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You say that I am a king.

Lectio Divina on JOHN 18:28-38

Today marks the day of the New Hampshire primary in the United States. Once again, as they do every year, those who occupy the halls of power and piety are loud and vociferous in their condemnation of the opposition. Both Republicans and Democrats toss Christ back and forth, pretending that frequent invocation of his name will secure heaven’s endorsement.

This charade is no different from the manipulations of Pilate and the priests on Good Friday. They were the first to use Jesus as a pawn for their own agenda. These masters of power and piety live by the old adage, “Might makes right.” They believe the victory of goodness and truth depends on their ability to obtain and maintain dominance.

Jesus is a threat to all of their agendas. He is not beholden to the religious or political powers that be. Therefore, he must be silenced. The space he occupies is incomprehensible to them. He says, “You say that I am a king.” He refuses to accept the labels they try to heap upon him. Like Dorothy Day, Jesus says, “Don’t call me a saint; I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”

His very existence is an indictment of all their pretensions to power and piety. Jesus reveals the truth that there is a divine plan unfolding that is indifferent to their agendas. Nothing they say or do can change a thing.

Jesus may appear powerless in the face of such manipulation, but the reality is quite the opposite. Jesus (and the truth to which he testifies) is so powerful, he can afford to remain unshaken and unimpressed. All the violence and death they can dole out is insufficient to halt the cause of truth. Easter Sunday stands as an abiding witness to that.

Jesus Christ endorses no candidate and refuses to accept the labels heaped upon him by the world. He does not ask his followers to fight on his behalf; he asks us only to listen.

Let us listen then, with the ears of our hearts wide open, for the voice of truth that whispers softly beneath the shouting powers of this world.

And perhaps we can hum this tune under our breath as the election season continues:

The Dark Night of Denial

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Since autumn, I’ve been pretty good at staying on top of my Daily Office discipline, but I’ve fallen woefully off the wagon when it comes to Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer. Here is my attempt to get back on top with a little public journaling.

So, I did my Lectio today on the Gospel from the Daily Office Lectionary:

JOHN 18:15-18, 25-27

Peter and John followed Jesus, as they had for years, but this part of the journey was the most difficult by far. Jesus was asking them to follow him into a place of darkness and cold, a place of suffering and death, a place where their faith would be challenged and (literally) torn to shreds.

This is what St. John of the Cross called “the dark night of the soul.” All traces of divine blessing and consolation disappear. It is a season of emptiness and suffering. So it was for the disciples on the night of Jesus’ arrest, and so it is for Christians today. The Jesus we loved (and thought we knew) is suddenly taken away from us. Like Peter, we find ourselves haunted by terrifying questions.

The temptation in this season is to flee the darkness and warm ourselves around the old familiar fires of certainty. This is the tactic employed by secular skeptics and religious fundamentalists alike. When the mystery becomes too difficult to face, they default to easy answers that can be fully understood. The problem is that any such answer amounts to a denial of our Lord.

Better to remain silent in the face of uncertainty and allow the mystery to remain as it is. Jesus tried to warn us that the journey would lead to this place, but we were not willing (or ready) to listen at that time. Now that we find ourselves here, will we deny the disturbing mystery or live with it long enough for Christ to bring us through the dark night to the morning of faith’s resurrection?

 

Even More on Weekly Communion

“…the Supper actually affects us. We partake of Christ and all his benefits, spiritually, in the heavenly places. We don’t just remember Christ and what he did for us. The Supper is a sign of Christian unity. Is it any coincidence that churches which celebrate the Supper infrequently split apart frequently?”

Reformed Liturgical Institute

This will probably become another page of resources.  Why?  Mainly, because the Reformed world has tended to devalue the sacraments and focus more on preaching.  We don’t want to denigrate preaching at all, but we think the Supper and Baptism are both means of grace as well.  Secondly, the Supper actually affects us.  We partake of Christ and all his benefits, spiritually, in the heavenly places.  We don’t just remember Christ and what he did for us.  The Supper is a sign of Christian unity.  Is it any coincidence that churches which celebrate the Supper infrequently split apart frequently?  “In fact, it is not beyond possibility that the infrequent observance and corresponding devaluing of this sacrament has contributed to the ongoing division and strife in the modern church.” (Mathison, Given For You, pg. 295).

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By Ranosonar (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Reason for the Season

Merry Christmas!

