Thursday, April 30, 2015

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – Moving from Specks to Logs

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) and a podcast on the church page at Cove Presbyterian Podbean page.

Luke 6:39-42

He also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”

Moving from Specks to Logs

I think we’ve become a speck-oriented society. Not only have we made complaining an art-form, but we seem intent on pointing out every single speck we find in the eyes of others, and it doesn’t seem to bother us that some of the stuff we see has more to do with our imaginations than reality. I remember, about a month ago, I had a rather lengthy and abrasive conversation with a person who had a laundry list of criticisms directed at me. And even though I don’t think I cut him off, because I really wanted to know the uncomfortable things he had to say, some of his rant was out-and-out untrue and some of his complaints were fairly insignificant. But I don’t believe he’s unique; this seems more “par for the course” than the exception to the rule. Sadly, I believe we’ve become a speck-seeking culture.

But that’s certainly not what Jesus had in mind when he shared the parables we just read. I mean, when he said, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye,” he sure seemed to be challenging them and us to look careful at ourselves before we start judging and condemning others. You see, when we do that kind of thing, we may find problems and flaws within our own character and behavior far greater and more profound than in what we may see in others. And for that reason, maybe we should make the decision and do whatever we can do in order to move from their specks to our logs.

A Walk with the Vice Moderator - No Easy Way

A Walk with Larissa Kwong Abazia, Vice Moderator of the 221st General Assembly, as she lives through cancer. This and other reflections will appear on the web page "Each New Day."

On Sunday, a congregation member from a church that worships in our sanctuary greeted me with a warm smile. She said, "Your scarf is beautiful. But did you cut your hair? Why wear it?" 
 
I paused for a moment and said, "Oh, thank you. Well, it's because my hair started falling out because of my chemotherapy." 
 
About halfway through my sentence, I could tell that she had registered (on her own) why I was wearing a scarf. Her face said it all and then she became apologetic. She was embarrassed and sorry she had asked.
 
I've come to realize that there is no easy way to tell people that I've got cancer. It's even more glaring now that I am regularly wearing hats and scarves to cover my head. But the thing is, I am not embarrassed that I had to shave my head a few weeks ago. In fact, it's been quite freeing! My morning routine has been cut in half and I don't have to worry about bad hair days anymore.
 
So a note to those to have or will cross paths with me: You don't have to feel sorry for me. I know the look of pity as people register that I am young and battling cancer. It's sad and hard sometimes, that's for sure. Yet I have hope. I caught this early enough that the prognosis is very good. I pray each day not only for myself or my own family, but for everyone who is battling an illness alongside their friends, family, and loved ones. The greatest gift is knowing that I do not travel on this path alone. 

That's all the reassurance I need for now.

Sunday's Minute for Mission - Older Adults

It’s time to reread John 15:1–8 to remind us of who and whose we are. One of the privileges of becoming older and gaining wisdom is to reflect on and share what God has done in our lives. God is with us in the good times as well as the challenging times of life. It is up to us to continue to spread the good news!
One of the joys of becoming older and wiser is the recognition that God is with us—all the time. God knows us inside and out, and as we mature we have the privilege of growing in this awareness of being known—and loved.
It is important for us to share our story. Passing on our experience to other generations spreads the good news and helps others get through some difficult times.
As God relates to us and we share the fruit of this relationship with others, we keep God’s story—and ours—going.
The good news continues—through sharing. This In sharing your stories, be sure to take time to smell the flowers.
Peace and love be with each of you.
Helen Morrison, elder, Grosse Ile Presbyterian Church, Michigan

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 30, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 30, 2015: Today our passages are Judges 11:1–12:15; John 1:1-28; Psalm 101:1-8; and Proverbs 14:13-14. The readings are the Conte...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, May 3, 2015 (T...

Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, May 3, 2015 (T...: Below are NRSV translations of the lessons from the Psalms (Psalm 22:25-31), the Letters (Acts 8:26–40; 1 John 4:7-21), and the Gospels (Joh...

