great promise that Abraham’s family will multiply and be a great nation is not working out.   We see Rebekah and Isaac praying to God to bring them some kids.  In God’s time (20 years) Rebekah bears twins; God informs Rebekah that the two boys (at war in the womb) are not traditional heirs in that the elder (first bourn), will be subservient to his younger brother.  The boys are very different, the elder Esau is an outdoorsman (hunter, herder) and much beloved by Isaac; the younger, Jacob is a bookish fellow that stays in the tent and is much loved by Rebekah.  These boys have strong sibling rivalry.  Esau demands Jacob’s food’ Jacob is shrewd and cunning, he says that he will give Esau the food; however, Esau must first give up his birthright to Jacob.  So Esau must not have been thinking, was very hungry, or did not give a hoot.  Esau is said to have despised his birthright.   What was his birthright? Deuteronomy 21:17 and 1 Chronicles 5:1-2 tell us the birthright son  received a double portion of the inheritance, but he also became the head family and the spiritual leader upon the passing of his father (Gen 43:33). In this family, the birthright determined who would inherit the covenant God made with Abraham.  Give up all of this for a bowl of lentil stew?   The story is not a happily ever after type of lesson.   There is great faith and devotion by Rebekah and Isaac to be patient for God to answer their prayer for children.   Esau’s, contempt for his birthright is a difficult to grasp.   Was he forsaking the role of leader?  Did he feel the covenant was irrelevant?  One of the aspects that surfaces from this tale is that God’s timing and purpose are unpredictable. As this saga about Abraham’s descendents continues in the following weeks, there are more lessons and thoughts to ponder, stay tuned.  Genesis is a book that has many interesting twists and turns.    
Romans 8: 1-11
This Letter is the most pure treatise of Paul’s theology.  There is no message correcting false dogma or greetings to friends and disciples; it is a pure and effective defense of Christian doctrine. 
This passage is complex and a bit difficult to digest because, here, Paul compressed a lot of material that had been expressed previously.  Two words are prominently featured here:  Flesh (sarx) and Spirit (pneuma).  In Paul’s time, sarka meant in the human point of view (karta sarka).  When Paul says, “en sarki”, he means that the person is living the opposite of a Christian life (hostile to God, living for worldly pleasures, sin).   These are important to understanding of the message.
Spirit in Paul’s mind represents divine power.  In the Law, we can never overcome sin. With Christ comes the spirit of God that has power to beat back sin.   Jesus has the power to overcome all the inequities that are found so difficult in living under the law.  Love that Pneuma.            

Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23  Parable about sowing Seeds
Note that versus 10 to 18 are left out; they deal with understanding the message.  Although Jesus’ teachings were often very frank and cutting, the contemporary Pharisees and other religious leaders failed to grasp the meanings. 
The included versus are the start of a different venue for Jesus’ ministry. No longer in the Synagogue, now Jesus is spreading the word from a boat on the Sea of Galilee to an assembly of common folk along the shore.  He lost his welcome among the Scribes, elders, and Pharisees in the Temple.  So off he goes, to meet the people in their homes, at work, and along the by ways.  In the parable method, Jesus uses things that people well understood to get to more complex ideas that they did not comprehend.  At the end of the parable, we say OK, now I get it, my eyes are opened.   Another way to look at this is that a parable is an earthy story with heavenly meaning.  The reverse side of this parable coin is that it hides the truth from those to those that are too lazy to think or blinded by prejudice.     
The image of a farmer sowing seeds was very common in Jesus’ time.  In fact, Barkley’s commentary suggests that while Jesus told this parable, a sower was actually spreading seeds along the hillside paralleling the lake.   The agricultural practice at this time was to plant in narrow, rectangular fields separated by pathways.  Most of the soil was shallow and what we would call weeds were strongly competitive with crop plants such as wheat and barley. Hence, the terms in the parable were well understood.  Interpretations of this parable are rich and diverse, and perhaps some go too far. Jesus actually explains this parable, so not too much commentary is called for.    
Seeds and plants are the people who hear the word. Seed sown on the path (hard ground) is the word of God when it is not understood and pushed aside. Seeds that fall on rocky ground are people who hear the Word and get it, but then when things start to go bad, they turn away. Seeds that fall among the thorns are people who hear the Word, but the trinkets and bubbles of the world look better to them and it chokes God’s Kingdom away. “But the seeds that fell on good soil are those who hear the word and embrace the Kingdom of God.  
Be a good seed and be nurtured in God’s Love 
Thanks be to the good discussions in our class, William Barclay’s Commentary on Roman’s and Matthew.   

