Thursday, July 19, 2018


                                                                         Why I Am a Presbyterian

There are many reasons why I am a Presbyterian, and maybe I will write about more, but high on the list of reasons is that God does not present Godself as a Heavenly Marshal. 

I remember years ago on a Junior High trip to the Rocky Mountains; a Christian actor did a skit presenting God as the Heavenly Marshall.  Our Westminster Youth did a skit a year ago that included part of the skit.  Now, Picture God as the town marshal getting off his horse when suddenly God is aware that Steve is in the midst of temptation.   God looks down from heaven and says, “Be careful Steve, and don’t cross the line.  Be careful, you are getting close.”  Well Steve commits the crime of saying that he was at the church when in fact he was at the bowling alley.  He told a flat out lie.  And there is God saying, “There he goes, he has violated paragraph 7, section 8.3874 – going to the bowling alley and saying he was at the church.”  God points his gun at Steve and says, “Now, I’m going to flatten the left front tire on his car.”

Praise be to God that God is not a heavenly marshal.  God does not sit on his throne watching humankind waiting for us to break the law so he can divvy out punishment.   God comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ graciously calling us to himself.  God is not a vindictive tyrant anxiously waiting to send us to hell.  God is like a father waiting on the porch constantly looking out for his son to come home. 

Why am I a Presbyterian, one reason is that Presbyterians understand that our service and obedience to God should never come from a sense of guilt or fear, but God offers himself to us in love, calling us to receive that love and live in and through that love.  I am a Presbyterian because; God comes to me as one who calls me into his service because I love God, not because I fear God. 

Soli Deo Gloria


Thursday, August 24, 2017


Dear Church Family,

            During the spring semester, I led the Parlor class in a study of the ancient and medieval church.  This fall we will be learning about the Reformation.  Of course this is a timely study since this year we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Thesis on the castle church door in Wittenberg.  

            The first couple of classes (beginning on September 10) cover the end of the middle ages and how the soil was fertile for reformation in the church.  From the early church through the time prior to Luther, monasticism was the characteristic institution of the church.  Though most Presbyterians, and other Protestants for that matter, are less than impressed with the practice of monasticism, but in the 13th century mendicant orders of monastics gave rise to people like Francis of Assisi who completely devoted their lives to live as Jesus lived.  In their heyday these friars who left the confines of the monastery to be Christ’s representatives in the world devoted their lives to caring for the poor, studying, and prayer. 

            In our busy world with overbearing calendars, I wonder how much time we have to devote to the various spiritual disciplines that God has given by God’s grace.  Is there time to not only read Scripture, but to meditate upon the words of the Bible, and sincerely seek to apply the teaching of Scripture to our lives?

            Do we have a group of friends with whom to study the Word, to discuss the Word, and together find meaning for living in the 21st century? 

            Our Sunday school classes are back in business following a summer break.  Sunday school provides a place to study with friends, and to seek together God’s truths.  And when it comes to our children, we are commissioned to train them in the knowledge of Christ.  I hope you will take advantage of our Sunday school offerings and let us be serious about our study of Christ. 

            If a Sunday morning study does not work for you, let me know and maybe we can talk about forming a small group Bible study in your home or the home of another member. 



Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Christ the King

                Most of us are thankful to live in a country with a constitution that forbids a royal or noble class.  No Sir Steve or your eminence.  We are all equal citizens of this great land.  We all have the right to vote, and we are all protected under the constitution.  Of course our system is not perfect; it is a human system, so unfortunately at times, it favors those in a powerful position.

                Because of our political system, we probably have difficulty understanding the concept of king and subjects, but whether or not we understand, we have a king.  This Sunday we celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ is our king.  Jesus reigns in heaven and on earth.  The question is, do we recognize Christ’s rule.  Most of us will say we do; however, does the way we live out our lives reflect the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

                The text for the sermon this coming Sunday will be Luke 23:33-43.  It is a bitter text, for it takes us to the cross where our King died.  In the text we hear about the moment when Jesus offered hope to the thief who was crucified next to him.

