To Turn Around

To Turn Around

Mattia Preti – “St. John the Baptist Before Herod”

By the Rev. Tom Sramek, Jr., rector of St. Mark’s, Medford

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” – Matthew 3:1-2
Repent. It is not a word we are used to hearing or using in everyday life. We don’t commonly ask ourselves or others “Have you repented today?”

But repentance itself hopefully isn’t unusual. To repent (Greek: metanoia) means simply to turn around, to change one’s mind, to go in a different direction. Since we are all imperfect people, we hopefully do this all the time.

We say something, do something, or go somewhere and we find out that is not God’s will for us, hurts someone else, or simply is wrong and we turn back from that, perhaps apologize, and move on to hopefully do better next time.
It is sad and unfortunate that our contemporary culture seems to see repentance as either a weakness or a marketing stunt. There is a sense that once committed to a course of action, the idea of acknowledging it to be a mistake, perhaps apologizing for it, learning from it, and moving in a different direction is somehow a sign of weakness, wishy-washyness, or “flip-flopping.”

As a culture, we seem to penalize people for admitting that they were wrong. This obviously results in people being extremely reluctant to admit mistakes and take corrective actions.

On the flip side, if someone DOES admit to an error, there is the temptation to crucify them for it and not to “let them get away with it.” In such a culture, repentance either becomes or can be taken as a marketing technique or a political ploy rather than a genuine change of mind.
But repentance is something we should get used to doing frequently and intentionally, whether it is a thoughtless remark, a bad habit, or even a poor life choice. We should welcome it in ourselves, our friends, and our political leaders.

Indeed, true repentance and amendment of life requires that we regularly listen for and heed the prophetic voice inside and/or around us that calls us to examine our lives, “clean out” the things that keep us from living the full life that God intends, and chart a new path in accordance with God’s will. Grace is meaningless if we do not avail ourselves of it frequently.

Preparing for the anniversary of the first coming of the Christ child and Jesus’ second coming in the future reminds us of this need for God’s grace.  

Congregation Close-up: St. Mark’s, Medford

Building for the Future with a major expansion project

By the Rev. Tom Sramek, Jr., rector of St. Mark’s, Medford

As we move toward our 130th Anniversary on June 18, 2019, St. Mark’s is poised to move confidently into the future with new energy as a growing, thriving church in Southern Oregon. Our $2 million “Building For the Future” (BFF) Capital Project will be completed this summer, adding over 7,000 square feet of office, classroom, kitchen, library, social hall, food pantry storage, and restroom space to our church building. We look forward to engaging with the surrounding community in new and expanded ways with our new facilities.

At the same time as the excitement over our anniversary grows and our building also grows, we recognize the need to grow into new ways of being church in the twenty-first century. Within our congregation, this means experimenting with more gender-inclusive Eucharistic liturgy, establishing and sustaining small “dinner groups” to help people know one another better, building a robust year-round stewardship plan, and strengthening and refining our process of inviting new people, welcoming them, and connecting them to our common life.

In our neighborhood, new ways of being church involves expanding our food pantry capacity, strengthening our relationship with other nonprofit partners to serve the community more effectively together, and increasingly becoming advocates for social justice in our city. We are also looking towards creating a strategic plan for 2020 and beyond that will likely include both intentional welcome of our LGBTQ+ faith siblings and providing a sanctuary for those who have been traumatized by their experiences of other Christian faith traditions.

Our relatively new mission statement asserts that we are people devoted to “Sharing Christ’s love by feeding people in body, mind, and spirit.” We look forward to living out that mission and continuing to gather the physically, intellectually, and spiritually hungry from Medford and across the Rogue Valley.

Visit the St. Mark’s website.