Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Devotion: A Memorial Wish

Acts 3:7           Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. 

If I had the ability to have a wish completely answered on Memorial Day, it would be that all injured, wounded, and disabled veterans were healed today – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Wars come and go, but wounds and scars remain. Many true combat veterans will not speak about their experiences because of the horrific and inhumane experiences they endured. Night after night, they relive former battles, campaigns, and skirmishes in their hearts and minds. Even decades after terrifying and sickening events, veterans wake up sweating all over and never find real peace.

Years ago, when I ministered to fishermen on the West Coast of Scotland, I can remember making a house call to an elderly couple. During the visit, the woman of the house told me that her husband suffered nightmares every night and that she had to comfort him. He had been on a British navy ship that was torpedoed during World War 2. He was one of the few survivors and had spent several hours in the sea before being rescued. Thereafter, every night for more than forty years, he experienced the same nightmare. The fear and anxiety never went away.

Today, we commemorate Memorial Day in the United States. Some people have a romantic nostalgic notion of making this day a red, white, and blue flag waving celebration. It is all that, but much more besides. We patriotically remember  and proudly honor those who gave their lives to protect us, but we should also be aware of the many veterans at home, in hospital, or veteran’s homes who still relive their time of combat and have wounds, physically and internally, that will never be healed on this side of glory.

Prayer:                        Lord God, we who are free sometimes forget about those who are still captive to past traumatic experiences and fearful events. We can truly never know all that occurred to preserve our freedom on the battlefields of Europe, on Pacific islands, and in South East Asia. Even today, we are not completely aware of what our armed forces endure in Iraq and Afghanistan. Forgive us for being ignorant and complacent. Bless those who sacrificed everything to give us what we cherish most today – our freedom. In Jesus’ Name we humbly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, John will be pleased to receive your emails at

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, May 30, 2010, Trinity Sunday (Year C)

Posted each Thursday, Lectionary Ruminations focuses on the Scripture Readings, taken from the New Revised Standard Version, for the following Sunday per the Revised Common Lectionary. Comments and questions are intended to encourage reflection for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged. All lectionary links are to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead. (Other references are linked to the NRSV via the oremus Bible Browser.)

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
v. 1 Does not “Sophia”, I mean, “wisd
om”, call? Does “wisdom” equal “understanding”?

v. 22 Unlike the preexistent Christ, Christ not being one of God’s creations, wisdom is a creation of God, although one of the first creations, even before the creation of the earth (23) and the establishment of the heavens (27).

How does the fact that this passage was chosen for the First Reading on Trinity Sunday influence how we interpret it? How does it influence our understanding of the Trinity? Where does Sophia/wisdom fit within our doctrine of the Trinity?

Psalm 8:1-9
vs. 1, 9 Liturgical repetition?

vs. 3-5 These are some of my favorite verses in the Psalter, verses which seem to capture the childlike sense of wonder which can give birth to a love of wisdom.

How does this Psalm inform our understanding of the Trinity as well as our liturgical celebration and affirmation of the Trinity?

Romans 5:1-5
v. 1 Mention of “God” and “our Lord Jesus Christ” gives of two persons of the Trinity, perhaps.

v. 5 Mention of “God” and “the Holy Spirit” gives us two persons of the Trinity,perhaps
Combine verse 1 and verse 5 and we have a text for Trinity Sunday.

This text seems to offer more theologically than a mere mention of the Trinity. Are we missing Paul’s point by interpreting this passage through a “Doctrine of the Trinity” lens? Let us not forget about suffering, endurance, character and hope

John 16:12-15
v. 12 Are we able to bear today, any more than the disciples could bear, the many things Christ has to sayto us?

v. 13 Is the “Spirit of truth” the same as the Holy Spirit?

v. 15 “the Father”

With Jesus talking, do v.13 and v.15 demand a Trinitarian interpretation?

One of the Professors in my D.Min. program argued in our Reformed Theology Seminar that the Doctrine of the Trinity is not biblical but it is essential.

If God is at all like light (Jesus is, after all, the light of the world) then perhaps our understanding of light can serve as a metaphor for our understanding of God. Sometimes light seems to behave like a wave. Sometimes light seems to behave like a particle. Neither understanding, even combined, fully explains the nature of light and in a sense light is still a mystery. While the Doctrine of the Trinity can (sometimes) help us make sense of the way God behaves in Scripture, I am becoming increasingly convinced that it does not give us a complete picture or fully explain the nature of God. The Doctrine of the Trinity helps us to conceptualize and understand the mystery of God, yet God still remains a mystery we must ponder, a mystery that invites us to marvel at God with the same childlike wonder of the Psalmist in Psalm 8:3-5, only more so.

It has been a while since I last read Carl Jung, but I think he argued that the Doctrine of the Trinity was not psychologically complete, that what humans need psychologically is not a Trinity of Father – Son – Spirit but a Quarternity of Father – Son – Spirit – Wisdom, and that for Roman Catholics the Doctrine of the Assumption of Mary comes close to fulfilling this function.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Read and Learn -- PCUSA and Wikipedia?

Google "Presbyterian general assembly" and you will find a link to, a link to a financial blog (which makes a really sad sort of ironic sense) and third a link to the Wikipedia entry for Presbyterian Church (USA).

Seriously there is a lengthy Wikipedia entry (well OF COURSE there is, I shouldn't be surprised, but I am), here is the link: Presbyterian Church (USA). Was the Rev. John Witherspoon really the only Minister to sign the Declaration of Independence? What about Lyman Hall? Ok, so he was first a Doctor, but wasn't he also a Minister? (Ok, ok, so he was actually fired from one church for moral failings; but we won't talk about that.)

There are a number of other statements made that I think will raise the hackles of a few members of this ring. So, anybody want to take a stab at an editing job?


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

When in Doubt...

As the average person, on an average day, in an average location, we often find ourselves in doubt. We just can’t seem to get through the day without that little hint of not being sure about issues and answers. We often create our own safe environment in order to minimize the doubt and sense of not knowing all there is to know. It’s human nature to want to know everything about anything, and to be able to convince ourselves of the fact that we do know it all, when in fact we know very little.

As children of God, we know just what our Father wants us to know, needs us to know, and when and where to use it. This is somewhat comforting in that we can never know too much. We often find ourselves searching for more knowledge, seeking the truth and trying to discern where we can find these genuine items without losing ourselves in the process. This is a natural maturity, seeking and finding answers to our questions, particularly when we pose them to God, our Father. He will never lead us down the wrong path, but instead keep us on the straight and narrow. Our doubt can actually be a good thing, encouraging us to continue our search for the truth.

