Blog Archives

On Holy Ground: The Message of Hope

April 7, 2016

Greetings from the Holy Land.
Tuesday was a big day.


We made our way from the Sea of Galilee area down to Jerusalem following the  road to Jericho along the Jordan River Valley.  The same path that Jesus took those millennia past.  Just before leaving the Sea of Galilee we visited the recently discovered Magdala archeological site.  The area features a first century A.D. synagogue and marketplace that would have been visited by Jesus. To walk among the remnants of the marketplace and streets where Jesus would also have walked was an amazing historical and spiritual connection for all of us.
As one travels south past Mt Tabor, traditionally identified as the location for Christ’s Transfiguration and where we visited, the landscape changes dramatically from pleasant green rolling fields and wooded hilltops to a suddenly drier, much harsher environment. We entered the West Bank territory at a checkpoint and went to the location on the Jordan River where it is believed John the Baptist baptized Jesus. We immersed ourselves, or at least our lower extremities, in the cool (though surprisingly muddy) water and marveled.
The present and the past mingle freely in Israel. As we passed by Jericho and got closer to Jerusalem we could see some Bedouin shepherds with their flocks and a few camels as well.   It was quite a thrill to enter Jerusalem and then see the City of David for the first time.  We celebrated communion on the Mount of Olives as the sun set and closed in fellowship with “Amazing Grace.” It was a moment of serene comfort. After dinner we were very fortunate to have as our guest speaker the Rev. Kate Taber, a missionary with Presbyterian Church U.S.A. who spoke of the ongoing challenges of missionary work within a very complex cultural and political milieu. Kate expressed a message of hope despite the continual conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Her thoughts  reminded me that on this pilgrimage we have been seen in towns and country the remnants of ancient empires. We have heard the stories of wars, exile, captivity, slavery, cruelty.  Those empires of conquest by the sword – Assyrian, Greek, Roman, Crusader, Ottoman – are dust, the treasures all gone. They matter not. It is the message of Jesus of love and hope and mercy that endures yet here in this Holy Land and in this world and will do so forever. We can see it in the faces of the people here; we can feel it in ourselves.

Bill Stevenson

On Holy Ground: The Words Resonate

April 4, 2016

This is the first of four posts that document the journey to the Holy Land of a group from First Presbyterian Church. 

Since our arrival on Saturday, we’ve covered a lot of ground.  After visiting the port city of Jaffa on our first night and going to Caesarea, Megiddo, and Nazareth yesterday, we spent a lot of time on and around the Sea of Galilee today.  You would’ve been impressed (or at least had a good laugh) at the sight of many of your church family members dancing the Hava Nagila on a boat sailing across the Sea of Galilee.

One of my favorite moments from today was sitting with our group under a trellis on the same mountain where Jesus preached his Sermon on the Mount and hearing his words read out loud.  The setting was beautiful, but more than that, those words from Jesus resonated with me in a way I’ve not experienced before. God is so good all the time.

Shalom, friends.  We are grateful for your prayers and keep you in ours while we are away.

Katelyn Gordon

How Do I Accept Grace?

August 21, 2014

Am I good enough?  Smart enough?  Kind enough? Enough enough?

These questions pervade our lives.  Whether at home, at school, at work or at church, there are parameters by which we are judged. We want to pass muster, to be accepted, to be worthy.  If we fall short, we feel terrible. 

But what about when it comes to our relationship with God?  How do we measure ourselves?  How does God measure us?  Join us Sunday as we address the question, “How do I accept grace if I feel so unworthy?”

Can We Change God’s Mind?

August 14, 2014

What happens when we pray to God?

If God is in charge of the world, and I don’t particularly like the way things are going, can I try to persuade God to change God’s mind?

There’s a story in Exodus that tells of a conversation between Moses and God, and it ends with, “And the Lord changed his mind….” If Moses changed God’s mind, can we?

What do you think?

Chuck

God’s Heartbreak

August 7, 2014

Compassion.  Check.  Sadness. Check.  Guilt.  Check.  Paralysis. Check.

Sometimes this seems to be the progression of our feelings about injustice, suffering and generally the things make God weep.  Feeling sad can’t be enough, can it?  What else are we to do?  What else is possible?

For context, comparison and contrast, please read Isaiah 58:2-12 and Luke 13:10-17

What do you think most breaks God’s heart in this world?

‘For we too are his offspring’

July 31, 2014

26 From one ancestor, he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,

‘For we too are his offspring.’

Question: Does God Love People Who Say They Don’t Love God?

Yes.  Of course.  

We will use Acts 17:16-34 for context.

But how should the church engage those people who say they don’t love God…or don’t care about God?  Should we write them off?  Shame them?  Welcome them?  How do we do that?

