“This’ll be Great!”


On Monday we laid to rest a great saint of the church, one of the only people I’ve ever know who wasn’t threatened by change. If anything, he looked forward to change. It is somewhat foreign to me, I will confess, to approach the world this way, but it certainly was something to see. Truly, he embodied the words of the psalmist.

 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,

though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

     -Psalm 46

He was an older gentleman who trusted God and knew-beyond a shadow of a doubt- that God was (and is) right in the middle of all that we are up to. His enthusiasm for forward momentum was open and genuine, and quite a breath of fresh air.

When I came to our church and met resistance by some for being a young clergy woman, his response was, “Well, I’ve never had a young lady minister before. This’ll be great!”

When we started having occasional services that were casual and featured bluegrass in the Family Life Center he said, “Church in the gym, how ‘bout that! This will be fun.”

When I was expecting our son, he asked me how I was doing and I was honest with him. “I’m scared to death,” I said. “I can’t wrap my mind around raising a person.” He smiled, looked at the ground, and shook his head in what I always saw as his signature move. “We’ve done it four times now, and ‘ya know what? Every single time, it was the best thing that ever happened to us.”

What a witness. His unshakable trust in the God who is and was and who will be freed him from the fear that so many of us carry along life’s journey. This is the truth: the earth, the church, our families, everything will change. Our challenge is not to be afraid, perhaps to smile, and then to trust.

Can you imagine how very different we would be if we did that?  How very different the church would be?


Called to Order


Nothing like banging a gavel to give yourself a feeling, however illusory, of control.

This past week, our congregation hosted the quarterly meeting of our presbytery, the representative governing body for our upstate churches. When I stepped into the pulpit the following Sunday, I found that the official presbytery gavel had been left behind. And was I ever tempted to pound the pulpit on Sunday!

Along with the gavel was a laminated sheet summarizing the key principles of Roberts Rules of Order. Honestly, I was less tempted to pore over parliamentary procedures.

I serve a church tradition that values church order, even as we are mocked as dispassionate, in part for emphasizing order as a Christian virtue.

A guiding word for Christian community that we Presbyterians love to cite is I Corinthians 14:40: “Let all things be done decently and in order.” A central piece of our church’s life together is our Book of Order, outlining principles, policies, and procedures to help us cope both with many church tasks and occasional conundrums.

And yet, like all people and communities, even we order-emphasizing Presbyterians contend with life’s continual chaos. Decency and order are often lacking in our lives.

If only there were a gavel to bring order into our lives and churches and the world. But who would wield such a gavel?

From its opening verses, Scripture gives witness to our Maker. Out of chaos and nothingness, God speaks into being a universe of overwhelming wonders and intricate, transcendent order. Created in God’s image, we seek and sense a partial and very limited discernment of God’s ordering will.

And then comes the Savior.

Our Maker, incarnate in Jesus Christ, stops an unpredictable storm, stills the watery chaos with an ordering command: “Peace, be still!” Those present with Jesus at that moment ask, “Who is this that calls the raging seas to order?”

Might this Christ Jesus call our chaotic and frantic lives to order, not by banging a cosmic gavel, but by pronouncing his peace and pouring his Spirit into us?

Tomorrow, the official gavel will be gone, restored to our presbytery office until our next meeting. Roberts Rules of Order will be on standby, as needed.

And Jesus Christ will call us to a new way of life, created, ordered, and blessed by God.