Stewardship and the Abundant Life (with video blog extra)

We live in a culture that is full of messages of scarcity and excess.  These two ideals seem to be in conflict when looked at on the surface.    Yet, our sacristy mentality leads us to act out in excess.  The old adage, “the one with the most toys wins” is the embodiment of that reality.  The basic message is that the supply is limited and thus you need to hoard as much as you can.

This, of course, is in fact precisely the opposite of the Christian view of the world.  As a Christian, we are called to live a life that is situated in the power and providence of God.  The world’s view of life is that of a beginning, middle and end.  This is a limiting view of life.  As a Christian, we have gained a powerful insight into time and space. We know it is infinite.  There is no way to overstate what this knowledge does in our lives.  To know that God is infinite and our lives are eternal reorients our understanding of life, death and all that is involved. Continue reading

Further Conversations on the Rowboat and Sailboat Church

It is hard to write blog post that both fully expresses your thoughts while also being short enough that people read them.  Yesterday’s post Setting Sail “Is the Church a Rowboat or Sailboat?” has sparked some pretty good conversation.  As such I thought I would follow it up today with a bit more about what Joan S. Gray says in her book, “Spiritual Leadership for Church Officers: A Handbook,” says are the differences between Rowboat Churches and Sailboat Churches.  One part of this is expressed by the images below.  When I read her descriptions of the two I am more apt to think of the rowboat church as a galley ship rather than a dinghy.  That makes the oarsmen slaves not a crew.  More than once I have felt that the Church (Universal) has treated people in this way.

I think that at the heart of it all is where the starting point for our ministry and life is found.  She reminds us that we need to be dependent on the power and will of God.  Like it or not, many times the Church (Universal) has often thought of itself as the master of the mission of the church. Rather than seeking to discern, follow and work towards the “Missio Dei” or the Mission of God. Continue reading

Unity Overcoming Estrangement (Government Shut Down and World Communion Sunday)

Chidlren of the worldToday we are reminded of the reality of our two citizenships and the struggle between our earthly and heavenly commitments.  Jesus was confronted with this question in Matthew 22 when he is asked about taxes.  Jesus reminds us that God and civil authorities have their claims on us, but we should not forget what part of our life belongs to each.  Current events highlight the struggle to govern and the way that our brokenness has real consequences.  The government shutdown shows us just how hard it is to find ways to find unity in the midst of divergent world views.  Continue reading

World Communion Sunday

World Communion 2013

I want to personally invite you to a special worship service on October 2nd at 11 am. We will celebrate the love God has shown us in our diversity. A highlight of our service will be a special musical offering in Korean by our neighbor church Light Global Mission Church. Everyone is encouraged to dress in clothes that are native to your country of origin. The service will be immediately followed by an international pot-luck. Bring a dish to pass that reflects your heritage.World Communion Sunday 2

 

In times of uncertainty we must remember that in “God We Trust.”

     These are times of great uncertainty. Perhaps I should say that these are times when we are highly aware of the uncertainty around us. I say this not to downplay the seriousness of how many around us feel. In one way or another, we are all being affected by the most recent cause of dramatic uncertainty in our lives, sequestration. Our congregation has many individuals and families that are at risk of being directly affected by the budget cuts. Beyond that, we have the continued concern of the overall economic recovery from recession. We can even see this uncertainty affecting our congregational budget.
InGodWeTrust      I am not going to discuss the finer points of the political situations that have led us to this point. Actually, I am far from qualified to speak of such things. So the question comes, “What am I qualified to speak about in this situation?”
Regardless of the cause, uncertainty is all about the unknown. I have spoken with myriads of people who are awaiting medical test results. Time and time again the refrain I hear is that they just want to know what is happening. We are people who want answers. Knowing what is coming our way gives us a sense of control and power over a situation.
For many years I have wondered about how our national currency still has the phrase, “In God We Trust” on it. There is obvious reasons why some would seek to eliminate this phrase from our money and as our countries official motto. I actually understand others perspective on this, but am glad for Christian’s sake that it hasn’t happened. I’m thankful because for Christians, it makes every dollar and cent physically embody our theological understanding of our lives. We are reminded that it is truly, IN GOD WE TRUST. Continue reading

No More Dirty Laundry: Turning from Negativity to Life Affirming Messages

dirty-laundryI find it amazing how easy it is to get distracted by the negatives in life.  Truth be told, lately I have allowed some of the struggles of life hold more weight than the positives. Some of this is due to the fact that I have been struggling with a nagging sickness that seems to want to hold on to me more than I want it to.  The reality of the mind, spirit and body connection is one that we often only pay attention to when it’s too late.  Yet we know that when one part of our bio-psycho-spiritual being is off, the rest are surly effected.