I still say Merry Christmas to you because the celebration of Christmas in the Christian Church (unlike the rest of society) lasts for an entire season, and not just a day. The last vestige of this tradition in our cultural consciousness is the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. That’s how long the liturgical season of Christmas lasts.

Note: In case anyone’s wondering, today is the tenth day of Christmas, wherein the anonymous “true love” gives “ten lords a-leaping,” according to the song.

The Christmas holiday seems to come and go so quickly in its secular, materialistic celebration. Celebrating it as a season (as indeed it was meant to be) is one way that Christians can make the joy last and (hopefully) let the spiritual significance of Christmas sink a little deeper into our souls.

Last Sunday, Rev. Bill Dodge spoke about making Christmas last, not by savoring the nostalgia, but by looking forward to take hold of the promises that God has laid up for us in Christ. Today, I would like to pick up on the heels of where my mentor left off and talk about the reason why Christmas happened in the first place. My hope is that if we can answer this question adequately, we might be in a better position to understand the meaning of Christmas and keep it in our hearts all year long.

Why was Jesus born?

There are several theories that propose an answer to this question. First, there are those who think the meaning of Jesus’ life was his message. “He came as a great teacher,” they say, “to show us how to love thy neighbor as thyself and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Now, there is certainly a degree of truth in this idea. Jesus was, after all, a great teacher. However, he is hardly the first great teacher to walk the earth. Others have come from all corners of creation to enlighten the world with their wisdom. As a teacher, Jesus is one among many. Furthermore, scholars of comparative religion will tell you that many of the truths he taught were also devised by others. The Golden Rule, for example, is so-named because of how often it appears in the various philosophical and religious traditions of the world. There is nothing unique about Jesus if we relegate the significance of his life to his words alone.

There are others who claim that the meaning of Jesus’ life can be found in his death on the cross. “He came to die,” they say, “His blood paid the price for the sins of the world, so that those who believe in him can go to heaven when they die.” This theory is the one most commonly associated with traditional Christian teaching. However, I find it just as incomplete as the theory that Jesus was nothing more than a great teacher. If we believe the only reason Jesus was born was so that he could die on the cross, then we can conveniently ignore everything that came before and after that event: not only his teaching, healing, confronting, and forgiving, but also his resurrection, ascension, and eventual return. If he only came to die, then we can conveniently dispense with reading the remainder of the Bible and rest assured that our sins are forgiven and our eternal destiny secure.

So then, why was Jesus born? Why was it that Jesus, the Word of God Incarnate, “became flesh and made his home among us,” as it says in this morning’s gospel?

St. Paul gives us a better answer in this morning’s epistle:

“God revealed his hidden design to us, which is according to his goodwill and the plan that he intended to accomplish through his Son. This is what God planned for the climax of all times: to bring all things together in Christ, the things in heaven along with the things on earth.”

Jesus Christ, in the mystery of his Incarnation, “bring[s] all things together in [himself], the things in heaven along with the things on earth.”

This is a central theme of the Christian faith. If we miss it, we are dangerously close to missing the whole point of Christianity itself. Jesus, the Divine Word, crossed the divide between heaven and earth so that he might also bridge the gap between God and humanity. And precisely because he has done this, he also bridges the many other gaps that divide us on earth: the gap between races, genders, social classes, political parties, nations, and even the various denominations and religious traditions. This is why Paul is able to say, in another place, “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

When people begin to realize our oneness in Christ, all of those petty distinctions lose their meaning. In place of those divisions, we come to see the truth, as Paul did, that:

“Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many. We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink. Certainly the body isn’t one part but many… If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. You are the body of Christ and parts of each other.”

It is not too much of stretch to say that this healing of divisions in Christ applies even to the breached relationship between human beings and the earth. We read in Colossians that “[Christ] existed before all things, and all things are held together in [Christ].” Therefore, Paul has no problem saying to us in today’s epistle that God’s plan is “to bring all things together in Christ, the things in heaven along with the things on earth.” This promise includes all human beings, as well as all things animal, vegetable, and mineral. God’s plan even includes planets, stars, and galaxies. When St. John tells us in his gospel that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life,” the word he uses for world is cosmos; so it’s not just the world of people that Christ came to save, but the entire universe.