We, as Christians, need to be ridding ourselves of our doubt and fears continuously by spending our time with the one who knows everything, and has already seen what we are searching for in the first place. He can easily erase our doubt about any subject, big or small, and ease our minds with His grace and mercy. The bible contains a huge volume of wisdom, knowledge and great advice that can be applied to any situation. The book of Psalms and the book of Proverbs contain so much of this timeless advice that is appropriate for any situation, big or small.

We cannot let doubt take over our lives. This would create pandemonium and chaos, allowing our fears to dominate our thoughts and actions. It would advantageous to be prepared to do battle with doubt, particularly when we know it can sneak up on us at any time, in any place, in any situation. We need to put on the armor of God and don the breastplate of righteousness and be prepared to do battle when doubt creeps into our psyche. A keen understanding of God’s Word will provide the ammunition you need to fight off doubt and fear and to live our lives daily in a manner that glorifies God.

As children of God, we need to act accordingly and attempt to learn and understand His guide to life, the Holy Bible. This is our textbook that that has been so graciously provided by the Holy Spirit, taking us from beginning to end. It’s our History 101 class where an “A” may not be good enough, but in His eyes, it is our best effort and we are forgiven for all of our misguided notions. In His eyes, our doubt will not keep us from being His children, and will not keep us out of His kingdom. We just need to make sure we do not doubt His mercy, His faithfulness, His grace. For it is not by our good deeds, our doubtless thoughts that we are welcomed into His kingdom. We are allowed into His heavenly home by His grace and mercy.

If you are confident in your future, and you know that Jesus is the man He says He is, then there is no doubt, no fear that He sits at the right hand of God. He will erase all doubt when our day comes and we see him face to face. Then we can say “see, told you so, there was never a doubt in my mind.”

Monday, May 24, 2010

Special Devotion: Still Lost?

Acts 2:12         Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?"

Last night, millions of viewers across the world were left stunned with the final conclusion of the television series LOST. They just couldn’t believe that none of the characters survived the initial plane crash and that all the events on the island were either ways to salvation or damnation. I think that most of the fans wanted their favorite characters to survive, so most of them were either disappointed with or grieving the ending.

I must confess, I have never watched an episode of the series but I have listened to other people, including my family members, about it. Before the finale was shown I told my family that all of the characters were dead, but they didn’t believe me. After weighing up what I had heard from them and others, I just didn’t think the show could have concluded any other way.

Mortality has a way of sneaking up on people when they least expect it. I think that most people who were stunned will probably be pondering and postulating about life after death for a couple of weeks. And then some new show will come along, attract their viewership, and fill the gap. Life will go on and LOST will be nostalgically remembered years from now.

Just like the characters in LOST, we all destined to die. Unlike those fictional characters, we will have to deal with that reality on our own. We cannot depend upon scriptwriters to work things out for us. We cannot escape the reality of God. We will either be welcomed into the highest halls of everlasting human happiness through Jesus Christ, or we will be lost to God forever. Ultimately, what we choose to believe about Jesus will reveal our final destiny. LOST was just a TV series; LIFE is the ultimate reality.

Prayer:                        Lord Jesus, You want us all to be found and never be lost. We are aware of our mortality and how limited life really is. Help us to come to You for comfort and guidance, ultimate hope and everlasting assurance. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to

Friday, May 21, 2010

Go Fish!: Are You "In" or "Out"?

One of my favorite TV reality shows is "Project Runway." I'm not a fashion maven myself, but I enjoy watching skilled and creative people having to come up with designs on the fly. Drama unfolds throughout the show, culminating in the ultimate question posed by host Heidi Klum: who is "in" as a designer, and who is "out"?

Who is in and who is out? That's a question that makes more than up-and-coming fashion designers nervous, it apparently makes some Presbyterians nervous as well. It's the ultimate question turned Ultimate Question when it comes to where someone is headed for Eternity. It brings up issues of exclusivity and judgement. And it can be crippling when it comes to the topic of evangelism.

After listening to and talking with other Presbyterians and mainline protestants over the years, I've found that some people do not want to evangelize themselves, and don't want the church to evangelize, out of fear that we will be preaching a negative Gospel of exclusiveness and judgement against others. They see some of the excesses of evangelical Christians who place a high emphasis on praying the prayer to avoid an eternity in hell and respond by saying "that's not for us."

But in trying to run away from the problem of an aggressive "in or out" policy, we've run too far in the direction of another problem: saying and doing nothing. We don't want to offend anyone, so we do nothing at all. How's that working for us?

Here's a WWJD question: was Jesus inoffensive? Of course he wasn't! It's doubtful powerful people would have nailed someone to the cross who was just trying to be polite.

So what's the answer? Could it be there is a middle way between completely offending people, and being so inoffensive that we disappear (maybe literally)? What would a middle way look like?

I remember a young woman I knew years ago who would break into tears as she wondered aloud if she was going to get into Heaven. Some Bible verses had her wondering if only a select few would be granted entrance. I was a young Christian myself, and had no answers for her. But I remember feeling uncomfortable listening to her, because I was pretty sure that Jesus had specifically told us not to spend time worrying in general. It also seemed to me that if Jesus said only God knows the time and hour of Jesus' return, maybe there are other facts that are left for only God to know.

Her tears and worries stuck with me for years, however, and the conclusion I came to was this: since we can't know if we are in or out, instead of spending valuable time worrying about it now, let's live like we're already there. In other words, let's live the life of abundance Jesus promised, a life of discipleship characterized by the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galations 5:22).

In Jesus' promise of a more fulfilling life lies the middle way. The Good News is not just for the hereafter, it's for the here and now! We can share the news with non-believers that life can be fuller, richer and more joyful as disciples of Jesus. That is not to say that life is not going to be hard. There are hardships and heartbreaks all along the way. But Paul offers us great hope in Philippians that we can experience contentment regardless of our circumstances (Philippians 4:11-12).

Furthermore, if we all behaved as if we're already headed to Heaven, the world would become a much better place. Maybe that's what the Lord's Prayer hints at, bringing God's Kingdom to the world right now, not just after Jesus' return.

As for the argument about the exclusivity of Christianity, I counter that if everyone is invited, it's not exclusive. There is choice involved; it's up to us to offer the choice without any pressure, manipulation or threats. And if someone says "no" we remain friends and treat all as Jesus would have treated them himself.