I also know that we live in a world that celebrates the negative.  We live life surrounded by bad news.  In 1982 Don Henley released the song, “Dirty Laundry.” Continue reading

The Ruling Elder (Part one of a three part series on the ordained offices of the Presbyterian Church)

ordination_50521_web   Each year our congregation goes through the discernment process of selecting leaders for our congregation. The nominating taskforce is working to recommend a slate of officers to the Session for the next class of Elders and Deacons. This is perhaps one of the most anxiety ridden times of the year. The nominating taskforce is concerned with not only getting the people to fill spots, but perhaps more importantly, the right people to answer God’s calling. Today, I will discuss the specific calling to be a Ruling Elder.
    A few years ago, Christ Presbyterian Church made a conscious effort to be more fully open to the leading and discernment of the Spirit in this process. In the past, like most congregations, our congregation would approach the selection of Elders by trying to find people who were going to be Elders for specific areas of our ministry. Examples of this would have been an Elder for Finance or Christian Education. In this model, the ability to fulfill a specific role would often trump the spiritual calling to such a leadership role. I’m sure that you have experienced in you life those who are at the top of their field for their ability, but once given leadership, fall apart. Continue reading

Responding to Tragedy… O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (God IS With US!)

     This past week has been a hard one for our country and the world.  While violence is ever present in our lives and we see daily reminders of how shockingly horrible we can treat each other, the events of Friday in Newtown shone a spotlight on just how deep our sin has cut us.  In the aftermath of these tragic killings and many like it, there is always an over abundance of talking heads who seek to use the death of others to advance their positions.  “Gun control” advocates come on and talk about how new laws would  may have prevented this event.  “Gun rights” advocates are on the other side of the split screen talking about how if the teachers had guns they could have stopped the gunman. 

     I agree that in the midst of this tragedy there is a calling to have deep conversations about guns, violence and the mental health system.  Some of my colleagues have chosen this time as that time.  Roy Howard, Pastor of St. Marks Presbyterian in North Bethesda, Maryland for one, made an impassioned response and a call to action against violence and calling for more Gun Control.  Please email me and I can pass along his Facebook post of what he said to his congregation.  Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, has chosen to use this situation to draw attention to his beliefs about abortion and homosexuality.  For many Pastors, their judgment led them to use this event as a springboard for what they hope will be meaningful discussions about deep issues.

     I had more than one parishioner say to me prior to Sunday’s service, “I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes today.”  Continue reading

Changing Seasons and Seasons of the Spirit

    Each year as summer begins to give way to fall and the days get shorter, I can’t help but have a mix of emotions.  Just over the horizon of the year stands the busy fall.  The beginning of school, the kick off of fall ministries, fall sports and many more things are looming.  Today I sit and wonder why it is that this is the image of the future I hold.  Should the future be a burden?  Perhaps personal and corporate history says yes, but it doesn’t have to be so.

    Looking to the future with dread is not a healthy or faithful response to the world.  Our God has promised good to us and we should hold that hope out in front of us not as a reward for suffering but a current reality.  Far too often we use the “pie in the sky” as a motivation rather than reveling in the goodness God has provided around us. 

   As you begin to look forward to what the fall holds, I pray that you will be blessed with a deep and abiding knowledge that God is present in your life.   I offer these questions as way to help you discern God’s presence in your life.

  • In what events or experiences have you felt God’s presence in your life this summer?
  • What are you most looking forward to this fall?
  • How can you open your heart to God’s presence?
  • Are there things in your life that are not spiritual blessings but instead spiritual drains?  Can these things be eliminated?
  • How can the spiritual community of the Church help you find ways to celebrate the blessings in your life today?

I pray that God will help you to find blessings in your life.  I also invite you into conversation about how the church and I can help you grow in discipleship. 

Holy God, as we transition from summer to fall, we seek your guiding spirit in our midst.  Help us to recognize your blessings in the midst of the chaos of our lives.  In our recognition of blessings, may we find strength and hope.  Finally Lord, guide us to make our lives conform to your will and help us to make decisions about our time with your loving Spirit. AMEN