From Presbyterian Disaster Assistance - Nepal Earthquake April 2015

Nepal earthquake damage
A man walks on top of debris from collapsed monuments in Basantapur in Central Kathmandu — Juliette Rousselot/IRIN

Situation

Thousands are dead or injured from the massive earthquake and aftershocks that shook Nepal and neighboring countries on April 25th. The quake, the worst in more than 80 years, struck just west of the capital of Kathmandu and destroyed towns and mountainous villages.  The government of Nepal has officially requested international assistance and declared a state of emergency.

 PDA Response

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance's (PDA) is providing emergency aid through our partnership with ACT Alliance. Members of ACT Alliance which have been working in Nepal for several years are on the ground and already working to assist many who have survived the quake, by distributing immediate life-saving supplies such as water, food, shelter and medication.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 29, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 29, 2015: Today our passages are Judges 9:22–10:18; Luke 24:13-53; Psalm 100:1-5; and Proverbs 14:11-12. The readings are the Con...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – Joy in the Balance

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) and a podcast on the church page at Cove Presbyterian Podbean page.

Luke 6:17-26

Then he looked up at his disciples and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
          for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now,
          for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
          for you will laugh.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich,
          for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you who are full now,
          for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who are laughing now,
          for you will mourn and weep.
“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”

Joy in the Balance

I’ve got to tell you, I find these blessings and woes very uncomfortable. Well, to be honest, it’s not the blessings that cause me the most concerns; it’s the woes. Those are the ones I don’t like. I mean, although I might question whether or not certain individuals who are living in poverty, hunger and pain deserve to be blessed, you see, they may just be lying in the bed which they made, I don’t have a major problem with them getting things a little better in the future, just so long as I also get what I think I deserve. And that’s what makes the “woes” so tough to stomach. I mean, in my mind, why should the rich and the full, the laughing and the appreciated, why should they face tough times down the road, especially when those who may not have earned it during their lives are promised to be blessed. And since I think my current life is closer to rich, full and laughing than poor, hungry and weeping, this seems grossly unfair. At least it is in my world.

But you know, that just may be Jesus’s point. In our world, being poor and hungry, sad and hated, that’s bad while the opposite is true for the rich, full, happy and praised. But the Kingdom of God is different, because it represents the rule of a God who shows justice and who values equity, in other words, who just might balance the scales. And even though those of us who are already blessed may find this uncomfortable, even unfair, I just wonder how our lives might change, if we could find a sense of joy in the balance.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 28, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 28, 2015: Today our passages are Judges 8:18–9:21; Luke 23:44–24:12; Psalm 99:1-9; and Proverbs 14:9-10. The readings are the Con...

Monday, April 27, 2015

Two Ridge's Worship Service - The Fourth Sunday of Easter (Acts 4:5-12)

Below is a copy of the Sunday worship I led in Two Ridges Presbyterian Church, Wintersville, Ohio, on Sunday, April 26.

4th Sunday of Easter
April 26, 2015

Prelude

Welcome - Announcements

Introit

Call to Worship
Leader: The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
People: He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.
Leader: He leads me in the right paths for his name's sake.
People: Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staffCthey comfort me.
Leader: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
People: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

Gathering Hymn: "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need"

Prayer of Confession:
Almighty God, we confess that we've sinned against you.  We believe that you offer a constant source of strength and support. And yet, when times become difficult and we most need you, we look to other places for help.  As a result, we struggle more than necessary.  Merciful Lord, forgive us and help us remember that through the name of Jesus Christ, there's wholeness. - Amen.

Time for Personal Confession:

Words of Assurance

 Gloria Patri


The Word

Prayer for Illumination
Father, open our ears so that we might hear.  Soften our hearts so that we might feel.  And guide our wills so that we might respond - Amen.

Anthem

Scripture Lesson:  Acts 4:5-12

Sermon: "A Word for the Weak"  
                     
Hymn: "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name!"

Sharing of Joys and Concerns

Pastoral Prayer/Lord's Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever - Amen.

Presentation of Tithes and Offerings

Offertory  
     
Doxology

Offertory Prayer
We offer these gifts that your kingdom may take shape here on earth, and that we may also be shaped in the giving by the One whose very life is a gift to us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Departing Hymn: “At the Name of Jesus"

Benediction

Choral Response

Postlude

Cove's Worship Service - The Fourth Sunday of Easter (Acts 4:5-12)

Below is a copy of the service I led in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia, on Sunday, April 26. You can also find a podcast of this service at The Cove Podbean page.