Paul calls this work “the ministry of reconciliation” in his second letter to the Corinthians. It begins with God reconciling the cosmos to himself in Christ and continues as God then invites each and every one of us to participate in the reconciliation of broken relationships through Christ. This, by the way, is why we are rightly able to call ourselves catholic Christians, as we say in the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. The word catholic means one, and we are indeed one in Christ: having been brought together and reconciled to God, each other, and the cosmos. We form part and parcel of the one Body of Christ, the holy catholic Church.

This ministry of reconciliation matters now more than ever in the world. Human technology has advanced to the point where we have now sent spacecraft to the edge of our solar system. Humans have stood on the moon and snapped photographs of the entire earth at once. Telephones have made it possible to communicate instantaneously with people on the other side of the planet. The internet gives our brains instantaneous access to massive amounts of information.

But what have we done with all this knowledge and power? We have used it, not to unite, but divide ourselves even further. We use our rockets to launch missiles at our enemies’ cities. We use our computers to anonymously abuse each other in comment threads. We access only those bits of information that confirm our previously-held opinions and demonize our opponents in the worst-possible light. We use our telephones to stay connected to the latest headlines, but we are utterly disconnected from the person standing next to us in line or even lying next to us in bed. We are lost.

But we are not without hope, for the purpose of Christmas still holds true, two thousand years after it was first revealed to us. St. Paul said it best: “This is what God planned for the climax of all times: to bring all things together in Christ, the things in heaven along with the things on earth.”

This is what God intends for us, and God will not rest until this ministry of reconciliation is accomplished in us. The reconciliation of broken relationships is the mission of the Church catholic. How do we participate in this mission? In two ways: by receiving the gift of reconciliation from God and by sharing that grace with our neighbors.

First of all, we receive reconciliation from God through the ministry of Word and Sacrament. We listen for the Word of God in the Scriptures, as they are read and preached. We are washed clean and grafted into Christ in baptism. When we celebrate the Eucharist together, we ask the Holy Spirit to bless us and the elements of bread and wine, so that our physical eating and drinking might be a spiritual Communion in the Body and Blood of Christ. And then, as we receive the Body of Christ, we become the Body of Christ: we are made one with God and one with each other in Christ.

Once we have received God’s grace in Word and Sacrament, we are sent back out to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. Our job is to do today what Jesus did when he was on earth: heal the sick, feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, forgive our enemies, open blind eyes, and bring new life to those who are dead inside.

Just as Jesus Christ bridged the gap between heaven and earth in his Incarnation, so we his Church are also called and empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue his work in the world by bridging the infinitely smaller gaps between us and our neighbors. This is the work to which North Church has given itself over the years. Ever since four teenagers snuck off into the woods with stolen hymnals, the members of this congregation have been continually drawn toward the least, the last, the lost, and the loneliest people in our society. We had our beginnings in a time when this country was divided and at war with itself, and ever since then, we have not ceased to reach across the gaps that divide “us” from “them.” In the middle of the last century, we reached out to our neighbors who are hungry and homeless through ministries of service and compassion. In a time of racial division (much like our current time), the pastors of this church took a dangerous and unpopular stand in favor of equality and desegregation. The Rev. Margaret Towner, the first woman to be ordained a pastor in the Presbyterian Church, has preached from this pulpit. We have stood up for the rights of the poor and the oppressed, we have spoken out against violence, and spoken up for expanded public transportation and equal marriage rights for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. For the last 27 years, we have especially dedicated ourselves to fighting the stigma that is heaped upon people who live with mental illness. Every Sunday at worship and every Thursday at the Togetherness Group, Christian hands and hearts reach out across that divide and the demonic spell of isolation is broken, even if only for a moment. This is the work of the Church, the work of Christmas, and it is our work.

St. Paul says, “This is what God planned for the climax of all times: to bring all things together in Christ, the things in heaven along with the things on earth.” Brothers and sisters, that is why Christmas happened; that is the reason for the season. So may we, the people of the Church, keep our hand to that plow and Christmas in our hearts all year and every year from now until the end of the age.

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A Long Time Ago in a Galilee Far, Far Away?

Tonight we gather again to hear the Christmas story: the story of angels and shepherds; the story of Mary and Joseph; the story of Jesus who was born in manger. It is one of the most beloved stories in all of human history. It is a beautiful story.

