Saturday, March 31, 2007

Easter Schmeester

(12.24AM EST - Sun April 1)

John 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (NIV)

This week someone called the church office to ask about what we are doing for Easter. “My grand-kids are coming into town, and I was wondering if you have an Easter egg hunt?” No question about a sunrise service or special Easter music. No enquiry about whether the Gospel is preached or if Christ is glorified during the worship. Just a plain and simple question: are you having an Easter egg hunt?

You’ve got to love the naivety of the world, right now. It’s all about what we can get from church, not how much we can give. I can just imagine the first century Christians shaking their heads in despair as they are being led into the Coliseum to be mauled and eaten alive by lions. They gave their lives for Christ, not egg hunts. Our culture is really sick and narcissistic to the ultimate degree. Our generation has become biblically illiterate and spiritually foolish. The more we pander to ourselves, the less we care about Christ.

The challenge for us this Easter is to do something Lentish – let’s give up ourselves for Christ. Let’s not succumb to the cultural niceties. Instead, let’s retake Easter for Christ before the world turns it into another commercial festive occasion where bunny rabbits and candy filled eggs mean more to us, rather than a Savior dying on the Cross, and the Christ being resurrected.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You command us to love one another, just as You have loved us. We tend to get the first part right, without remembering the second part at all. Your love was so great that You gave up Your life, Your time, and Your health for us. Remind us this Easter of the cost of Your love, and keep us from innocently or unintentionally cheapening Your sacrifice. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Stushie writes the daily devotional blog Heaven's Highway; the weekly current religious newsblog Stushie's Stuff; and the Celtic Sunday worship prayers at Aaron's Beard

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Monday Question of the Week . . . Communcation & Technology

I was recently nominated to be on my Presbytery’s Communications and Technology Committee and last week was my first meeting. Clearly communication and technology is something that we all have in common so that got me to thinking does anyone else’s presbyteries have a similar committee and if so how do they understand their function and purpose? What does a Communications and Technology Committee have to offer a Presbytery, or your congregation? Whether or not your presbytery has one if they did what could they do to best support the congregations in your area’s Communications and Technology needs?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Comic Book King or Lord of Life

Several Presbyterian bloggers have been writing about the new Spartans vs the Persians movie "300." It's stylistically a combination of Film Noire and Anime. Anyway, I went to see the movie and afterwards it made me wonder how Christ would be illustrated. Here's my rendition.

King for a Day, Lord of Life

So I guess today's devotional is a movie-otional. Here's a question: what paintings/illustrations of Christ move you spiritually? Salvador Dali's "Christ of St. John of the Cross" comes to my mind immediately. It's displayed in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery of my hometown Glasgow, Scotland.

Stushie writes the daily blog Heaven's Highway; the current religious newsblog Stushie's Stuff; and the weekly Sunday worship prayers blog Aaron's Beard.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Latest form the Communictions Committee

From John Shuck . . .

What are you doing with your congregations in regards to the war in Iraq? I would be curious as to what you all struggle with (especially clergy) in regards to talking about war in general, but this war in particular, with your congregations. I would like to ask some basic open-ended questions:

1) Is this action by the United States, in your opinion, morally justified? What reasons can you give for your answer?

2) Does it, in your opinion, meet the criteria for a Just War set out by Augustine and others?

3) Is this an issue that should be addressed in church or should the church leave this issue to others?

4) What difficulties and successes have you had in talking about issues of war with your congregations?

5) How important is it to you that you keep your pulpit at all costs?

6) Is it automatic that you will lose your pulpit if you address issues of importance such as war?

7) What support could you use from other clergy or laity in addressing this issue?

Peace, john shuck

Friday Review (on Thursday) -- Rev Bill and Purpose

This is a day early, because I am leaving town this afternoon. Anyway, I have developed a serious aversion to anything including the words, "Purpose" and "Driven" in the same sentence. I think I developed this rash-like response walking past large displays featuring purpose driven journals, pens, notepads, diaries, books, CD's, car floormats -- ok, maybe not the last one.

There is just something about Purpose Driven consumerism that produces in me the same reaction as the thought of a Southern Baptist at at a school board meeting. So, it should not come as any great shock that I have not read any of the Purpose Driven Life series.

However, Rev Bill has been spending most of his blogging time since at least the first of March outlining and discussing Rick Warren's, The Purpose Driven Life. He is covering each chapter individually, and I have been pleasantly surprised at what I have found there.

You can go through his blog chronilogically to find the posts, or you can go straight to his Purpose Driven category.

