9/17/21: Message from Rev. Eric
St. Paul’s is an extraordinary church community. In the month that I have been among you it has been an honor and a privilege to get to know such amazing, passionate, vibrant, and talented people. I have joined you for receptions and meetings, I have listened to your wonderful ideas and many of the hopes and dreams that you have for our future together. You have truly been endowed by God with many varied gifts. You are thoughtful, creative, resourceful, and you love one another.
As I begin to get sense of who we will be as a rector and a people, I know that we have the raw materials that we need to work together to build up this sacred embassy of God’s kingdom right here in the midst of Chestnut Hill–this wonderful part of the amazing city of Philadelphia. The High Renaissance sculptor, Michalengelo, is reputed to have said, “The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.” This work of chiseling is hard work but God has given us what we need to reveal something extraordinary.
I couldn’t be more thrilled to come at this exciting time in the life of the parish.
This is a time of Restoration. It has been amazing to watch the grime of many storied years be methodically removed, and the beautiful warmth of the stone beneath, revealed. I have shared with a few of you over the last week one of my favorite prayers in all of the Book of Common Prayer, it is prayed at The Great Vigil of Easter and it is Prayed at Ordinations. It is an important prayer:
“O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
There is a mysterious word that is found only once in the New Testament. The word is apokotastasis. In the 3rd Chapter of Acts, St. Peter is preaching in the Portico of Solomon in Jerusalem and proclaims, “Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets.”
This “Universal Restoration,” this Apokatastasis, is the Good News of the Gospel: that Christ who Destroyed Death is making the whole creation new.
The work of Jesus Christ is the work of Restoration. The Good News of the Gospel is that this Old World is being restored by him through whom all things were made. As followers of Jesus, we are meant to take part in this Good Gospel work of Restoration.
As we begin to come together again we have much that needs restoring. We need to bind up one another’s wounds brought about from the time of pandemic and upheaval in our culture. We need to go about doing the work of restoration in our surrounding communities. We need to continue to do welcoming work, aspiring to be a community of radical hospitality welcoming all who come into our midst. We need to continue to do the good work of racial reconciliation.
As we do the hard, good, and necessary work of restoring our buildings, let us remember that it is a sacramental sign of the work of Restoration that we must do for the sake of the kingdom in the midst of our communities, restoring the vitality of our parish, restoring families, restoring friendships, restoring joy.
Yours in Christ,