Blog Archives

Carrying God’s name in your life

June 17, 2013

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Exodus 20:7

At a church I served previously, the Children’s Sermon was a part of every Sunday morning worship service. One year, on Memorial Day weekend, I opened the Children’s Sermon time with a question. “Who can tell me what is special about this weekend?” I asked. (I was hoping, of course, for a comment about Memorial Day.)

Without hesitation, a little boy in front of me said in a confident voice, “GOD!”

Yes.

No matter where we find ourselves, or what we are doing, what is special about every moment is God. This is an important thing to consider when we come to the Third Commandment. Though most of us see it simply as a prohibition against cursing in God’s name, the truth is that this commandment means much more than that, because our lives mean much more than just what we say or don’t say.

How do you carry God’s name in your life?

Katherine

What is it about idols?

June 14, 2013

They are easy to worship.

They stay put.They obey and affirm.

They tell us what we want to hear.

They ask of us only what we want to give.

They are safe.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
        Exodus 20:4-6

This particular commandment doesn’t keep us from ourselves as much as it opens us to experience where and how this mysterious, unpredictable God is breaking in, revealing something new. It invites us to imagine not only what it means to love God but what it means to truly love one another: to offer ourselves beyond our selves, to give up control for the sake of giving into relationship, to remember who we are and whose we are.    

 

 

Becoming free. Remaining free.

June 12, 2013

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Exodus 20:4-6

While Moses was receiving the Law, a guide to what it meant to be God’s people, those very people had turned to another god.

This almost ended the deal, Scripture tells us.

To become free took God’s eyes to be fixed on the people. To remain free took the people’s eyes to be fixed on God.

More from us. More of us.

June 10, 2013

The Ten Commandments tell us that God wants more from us. God wants more of us.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Exodus 20:4-6

Like mirrors, idols reflect and (therefore) affirm what we project. Unlike mirrors, they give those images such authority that worship is our only response. Idols are easy to worship. They stay put. They obey our instructions and affirm our agendas. They answer all of our questions with answers that we want to hear (or at least expect to hear). They ask only of us what we want to give. It is easier to worship an idol than some uncontrollable, unpredictable, demanding, even jealous God. Idols are safe. They tuck our sense of right and wrong in the warm comfort of sanctifying the way the world is, the way we are, the way we want the world to be.

This particular commandment doesn’t keep us from ourselves as much as it opens us to experience where and how this mysterious, unpredictable God is breaking in, revealing something new. It invites us to imagine not only what it means to love God but what it means to truly love one another: to offer ourselves beyond our selves, to give up control for the sake of giving into relationship, to remember who we are and whose we are.

What are some idols common in our world today? Where do they get their power? What idols do you worship, and why are they destructive to your relationship with God?

One service, two classes

June 6, 2013

Dear Wired Word Faithfuls,

The average American family gives about 4% of its income to charity, a percentage that is well below the biblical tithe (10%). It is also a fraction of the 50% donated each year by a young man in the world of finance named Jason Trigg. His generosity gives us an opportunity to think about Christian stewardship, the faithful use of money and what the Scriptures teach us about how our giving impacts the world around us. Although The Wired Word class will not be meeting in the summer, you will find the topic below of interest.

Continuing this Sunday at First Presbyterian Church, we will gather for one service (11:00) while we walk through a special summer series on the Ten Commandments. Each week, our worship will center on a particular commandment as we work our way through the “Decalogue” (“ten words”). The pastors have also written a weekly devotional to help you explore this rich and often overlooked text. You can find this devotional on our web site or in hard copy around the church.

During the Sunday Class time (9:45-10:45) we are offering two classes. The first is entitled “With Our Whole Heart,” (in the Chapel) and will unpack that Sunday’s respective commandment to deepen your worship experience. The second is a class titled “Being the Body of Christ,” (in the Pattie Cole Room) which will focus on the ever-changing missional nature of the church. We encourage you to join these classes through the summer.

We will continue to send the Wired Word topic for your own reflection and look forward to open discussions at the church in the fall.

Also, if you are looking for summer reading, check out our 2013 Willard Speaker’s work. You can find them all at brucefeiler.com. I would recommend that, by the September 29th event, you pick up a copy of “Generation Freedom.” Great read.

Enjoy the topic and we’ll see you this Sunday at 9:45 in the Chapel to hear Peter Buck lead “No Other Gods” found in Exodus 20:1-3, or in the Pattie Cole Room where The Rev. Pen Peery will begin a series on “Living Into a Missional Church.”