One more reality show reference to illustrate the point of living like we're already "in". "The Amazing Race" finished its season just a couple of weeks ago on Mother's Day. For those of you who are fans of the show, I'm guessing you were rooting for the sweet and funny cowboy brothers, Jet and Cord. Disappointingly, they came in second. But something Jet said at the end demonstrated that they ran that race as if they were already "in", and served as a powerful witness to millions of viewers.

"I'm not going to be ashamed of anybody watching our race. There's no point throughout the entire race that my wife, my parents, our congregation, anybody, that I couldn't sit down and watch it with them and be proud of Cord and I and the way - not just the race - but the way we ran the race. That was really a big goal for us coming into it, was to leave here knowing we have nothing to be ashamed of."

There is a middle way, and we as Christians need to adopt that way as an evangelism plan individually and corporately.

I'm in. Are you?

Conference Alert: if you've heard of The Alpha Course and have wondered if it might be a ministry of outreach for your church, do not miss the Alpha Americas Conference next month in Naperville, IL, near Chicago. I have been to several national Alpha conferences and have always found them to be valuable. And if you've never heard of The Alpha Course, check out the website at You can also contact me with questions about Alpha; I've been an Alpha Course administrator at my church for more than seven years, and a local Alpha advisor for at least two years.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, May 23, 2010, the Day of Pentecost (Year C)

Posted each Thursday, Lectionary Ruminations focuses on the Scripture Readings, taken from the New Revised Standard Version, for the following Sunday per the Revised Common Lectionary. Comments and questions are intended to encourage reflection for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged. All lectionary links are to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead. (Other references are linked to the NRSV via the oremus Bible Browser.)

Acts 2:1-21
If you use the Acts passage as the first Reading, then use the Romans Reading as the Second Reading.
If you use the Genesis passage as the First Reading, then use either the Acts passage or the Romans passage as the Second Reading.

v. 1 Who are included among the “they”?

v. 2 “from heaven there came a sound” reminds me of the voice from heaven associated with the Baptims of Jesus and the Conversion of Saul/Paul. But this sound was not the voice of God. It was a sound like the rush of a violent wind.

v. 3 What IS a divided tongue, anyway?

v. 4 What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?

v. 5 What is the difference between a “devout Jew” and a Jew who is not devout? Is that anything like being religious but not spiritual, spiritual but not religious, or spiritual AND religious?

vs. 5, 7 & 12 I love these adjectives: bewildered, amazed and astonished, amazed and perplexed. When was the last time a religious/spiritual experience/encounter left you feeling this way?

v. 11 What are “God’s deeds of power” and how often do we speak about them?

v. 13 What is worse and hardest to overcome, sneering or ignoring?

v.15 If it were three o’clock in the afternoon, or after nine o’clock at night, might we then assume they really were drunk? Even though the Book of Order allows the serving of fermented wine at communion as long as unfermented grape juice is also served, many sessions choose not to, claiming they do not want to cause reformed alcoholics to stumble. I think that is red herring and that the real reason is that they are afraid of losing control and actually being filled with the spirit.

v. 16 See Joel 2:28-32

Genesis 11:1-9
vs. 3, 4, 7 What does all the “let us”language suggest?

v. 4 What is the psychological/spiritual/religious significance and meaning of the ziggurat?

v. 6 If this is only the beginning, what else is yet to come?

I experience a bit of disconnect here because the passage suggests that the origin of humanity is in the fertile crescent of the Tigris and Euphrates, or present day Iraq, when in reality humanity most likely originated in Africa, perhaps in the Great Rift Valley.

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
v. 24 God’s works are manifold, not our works. What does manifold mean, anyway?
How do we read the reference to “wisdom” in light of next week’s Reading from proverbs?

v. 26 Thomas Hobbes, eat your heart out!

vs. 28-30 These verses seem antithetical to the hubris of the Babylonians.

v. 31 God rejoices in God’s works, not our works.

Romans 8:14-17
v. 14 If “all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God”, then are all who are children of God led by the Spirit of God?

v. 15 A spirit of slavery versus a spirit of adoption. Mama Mia! A Swedish rock group made it

into Scripture!

v. 17 If we are children and therefore heirs, then what do we inherirt?

John 14:8-17 (25-27)
v. 9 When I read this verse I think of icons.

v. 13-14 What is the power of the name? Is there some hyperbole here?

v. 16 Another? Advocate?

v. 17 Is the “Spirit of truth” the same as the Holy Spirit?

v. 26 How does the Holy Spirit teach and remind us today?

All five passages are pregnant with meaning and possible hermeneutical and homiletical possibilities and I fear I have barely touched the surface.

On any given Sunday I usually include all four readings in the liturgy even if I am preaching on only one, but will often use the vocabulary and imagery from readings I am not preaching on to form and inform prayers and to influence my choice of hymns.
When not posting Lectionary Ruminations and prepairing and preaching sermons I blog at Summit To Shore.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wednesday Read and Learn: Book Review

Justice Seeker and I are having trouble with the switch of our days from Thursdays back to Wednesdays and just realized we didn't post yet. So I am sharing a book review I posted on Quotidian Grace earlier this week because it may be of interest to those of you who are involved in leading adult study groups. Here it is:

Frequent Readers of my blog know that I usually do not review books that I didn't like. However, I am making an exception for Life in Year One by Scott Korb in the interest of alerting those of you who are looking for interesting material for adult study groups. Avoid this one.

I thought this would be a good addition to my teaching library, but was disappointed to find that it was very derivative of the work of John Dominic Crossan, former Catholic priest and founder of the Jesus Seminar. The author quotes so frequently from Crossan's The Birth of Christianity and his book with co-author Jonathan L. Reed, Excavating Christianity, that I wonder why this was published. I'm not a fan of Crossan and do not agree with his theological point of view, but if you are, I suggest you just read his books instead of this one.

Additionally, much of the text is contained in the numerous footnotes which are in teensy tinsy print which makes the book difficult to read.

Caveat lector.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


When we hear the word devotion, several pictures swirl in our minds to create our understanding of the word. A thesaurus will bring forth several synonyms for the word that begins to give this collection of letters a religious feeling or meaning. Words such as piety, religious fervor, consecration among others can be used in place of devotion in the correct context.