 

 

Letters to home: Rooted and Reaching in Montreat

July 30, 2014

Our youth spent at week in Montreat at the “Rooted and Reaching” retreat. These are their observations from five days of worship, prayer, fellowship and discussion as they grew closer to one another and to God. 

Day 1: Hello First Pres Family. You’ll be happy to know that we had a wonderful first full day at the Montreat Youth Conference. We started off our day with a great breakfast provided by our awesome first pres parents! We moved on to the Keynote led by Jarrett McLaughlin, who did an excellent job starting to convey the theme of “Rooted and Reaching.” We explored this theme in depth today by focusing on the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13 1-8). We further discussed this in our small groups where we met people from all over. Everyone is looking forward to continuing to build relationships in their small groups.

We ended the day with a worship service led by Christopher Edmonston. He did an excellent job of laying the groundwork for the week by focusing on “our soil” and how we need good soil to put down our roots and begin growing. Overall it looks like we are setting up for a great week in Montreat and growing closer to God.

-This is H-Money, Studawg, and the Glontzinator signing out. (Harrison Ferone, Stuart Ayer and Alex Glontz)

Christopher_Edmonston

Day 2: Our morning started similar to Monday. Today’s scripture was a story of Ruth and her loyalty and love for Naomi. Small groups were fun! For dinner, Christopher Edmonston and his son, Gabriel, joined us. It was great to reconnect with him and his family. At worship Christopher did an amazing job on connecting scriptures, thoughts and personal stories to tackle the question of who our people are. We are hoping to have a good free afternoon in Asheville and a great rest of the week. Signing off – G-daddy and La Luc (George Valaoras and Lucinda Bond)

Day 3: Keynote with Jarrett this morning reminded us that God is always with us. No matter what, God will always love us. Worship with Christopher explored the question whether or not we can be forgiven, redeemed, saved and renewed. YES!!! Good news, YES we can! Christopher further explained how God still appears in the worst of our days. God never abandons us. Worship closed with hand washing and showing us that our cleansed hands can be used to serve others and model the service that Jesus did with his disciples when he washed their feet. Thanks be to God for this day! – Signing off JPro and Dave the wave (Jackson Proctor and Davy Rayner)

montreat_mountain

Day 4: Today, Jarrett shared a powerful message in keynote about Gods ability to reshape us through pruning. Over the course of this week in Montreat we have witnessed ourselves
coming closer together forming a family of god. As a group we hiked Lookout Mountain continuing to bond as a group and experiencing God’s beauty. Christopher wowed us again with another amazing sermon. He helped us understand how it is good to let go, always remembering that he never abandons his garden of people.

– Signing off – A mili, A2, E- train (Amelia Keesler, Alex Ayer and Emily Orrell)

Montreat candles

Day 5: Throughout our week at Montreat, we have explored the theme of rooted and reaching in regards to our connection to God. Through this theme we have experienced a growth in our faith as we discovered what it meant to surround ourselves with people we believed would help us become better versions of ourselves. We examined our roots and our basic connections to God in hopes of pruning our rough edges. Together we have made new friendships in our small groups that helped nourish our faith. We also had the pleasure of forming unbreakable bonds with our back home group. We are blessed to have such a wonderful program at First Presbyterian of Charlotte. Today we focused on two questions to take home with us: how can we reach and what is our story. Both services focused on this internal reflection and offered us advice on what to think about once we left Montreat. Finally, after the last worship, we had a candle light ceremony around Lake Susan to wrap up everything we had done this week. In our back home group we reflected upon our wonderful week here at Montreat and what we hope to take from it. We cannot wait to come back next year!
– Signing off – Adrienne, Vamanos and Wood (AJ Sellers, Abigail Justis and Woodson Dudley)

Where Is God?

July 23, 2014

When do we notice God’s presence? Looking back at our lives, where have we experienced the love of a God who promises to never let us go?

It is normal and important to wonder where God was in the unresolved and difficult passages of life. It is just as important to lift up where God is – that becomes the fabric of our testimony…a testimony that can encourage and invite those who hunger and thirst for a relationship with Christ.

For context, we look to Psalm 13 and Matthew 14:22-33.

What do you you think? Where is God in your life and the lives of others?

Where was God?

July 16, 2014

In the suffering of cancer patients?

In the death of a beloved child?

In the bombings and attacks in Israel and Gaza?

Where was God in these, or in any space that is full of pain, sadness, worry?  And what are the consequences to deciding God is not present and not active?

Scripture to explore: Lamentations 1:1-6, Psalm 137

Is Heaven For Real?

July 9, 2014

Is heaven a place? What is it like? Who will I meet there? Is heaven the goal of life? If so, what does that mean about the life I live now? If heaven is so great, does that make the world a bad place? Is this existence something just to be tolerated and endured?

What do you think?

Scripture: Selections from Revelation 21 and 22