Submitted by Walt Jaap


Summer rains are making a difference.  In the church gardens and yard we see all the plants smiling and growing.  The trees, shrubs, flowers are making good use of photosynthesis (sun & water) for new growth.   However, the rains have brought us some problems with the roof.   The Sanctuary was consecrated March 26, 1961, making the building 50 years old.  The builder did an excellent job and we all marvel at the marvelous barrel tile roof; it is one of the crowning features of the Sanctuary.  After 50 years, the roof is in need of TLC.  In the past few years, it has been patched in several areas to stop leaks and we have contracted to repair another leak in the southeast corner of the Sanctuary.   The diagnosis is that the under layers of tarpaper have deteriorated and are no longer a barrier for water that makes it through the tiles.  Tiles are held in place with cement, which has also deteriorated (cracked) and as result, tiles shift around in the wind and also from gravity. Tiles also are showing their age from sun, wind, and rain.  Most roofs do not last 50 years; we have gotten full value from this roof.  We are researching the problem to look at best options for the under layers and tiles.  This is not a trivial matter and we must address it to protect the building and contents.  The costs of building contracting are at a remarkable low point due to economics in the housing market, this is a good time to do this work.  As Red Green often remarks, “We are all in this together.”   We appreciate your support and concerns; we will take care of this problem.  Thank you.     

Submitted by Walt Jaap

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Men's Bible Study

Genesis 24:34-38,42-49,58-67

Isaac has grown up, and Sarah his mother has died in Hebron. Abraham has insisted that his son marry a woman of his own clan, of his choosing. He has therefore made a pact with his head servant (v. 2): to return to “Aram-naharaim” (v. 10, Haran) to find a wife for Isaac. The servant has come to the well at Haran, where he has prayed to God that he will give a particular sign to identify the woman God has chosen. Rebekah, daughter of “Bethuel” (v. 15), has shown that she is the one (by offering water to both the servant and his camels); she has said that she is kin to Abraham, and has offered hospitality. When she has told her brother Laban, he has welcomed the servant and his party and has offered them a meal. But first, the servant insists, he must state the purpose of the trip. Here our reading begins.

It seems that the family worships Abraham’s God (v. 50), although they also have household gods (see 31:19, 30). “Bethuel” (Abraham’s nephew) and his son “Laban” recognize the servant’s mission as divinely inspired; they decide that Rebekah shall become Isaac’s wife, but they will ask her for her consent. She concurs (v. 58). Laban and Bethuel bless her: may she become the mother of many; may they be politically and militarily powerful (“gain possession ...”, v. 60): a blessing given to Abraham earlier (22:17). Isaac now lives at an oasis in the Negev Desert, in southern Canaan (v. 62). (“Beer-lahai-roi” means well of the living one who sees me; it was so named by Hagar when she saw God, appearing as an angel, there.) That Rebekah notices Isaac before she knows who he is shows that God brings them together. The servant calls Isaac “my master” (v. 65), so it seems that Abraham has died while he was away. Custom forbade a bride seeing her future husband’s face before marriage, so she dons a “veil”. Isaac welcomes her to his house (“tent”, v. 67) and they are married.

Romans 7:15-25a

Paul has written of two ways of being: the old, where being subject to the Law, people continually contravene it (sin), are dependent on God’s love to restore them to harmony with him, and in sinning ensure that they have no spiritual life after death, and the new, attained through baptism, where through Christ sin is no more, and physical death leads to eternal life. But we have not yet fully attained the new, so we are still influenced by evil. Now Paul asks: how could sin use the Law, which is good, to destroy humans? Humans are at fault, not the Law. He endures conflict between what he does, his “actions”, his exterior, and his “inmost self” (v. 22), his “mind” (vv. 23, 25). His true self abides by “the law of God” (v. 22), by God’s ways; it sees that what he does is not what he wills, and is what he hates (v. 15). Vv. 17 and 20 seem to say that sin, not he, is responsible for his actions, but realize that the “sin” is his sin. He is caught up in sin; he wills to obey God, but he can’t! (v. 18). So it seems to be a principle of life (“law”, v. 21) that whenever he wills good, the devil is never far away. His body is “at war” (v. 23) with his being. It is God, through Christ, who “will rescue” (v. 24) him from this sorry estate.

Matthew 11:16-19,25-30

John the Baptist has sent his disciples to ask Jesus whether he is the expected Messiah. Jesus has invited John to decide for himself: does he not do deeds of healing as foretold of the Messiah in Isaiah? John, Jesus has said, is indeed a prophet, the “messenger” (v. 10) sent to prepare for the Messiah (foretold in Malachi, and there named as Elijah), and the greatest human. For people of faith, John heralds the dawn of the time of fulfilment of God’s promise.

