Monthly Archives: June 2013

Highest Calling

What do we do for the people with the desire to follow the highest callings of humanity? Do Christians have anything to offer these people?

Do you know these people? There are people in our society today who desire to be simply the best of humans, caring for each other, caring for the world, open to beauty and love and secure that they are not the be all and end all. Is there anything that Christianity has that would make sense to them since, in many cases, they don’t really see a point to religion… well, “organized” religion (and they think we’re organized… that’s kind of cute. They don’t realize we’re just neat.)

So, again, for those wanting to be the best of humans among us, do we followers of Jesus have something to offer?

The best answer I have is… it depends. And what it depends on is the “organized” part of our faith. If what we think we have to offer them is the ORGANIZED part, then they’ve already told us to bug off. If we have an organized part that’s helpful to us, and we utilize all it offers, then good for us, but we can leave them out of it. What they are looking for is the part that we can’t control… the messy part… the part that doesn’t do well setting neatly between the pews.

This is the part that moves more with Jesus than for Jesus. It’s the part that believes and acts sincerely and with amazing confidence that God is already at work in the world and isn’t dependent on us. We’re dependent on him and we’re not coming with answers. We’re seeking answers from him because the first thing we’re admitting is that we don’t know what to do or how to do it. We just know we’re supposed to show up… well, and do as we’re told.

And that’s what we have to offer, our presence and obedience… well, and maybe one more thing that really does tie into obedience but may not feel like it. We need to listen and we need to listen well… extravagantly well. We need to listen closely to the words, ideas, stories and impressions of these hoping to be best of humans and to God at the same time. And if we do that a marvel takes place at times, wondrous times… they both speak in the same moment. Words will be coming out of the mouth of these hopeful best at the same moment that words will be entering our hearts from the voice of God. And whatever they’re telling us will be enhanced by the voice of God in our souls and we’ll be told – “There! Right there! That’s where I’m at work. That’s where they heard me. Hear that… now tell them how close they are to me.”
A man commended Jesus one day on his answer and he expanded on Jesus’ answer and demonstrated that he had been listening to Jesus. He got it right. Jesus said to him, “You’re not far from the kingdom.” And that’s what we get to do in obedience. To act like our Lord is to share the good news that these hopeful best are close to the kingdom. “Yeah! Yeah, that part! You got it in there. Just expand it.”

And when we do that extravagant listening well, then what happens is a marvel. We get to introduce them to the best of humans… the truly best. And through him they’ll discover not only that he is an excellent model, he gives them clear directions (way), a guide to follow (truth) and a freedom based in security (life), but also a friend to walk with them as they move. And then they’ll also get a friend in us as well.

Pretty cool,

The Step Forward

lastcrusade19Indiana+Jones 2One of the best moments in any of the Indiana Jones movie series is when he is at the chasm in the fortress of the 3 knights Templar seeking the Holy Grail. He recognizes that there is no way to jump and the picture he has is of a person walking in air. He puts his hand to his chest and he steps forward. What is revealed catches him by surprise and supports his trust.

Trust is that step forward. It is an act of faith.

What we do when we are working together to explore the kingdom of God, to seek out his way and to follow his leading can feel like we’re stepping out into air. Everything looks scary and everything feels scary and suddenly we’re told to step forward. This is when many would turn back and give up.

We may not realize how often we do this… take that step forward. It is a part of every day, multiple times a day. We not only take a step of trust but we display the thing in which we place our trust. It can be our own conviction of the stability of life – it will move as I experienced it moving in the past. It can be our assurance in our own capability – I am able to accomplish this because… (and we think of what we’ve done before or been trained in or determined). It can be a person – “Do it! I’ll catch you.”

The step may be a leap or it may be a single step but it is a pronouncement of where we place our trust. Whether we are crossing the street, walking under scaffolding, making a choice of what to eat in new restaurant or keeping a promise to act when we can’t completely determine the outcome, it is a statement that we expect something to be with us or for us.

That’s what I find remarkable in this, I guess. It’s the promise. The promise that comes from God is not I will make everything wonderful right now or you won’t have any trouble if you believe in me. It’s I will be with you… no matter what. I was reminded of that at a memorial service this past week in the description of a husband’s care for his wife as she fell out of his grasp over years of Alzheimer’s. In one way she left him. In another he never let go.

Trust is a promise kept as much as it is a promise made. That is the story we find in the Bible. “I will never leave you or forsake you.” And so we step forward…


See(d)ing the future

A seed is a place where the whole tree begins. A seed is a marvel because it contains the entire tree before the tree actually exists. acorn2It is remarkable. Holding a living seed in our hand is like holding the future tangibly. We have a reality that hasn’t-come-to-be-yet lying in our palm.

What if you looked at the history of First Presbyterian Church as a forest? What if you could look through this thick wood and see strong, stable trunks that have grown up and you could point to this or that and say, “That’s when that one started to grow and you see those two, this is what was going on when they came into being, one after the other.” And what you’d be talking about is moments in history when our church grew into a particular witness out of the seed of the Word of God that was planted into our rich Lancastrian soil. God’s Word has come to the people of this congregation at various moments and in various seasons, and it has brought back a growth that has expressed God’s grace and truth in substantial ways for the people of particular times.

Our church is going into a season of growth that, I expect, will seem to have no form, no plain, simple clarity for a little while, but, eventually, will become like a full grown tree.Acorn_to-OakTree I believe we’re in for a season of new growth.

First Presbyterian Church in Lancaster is like fertile soil, filled with a rich assortment of nutritious elements and we’re going to plant the Word of God into it and watch it grow a new thing again. For the next year and half we’ll spend our time drawing on what we’ve been given here as a community, so that we can feed a new tree growing from the Word cast in our good soil. How tall will we grow, how far will our branches reach out, how thick around will our trunk become and how bright will our leaves be?

Right now, we may not be able to answer that completely. Right now, we hold the seed in our palm. But, we do know that as it grows our roots need to burrow deep so that everything else can gain the strength to reach upward. The strongest nutrient buried within our soil is gratitude and as that finds its way into the root structure deep nourishment will occur. This is brought up from the flowing water of God’s life giving Spirit and our roots need to reach down into that, and then our gratitude will enrich this new growth. We’ll add study and conversation, imagination and creativity, community and celebration and each of these nutrients will enhance and develop life.

On Saturday, June 15, the pastors of First Presbyterian Church will present a vision to the Elders of the congregation. It will be a vision of a planted seed, one that is, first, the Word of God, but then will include a suggestion of what we might do to nurture it with every resource we have. Once the Elders have had a chance to speak into the endeavor and clarify it, we’ll be bringing it to the congregation as a whole. Please be in prayer for the leadership of our church as we go about this important work of cultivation.