The Order of Worship
The Fourth Sunday of Easter – April 26, 2015 

The Greeting and Announcements


Enter Worship with Praise

Entry of the Word : “This is the Day that  the Lord Has Made”

Praising God Through Song
Hymn: “Join All the Glorious Names”
Hymn: “His Name Is Wonderful”
Our Song for the Children: “Jesus Loves the Little Ones”

Approach God with Humility and Thanks

A Special Time for Children

The Choir Offering Praise through Music: “Come Thou Font of Every Blessing”

Our Congregational Prayer, followed by The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.

Our Song Glorifying God: Gloria Patri

Giving Back to God: “Song of Trust”

Song of Praise: Doxology

Our Prayer of Thanks and Dedication

Affirming Our Faith: From The Heidelberg Catechism
Leader:  Why is the Son of God called JESUS, which means SAVIOR?
People: Because he saves us from our sins, and because salvation is to be sought or found in no other. 
Leader: Why is he called CHRIST, that is, the ANOINTED ONE?
People: Because he is ordained by God the Father and anointed with the Holy Spirit to be our chief Prophet and Teacher, fully revealing to us the secret purpose and will of God concerning our redemption; to be our only High Priest, having redeemed us by the one sacrifice of his body and ever interceding for us with the Father; and to be our eternal King, governing us by his Word and Spirit, and defending and sustaining us in the redemption he has won for us. 
Leader: But why are you called a Christian?
People: Because through faith I share in Christ and thus in his anointing, so that I may confess his name, offer myself a living sacrifice of gratitude to him, and fight against sin and the devil with a free and good conscience throughout this life and hereafter rule with him in eternity over all creatures. 

Hear the Word with Understanding


The Word Read: Acts 4:5-12
And it happened on the following day, their rulers and the elders and the scribes gathered in Jerusalem, and Annas, the chief priest, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander and those who were from the high priestly family, and after having them sit in their midst, they began to ask questions, “By what kind of power or in whose name do you yourselves do this?” Then Peter, because he was filled with Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we’re today questioned concerning the good work we did for the person who was weak, by what means was he made whole, let it be known to all of you and all the people of Israel that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you yourselves crucified, whom God raised from death, by this one does he stand before you well. He is
the stone, the thing that was treated with contempt by you who are the builders,
it has become the cornerstone.
And there is in no one else wholeness, for neither is there any other name under heaven which has been given to humanity by which we must be made whole.”

The Word Proclaimed: A Word to the Weak

Leave Worship with Joy

Hymn: “Take the Name of Jesus with You”

Charge and Blessing

Congregational Response    

Sunday’s Sermon – A Word to the Weak

Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. in Two Ridges Presbyterian Church, Wintersville, Ohio, and at 11:00 a.m. in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. You can also find a podcast of this sermon on The Cove Podbean page.

Acts 4:5-12

And it happened on the following day, their rulers and the elders and the scribes gathered in Jerusalem, and Annas, the chief priest, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander and those who were from the high priestly family, and after having them sit in their midst, they began to ask questions, “By what kind of power or in whose name do you yourselves do this?”

Then Peter, because he was filled with Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we’re today questioned concerning the good work we did for the person who was weak, by what means was he made whole, let it be known to all of you and all the people of Israel that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you yourselves crucified, whom God raised from death, by this one does he stand before you well. He is the stone, the thing that was treated with contempt by you who are the builders, it has become the cornerstone. And there is in no one else wholeness, for neither is there any other name under heaven which has been given to humanity by which we must be made whole.”

A Word to the Weak

A couple of weeks ago I attended what I think you could call a rough meeting, one where people seemed to do a lot of griping and complaining and where, I’ve got to tell you, accusations and sarcasm flowed like beer at a fraternity kegger. Man, it was a trip. But just so that nobody get’s the wrong idea, it didn’t happen in nor did it involve anything related to the church; therefore, Praise the Lord, I wasn’t the focus of the griping and the complaining, the accusations and sarcasm. For me, well, it was like being on vacation, because all I had to do was sit back and watch the show.

Anyway, after it was over, I was talking to a guy I’ve gotten to know a little bit and we were discussing what had just happened. And as we were talking, he said that he’d gone to high school with one of the people who seemed most fired up and then he told me to be very careful in confiding with her, because she generally does whatever she needs to do, you know, to get her way. And then he winked and sort of lifted his head and said, “A word to the wise.”