I had the great privilege of participating in an annual bicycle ride to Washington DC, paying tribute to Law Enforcement Officers killed in the line of duty in the past year. This ride is an annual event, but this was only my second year as a determined bike rider. The 120 mile ride begins at the capitol in Richmond, VA, and ends in Washington, DC. The ride takes place on Thursday May 16, 2010 in recognition of National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial week. We complete the ride in one day, pushing ourselves to our personal limits of physical abilities in order to demonstrate our dedication, our devotion to this very worthy cause. We all climb off our bikes that evening, vowing never to pedal another mile again for a long time. We have just pedaled 120 miles when there are people who hate to drive that far in a car. We have just pushed ourselves to the limit in order to pay tribute to our fallen comrades, all in the name of our departments and our respected occupation.

Having said that, how many of us feel that dedicated, that devoted to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the man who died for our sins, gave His life so that we could live. I was thinking about this as we pedaled the miles, working towards a very obvious goal of reaching Washington. With God, the goals are not so clear. We are left to discern what God wants from each of us, then to carry it out. We are left to get on the bike, then to figure out in what direction we should pedal. We are required to do all of the same preparation, the same practice rides, the same methods of preparation for God’s ride through life. It seems as though some will skip the preparation and head straight for the ride, not knowing how difficult or how long the ride will be. They may not even know the ultimate destination, but want to participate regardless of their lack of knowledge. As Christians, we know that we have a map book, a holy Garmin, a mapquest program beyond all programs. We have God’s Holy Word. We know when we lose our way, when we have trouble figuring out just where we are or where we are supposed to be, we can open the Bible. It’s amazing to find the wisdom and awesome insight included in the pages of the Bible. A book written so long ago still applies to our lives today. A book written by so many different people with so many diverse backgrounds can only have one source, the Holy Spirit. This is why the Bible is so consistent despite the different authors and the span of time used to create it. Devotion is our way of expressing our fervor, our zeal for God’s Word, giving us direction regardless of the circumstance, regardless of the distance, regardless of the ultimate destination. We are devoted to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for His wonderful and amazing gift to us. We are loyal to God’s instructions and directions even though we can’t see the end of the journey. Despite all of what this world says about our God, we know that we have a friend in Jesus Christ who will protect us, guide us, and lead us to our final destination. All we have to do is keep pedaling.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gathering for Coffee and Conversation

Dorontheos23, M.Div, blogs at He Wakens My Ear to Listen as Those Who are Taught (Isaiah 50:4b). And, yes, she still blogs there regularly even though the feed is disrupted so our blog roll says that her site has not been updated for 8 months. In fact, over the past week she's blogged about Emeth (truth), John Rudder's "For the Beauty of the Earth" (with video), and the close connections between mothers and daughters in her family (an extremely touching post). Please don't let a technological glitch keep you from checking out this fabulous member blog.

Next up this week is long-time Unoffocial PC(USA) Blog contributor Stushie! Stushie has been contributing to this blog longer than most or all of the current crop of contributors. (I'm not sure about Quotidian Grace and JusticeSeeker; I think all three of them predate me.) In addition to supplying this blog with original art, Sunday Lectionary Devotions, and other timely posts, Stushie manages several blogs of his own. His main blog is Heaven's Highway: Regular reflections of a Scottish Pastor living in the Bible Belt, including some unique religious art work and interfaith stories from around the world. Recent posts include lots of Stushie Art and Daily Devotions.

Last up today is Kim from Hiraeth: a Christian yearning for heaven. This week's posts include a hymn, a quote, an amazing picture of spider hatchlings at her house, and newborn robins. Or, if politics are more your cup of tea, you might check out her recent post on immigration.

Thanks to all the unofficial PC(USA) blog contributors and member blogs!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Seminary Reflections: the Polity of Preparation

Unless you’re graduating (which I’m not, at least this year), the academic year at Princeton Seminary ends not with a bang but with a whimper. After the climax of Spring semester finals comes May term, a three-week long “intensive” term that asks its customers to dig deep for one more plunge into the abyss.

It doesn’t seem like many of us have gas left in the tank for one more course. It feels instead like we’re limping home. For better or worse, then, in this epilogue of a semester, I am enrolled in Princeton Seminary’s 2-credit, pass/fail course on Presbyterian polity. This is it: the full official treatment on Presbyterian governance offered by the school, and our preparation for the polity ordination exam.

When I tell anyone that I’m taking polity I universally receive some version of the same sarcastic reply: “Well, that must be fascinating” or “I bet you’re loving that!” or some other smirking, winking rejoinder. And of course there’s a certain glamourless-ness to it: for the most part, those of us taking polity are there because Presbyteries have forced our hands, and I doubt many of us would have signed up for it in a world without the ordination exam looming.

On the other hand, I have to admit that it has been refreshing, after a year of ancient languages and conceptual theological rubrics, to have a course firmly planted in the practical realities of parish ministry. Yes, I know that the Book of Order is in some ways a kind of fascinating ecclesiology in its own right. Yes, I know that it contains a vast swath of scriptural source material. But a class in polity is nonetheless ultimately a class about everyday parish decisions, and it’s the only course I have taken so far that can make that claim.

So here’s the question for the day, and it’s not one that to which I claim to have an answer: what is the best use of our classroom time at seminary? Is it the role of seminaries to provide the kind of theological, Biblical, and historical training that institutions of higher learning are uniquely equipped to do? Or are they rather (in the case of ordination-track students) best deployed as practical training grounds for the professional realities of parish ministry?

Obviously as students it’s not only our own choice to make: degree requirements and CPM stipulations will strongly influence the inflection of the courses we take. Requirements in Greek and Hebrew reinforce the idea that preparation for ministry is different than on-the-job training. But any number of friends working in parish ministry now have testified to the importance of courses in family systems, congregational song, and pastoral counseling.

So what’s the priority? In three years of seminary education, we simply can’t fit everything in; so, do we study the subjects we’ll never have an equivalent chance to encounter, or do we seek the most practical training for the jobs we seek? For those of you with seminary well behind you: were you ready for ministry? What do you think that question even means? What do you wish you had taken more of?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, May 16, 2010, the Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year C)

Posted each Thursday, Lectionary Ruminations focuses on the Scripture Readings, taken from the New Revised Standard Version, for the following Sunday per the Revised Common Lectionary. Comments and questions are intended to encourage reflection for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged. All lectionary links are to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead. (Other references are linked to the NRSV via the oremus Bible Browser.)