Kirk

Summer, The Wired Word, and the Ten Commandments

June 2, 2013

Dear Wired Word Faithfuls, 

Starting this Sunday at First Presbyterian Church, we will gather for one service (11:00) while we walk through a special summer series on the Ten Commandments. Each week, our worship will center on a particular commandment as we work our way through the “Decalogue” (“ten words”). The pastors have also written a weekly devotional to help you explore this rich and often overlooked text. You can find this devotional on our web site or in hard copy around the church.

During the Sunday Class time (9:45-10:45) we are offering two classes. The first is entitled, “With Our Whole Heart,” (in the Chapel) and will unpack that Sunday’s respective commandment to deepen your worship experience. The second is a class entitled “Being the Body of Christ,” (in the Pattie Cole Room) which will focus on the ever-changing missional nature of the church. We encourage you to join these classes through the summer.

We will continue to send the Wired Word topic for your own reflection and look forward to open discussions at the church in the fall.

Also, if you are looking for summer reading, check out our 2013 Willard Speaker’s work. You can find them all here. I would recommend that, by the September 29th event, you pick up a copy of “Generation Freedom.” Great read.

We’ll see you this Sunday at 9:45 in the Chapel (the Mission class will start meeting next week, 6/9) for Pen’s overview of the 10 Commandments!

Peace

Kirk 

The Wired Word – Good News

May 16, 2013

Dear Class Member,
The nature of news reporting is usually to focus on bad news, and in doing so, much good news gets crowded out. But occasionally some genuine good news is so compelling that it takes precedence over the bad. The finding of three missing women alive in Cleveland earlier this month is one such story. While there’s a lot of bad news in what happened to those women over the last decade and in the despicable behavior of their captor, the joy when they were found was abundant and widespread.

That reminds us that amid the frequent bad news of life, there is a hunger for good news. We also note that the word “gospel” means “good news.” So we are going to use the news of the rescue of the three women as a basis to talk about this hunger and about why the gospel is, in fact, GOOD news. That will be the topic of our next class.

If you wish to start thinking about our topic in advance, below is some introductory material. The Reverend Pen Peery will be leading the class, which will meet on Sunday, May 19, 10:00am in the Pattie Cole Room.
Kirk

The Wired Word invites us to contribute news story suggestions for upcoming lessons. If you have a story you’d like to suggest, post it to The Wired Word forum at http://thewiredword.squarespace.com/.

In the News
On May 6, three young women — Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight — who had been kidnapped separately a decade ago in Cleveland, Ohio, were found alive in a house not far from where they’d had been snatched. From the moments of their disappearance until the day of their rescue, nothing had been heard from the women, and their families grieved their loss while still hoping that somehow they would be found.
The women had been held as sex slaves by a man who is now in police custody.

Since the details of the rescue of the women, along with a 6-year-old girl who’d been born to one of the women while in captivity, have been widely covered in national news, we aren’t going to to repeat them here. However, it’s worthy of note that the joy in the families of the rescued women was shared widely not just among people who actually had known the women (who were 14, 17 and 21 when they were kidnapped), but also throughout the city and suburbs and, to some extent, across the nation.

The editor of The Wired Word lives in northeast Ohio, which is the broadcast area for the Cleveland news programs. He said he was struck that in almost every early report he saw on TV about the women being found, there were people rejoicing, crying tears of joy, smiling widely and cheering.

“It often appeared that whole neighborhoods had come out on the streets to help the families of the women celebrate,” our editor said.

While we found no online article focused primarily on the joyful response, several reports commented in passing on the joyful atmosphere.
The Huffington Post, for example, reported, “Cheering crowds gathered Monday night on the street near the home where police said Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight had been held since they went missing and were found earlier in the day.”

The Daily Beast observed, “The news stopped everyone in Cleveland dead in his or her tracks. … All three women were taken to nearby MetroHealth Hospital, where a huge and jubilant crowd soon gathered and patiently waited for any bit of information on their condition.”

And according to Cleveland.com, a couple of days later, when two of the women returned to their homes from the hospital, “Crowds cheered and chanted the women’s names as vehicles, flanked by police motorcycles, drove slowly to the two homes festooned with balloons, ‘welcome home’ signs and stuffed animals.”

Well wishes for the women have poured in from across the nation, and, as of last week, donations to a fund set up by the city to help the women get established independently have come in from 34 states as well as from Australia, Canada and France.

Our editor commented that the joy in the city reminded him of the song “A Little Good News” (sung by Anne Murray) that tells of so much bad news in the media, and then says, “One more sad story’s one more than I can stand … We sure could use a little good news today.”

The Big Questions

Here are some of the questions we will discuss in class:

1. Is it your impression that life brings more bad news than good, more good news than bad, or a roughly equal mix of the two? Why? What bearing, if any, do you think that one’s station in life and one’s economic status might have on how a person would answer that question?