Of course, I understood what he was talking about. That’s an old saying I’ve heard before. In fact, I think Ben Franklin, a remarkably handsome guy who looks nothing like me, I believe he wrote it in one of his essays. I think he said, “A word to the wise is sufficient,” but I don’t think he was the first to say it. And the meaning is fairly clear; you really only have to hint at something for a wise person to understand. They just don’t need long explanations. In fact, it’s like that old Monty Python skit when Eric Idle says to a confused Terry Jones: “Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink. Say no more.” You see, a word to the wise really is sufficient.

But even though that’s pretty good, I’ll tell you, this morning, I think I’ve got something even better. I mean, I’ve got an actual word to give you, but it’s not limited to just the wise, something for which, I can tell you, I’m personally grateful. You see, it’s a word that can do the same kind of thing Frank Castanza said about Festivus; it’s a word for “the rest of us”; in fact, it’s a word that’s used three times in the passage we just read and one that I think may be particularly important when we’re not feeling very strong and together.

And I’ve got to tell y’all, that’s really good news, because I don’t know about y’all, but for me, well, there are a lot more times I feel powerless and ineffective and just plain weak than I do wise. But I don’t really think I’m the exception to the rule. As a matter of fact, from time to time, I think most of us feel a little bit on the weak side, and for good reason. My goodness, we look at our past, you know, all mistakes we’ve made, all those stupid comments that we can’t unsay and ridiculous actions that we can’t undo, and that doesn’t include all the stuff we could’ve said or could’ve done but didn’t. I’ll tell you, some times I think about the past and it sure seems like too much water’s gone under that bridge or maybe better, over the dam. And as to the future, well, sometimes that seems like a pretty scary place, doesn’t it: with ISIS and Al Qaeda, with global warming and shrinking ice caps, with drone strikes and car bombs. And I haven’t even mentioned the really important stuff, like receding hairlines, expanding waists and a daughter who wants to attend Princeton. You tell me that the future’s not scary. And you know, when you combine that with the weight we carry from the past, no wonder we feel tired and weary, no wonder we feel ridden hard and put away wet, no wonder we feel less wise and a whole lot more weak.

But I’ll tell you, it’s when we feel like this, you know, when we’re not sure we can take another step forward, it’s at those times we need to remember one simple, four letter word that I believe will make all the difference, and here it is (I think we need a little drum roll). The word is σῴζω. We need to remember the word σῴζω. There you have it. Go in peace. Have a great day. Now, before anybody starts doing the stuff I remember from the meeting I attended a couple of weeks ago, don’t worry if you don’t know what the word means. And let me be clear, it doesn’t refer to a brand of detergent from the fifties.

Instead it’s a Greek word used three times in what we read from Acts, and even though I translated it in the passage, I want to take a half step back, because I’ll tell you, it can actually have three different meanings, all of which are important to us right now. I mean, first, σῴζω can be translated “healing,” you know, like from a disease or a condition that you’re carrying from the past, something that’s really weighing you down. For example, it’s the word Jesus used when he said to “...the woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years” and who fought her way through the crowd to touch his robe; remember he said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” You see, σῴζω can refer to a physical healing. But it’s also the word that can be  translated “save” or “salvation.” Now that’s a second meaning. And when it involves being saved, it’s always used in the future tense, you know, referring to something God was going to accomplish, like Peter said at Pentecost, “Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” or Paul and Silas said to jailor, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And then third, σῴζω can be translated “made whole.” Now that’s how I translated it in the passage we just read, something that I think is focused more on what’s happening right now than either the past or the future. But, understand, these are all valid translations, reflecting three different dimensions of that single Greek word.

But you know, it doesn’t matter whether your talking about being healed from something you acquired in the past or being saved sometime in the future or experiencing a sense of wholeness right now, σῴζω comes from the same source. It always comes from Jesus Christ, at least that’s how it’s used in Luke and Acts. It did before his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, and it continued to come from him through those who were doing their work in his name. I mean, just like Peter said in the passage we read a little while ago, “And there is in no one else wholeness, for neither is there any other name under heaven which has been given to humanity by which we must be made whole.” You see, σῴζω, healing, salvation, wholeness comes through Jesus Christ, and this is something we’re going to see when we believe, when we trust that it’ll happen.

