Jesus said: I am the resurrection and the life.

Jesus said: I am the resurrection and the life.

One of the gifts of General Assembly – the biennial gathering of the Presbyterian Church (USA) – is that it is a bit of giant family reunion.  As someone who has lived and served in multiple areas, it is a great chance to reconnect and catch up.  This assembly, in St. Louis, was extra fun for me because I got to introduce my daughter, who was a Young Adult Advisory Delegate (YAAD), to people she had only heard about but never met. Our first day, we ran into Peg True.  Peg threw up her hands and beamed a warm smile, a combination of gestures I have seen through the years of knowing Peg.  They are characteristic of her open-heartedness and welcome.  I introduced Peg and Rosina and we chatted about life and church. Peg was so interested to hear about what Rosina does apart from being a YAAD . Then she talked enthusiastically about the high school graduation she had just attended for one of her many and beloved grandnephews or grandnieces. As Rosina and I walked away, I told her about the amazing legacy the Peg has in the Presbyterian Church. She was one of the first women to be ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament. She had felt called as a young person, yet she was only ordained after many years of waiting and service because there was so little encouragement for women in the ministry for so long.   Peg was an educator and deeply committed to causes of social justice.  She greeted everyone with the same enthusiasm she had greeted us but carried within...
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Growing up I watched Mister Roger’s Neighborhood before heading out to school. There was something soothing about watching a man in a cardigan sweater change his shoes and invite us to be his neighbor by singing the song “Wont You Be My Neighbor?” Listen to these lyrics.   It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, A beautiful day for a neighbor, Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor?   We have multiple opportunities to be connected with our neighbors as part of our Community Partnership effort. Join us as we cover the streets of our community and get to know our neighbors. You will be provided with prompts for paying attention, gathering insights and learn how to share your observations and experiences. Here are four ways you can join in:   Meet Faith friends at the Binford Farmer’s Market on Saturday, June 23, 9 AM- 10 AM. We will mingle with our neighbors, do a little shopping, and bless those around us. Pick up a map of our target area and indicate what section you will make an effort to cover on your own feet or wheels, beginning Sunday, June 24. Plan for a group walk in our neighborhood, Saturday, June 30, 9AM- 10AM Indicate your interest in exploring our community in a series of church van expeditions, covering locations that aren’t safe to access on foot or bike.   Join us as we cover our neighbors with prayer, gain insights into our community, and learn to be a good...
Jesus said: I am the door.

Jesus said: I am the door.

Jesus has always been clear that real life – abundant life – is not found in playing it safe.  New life is found in taking risks for others.  Jesus drives us – less than compliant sheep – out of through the door of his being so we will not just live but live for others.  That’s the abundant and everlasting life that Jesus talks about.  Jesus casts us out of our secure spots and calls us to follow him so we will know the green lush pastures and so others have a chance to live in that abundance also. The sheep (and goats for that matter) that graze freely on the mountains of Crete are a sign of a quest for abundance to be shared. In the face of Greece’s long-faltering economy, people feel driven out of the confines of the urban areas where expenses mount as incomes drop.  In that atmosphere, they are resentful and fearful. As they are thrust of where they expected to live, some are finding and sharing a rich way of life.  There is a small but substantial movement of people – especially young people – who are returning to ancestral homes in rural areas, small islands and particularly to Crete. In those open spaces, it is possible for almost anyone to make a living.  With a very modest house, it is possible to grow a fertile garden. Climb the hills and pick the wild greens that are rich with nutrition. Perhaps care for the family’s ancient olive trees for a little cash. Learn the art of beekeeping to barter with honey.  Send a...
Jesus said, “I am the vine. Your are the branches. God is the vine grower.”

Jesus said, “I am the vine. Your are the branches. God is the vine grower.”

Jesus’ final words on love and relationship, in John 15, describe the community he has planted and cultivated with his disciples and his hope for the community they will continue to be and become.  He describes the first congregations of the faithful and every congregation since.  We live together as an organism that has been planted for a purpose.  We are a tangled mess of branches and shoots, sprawling out across the landscape.  We are connected to one another, supported, supporting one another and need of cleansing now and then. Because of the vinegrower and then vinegrowers’ abiding love for us, we are capable of producing good fruit. Which doesn’t make life in congregations easy all the time.  Genuine relationships have ups and downs and give and take.  We have to be vulnerable in relationships, which means that we can never completely protect ourselves from being hurt.  Communities are made up of real people.  Some are nice and easy to get along with, and some are not.  And all of us can have a bad day or bad decade and are capable of acting like the idiot in the vineyard. Being in community means dealing with that, abiding with one another through that. True community is a rare organism.  In our day, there are lots of places for people to connect, but very few places where we abide with one another in loving and productive ways. We connect on social media.  We have common interests.  We work together.  We may share a neighborhood or an agenda, but we aren’t building deep relationships which support people through life and death,...
The Blessings of An Incomprehensible God

The Blessings of An Incomprehensible God

For centuries, people have been trying to explain the theological doctrine called the Trinity. How do we talk about God being composed of three persons who is yet one God? Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, was an early church leader who was a serious and imaginative theologian puzzled over this understanding of God. There is a story about Augustine and it begins with him walking along the seashore pondering this complex idea about God. Along his walk he stopped to watch a child who was carrying a cup of water from the ocean to a small hole he had dug in the sand. Augustine asked the child, “What are you doing?” The child replied, “I am trying to pour the entire ocean into this whole.” Augustine laughed and said, “That’s impossible.” The child looked back at Augustine and said, “And it’s impossible for you to fit the Trinity into your little mind.” The story concludes that the child vanished for it was a heavenly messenger from God. Just as it was difficult for Augustine to understand the doctrine of the trinity, it is also difficult for us to fit this understanding into our brains. From the beginning of time, people have tried to articulate who God is and how God works in our world. We use human words to try to define a God who is bigger than all of our imaginations. The doctrine of the Trinity is a way that Christians have tried to articulate their understanding of a God who moves beyond our comprehension. What we can understand from all of this is that we worship and follow...
Opening to the Light

Opening to the Light

Superheroes all have an “origin story.” A story that tells us how the superhero came to be. Even if you aren’t a comic book fan, you probably know that it was a bite by a radioactive spider that gave Spiderman his enhanced powers. For Batman, it was the murder of his parents by a robber. Superman was orphaned when his home planet Krypton was destroyed. For all these characters, and countless others, something happened in their lives, they came to a turning point, and they were opened to a completely new reality. The man we know as the Apostle Paul has such a dramatic origin story. Paul, of course, is also Saul. That he has two names, gives us an indication that this superhero-in-the-making was already bridging several worlds. Paul was a citizen of Rome, well educated in the Greek language, thought, and philosophy. He had a powerful position in the forces occupying Israel and moved freely throughout the Roman empire. Paul was also Saul a devote Jew which made him a member of a small, oppressed faction within the empire. You would think that living within multiple cultures and being a minority would make Saul open to new ways, new thinking, even prompt concern for the marginalized. Instead, Saul became a zealot for his faith. He was utterly focused on trying to destroy the new Jewish sect that identified Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. Later in the Book of Acts, Paul recalled the evil of his early years: I threw believers into jail, right and left, voting for their execution whenever I could. I stormed their meeting...