Whether you have read the book or not, this is a prodigious and thoughtful contribution to Presbyterian Bloggers and well worth checking out.

Justice Seeker

Monday, March 19, 2007

Monday Question of the Week . . . 40 Days?

Lent is 40 days long and if you do the math that does not include Sundays. So for those who chose to give up something for Lent does that mean they don't have to give it up on Sundays? And if they do is that cheating?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Shepherding the Sheep

Luke 15:5,6 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' NIV

Years before she was married, my mum used to work on a Scottish farm which, strangely enough, was in the heart of the parish that I eventually ministered in for nine years. She usually worked alongside the shepherd and learned many of the skills of looking after sheep.

One day, she came across a young lamb, whose mother had died during its birth. My mum realized that the wee lamb would have to be brought back to the farmhouse where it could be fed and taken out of the cold, chilly wind. The shepherd offered to carry the lamb for her, but my mum insisted on doing it herself. The farmhouse was two miles away across the fields, but the lamb was light and cozy in her arms.

Halfway to the farmhouse, it started to rain. The field became muddier and muddier, making it difficult to walk. The rain also started to penetrate the lamb's woolen coat and it soon became heavy and soggy. As the weight of the lamb became greater, the shepherd helped my mum carry the lamb. The mud made each step more difficult and the farmhouse seemed to get further and further away. Eventually, after a long struggle with Nature, all three reached the comfort and warmth of the farmhouse.

Years later, in rare moments of sanity and clarity, my mum would tell us this story over and over again, always ending it with the phrase, "If it wasn't for the good shepherd helping me, I could never have saved the poor wee lamb." It was a lesson that I never forgot.

God is our Good Shepherd and we are His sheep, the flock of His pasture. In the midst of our struggles with life, He will carry us to safety.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, at times we need You to guide us and walk with us; in other pressing moments, we need You to help us and carry us. Whatever we do today and wherever we are, be our Good Shepherd. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John is the writer of the Heaven's Highway blog

Thursday, March 15, 2007

What is our major malfunction?

The older I have gotten the saltier I get. I type this in my pirate gear with my trusty parrot on my shoulder. I have been engaged in seminary coming up on two years. I am about to enter my senior year, the season the all of this is supposed to come together into a clear focused picture. Well...I await this prospect.

I am enjoying the process that I am bound to here in Austin. I love the conversations, the discussions, the comradely that is available here. What I am shout to get of my lawn is, the lack of resources to serve as I understand I am to serve and lead as I have been called to lead.

First of all let me say that I struggle almost daily with the idea of myself being ordained and leading in ministry. What I am convinced of is my call to be the thorn in the sides of ALL. I am that guy that is upset about almost everything. This does not mean I am not excited, passionate, or inspired by nothing at all.

It is quite the opposite. I am excited and passionate about everything. I have a vision and I am frustrated by the apparent absence of a place to serve. I do not want to do jail ministry. I do not feel called to this. Just because I am tattooed does not mean I am only to cower in the shadows of our nations prisons. I refuse to cower here and be stifled by those uncomfortable by my presence or convictions to voice the injustice I bear witness to.

I do not want to solely do youth ministry. This is because I believe in a holistic approach to congregational ministry. We need to sever as a whole and not divide. The youth have a place as missionaries and servants to this world just as valid as we do. They have a vibrant and skilled purpose. They may not have the financial stronghold to sway committees, commissions, presbyteries, synods, assemblies...they do have a blessed set of functioning organs filled with the desire to be near God just as passionate as you and I.

I do not want to massage the pockets of the powerful and lame. What is wrong with this picture? We bend to the collective whim of any one with money. If our greatest fear is the church dying then, we all need to bail and rejoin the Catholic Church. The PC(USA) is only one expression of the body. We are not essential, required, or special in service to Christ. The MISSION of God has a body. This body is the catholic church. We can proclaim it in our creeds. We cannot proclaim it in our lives. It is a blessing to be allowed to be a vessel of God mission. The BODY of Christ is not the MISSION!

What do we fear? We sanitize everything in our culture. We are fearful of folks discovering that the hamburger that clown served you is actually a cow. We are fearful of our children making mistakes and criminalize them for things that you and I did as children. We surround ourselves with a fearful wall of terror and deceit. We lie to ourselves and demand more protection, more of the pie.

