photo showing part of a bible.

Each week one of our pastors or staff members writes a column observing what is going on in our congregation, the Church and the world, and offering reflections on the Christian life and faith. Through this series of columns, we hope to connect your and our story to the enduring story of Christ; to offer pastoral reflections on our ongoing congregational life and mission; to report on news of the Presbyterian Church and Church universal; and to invite further reflection and deeper discipleship. We welcome your comments and suggestions. In other words, our words here are an invitation to continue the conversation.

Partnering in Syria and Lebanon

During our second year working at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, a new student entered the Master of Divinity program from Syria. In many ways Mathai (not his real name) slipped into the comfortable camaraderie that all of these young men shared. But in other ways Mathai was different. Because of the struggle to get a visa into Egypt for school, he would not be able to travel back to his home until four years later when he will have finished his degree, while all his classmates travel home each weekend to be with their children and families. Though many of our Egyptian students lived and even worked in congregations through the various revolutions and violence that Egypt has experienced over the past several years, Mathai had experienced much worse. His jokes were a little edgier. His patience for dealing with difficult situations was shorter. His grief at the violence and destruction happening back home didn’t make him miss it and his family any less.

Holy Week Worship

Today’s Maundy Thursday communion services and tomorrow’s Good Friday services enable us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus to the end as the gospel enacts God’s raw, brutal entry into human suffering. Then, come Easter morning, the Alleluias will peal from heaven and from within our hearts at the incomprehensible wonder of resurrection. Worshipping together, in word and deed, in song and silence, in ways beyond mere thought, we embrace the most confounding mystery to which we Christians cling – that in the midst of death God bestows life.

Beginning the Journey

Whether you prefer the big leafy green palms, the ones perfect for waving and spreading underfoot, or the long thin sage green palms that mark a joyful exclamation point before being woven into a cross; do not worry, the palms are on their way. They will be waiting just inside the Sanctuary narthex, ready for the Sunday ahead. At 10:02 a.m., there will be a raucous crowd making their way to the Sanctuary doors, and before you can sing “All glory laude and honor” you will see our youngest members charging down the center aisle reenacting that first Palm Sunday. Much like that first Palm Sunday, I imagine there will be children with faces beaming, a few bewildered expressions, and possibly even a handful of scowls.

Words to Live By

While on sabbatical this past spring, I learned that Agnes Norfleet planned to preach a series on the Psalms during the following Lenten season. How marvelous! Of all the passages in the Bible set to music, nothing has inspired composers more than the Psalms.

The Green Bible

I think that many of us remember Red Letter Bibles from the past. These were the Bibles that put in red font all of the spoken words of Jesus. One could flip through the New Testament and see in full color the teachings and the prayers, the sermons and the conversations of Jesus Christ. It has been a long time since I have seen a Red Letter Bible, and I suspect that they don’t sell too many of those anymore.

Reflecting on Life Itself

In a sermon several weeks ago I remarked that most pastors I know prefer conducting memorial services or funerals to officiating at weddings. I noted that I had said that a number of years ago in another sermon in my former pastorate, and that it had been something most people who heard it had remembered. Something similar occurred here as well.

A Lenten Sojourn

In the last congregation I served, we sent out a post card to everyone who lived in our local neighborhood inviting them to join us for worship. The front of the card showed a roadside billboard with the phrase – “Faith is a journey, not a guilt trip.” It was a way to encourage people to join us even if they were struggling with their faith, and especially if they had experienced church and faith in a negative way in the past. I am not sure how many people decided to join us for worship or even membership because of that card, but I kept it on the bulletin board in my office for years to remind myself of it for my own journey.