But it feels sometimes feels removed from real life. We hear about the angels singing, “Glory to God” and “Peace on Earth” but this Earth often seems to be quite devoid of peace. We enjoy the warm glow of the Nativity Scene and the Hanukkah Menorah in a city park, but that stands in stark contrast to the biting chill of the wind on our faces. Our world feels very different from the world we imagine when we hear the Christmas story. It seems sometimes like tonight is the one night a year when we take a break from harsh reality and pretend to believe in magical things like angels and Saviors. We tell and retell this imaginary story from “a long time ago in a Galilee far, far away.” We cross our fingers and hope against hope that our telling of this story will somehow spark the imagination of our hearts and carry us through to next Christmas, when we will come to church and hear the story once again.

But here’s the thing: our world is not a different world from the one into which Christ was born. It is the same world. The shepherds who saw the angels were poor workers. They were despised and distrusted by respectable society. They knew the struggle of making a living, the pang of hunger, and the sting of rejection. Mary and Joseph were refugees, hustled around like cattle being counted and finally forced to flee for their lives from violence and tyranny in their homeland. Mary, his fiancée, was an unwed teenage mother. We hear that Jesus was born in a stable; have you ever smelled a stable?

The Christmas story is not something that happened “long ago” or “far away.” It is the story of how God comes to meet us: and the time when God comes to meet us is now; the place where God comes to meet us is this place, with all its problems, messes, and stinky smells.

I think the reason why we tend to get so romantic and nostalgic about our Christmas story each year is because we don’t like this world we’re living in. We want to change it. We want to believe that it can become better. We think, “Maybe if we just try harder, or close our eyes and pray harder, the wish will come true and the magic of Christmas will come alive forever!” But, obviously, that hasn’t happened yet. The world we are left with now is still the same weary world into which Jesus was born two thousand years ago.

Some might take that fact as a sign of cynicism or despair, but I don’t. I see it as a grand opportunity. If the world into which Christ was born is this world (so we say), and if Christ is alive forever (so we also say), and if Christ has promised, “I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age” (so we also also say), then the place and time where God comes to meet us is here and now. God lives within and around us in this world. If we don’t see God, it is not because God isn’t here, but because we, in the hardness of our hearts, are refusing to look.

We wish we could change this weary old world and make it into what it ought to be. But obviously, we can’t. This world is what it is and things are the way they are. We have no control over those circumstances. But that doesn’t mean that change is impossible.

First of all, the loving power that spoke the universe into existence now lives, breathes, loves, and works in each and every one of us. That truth alone is no small cause for hope. Secondly, the power of God is able to change us.

Tonight’s epistle reading tells us, “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people.” I love that. Let’s break it down: It begins with grace. The “unmerited favor” of God, the love God gives us in abundance whether we deserve it (or want it) or not. This work of transformation begins, not with our best efforts, but with God’s decision to love us beyond our own capacity for self-destruction.

And this grace, we are told in the reading, “educates us so that we can live sensible, ethical, and godly lives right now by rejecting ungodly lives and the desires of this world.” Grace is our teacher. God’s grace changes us from the inside out. Grace gives us the power to envision a life we never thought possible. We may not have the power to change the world, but we have the power to live changed lives, not by virtue of our own strength and wisdom, but because the love of God is able to change us as we live our lives in this world.

My hope, my prayer for all of us this Christmas, is that we would come to trust this silent and invisible power of God’s grace so much that we will live changed lives in the midst of this weary world. And I further hope that we, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, will “be the change we wish to see in this world.”

The time and place where God lives is not “a long time ago in a Galilee far, far away,” but here and now, in this place, at this time. God meets us here and now, in the messy, stinky problems of this world as we know it. God meets us in the little things, like refugee babies born in stables, and works in us through those little things to change the world into what it ought to be.

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God wants spiritual fruits, not religious nuts

Today’s sermon from North Presbyterian Church.

The text is Luke 3:7-18.

Jesus is coming!

That’s what Christians believe. We say it a lot, especially in this season of Advent. The phrase has a dual-meaning for us. First of all, we use it as we prepare our hearts and minds for the upcoming celebration of Christmas. We remind ourselves annually that, in the mystery of the Incarnation, God crossed the divide between heaven and earth to meet us here, where we live. We couldn’t get ourselves to heaven, so heaven came to us.

But there is a second layer to our celebration of Advent. We’re not just looking back to remember when Jesus came to earth the first time; we’re also looking forward to his Second Coming and preparing ourselves for it. Christians believe that God’s story is not yet over. We believe that history is not a random series of events, but the gradual unfolding of God’s plan for the world over time. History is going somewhere, and we believe the day will come when the divine plan is accomplished and all that is wrong will be set right in the world. Until then, we are invited to play a small part in that unfolding story as Christ’s church on earth.