We enslave our own citizens in low paying demoralizing jobs and demand that they stay over there. We the church take part in these things. Our silence speaks the loudest. We demand that the government listens and helps provide for the poor. We send our pocket change and sometimes our kids over there. Hoping that the kids come back with stories of how they contributed to the war on poverty and how grateful those poor little such and such were. This boils down to how these charitable actions make us feel.

We are fearful of new movements and ideas. In America alone over the last 50 years we have witnessed many counter cultural and progressive movements. We have seen the Peoples Temple, The Vineyard Churches, Branch Davidians, Calvary Chapels, The Purpose Driven Life, the Willow Creek Church, the Emerging Church, the Mega Churches, the Neo-Orthodoxy, the Jesus Freaks (hippies for Jesus), the Promise Keepers, and God Men.

Every generation has its reaction to the environment surrounding it. Every generation fights the previous generation to assert its voice in the ecclesial power structure. What makes these days different? NOTHING! The body ebbs and flows. Our biggest failing has been to be too proud of what we have built. Is the PC(USA) our Tower of Babel? Are we being good stewards as we grip the reigns upon the traditional structures we all matured in?

If we hold too tightly to our denominational roots we shall strangle the life out of the very denominations we seek to protect. We are called to be transformed. We are called to be in this world and not of this world. We are not called to section off the Kingdom of God at cut rate prices and commodify the very transformation we are given freely into non irritating culturally sensitive segregating ass patting sessions. Transformation does not come absent of wrestling. We are losing the tension between the divine and profane. What do we as the PC(USA) have to offer the world?

So what do you want to do Ryan? What are your grand ideas of transformation?

First I want to encourage and thank everyone that is serving and has served as a pastor. It is a tireless and often demanding way to serve.

I want to redefine the paradigm that we look to pastors to fill. This something I am still exploring and am certain it will change as I encounter the challenges of ministry. There must be ordination standards to maintain…perhaps a larger flexibility and longer program would help. Perhaps even a mentor relationship as part of this formation.

I want to run as fast as I can and trust that God is with me. I still have no prudence in this area.

I would like to see more missional activity in our local neighborhoods. We need to start of by knowing our neighbors. We can not walk with anyone if we do not know them.

We need to understand that we need to have a transforming message that has met, consequence, integrity, honesty, relevancy, and love. Exclusion does not breed any of these things.

Youth need to be taken seriously, as do seniors, families, singles, men, women, and community. The seed will not last on the rocky path.

We have to stop trying to keep up with the Joneses!!! The more we have to consume to fit into this culture the future away from the still small voice of God we go. We must search our hearts to see if we are being good stewards of what we are given.

We need to remember to laugh. God laughs.

I am convinced that God is ok with the occasional curse word. What truly matters is what is in your heart.

It is not about us! All things lead to God. It is our finitude that embarks us on a wayward journey in the other way.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Hump Day Prayer . . . New Life

God of tenderness,
through the Gospel we understand that you have chosen us
and that you say to each one of us:
"You also are for me a beloved child."
There is the beginning of an inner peace and a new life.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Working on Walls

I sometimes write a devotional for the Presbyterian Church of Canada website. Here's the meditation that is posted on their daily devotional for today.

Nehemiah 6:9 - They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, "Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed." But I prayed, "Now strengthen my hands." (NIV)

I served the Glen Kirk in Maybole, Scotland, for just over nine years. It was built on the side of a steep hill. On one side of the church, a hedgerow and hickory fencing separated the church property from the local golf course. On the other side, the boundary for the church campus was set by a 150-year-old stone wall.

One morning, I noticed that the church wall was bulging. Over the years, water, silt, and mud had built up behind the wall. As I looked down the street, I could see that other parts of the wall were bulging, too. It was ready to collapse, and I had fears of it suddenly tumbling down on top of some cars or even pedestrians in the street below. It had to be fixed. It had to be taken down stone by stone and rebuilt.

The town council had just started a new community jobs project. This was a government scheme to help people who were unemployed to learn some new skills or trades, so that they could become marketable again. It paid only minimum wage, but it maintained the dignity of those who were sustained by the projects.

Our bulging wall was an ideal project to work on. It took about three months to complete and involved stonemasons, builders, and local contractors. Several teams worked on tearing down, clearing out, and rebuilding the wall. When it was completed, everyone involved took great pride in what had been achieved. We had averted a collapsed wall and in its place was a better wall that witnessed to the effectiveness of the whole community project team.

When Nehemiah in the Bible set out to rebuild the walls surrounding Jerusalem, he also had to deal with adverse conditions. His local rivals were bent on destroying his efforts, and they resorted to blackmail and deceit. But Nehemiah's strength came from the Lord, and when he and his fellow workers felt weak or troubled, he prayed a simple, successful prayer: "Lord, strengthen my hands."