Acts 16:16-34
v. 16-17 This is not only one of the “we” passages but also refers to “us”. Who else was travelling with Paul at this point in the narrative?

v 17 From the mouth of a pagan comes truth. What if today tarot cards or a crystal ball leads one to the spiritual insight that leads to a way of salvation in Christ?

v 18 Why exercise a truth telling spirit?

v 18-21 Thank God we today have the separation of church and state and religious liberty.

v 30 A sincere question from a pagan seeker? Saved from what? Saved from sin or saved from the wrath of his superiors, the magistrates?

v. 31 One person’s faith saves the whole household? Where have we seen this before? Look back at last week’s reading about Lydia.

v. 33 Believing on the Lord Jesus and being baptized makes one not a Christian (that moniker was not yet being used) but “a believer in God”. As a pagan and not a Jew, the jailer and his household were previously outside the covenant promises.

Psalm 97:1-12
This psalm praising the God of the storm was most likely chosen for today as a commentary on the earthquake and the fortune teller of the Acts Reading.

v 1. When the LORD is king, who is not king? Is this not an antithesis to blind patriotism and political allegiance, a warning to leaders as well as their followers?

v. 5 Is there something going on in the Hebrew. The first LORD refers to the Holy One of Israel, but what about the second Lord?

vs. 7, 9 How do we monotheists handle these references to other “gods”?

Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
This Reading concludes a seven week lectio-continua reading of Revelation and it will be three more years before we encounter such a large block of Revelation again, unless Christ returns before then.

v 12 How does our theology of grace, which shuns works righteousness, deal with this verse?

v 14The first two assertions make sense, by what about the third? Is there any other way to enter the city but by the gates? Will someone be standing at these always open gates checking to make sure names are written in the Lambs book of life before people are allowed to pass through the gates?

v 16 There is some beautiful imagery here, most, if not all, drawn from the Hebrew Scriptures. Note that Christ claims to be both the root (alpha) and the descendant (omega) of David. I love the imagery of “the bright morning star” but what does it mean? Astronomically speaking, the bright morning star (most likely the planet Mercury) is at other times of the year the first visible star in the evening sky, the light of this planet outshining all other objects in the night sky other than an illuminated moon.

v 20 Who is “the one who testifies”? Come, Lord Jesus! = maranatha!

v 21 Amen and amen.

John 17:20-26
v. 21 Can this be interpreted as suggesting that those who believe in Christ become divine?

v 22 What does it mean to receive the same glory that the Father has given the Son?

v 24 This verse assumes the preexistent Christ, that is we take “before the foundation of the world” as a temporal rather than a spatial reference.

v 25 Christ’s prayer is not that God will love us, or that we might know the love of God, but that the same love God loved the Son with may also be in us, and Christ may be in us. I “love” John’s mystical love language, especially in relation to the theme of unity. I wonder, however, is Jesus talking about Christian unity or our unity with him and the Father. By interpreting this passage in relation to Christian or Church unity we may actually be missing the point.


When not posting Lectionary Ruminations to Presbyterian Bloggers I post on an eclectic variety of topics on my personal blog, Summit to Shore.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wednesday Read and Learn: PresbyTweeting

The 219th General Assembly in Minneapolis promises to be the most Twittered GA ever. Of course, that would not be difficult since in 2008 Twitter was just coming on the internet scene.

Presbyblogger Robert Austell has written a very helpful four part series about what Twitter is and why and how you might want to follow tweets of those involved in it. If you read the following posts you will learn all you ever needed to know about using Twitter to follow doings at the GA:

Twitter: An Anology for the Non-Technical
What Is Twitter? an introduction
Why Use Twitter? 8 Potential Uses at GA
How To Use Twitter: step-by-step guide

Tweets are limited to messages of 140 characters, so they are good for recording information and observations on a real-time basis but lack the length needed for in-depth analysis or nuanced observations. The past two GA's have been blogged by commissioners and by non-commissioners alike. With the streaming of GA plenary sessions, it is possible for those who are not there to view the procedings and then comment on them.

It will be interesting to see if there is less blogging and more tweeting at this upcoming GA. What do you think? Are you planning to follow the action via Twitter, blogs, Church and World, Presbyterian edition (formerly Presbyweb), the Presbyterian News Service, The Outlook, The Layman or other online sources?

UPDATE: Robert Austell has also created a very helpful website for commissioners that will answer many questions and gives good information about preparing for GA: GA If you are a commissioner, check it out and bookmark it!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Psalm 105

There are times in our lives when we just don’t seem to get it. These are moments when God is trying to speak to us, to communicate His will for our lives, and we just refuse to stop and listen. I have lived in this type of moment for years now, and have finally stopped and listened. We all have difficulty in remembering those difficult moments that we could have used as learning events for the future, but instead we tend to store them in the deep recesses of our minds, never to be revealed. This particular symptom is just the first of many that can be attributed to “selective memory syndrome” or SMS. Obviously this is my title to a fictitious ailment and not some official medical term, but I think it’s a very accurate description of a very common condition. This particular disease comes with all the known symptoms of avoidance, regret, disillusionment, forgetfulness, and the list goes on and on. We tend to avoid taking advantage of God’s method of teaching and feel that we know what is best to remember and what is not. This can be very dangerous to our health. This behavior tends to create stress, worry, resentment, anger and fear, all of which contribute to our physical well being. As children of God, we all need to be cognizant of our physical health, mental health and spiritual health. All of these work in harmony to create the Christian we all strive to be. Giving thanks to God for all of His blessings in our lives can improve our health and our outlook on the world we live in. It can give us hope that our current assignment on earth is just temporary, and that our permanent assignment in heaven is yet to come. Psalm 105 instructs us to remember to give thanks and praise for all of the good and merciful aspects of our great God. King David reminds us all that we are to reflect in praise, to remember all of the good things that God has done and continues to do for us in our lives today and always. I have written my own version of a “song of praise and thankfulness” to my God

My Psalm 105

Praise be to God for He has been a good shepherd to me, a lost sheep.
I will choose to serve Him and to spread the good news of His son Jesus Christ, who was crucified and buried, but was resurrected to save the world from sin.
In my darkest hour, He was there at my side, blessing the hands of my doctors, my healers.
In my darkest hour, He was there, giving me peace and confidence in His great power and mercy.
In my darkest hour, He was there, giving me patience, forgiveness and understanding, as I dealt with the pain and confusion of a marriage ending.
In my darkest hour, He was there, giving me the strength to start over, the trust to hope in His future for me.
In my darkest hour, He was there giving me the confidence and the trust that He wanted me seek Him and to choose the path less trodden.
In my darkest hour, He presented me with a true family of believers, a family that showed me just how loving and caring He can be, and helped me see and feel His blessings in my life and become a true pilgrim, seeking His Prevenient Grace.
In my darkest hour, He was there to help me come through this change and purge all the weight holding me back and genuinely trust in His grace and mercy.
Now, in my brightest hour, in my period of change, my time of renewal, I see clearly the path He is leading me down; A path of service, a path of worship and praise, a path of forgiveness. Now I see His light. It is now my desire to follow Him, to obey His will for my temporary assignment on earth, preparing me for my eternal assignment in His glorious Heaven.