                If you read the text before Sunday, I suggest you consider the following questions:

                1) How do we trivialize Christ’s reign in our own lives and in the church?

                2) If we let Christ rule us, where will he take us? 

                3) If we let Christ rule us, who is it we are to stand with and for?

                Good questions for reflection, from the pen of Jill Duffield who edits the Presbyterian Outlook.

                See you Sunday,


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Blessing of Choir Students

          I don’t know if anyone in our congregation takes greater pleasure in our choir students than me.  Don’t get me wrong, listening to our entire choir (the best in the Presbytery) is one of my greatest blessings.  I particularly love the students we currently have in our choir, because most of them have been with us three and four years.  Their young faces, the gifts they share, their smiles, their attitudes toward worship and the joy with which they sing moves me every Sunday. 
          I wish they would all make CD’s from the music of our Christian heritage.   CD’s of their senior recitals is also on my wish list.  Julie sang so beautifully Mendelssohn’s “O Rest in the Lord,” this past week and I understand that next Sunday Brenton will sing “Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God.”   It is a bummer that I will not be here next week to hear Brenton sing, but I was blessed to hear him sing at our Ash Wednesday Service.  I understand that in the future we will have more solos from our choir students – YES!

          There is great power in music, there is even more power (at least in my life) in good Christian music.  Good music will sooth the soul, or it can stir the soul into action.  Good music inspires, it comforts, and it brings glory to God. 

          Flora, one of our choir students has two CDs (yes, the rest of our students need to make at least one).  One of Flora’s recordings is of her senior recital the other is a Christmas CD.  Well I gave the recital CD to a friend in the hospital who loves to hear Flora sing.  The other, even though it is a Christmas CD, I have listened to it over and over again. 
          Yesterday was one of those stressful days, so much so that I could feel the tension that had built up.  On my drive home, I turned on the radio to the talk radio station, but that only increased my blood pressure, so I pushed the CD button and there was Flora singing “O Holy Night.”  Almost instantly my soul quieted and there was a peace that surrounded me.   It was the music.  It was the grace of God.  It was music that spoke of the love of God.  And it was music sung by someone I know, which made it all the more special.  How powerful is good music!

          Now once again to our other choir students, it is time to make your own CD of your best music. My wallet will be open to pay for the CD, as I gladly listen to your beautiful voice and am blessed by your amazing talent.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Daylight Savings Time

If you arrive at church this Sunday (March 8) and the congregation is either leaving or about to leave worship, it means you forgot to set your clocks forward one hour.  That’s right Daylight Savings time begins this weekend.  How does the reminder go, “spring forward then fall back?” 

I remember a member of the church I served in Mt. Pleasant always got confused, and at the beginning of Daylight Savings, he set his clocks back one hour.  He got what he thought was an extra hour of sleep, but when he arrived at church Sunday morning the church was deserted for it was actually 1 PM.  He called me in a panic for fear the rapture had happened and he was left behind.  I could understand, that kind of mistake can happen; but what worried me is that if he thought the rapture had happened why did he call me?

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Newtonville Community Church

                I have to admit that I stole the idea for the following story, and I do not remember where:
                The church rejoiced when the Jones and the Martins decided to join the fellowship.  Both families were drawn by the friendliness of the people, the magnificence of the choir, and the churches involvement in mission.  Another reason they joined the Newtonville Community Church was because it was the only church in town. 

Newtonville was a small town the average traveler missed; all it took was one blink, and you could drive from city limit to city limit; and the only building you could see from the highway was the church. 
              You may be surprised to know that of the 273 people who lived in Newtonville, only 64 of them were members of the church, but on Sunday morning the church was full, for when you include the children, the church could have as many as 110 of God’s people present.

All was well in the Newtonville Community Church until the adult Sunday School class had a lesson on the end times.  As the teacher talked about how difficult it is to understand what the Bible says about the final judgment, one of the members interrupted, “It’s no problem at all.  I just read that book ‘Left Behind,’ and it clearly uses what the Bible says to outline what the ends time will be like.   The Lord will return at the trumpet sound and reign on earth for 1000 years.” 
            Another class member was of the opinion that the 1000 years spoken of in the Bible was symbolic, “Imagine 1000 years, that’s a long time, it represents the fact that Jesus is ruling now and will rule for eternity.” 

