Before Haiti

Packing the other bags-

Packing the other bags-

This Thursday, six members of our church will go to Haiti to partner with the Matthew 28 ministry.  M28 works to improve the quality of life and spread to Good News and love of Jesus Christ to the families they encounter.  We’ve been blogging as we prepared, and you’re welcome to check it out here.

As I packed, I’ve really noticed the amount of stuff I’m trying to stuff into my backpack.  You see, we’re taking 14 bags of items for the orphanage, school, and clinic where we’ll be, but our personal items for the 10 day journey have to fit under the seat in front of us in the plane.  “Well, that’s not a lot of stuff” you say, “that’s hardly any stuff!”  Which is true, sort of, but that makes it all the harder.  I want to take so many things- things that I will wear, or that will make me smell or feel better…  Ultimately I want things that will make me more comfortable while I’m traveling outside of my comfort zone.

And as I weighed my options, I realized again that I take for granted so much, and live with so much.  Packing a small bag had become cause for great anxiety and felt like a real hardship.  How sad!  I’m used to such material wealth that I stress at the thought of a few days without it.

I needed a bit of perspective, and I found it in scripture.  Perspective came to me in one of my least favorite passages-one that always steps on my toes, so to speak.  Ah, the Holy Spirit is always working on us!

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  … So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.   -Matthew 6:25-34

When stuff itself is a source or worry, it holds too high a place in your life.  Neither stuff nor worries offer security.  Neither stuff nor worries will change what tomorrow brings.  Our Lord cares for us, and faith in that truth looks like trust.  Faith in that truth looks like calm.

Can I be calm?  Can I be trusting and faithful?  Here’s hoping and with the help of the Lord.  I’ll let you know in a few weeks.  And what about you?  What helps you maintain a Godly perspective in a world full of stuff?

It’s Not the Space, It’s the Spirit

The sanctuary of First Presbyterian was deserted Sunday morning.

This past Sunday, we gathered in our church gym for a special Sunday worship event rather than our sanctuary of more than a century, a more traditional worship space. This past weekend, musical guests the Trinity River Band joined us for a Saturday night barbecue and bluegrass mission fundraiser and then graciously stayed on and joined us for worship the next morning.

band

Without planning or forethought, I opened my mouth and opened our Sabbath gathering with these words:

It’s not the space, it’s the Spirit.

Sounds good — “It’s not the space, it’s the Spirit” — but is it true?

I am blessed to serve a healthy Presbyterian congregation which embraces and exhibits manifold gifts of God’s grace. We probably are pretty “traditional,” but the T-word does not sum up our ministry and community together.

Like a lot of long-established “First” churches, we are located at the heart of a community which is spreading and growing most in the suburbs. We wonder if downtown churches like us are becoming “outliers”!  And if so, does this give us a fresh and faithful perspective on following Jesus Christ today?

Like many formerly “mainline” congregations, we value, in our case, the traditions and trappings of our Reformed heritage. Like generations before us, we hold fast to our historic creeds, we are led usually by pastors and choirs in robes, we prepare and follow an order of worship, and we sing most passionately on the familiar and favorite hymns we have sung for decades (most do, anyway).

And we love our sanctuary, especially our preferred pews.

But this past Sunday, we “abandoned” our sanctuary, opted for projection screen rather than bulletins, preached, prayed, and sang in jeans rather than robes, sat in folded chairs and bleachers, tapped the toes of our boots to banjo picking rather than pipe organ.

I know. We are SOOOOO behind the curve of contemporary Christian practices and patterns. But, thank God, we are also strongly rooted in a rich history, Reformed theology, and, most importantly, God’s Word and Spirit.

This is our church — traditional, transitional, invested in the tried and true but eager and willing to try something new. Our worship in the gym and in jeans was not just different or special, but spirited and invested with energy.

This coming Sunday, we return to our sanctuary, a more accustomed, conventional space for our weekly worship – some might say a more reserved, reverent space. Again, I say: It’s not the space, it’s the Spirit.

sanctuary

Who knows? This space, too, can be Spirit-filled and full of passion for our Lord’s way, for it is the power and presence of God that creates sacred space. And that’s the space where we need to be.

for its temple [sacred worship space] is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb (Revelation 21:22).

Selection Day

At long last, the big day has arrived and the reports are coming in!

signingday

Today, the first when football recruits can officially sign with college football programs, is avidly tracked by college sports fanatics.

At this moment, hype and hoopla surround this or that coveted athlete and whether he has signed a letter of intent, committing to play football for this or that school — hopefully, my alma mater!

While university coaches and their staffs peruse and recruit high school athletes, these young people in turn peruse and make determinations about the schools. Which schools will offer that quarterback? Which football program will he choose? Will the state university miss out by not offering a local gridiron hero?

National Signing, or “Selection,” Day feeds our hopes of a winning team — if we just have the right players choose to play for us!

Jesus makes clear that he selects and equips servants for his holy purposes.Will we make the grade? Which of us will the Savior select? His gracious selection has already occurred — to paraphrase John 15:16:

While some gifted high school football players are at this moment signing letters of intent to play college football, disciples of Jesus Christ know that in his kingdom, EVERY day is “Selection” (or, “Election,” for us Presbyterians) Day for every one.

Ready to make your commitment?