Christian Formation

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?

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?



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)


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)


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)

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?

June 11, 2014

In this week’s Gospel lesson, Jesus tells his followers that they must “become like children” in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. In a world that values advancement, education and progress, these words are hard for us to hear. We love children, but we don’t necessarily want to be children again.

As we begin our summer sermon series, “Questions of Faith,” we will look at some questions asked by children of our congregation and consider what it might mean if we were to look at our own faith through the eyes of a child.

June 20, 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.”

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, in his book Biblical Literacy, highlights an important textual matter in the third commandment.  While we are used to the commandment being translated, “you shall not take the Lord’s name in vain,” Telushkin points out that the literal Hebrew translation is, “you shall not carry the Lord’s name in vain.”

Though take and carry are relatively small words, the difference between them is significant.  If we think in terms of how we take the Lord’s name, then it can be easy to rationalize our way out of its inappropriate use.  But if we truly consider how it is that we carry the name of God, then suddenly we are dealing with something weightier, and more significant.
To carry God’s name means that we understand that it is not just our words that reflect our belief, but our actions do so as well.

How do you carry God’s name?

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.

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?

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 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.”


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.

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

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, 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.