Well debate turned into raised voices, and raised voices turned into yelling, and people said things they shouldn’t have, until one elder said, “Well if that is the way you feel about it, I’m going to start my own church,” and he did, and 32 of the members went with him.
             They started the Newtonville Premillennial Community Church.  Now there are two churches in town.  The choirs were about half as good as when there was one church, and it seems that the two churches combined only did about half as much mission as the original church.

A year passed when both churches started having a fight over the idea of predestination.  Can you believe it?  You could hear the Calvinist saying, “If you read Romans it says that we are predestined.  God chooses us before we could possible choose God.” 
           “No, no, no, ‘whosoever will,’ that’s what the Bible says.   Whosoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  Well you guessed it, voices were raised, tempers lost, and before you knew it, there was a split in both churches.

Now there were four churches in Newtonville and each had 16 members.  There was the Newtonville Pre-millennial Providence Community Church and the Newtonville Pre-millennial Free-will Community Church, the Newtonville A-millennial Providence Community Church, and the Newtonville Pre-millennial Free-will Community church.  The choirs in the four churches were about one-fourth as good as the choir when they all went to church together, and with so much money going to pay the light bill in four buildings, there was not much left over for mission.
             Well it didn’t stop there.  There was a funeral of a dear man who did not belong to any of the churches, but the pastors of all four churches spoke at the funeral.  The first pastor said, “We will miss old Zeak, but he is in a better place.  You know the Lord said to the thief on the cross, today, today you will be with me in paradise.  Well today, Old Zeak is in paradise.” 

The second pastor to speak said, “I too will miss Zeak, but what the Bible teaches is that Zeak will be raised at the last trumpet when the dead in Christ will rise.” 
              Most everyone at the funeral was civil enough not to extend the debate, that was until the next Sunday during Sunday School.  There debate broke out and tempers flared and some said, “Well just start a new church that believes like we do. And you know there are now eight churches in Newtonville:   There is the Newtonville A-millennial, Providence, Wait until Jesus Comes Resurrection Community Church and the Newtonville Pre-millennial, Free Will, Immediate Resurrection Community Church.  Well you get the point without me giving the names of all eight churches.  Each church now had eight members.

During the presidential election year there were more splits over politics, which gave rise to eight new churches, now a total of sixteen churches in Newtonville with each church having four members, with no choirs, and no money to do mission.  Can I give you the name of two of the churches:  The Newtonville Pre-millennial, Free-will, Wait until Jesus Comes Resurrection, Democratic Community Church, and the Newtonville Pre-millennial, Providence, Wait Until Jesus Comes Resurrection, Republican Community Church.
              Once people start to split, it’s hard to stop.  About a year later there were people in the churches who said the only way to interpret the Bible was to be literal, and others who wanted to leave room for deeper study of the various forms of literature in the Bible.  You can only guess how difficult that debate was.  But the debate led to folks leaving their churches and starting new churches. 

Now in Newtonville there were 32 churches with two members in each church.  Actually, most of the churches consisted of a husband and his wife. All was well until the husbands read in First Timothy 2:  I Do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” 
             Whew, 64 churches with one member in each church, no choir, no community mission, but 64 different people who all believe they are the one perfect church.  Everybody in each of the 64 churches now had a church that believed exactly the way they believed, and the church practice was exactly the way they wanted it.  They sang only the hymns they liked and celebrated Communion as often as it pleased them.  Each of the one-member church’s requirements for ordination was exactly as all the members believe it should be; that is, as the one-member wanted it.  Some like going to church for two hours and they could do so now, I think only 2 of the 64 one member churches worshipped for two hours; the other 62 one-member churches took advantage of the church-of-one concept and kept worship down to ten minutes. 