We remind ourselves that Jesus is coming so that we don’t forget or lose heart in the struggle to establish God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. The drudgery of everyday life, combined with the tyranny of the urgent, can easily distract us from the primary purpose of our lives. The still-unfolding story of God’s creation and redemption of the universe in Christ is what gives our lives meaning. We say, “Jesus is coming” in order to remind ourselves of that. As we sing in the hymn For All the Saints: “And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear the distant, far-off song and hearts are brave again and arms are strong. Alleluia! Alleluia!”

But we also sometimes use that phrase in ways that are less than helpful. For many Christians, “Jesus is coming” has become an escapist slogan. We sometimes use it as an excuse to not get involved in the very real problems of the world around us. We say, “Jesus is coming… so we don’t need to worry about preserving our natural resources, fighting poverty, or working for social justice.”

There is a popular idea that has taken hold in some Christian circles. It’s called the Rapture. Many claim that it is a biblically-based doctrine, even though it did not exist at all before the 1830s (when it was invented out of thin air by two preachers named John Darby and Charles Scofield). Those who hold to this idea believe that the world is soon headed for a seven year period of great suffering called the Tribulation. During this time, an evil world leader called the Antichrist will achieve global dominance through a reign of terror. At the end of these seven years, Jesus will return to judge the world and history will reach its conclusion. But before all this happens, according to Darby and Scofield, all true believers in Christ will be mysteriously “caught up in the air” (i.e. Raptured) and taken out of the world to be with Christ, so that they won’t have to endure such pain and suffering.

What it means then, for those who accept this idea, is this: So long as you are in God’s club, you don’t have to worry about all that difficult stuff in life. Our club membership grants us a “get out of jail free” card. By this, we know that we are in God’s good graces and can expect to be excused from the many trials and tribulations that afflict the world from time to time.

It is this same kind of attitude that St John the Baptist is addressing in today’s gospel reading. His prophetic ministry was taking off, John himself had become quite the popular preacher, and people were coming out in droves to hear the sermons and get their spiritual “membership card” stamped by participating in the ritual cleansing of baptism. But John very quickly realizes what’s going on and, in typical prophetic fashion, addresses the issue head-on.

“You children of snakes!” He says, “Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones.”

John is talking here about those who take pride in their cultural and religious heritage. They thought to themselves, “We’re members of God’s club! Our dues are paid and our card is stamped, therefore we shouldn’t have to worry about what comes next.”

In John’s place and time, it was Jewish ancestry that counted for membership in God’s club. Here and now, we have different criteria for membership, but the process is the same. We like to think of ourselves as “the good guys” by virtue of our ethnicity, nationality, or political affiliation.

We even do this when it comes to the way we practice our religion. We rely on church affiliation, regular attendance, or the size of our offering check as indicators of our membership in “God’s club.” If John the Baptist were with us today, he might say something like: “Don’t even think about saying to yourselves, we are Presbyterians. I tell you that God is able to raise up Presbyterians from these stones.”

What John is trying to do here, both in his day and ours, is draw our attention to what it is that spirituality is all about. He’s trying to help us distinguish between the grain of wheat, which is the kernel of our faith, and the husk that surrounds it.

John says, “I baptize you with water, but the one who is more powerful than me is coming. I’m not worthy to loosen the strap of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn. But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.”

Wheat, just like ears of corn, grows inside of a husk that carries and protects it. The husk is part of the wheat, the wheat wouldn’t survive without it, but there comes a time when the husk must be discarded in order for the wheat to fulfill its destiny and become what it was meant to be.

In the same way, the elements of our religion (e.g. churches, denominations, buildings, rituals, the Bible, and the Sacraments) are like husks of wheat. They are necessary to protect the seed, which is our faith, but they are only a means to an end. God, according to John the Baptist, is not interested in our husks, but in the fruit that grows from the seed inside the husk. He says to the people in the crowd, “Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives.”

A changed life is the fruit that grows from the seed of faith. The evidence of authentic faith is not religious observance, church attendance, tithe checks, or Christian bumper stickers. The evidence of faith is when your neighbors in the world look at you and say, “There’s something different about you.” St Paul called this “the fruit of the Spirit” in his letter to the Galatians. He described this “fruit” as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

When the husk of our religion has done its job well, the seed of faith will grow up to produce this kind of fruit in our lives. When we see that fruit, in our lives or in anyone else’s, we can trust that it comes from an authentic faith (no matter what its previous husk may have looked like).