I recommend that everyone create their own version of Psalm 105. It is a great exercise in giving thanks to our God for the many blessings He has bestowed on us, even though we do not deserve them. You need to make it personal, so that you can add to it as the blessings continue to flow freely from our loving God. It can do wonders for your mental and spiritual health. The only thing left to do is to lace up the running shoes and run to Him.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Blog Roll Highlights

Whitney, a "presbyterian minister & missionary living in belfast, northern ireland, values random (and not-so-random) acts of kindness and all things reconciling, tries to appreciate the beauty in each day."  Her blog is Whitney's Glimpses of Grace: moments of the holy in everyday.  It's just so nice to read lists of happiness rather than complaints!

William (Beau) Weston, blogs at Gruntled Center: Faith and Family for Centrists.  Weston is a sociology professor who has been studying happiness.  Interesting posts abound, including his latest: Inequality Makes Rich Liberals Unhappy.  Worth a read!

Steven Hurtz blogs at
Gulf Shores Steven’s Weblog: Rooted in faith, open to the Spirit, curious about everything. His sermons will keep you busy for a while; I got a little carried away reading this week's "A Funny, or not-so-funny Question" [John 5:1-9]. Snippet:
There is no such thing as a perfectly healthy person. All of us here to day have our unhealthy areas; the more in touch with ourselves, the more honest we are, the more we are aware of just how unhealthy we are. Do we want Jesus to change us? What if it is difficult? What if it hurts?

Happy Monday!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Sunday Lectionary Devotion: STOMP! Psalm 67

Psalm 67: 3 May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.

I went to see “Stomp!” last year at the Tennessee Theater in Knoxville. It was absolutely incredible. The performers and dancers were fantastic and their rhythmic use of paper bags, brooms, and metal chairs was totally amazing. I came away from the theater completely astounded and for a couple of weeks I was tapping and slapping rhythms all over my house, my car, and my office.

I often wish that church could be like that on Sunday mornings. I’ve tried over the years to encourage more participation in worship by our church people. I feel that the more they put into praising God, the more that they will get out of it. I think way back in the days of the psalmist, worship must have been more celebratory and theatrical than it is now. I sometimes wonder what the original psalmists would have thought about our neat and tidy hymn and prayer sandwich services. They were more into an all day event with trumpets and harps, tambourines and horns. They certainly wouldn’t have been anxious to get out after an hour in order to get to the restaurants before the bigger churches finished their worship!

The old Hebrew word for praise is ‘yadah,’ which actually means to hold out your hands and lift them up to God. What I saw at “Stomp!” last year was yadah in action. I definitely think that if more modern worshippers were to allow themselves to praise God by lifting up their hands and exalting the Lord’s Name, they would feel freer and closer to God. Who knows, maybe this Sunday “Stomp!” will come into our sanctuary and the Spirit will lead our people in pure and powerful praise.

Prayer: Lord God, over the centuries You must have seen some amazing, diverse, and incredible worship services from different cultures, nations, and denominations. Your Spirit astounds us from time to time with energy, vitality, and presence. Help us to be more open to praising You in freer and more faithful ways. In Christ’s Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Christians and Oil Don't Mix. Or Should They?

I was going to write about octopuses this month. (By the way dictionaries are split on whether the plural is octopuses or octopi, with a slight edge to octopuses.) They are quite fascinating creatures.

Then the Gulf Oil spill happened, and it seemed that a "Science and Religion" blogger ought to write about that. But what to write? Everyone (mostly) thinks an oil spill is a bad thing. You don't need me to tell you an oil spill anywhere is a serious problem.

There is the topic of what we should do next, actually those are multiple topics. There are all sorts of issues surrounding environmental clean up and recovery. There are all sorts of legal and regulatory concerns. There is the whole tangled debate about energy sources and energy use. There are economic concerns. It's a complex web of issues, too much to write about in a single post.

So back to the intriguing, less contentious, and more fun topic of octopuses. Or not?

That's the problem isn't it? When faced with complex, difficult, and divisive topics we are prone to throw our hands in the air, proclaim it too difficult for mere mortals and think about something more entertaining, like octopuses.

This disaster, the gulf oil spill is complex. There are lots of ways to compound mistakes that have already been made. We can make some things worse while trying to make other things better.There are lots of opportunities to assign blame and to condemn. There are lots of reactions we can have, lots of solutions we can propose.

So where should the church be in all this? What is the role of people of faith?

Right in the middle of it. Speaking up and speaking out. This is where science and religion meet. Not to mention where economics and religion meet. And where politics and religion meet. We will all respond in various ways. We will have various proposals. But they should have one thing in common.

As Christians we start our thinking from a different place. Our response should not be based on how this affects the price of gas in my car. Or the price of fish I eat. Or what happens to my countries energy and foreign policy.

We are supposed to view the world with eyes focused on the kingdom of God. What are God's hope and desires for us and for the planet? We start our thinking from a different place. Not centered on ourselves but on the desires of God. It's crucial that we don't engage this problem with the eyes of the world. We are called to care for creation as God cares for it.

That's part of our call. It's not easy. It takes all of us. And germaine to this blog, it takes Christians seriously and thoughtfully engaging science. This is a time to dig into the science, to understand it's implications and then the think theologically about all that.

So friends, the floor is open for discussion. How do we do this? How do we help folks figure out, as best we can, what God's desire for us and the planet is? How do we help each other keep that perspective first and formost as we work through this difficult problem?

Special Devotion: National Day of Prayer - In Christ's Name

Mark 14:72     Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times." And he broke down and wept.

Today, all around the nation, many prayer services will be held in churches and temples, government buildings and arenas. People of faith will gather together to specifically ask God to heal, bless, and prosper our country. In cities and towns across the States, people will listen to the prayers of church and political leaders, as well as praising God for all that He has done throughout our nations’ history.

Some of the prayer services will be controlled by the clergy, while others will be presented according to government guidelines. Jesus may or may not be mentioned, depending upon who structures the services and who is invited to lead them.