2. Are you aware of a personal hunger for good news? If so, what do you think is the root of that hunger?

3. In the Roman Empire, the word translated “good news” was often used for official announcements. Why do you think that Jesus and the apostles used the term “gospel”/”good news” to characterize Jesus’ message?

4. What is the good news that Jesus proclaimed?

5. Can anything or anyone other than God satisfy the hunger for good news? Explain your answer.

Confronting the News With Scripture and Hope
We will look at selected verses from these Scripture texts. You may wish to read these in advance for background:
Luke 15:11-32
Isaiah 52:1-10
Matthew 11:2-6
Mark 1:14-15
1 Corinthians 15:1-11

In class, we will talk about these passages and look for some insight into the big questions, as well as talk about other questions you may have about this topic. Please join us.

Why do we hesitate? Wednesday thought.

April 10, 2013

On the day of the resurrection, the disciples remained hidden in fear. When Jesus appeared to them, he offered more than the proof found in his hands and side. He offered them forgiveness.

As people of the resurrection, we too have the power of forgiveness. So why are we so reluctant to live out this calling? What is forgiveness and what gifts does it offer?

Connecting leaders, past and present

December 27, 2012

On Sunday evening, December 16th, the Wood Fellowship Hall was filled with energy and conversation.  Approximately 250 people circled around tables to share a meal and think about our future as a congregation.

This was the first (but not the last) gathering of a group I dubbed “The College of Deacons and Elders.”  The intent of the night was to connect leaders in the church – past and present – together in order that we might build consensus around where God is calling us as the body of Christ.  There is a tremendous amount of wisdom in the experience of our past officers.  Those whom God has called to serve as leaders in the church have something to offer even after their term on the session or diaconate has ended.  Sunday night was a chance to harvest this collective wisdom.

After supper, I shared with the group some of my vision for our church – a vision that has been shaped as I have spent time these past few months listening to various members and groups within our congregation.  Our conversation centered on four areas around which I solicited feedback from the “College.”  Those areas were:

Priorities for Ministry

I suggested that our primary task as a church was to worship God.  From that worship grow three “spheres” of ministry that are equally important and valued.  I believe our focus (and our staffing) should be organized under these three spheres:

  1. Mission – Defined by where we meet Christ in the world rather than where we take Christ to the world.
  2. Community Life and Care – Focused on building networks of care and opportunities to grow in fellowship.
  3. Christian Formation – Claiming the purpose of Christian Education, which is to shape members into disciples of Jesus Christ.

 

Stewardship

My observation is that we are generally a very healthy church in terms of stewardship.  However, we need to pay attention to some new trends on the horizon.  Notably, that more and more people give out of a sense of passion rather than a sense of duty.  This has implications for the way the church communicates its mission to the congregation.

Building Partnerships

It is no secret that we are increasingly busy people.  This is true within and outside of the church.  Paying attention to this, I see great value in forging partnerships among the variety of ministries that take place under the banner of First Presbyterian Church.  Doing ministry in partnership (instead of every group or committee carrying out their own program) will better use our time and resources, as well as create a larger impact and exposure for our programs.

Releasing Passion and Increasing Participation

As a large church filled with talented and faithful people, we need to find ways to connect more members with our mission and ministry.  We also need to make sure that we retain our identity as a church and not “run off in a thousand different directions.”

To that end, I proposed that we spend the next year discerning and articulating five to six “distinctives” or “pillars” that will ground us in our identity as Christ’s body.  What is our particular calling as an uptown church?  Where does God need our witness?  How can our gifts and history and abilities best connect with our city and world?  These are the kind of questions that will drive us in discovering our “disctinctives.”

Once we are comfortable claiming who we are I believe we will be in a position to create “a culture of permission” – where someone who has an idea or a passion can pursue it without having to navigate a lot of “red tape” from the committee structures of the church.

It is my hope that the next time we gather the College of Deacons and Elders (in January of 2014) we will be in a position to share these five or six disctinctives and make sure that they reflect who we all understand God calling us to be.

This first experience of being with such a dynamic group of leaders was, for me, a confirmation of both my call to serve First Presbyterian Church and of our calling as a congregation to be bold in the ways we embrace Christ’s call for us in the future.

Pen

 

 

Youth Ministry Architects

December 4, 2012

Youth Ministry Architects

The Youth Ministry Architects visited us recently and spent a lot of good, quality time talking with us about our activities and how to make the First Presbyterian youth ministry more sustainable and fruitful. This is what they said …

 

http://www.firstpres-charlotte.org/pdfs/FPC_Charlotte_Assessment.pdf