Vv. 16-19a are a parable in which the “children” are John and Jesus; the people of Israel ignore their message, whether it be told austerely (by John, as at a funeral, “mourn”) or in merriment (by Jesus, as at a wedding). But God’s “wisdom” proves them right by their results. Then vv. 20-24: people in Jewish towns, where Jesus has invited conversion through miracles (“deeds of power”), have ignored his message and will be condemned at the Last Day, while people of Gentile towns would have been much more receptive. In vv. 25-26, Jesus thanks his Father for choosing the simple, uneducated (“infants”) over the religious leaders (“the wise ...”). He is totally the Father’s representative; only the Father knows him, and only he and those he chooses know the Father. He invites the downtrodden to accept his “rest” (v. 28). Rabbis spoke of the “yoke” (v. 29) of the Law, with its many regulations. Jesus’ way is “easy” (v. 30): love God and each other! He is both teacher and the one to emulate.

Submitted by Dick Nelson

A Visit With Pam Holley

I had the pleasure of visiting with Pam Holley this week. Pam has a very positive outlook and she radiates this feeling to others, leaving you with the same joy that she exudes.

Pam was born in San Juan Puerto Rico. She has two sisters and a brother. Her father had a military career and the children were each born in different States or areas . She attended kindergarten and first grade in Germany. When they returned to the States on the SS Constitution, they were stationed in Michigan. When her father retired they moved to St. Petersburg, Florida. She grew up in St. Petersburg and graduated from Dixie Hollins High School.

Her parents had grown up on a farm. Her great love and admiration for her mother is revealed as she talks of what a great cook she was, the artist in her and the wonderful gardener she was and her love for arranging flowers. She was a good seamstress and tailor, so she taught the girls how to sew. When Pam came to St. Thomas and learned about the flower guild she wanted to learn to arrange flowers like her mother,
So, she joined the Guild.

When I ask Pam who was her greatest mentor, without hesitation she answered, Barbara the Music director at Woodlawn Presbyterian Church. She had voice training in college, but working with Barbara was where she learned the most. Barbara had them practice after noon evenings and choir practice.

Pam had this God given talent of a beautiful voice and I am sure that Barbara was happy to have her as a student. We at St. Thomas have the pleasure of listening to her lovely voice each Sunday. St. Thomas is truly blest with talented choir members and a music director so well accomplished as Louise.

Pam started at St. Thomas by filling in on special occasions. She began with Lessons and Carols and Easter then Christmas Holidays until she finally became a full time member of the choir.

She was not happy with her place of work and she prayed and prayed for direction. Soon she was asked to come to St. Thomas to replace Hedi, who had left this position open. She says there is such a positive feeling and such complete honesty in her work now and this gives her a sense of joy, as she was taught honesty and integrity as she was growing up.

Her deep connection with her mother was revealed when after her mother had passed away, on the third day she was awakened by her mother, who was standing beside her bed and calling her. She said, “Pam, are you alright?” Pam said, “Yes, mother, I am”. Then her mother left. As she shared with me, this spiritual connection with her mother, I felt this was a very sweet communion.

Mother came to let her little girl know that all was well on the other side. She wanted to comfort her and to give her that peace that passeth all understanding.

This is a true example of the greatness of Love.

Love transcends all things. There is no wall that can bar it, hold it back. or fence it in. It transcends all time and all space.

Love, Hope and Charity, and the greatest of these is Love.

Submitted by: Mary Hochadel

Altar Flowers for June

June 5

The Altar Flowers are given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Finnette Gilbart deLorimier and Joann Gilbart Summer by Gene and Miriam Williams and, anonymously given in loving memory of Anne Ford.

 Flower Designers: Elizabeth Walters-Alison and Joanne Turrell

June 12

The Altar Flowers are given to the Glory of God and in thanksgiving by Fran Futch and Bill Futch.

Flower designers: Susan Lahey and Vicky Steinwender

June 19:

The Altar Flowers are given to the Glory of God and in thanksgiving by Joseph Bernfeld and Edward Dziura and by Pat and Dave Bernfeld.
Flower Designers:  Pam Holley and Marilyn Lanctot

June 26

The Altar Flowers are given to the Glory of God and in thanksgiving for their 59th anniversary by Joanne and Joe Fleece.

Flower Designers:  Joanne Fleece, Cynthia Fleece and Mary Jane Cartier.