For me, this is a day when Christian pastors, who publicly pray, have a straightforward choice: to invoke the Name of Jesus and honorably make their prayers in His Sacred Name, or to give in to the secularists by setting aside Christ and making all prayers to God alone. In other words, pastors can choose to uplift the Name of Jesus and be associated with Him, or they can placate the crowd and deny Him, just like Peter.

I’ll be participating in a service at a Baptist church tonight, so I really cannot imagine that Christ’s Name won’t be invoked throughout the whole evening.

Praise the Lord!

Prayer:                        Lord Jesus, we want to honor You with our lips and our lives. Your Name is above all others in the Universe and Your Presence in more important than anything else on this day. Hear the prayers of Your followers for this nation today. May we be blessed by Your guidance, embraced by Your love, and enthused by the message of the Gospel and the ways of God’s Kingdom here on Earth. In Your Precious and Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, May 9, 2010, the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year C)

Posted each Thursday, Lectionary Ruminations focuses on the Scripture Readings, taken from the New Revised Standard Version, for the following Sunday per the Revised Common Lectionary. Comments and questions are intended to encourage reflection for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged. All lectionary links are to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead. (Other references are linked to the NRSV via the oremus Bible Browser.)

Acts 16:9-15
v. 9 Throughout the Easter Season the readings from Acts have been narrating a series of visions. Now the reading from Acts offers us a vision as well.

vs. 10-11 Macedonia is what we refer to today as the Balkans. Paul’s crossing over to Macedonia from Troas in Asia Minor thus represents his and the Gospel’s movement from one continent to another.

v. 13 Did Philippi not have a Synagogue? Or if it did, was Paul not welcomed there? Otherwise, why did he go outside the gate where he supposed there was a place of prayer? Note that the first Europeans to hear the Gospel from Paul were women.

v. 14 What does it mean that Lydia was a “worshiper of God”? Is this a comment about her relationship to Judaism? Maybe Lydia was spiritual but not religious. I have heard it argued that her being a dealer in purple cloth means she was a business woman with some wealth.

v. 15 Have fun unpacking this verse as it regards our theology of Baptism. Did Lydia’s whole household open their heart to listen to Apul’s message or was her whole household baptized based on her response alone? Where there any infants or small children in her household?

Psalm 67:1-7
I like this Psalm because of its use of the first person plural—“us” and “our”—as well as the plurals “nations” and “peoples”.

People in the pews may ask about “Selah”. How will you answer their questions?

v. 1 God’s face shining upon us as a metaphor, but a metaphor for what? I like the metaphorical image. It is personal, expressive, and ripe for interpretation.

This is a Psalm “for all nations” as it seems to be more universal than many other Psalms, which focus more on Israel.

Revelation 21:10, 21:22-22:5
v. 10 I wonder if John had any particular “high mountain” in mind when narrating this vision.

v. 22 That there was no temple in the holy city Jerusalem must have been a startling image for Jewish Christians who most likely were still grieving its recent destruction. I wonder how millenialists, who believe that the Temple must be restored (thus the third Temple) before Christ returns, interpret this passage.

v. 23 Can one make any connection with Psalm 67:1 here? Does God’s shining face replace the sun and moon?

v. 24 “The Nations” of Psalm 67?

v. 25 A welcoming “open door” or rather “open gate” policy. This would drive some people in Arizona crazy.

v. 27 When will the “Lamb’s book of life” be available for Kindle?

v. 2 Is there one “tree of life” or two? May I assume that this is the same “tree of life” from the second creation account of Genesis 2? “the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” is, I think, one of the most irenic and poetic images in the New Testament. It sure beats hellfire and damnation any day.

v. 4 I believe that looking into, or “seeing” the face of God will be awesome. Is the name of God being on the forehead a juxtaposition of the name of the beast being on the forehead?

Over all, I think the image developed by this passage is not the image most people have in mind when they think of images from Revelation. This is good news that we need to proclaim, and thus counteract the more common images which undoubtedly include lakes of fire, the beast, and Armageddon.

John 14:23-29
v. 23 Is the Father’s love conditional? Does the Father love only those who love Jesus and keep his word? Where is Pelagius when you need him?

v. 26 How is the Holy Spirit an “Advocate”? I have heard it argued that the Doctrine of the Trinity is not biblical but essential. Without the Doctrine of the Trinity, how would we. Or could we, interpret this passage? Try doing so without any Trinitarian terms or thoughts and see how far you get.

v. 27 How many time have you heard this, or read it, at a funeral?

v. 29 So there would be no belief until after the ascension? Is this, perhaps, a example of some literary foreshadowing?

John 5:1-9
I do not know why there are two Gospel options this week. John 14:23-29 flows from the lectio-continua of the past few weeks. I honestly do not know why John 5:1-9 is an options and am open to enlightenment. I will use the former.

v. 6 Obviously a question to all of us.

v. 7 Excuses, excuses, excuses.

Vs.7-8 There is no mention of faith or belief. Why was this man made well?

The story seems to function as an explanation of why the Jewish authorities came to be so opposed to Jesus. Among other things, he was healing on the Sabbath. Of course if there had been universal health care back then, there would have been no story to tell.


I have been posting this column for two months now. My posts have not generated a lot of comments; then again, it seems very few posts on this blog do. Still, I am wondering what you have liked and not liked. Has there been too much of an edge or not enough? Have I been asking too many questions and not commenting enough or vice versa? Are the posts too long or to short, or just right? How about the format and appearance?

In a final moment of unabashed self-promotion I also invite you to peruse my personal blog, Summit to Shore. It is pretty eclectic and you never know what you might encounter there, so please check it out. You might be surprised.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Read and Learn: Some (More) Thoughts on Special Needs

After I wrote my post last week about special needs, I began a class on Presbyterian Polity. Even in reading through the first few chapters of the Book of Order, it was striking to me how the thoughts in my post played out on the pages so to speak. Here I will highlight two portions but please be assured there are many more instances I could cite.

This portion comes from chapter 4 of the Book of Order which is entitled "The Church and Its Unity."

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) shall give full expression to the rich diversity within its membership and shall provide means which will assure a greater inclusiveness leading to wholeness in its emerging life. Persons of all racial ethnic groups, different ages, both sexes, various disabilities, diverse geographical areas, different theological positions consistent with the Reformed tradition, as well as different marital conditions (married, single, widowed, or divorced) shall be guaranteed full participation and access to representation in the decision making of the church. (G-9.0104ff)
Book of Order G-4.0403 (italics mine)
I am thankful for the phrase "full participation" here as rationalizing the ways and degree to which people who have special needs or disabilities participate might seem legitimate enough on the surface, but are they really?