Today, some of us may be facing an uphill task, a serious problem, or a painful issue. We may not feel strong enough to overcome our troubles because we are weakened by worry. During times like these, we look to the Lord to help us by simply praying for the strength to endure and to overcome.

Prayer: Lord God, strengthen our hands, and give us guidance. Whatever fears we are facing or troubles that we are experiencing, keep us from collapsing, and build up our strength. Lead us through these trying times, and help us to overcome them effectively. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

John (Stushie) writes the daily devotional blog for Heaven's Highway; the current religious news blog Stushie's Stuff, and the weekly worship prayer blog Aaron's Beard that you can link to from this webpage.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday Review . . . Women's Equality

With the current political climate in PCUSA, I thought this post that was originally on Presbyweb and reposted (with permission) by Kruse Chronicles provided a well-thought out explanation that I hadn't seen before on an issue that most of us take for granted.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Latest from the Communications Committee

Here is an email that I thought you might find interesting.

I think our new website at might be of interest to the Presbyterian blogging world. It is a website (Digg clone) for PC(USA) folk to submit links of interest for all users to vote on. Once a link gets enough votes it gets promoted to the front page. There are so many good Presby bloggers out there and this would be a good way for them to get their stuff out to a wider audience.

We definitely encourage folks to self-submit blog entries that they think would be of interest to others.


Saturday, March 03, 2007


Acts 1: 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

There’s a new boycott in town. The American Family Association is calling for all Christians across the United States to stop watching the Discovery Channel. This is because the network is due to broadcast a documentary tonight about the bones of Jesus being found. It’s another attempt by media personalities to discredit the New Testament and it’s something that we shouldn’t treat lightly.

Why? Well, read the passage again from the Book of Acts (Acts 1:1-9). Luke tells his readers that after Christ’s work was completed, He ascended into heaven. There’s nothing about continuing His life on earth, or of marrying Mary Magdalene, or of having a son called Judah. Luke is very clear about what actually happened: Jesus left the earth and went back to be in heaven. His purpose was to let the disciples begin a new faith and that with the promised help of the Holy Spirit, the Church of Christ would commence.

If we allow ourselves to be duped into doubting Luke’s account because of wild theories by movie directors and questionable archeologists, then we lose our faith in the Scriptures, which in turn means we lose our faith in Christ. There’s no gray area in this situation: we either accept the Ascension or we reject 2000 years of what the Disciples of Christ experienced.

So, should we boycott the Discovery Channel? It produces a lot of interesting and intriguing shows, but when it meddles with the Christian faith at this level, then I guess Christians should think twice about watching it. If it was broadcasting child pornography, everyone would avoid it and seek to have it banned; but because it’s only tampering with our historical faith, we may not think that it’s that serious. The trouble is this: if the bones of Christ exist, then Christianity is false. If the Ascension actually happened, then the Discovery Channel is making the biggest mistake in all of its network history.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to make good and godly decisions in our lives. We know that we are far from perfect and fall into sin far too easily. Grant us the gift of discernment, so that we may not be taken in by those who have an agenda to discredit You, usurp the Scriptures, and destroy the Church. Show us where the Truth can actually be found – in Your Holy words and deeds. In Your Sacred Name, we pray. Amen.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Friday Review. . . Jesus' Tomb

Just in case you get peppered with questions on Sunday from someone (hopefully, a child or early adolescent) who wants to know what you think of the James Cameron show which supposedly reveals Jesus' tomb, I thought it might be useful to link to a discussion of some of the less obvious problems with Cameron's conclusions.

Two Presbyterian Bloggers, Quotidian Grace and Kruse Kronicle, have both linked to the same discussion on a blog by Ben Witherington. This blog contains three entries each addressing problems with the Cameron show's conclusions. One is a pretty detailed discussion of the different names and the languages that they were written in. (Did anyone else notice that the name supposedly belonging to Mary Magdalene is the only one written in Greek? How much sense does that make?)

It seems that something like this comes up every Lent. So, if you want to be prepared for it and would rather spend your weekend doing something other than thinking about it, let Mr. Witherington get your thoughts together for you.

The three blog entries are:

The Jesus Tomb? 'Titanic' Talpiot Tomb Theory Sunk From the Start

Problems Multiply for Jesus Tomb Theory and

The Smoking Gun -- Tenth Talpiot Ossuary Proved to be Blank