The really interesting thing about fruit is that each kind is unique to the tree that produced it. Oranges don’t grow on apple trees or grapevines. Fruit grows naturally out of each tree’s unique identity. In the same way, the fruit of the Spirit growing in your life will inevitably look different from the fruit of the Spirit growing in the life of your neighbor. I think this is why John the Baptist, in today’s reading, gave different instructions to different groups of people.

The crowds asked [John], “What then should we do?”

He answered, “Whoever has two shirts must share with the one who has none, and whoever has food must do the same.”

Even tax collectors came to be baptized. They said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”

He replied, “Collect no more than you are authorized to collect.”

Soldiers asked, “What about us? What should we do?”

He answered, “Don’t cheat or harass anyone, and be satisfied with your pay.”

The fruit for which John was calling is diverse. It comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. I think that’s why Paul kept his description of this fruit very broad and general. God wants us to have the freedom to explore the unique ways that the fruit of the Spirit might take form in our lives.

When it comes to the way we talk about religion today, I think we spend way too much time arguing over the husks (the religious externals), instead of nurturing the growth of spiritual fruit (the seed of faith). I saw a bumper sticker once that said, “God wants spiritual fruits, not religious nuts.”

I think our friend St John the Baptist would agree with that. In this Advent season, as we await the coming of Jesus, may we become the kind of Christians who know how to discard the husk of religion when it is time, and nurture the growth of the Spirit’s fruit in our lives and in our world.

By Nilfanion (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Rediscovering Mother Kirk: Is High-Church Presbyterianism an Oxymoron?

A well-written article whose subject lies close to my heart as one who finds himself “on the border between Anglicanism and Presbyterianism.”

The author writes from a Reformed perspective that is more conservative than my own. Hart is a member of the Presbyterian Church in America, while I serve the more moderate-to-liberal Presbyterian Church (USA). Hart and I would certainly diverge on several major doctrinal points, but we are in agreement on the subjects he addresses in this article (especially sacraments and ordination).

By D.G. Hart

Reblogged from Touchstonemag.com

Many Christians might be surprised by the high-church tendencies within the Reformed tradition, Presbyterians perhaps being the most amazed. So accustomed are Protestants in North America to remembering the anti-papist sentiments of the Reformation that they forget how many of the practices and beliefs of Christendom were perpetuated in Calvinistic and Lutheran churches, chief among them a respect for ritual, formality, and holy office. The Protestant Reformation, after all, was just that, a reformation of forms and structures, not a repudiation of ritual or legitimate ecclesiastical authority (a debatable statement, of course, to Roman Catholics).

Read more: http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=13-10-020-f#ixzz3tgHESTux

Photo by Larry Braak-Palmer

Living the Dream

If you choose to celebrate #Giving Tuesday, I hope you will consider supporting our ministry at North Presbyterian Church, Kalamazoo. Here is a link to this year’s support letter.

Reblogged from North Presbyterian Church

North Church, a mission community of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan, has a special call to live God’s dream in relationship with people who have mental illnesses. We practice ministries of advocacy and accompaniment with clients in the social service sector. We demonstrate the healing power of relationships at the Togetherness Group, our weekly social activities outing. We fight the power of stigma by educating the broader public about the realities of mental illness. We empower all people to live more deeply into their calling as disciples of Jesus Christ by reorienting the ministry, worship, and governance of our church to listen for the voices of marginalized people at the heart of congregational life.

Click here to read the full letter

"Mary16thC". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mary16thC.jpg#/media/File:Mary16thC.jpg

FOUR REASONS WHY THE VIRGIN MARY DESERVES MORE ATTENTION AMONG PROTESTANTS

Reblogged from Chad Bird.

My appreciation for Mary’s place in the Gospel story has changed significantly over the years. I was introduced to the early church fathers, who opened my eyes to see how Mary’s place in the story of salvation was far from a footnote. I delved more deeply into the Scriptures to discover amazing parallels between Eve and Mary. As I pondered the fact that God became man inside Mary’s womb, I grasped more fully that Mary is indeed the mother of God. All of this has led me to understand a bit more about why the Catholics make such a big deal about her. And although I believe my Catholic friends say more of Mary than can be biblically justified, I also believe that many of my Protestant friends say less of Mary than the Bible demands.

Click here to read the full article.