This next portion comes from chapter 5 which is entitled "The Church and Its Members."

The congregation shall welcome all persons who respond in trust and obedience to God’s grace in Jesus Christ and desire to become part of the membership and ministry of his Church. No persons shall be denied membership because of race, ethnic origin, worldly condition, or any other reason not related to profession of faith. Each member must seek the grace of openness in extending the fellowship of Christ to all persons. (G-9.0104) Failure to do so constitutes a rejection of Christ himself and causes a scandal to the gospel.
Book of Order G-5.0103

It is true that "disability" is not explicitly mentioned in this passage, but the catch all phrase "or any other reason not related to profession of faith" leaves lots of room for that. The last sentence of this passage is quite sobering. In what ways do I cause a scandal to the gospel by rejecting Christ as manifested in others? How are the limitations I place on others representative of the limitations I put on God?

Gracious and loving God, help us see past the limitations of cognitive and physical abilities. Let us remember that you do not look at people the way we do for whereas we often look at the appearance, you O God, look at the heart. Help us see as you do Lord. Amen

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Talk is Cheap

We hear the phrase “talk is cheap” describing almost every opinion any one person can have. The thought behind the phrase is that anyone can talk about any subject, and sometimes appear to be an expert or a scholarly person on any topic. This can lead to people being mislead, whether it is the desired outcome, or just a bonus in the conversation.

God’s Word is a great place to learn just when to talk and when to act, emphasis on act. As Christians, we are given a huge responsibility to live our lives praising God and giving Him our best shot. By claiming His birthright, we are entitled to the most challenging way of living, believing, and praising His name. This way of life can be cumbersome and lack excitement if we only consider the “consequences” of this lifestyle. The trick is to think about all of the positive attributes attached to living a Godly life in a challenging world. There are several huge and glorious expectations that we, as Christians, can look forward to. We can expect to live in a beautiful and magnificent heaven, beyond any description imaginable. We can expect to actually see God and His son Jesus Christ once the day comes. We can hope to experience the awesome wonder of living in His presence. We can also hope that by encouraging others, they too will be able to experience all of these wonderful things in heaven.

In order to prepare for our heavenly home, we must learn to live in a world that tests our faith, courage, trust and perseverance daily. This means that we, as Christians must realize that by claiming this title, there are dues that are required. What the unbeliever does not know is that we gladly accept these challenges, knowing the final outcome and having all of the confidence that God will not leave us, nor will He forsake us. We are God’s children put here by His own hand, given the talents, skills and abilities for His purposes. We just need to keep our “eye on the prize” and never let Him down as we stroll through this temporary life, moving ever closer to our eternal life. This means that we do more than attend church. That’s just one way of displaying our faith and what we believe in. We must not be just a supporting actor in this movie we call life. As believers, we must be the star performer, always looking for ways to “feed the hungry and care for the widows.” It is one thing to place the fish on our vehicles shouting our faith to other drivers, but it is another to prove our faith and be a very considerate, courteous driver. It is one thing to teach Sunday School at our church, but it is another to be open about our faith at work. It is one thing to give to the church as you feel you should, but it is another to give freely to the poor, to give so much it hurts. As Christians, we must be ready to move beyond all of the worldly expectations, and strive toward the heavenly expectations of our God. Face your challenges each and every day with the confidence and courage often displayed by the Gentiles in the Bible. These faithful followers were convinced that Jesus was just who He said He was , and therefore would approach Him without hesitation and ask boldly for miracles. We need to take a lesson and do the same thing. We must always remember to “walk the walk” knowing that Jesus is there with us every step of the way.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Welcome Mat

Welcome back to our friend Rev. Fred H. Anderson with his new blog: Neoorthodoxology (In the church of Jesus Christ there can and should be no non-theologians. -- Karl Barth).

Fred says, "I am an honorably retired Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. My present "ministry" is this blog and living for Jesus Christ in Arizona's beautiful but sometimes very hot Valley of the Sun."

Glad to have you back in the web ring (technical difficulties with RingSurf notwithstanding).

Also a cheerful welcome to New Jersey Hunger Action and Advocacy.
"New Jersey Presbyterian Hunger Action and Advocacy is a joint ministry of Monmouth and New Brunswick Presbyteries. We share the goal of the Presbyterian Hunger Program: to alleviate hunger and eliminate its causes. We are here to help congregations engage in a range of creative ministries to help hungry and poor people. We are often challenged by the problems in our world, but this is nothing new for the people of God. In the time of Second Isaiah, Israel returned from exile in Babylon to find their faith in God and God’s promises challenged by what they saw—the temple in ruins, the monarchy gone forever, the religious institutions destroyed—and how different it looked from what they thought God had promised. “Where was the temple? Where were the singing mountains? Fine, we’re free, they thought, but the economy is in ruins. Okay, we’re home, but there aren’t any homes left. What have we done to deserve this? . . . . Perhaps it is a question we, too, might raise. Fine, Jesus has come and we are saved. But why does the world look like it does? Couldn’t God make things right? “Chapters 56-66 of Isaiah speak to this situation. And sometimes the words are harsh. You might wonder where God is (58:3). You might even claim you’re doing your best (58:2). But you need to know that the problem with the world has more to do with people—worse, with you—than with God (59:1-8). This does not mean God has given up on Israel (or on us). God still yearns for a relationship with people that is whole and productive (65:1). But Israel (or we?) will not (cannot) respond.”[1] In order to enhance our congregations’ and presbyteries’ capacity to respond to present-day problems through both advocacy and relief ministries, we have begun the New Jersey Hunger Action and Advocacy initiative. In this initial phase of its implementation, the project includes two presbyteries: Monmouth and New Brunswick. [1] From Isaiah’s Challenge to the People of God, a Bible study on Isaiah 58:6-12, published by the Presbyterian Hunger Program. Check out our “Congregations” pages to learn more about what congregations are doing and find ideas of what you can do. Hunger Action Enabler/ Advocates, Rev. Marcia MacKillop and Rev. Phyllis Zoon, serve as educators and motivators–we are here to help. Our website/blog is a “work in progress” that we hope will be informative, useful and fun. All comments welcome!"

Reminder: older and less active blogs (e.g. those not updated within the last 12 months) are still linked here. I recently did a bit of blogroll cleaning!