So which church are you going to join, The Newtonville Amillennial, Free Will, Wait Until Jesus Comes Resurrection, Democratic, Literal Bible, Quiet Women Community Church.  Or the Newtonville, Pre-millennial, Providence, Wait Until Jesus Comes Resurrection, Republican, Bible Study, Let the Women Talk Community Church.  Or the imperfect church of which you are a member, that has other members with whom you may disagree, but you do everything in your power together to honor Jesus Church through worship and participating in his mission and upholding the unity of this diverse church.  Jesus’ only recorded prayer for today’s church is this, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one,” which church will you join? Amen.
                I have a dear cousin who in some ways has a different theological perspective than my own.  We are both Christian, no doubt about that; however she is not a Presbyterian.  This is not to say that Presbyterians are right and her church is wrong, it’s just we have different understandings.  I hope that neither one of us is so presumptuous as to think that we are always right and other denominations are wrong.  It would be an expression of elitism for us to believe that of the thousands of Christian denominations that my church says it best.  My church’s theology is right – always right. The practice of my church is the only one truly based upon the teachings of the Apostles.  
                Some churches worship on Saturday, most on Sunday.  Some churches only baptize by immersion, others pouring, and still others by sprinkling, and then there are those who will baptize by any of these modes for what matters to them is that water is used.  Some churches baptize children and others only baptize those who make a personal profession of faith.  Some churches celebrate the Sacrament of Communion every time they meet others only four times per year.  Some churches welcome the leadership of women and others will not allow women to even speak in church.  Some churches allow leadership to gay and lesbian Christians and others consider the sin of homosexuality such a sin that all gay and lesbian people are condemned to hell.  Some churches believe the Bible is literal throughout, thus for example the world was created in six twenty-four hour periods.  While other churches understand that the Bible is an ancient book written by ancient people to an ancient church, thus the Bible must be studied within this context, all the while understanding that the Bible is inspired by God and through its pages God still speaks to the church.  There are Pre-millennial believers, Post-millennial believers and A-millennial believers.  I could go on.
                I think we have to admit that the church of Jesus Christ is very diverse, and rather than condemn what would be most of the church to hell, or believe they are in some way inferior because they do not believe the way we do, does great damage to our ability as the church to spread the good news that God has come into the world in the person of Jesus Christ.  Maybe a better way is to never stop the discussions.  Never stop listening to what others understand to be the truth and maybe we can learn from each other. 
                I know the temptation to say, “The Bible says it, I believe it and that settles it.”  But, the problem is that the ancient book we call the Bible is interpreted in so many different ways.  Who is right?  Only God knows, and the best way for us to know is to discuss and learn from each other rather than argue.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


                The Roman Emperor Constantine, wishing to unite his empire, made Christianity the religion of the state and Christendom was born.  State money could be used to construct church buildings, and as time passed, the church grew in power and with power came wealth.  For example, before Constantine a bishop or presbyter would have been persecuted for their faith, after Constantine, church office was coveted by some as an avenue to wealth and power.  Of course the inevitable happened when the church is married to the state.  By the late fourth century other religions were no longer protected by the state; pagan temples were destroyed; military service and judgeships were reserved for Christians; and by 423 pagans could be exiled, wealth confiscated, and sometimes put to death.  Yes, the persecuted church became the persecutor.   As more time passed Christendom has ordered:  crusades, inquisitions, burnings of Protestants, burnings of Catholics, drownings of Baptists, witch burnings, abortion clinic bombings, the KKK, promotion of slavery as an institution, and unfortunately the list continues.   

                Christendom is NOT Christianity.  I understand one definition of Christendom can be the use of the Christian faith for personal, economic or social gain.  Christianity is simply living by the grace of God and following the teachings of Jesus.  And among the teaching of Jesus is this, You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

                Christianity is not alone.  Other religions have their form of Christendom.   The obvious example is our current battle with, let’s see what can I call it, “Islamadom?”  Yes, I just made that word up, but it seems to follow the same patterns of how wealth and power (call it oil) can pervert religion.           

                With this said, let me be clear, I am a Christian.  I trust Jesus as savior and Lord, and look to him to better understand how I am to live in this world.   I, like all others who profess Christ, have a little (maybe more than I want to admit) Christendom in me. 

                “Lord, help me and be merciful!” Amen.