And I’ve got to tell you, this can make an enormous difference as we go about living our lives especially when we feel weak. For example, as we look to the past, in the sight of God, we’ve been healed. We’ve been healed from the mistakes and missteps, we been healed from the sarcasm and insensitivity, I’m telling you, through Jesus Christ, we’ve been healed from that nonsense we’ve done and left undone. And even if we may still face some of the consequences, from God’s perspective we’ve been forgiven, we’ve been freed, we’ve been healed. As the prophet Isaiah wrote, “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Man, that’s a done deal; therefore, if we allow the past to hold us back and deny us a sense of peace that comes from believing that God has already done what he promised to do, if that’s the case with us, well we may have a problem with faith, not fact, because believe the word of God, we’ve been healed.

But of course, that’s not all, we’re also going to be saved. You see, a time is coming, when God is going to change everything. Just like Paul wrote to the Romans, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” I’m telling you, salvation is on the horizon, and we can trust that it applies to us because, again as Paul wrote, we believe that “nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Our destiny is in his loving and merciful hands; therefore, we can feel genuine confidence as we move into the future, because we’re going to be saved.

And right now, right now as we do the best we can with what we’ve got, right now as we claim a past that’s been cleansed and a future that’s secure, well, right now we can believe that we’ve truly been made whole. And even though that doesn’t give us a pass on the problems and pain that everybody has to face from time to time, it does give us a source of strength and maybe even patience as we go about living our lives. You see, I believe our attitude will change, when we remember we’ve been healed, will be saved, and are whole, in other words, when we remember the word σῴζω.

Now, I’m glad that guy after the meeting shared his little warning, because I’ve got to tell you, the last thing I need is more grief in my life. Man, I’ve got a thirteen year old daughter and a wife who loves QVC. And since I got the hint, I guess in this situation, I displayed some intelligence. I picked up his word to the wise. But you know, more important than that is the word which Peter used three times in the passage we read a little while ago. I mean, since we all can feel burdened by the past and scared by the future and tired in the present, I think it’s important to remember a word that reflects the healing and salvation and wholeness that God has given and will give to us through Jesus Christ, three things that can offer peace as we look to the past and confidence as we move into the future and strength as we live right now. You see, we can remember σῴζω, a wonderful word to not just the wise, but maybe more importantly, also to the weak.

From Presbyterian Disaster Assistance - Nepal Earthquake April 2015

Situation

An earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter Scale struck west of the ancient Nepali capital of Kathmandu, Pokhara; It is the most powerful earthquake to hit the region in 81 years. The death toll from the quake has risen to more than 970 and is rising further. Humanitarian staff and officials are also affected.

PDA Response

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance's (PDA) partner ACT Alliance and ACT members on the ground will continue to coordinate with relevant government institutions, UN agencies, and International NGOs. Access to information is limited, due to the destruction of communications channels. It is expected that more concrete information on the scale of the disaster, number of people affected and the immediate needs will be available after ACT members in Nepal meet tomorrow (Sunday 26 April) to initiate a joint rapid assessment and emergency response plan. 

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 27, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 27, 2015: Today our passages are Judges 7:1–8:17; Luke 23:13-43; Psalm 97:1–98:9; and Proverbs 14:7-8. The readings are the Contem...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 26, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 26, 2015: Today our passages are Judges 6:1-40; Luke 22:54–23:12; Psalm 95:1–96:13; and Proverbs 14:5-6. The readings are the Cont...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – The Demands of New Wine

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) and a podcast on the church page at Cove Presbyterian Podbean page.

Luke 5:36-39

He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’”

The Demands of New Wine

Although I’m not a wine drinker, from what I understand, wine that’s aged is generally considered superior to wine that’s new. I guess it has something to do with the fermentation process. Wine that’s new still has some fermenting to do before it’s considered good. And I think that’s why Jesus said that you can’t put new wine in old wine skins. I mean, once the leather has lost it’s elasticity, it’s not able to expand as the wine ferments. And instead of having good wine, you end up with a broken skin and a mess on the floor. But it’s interesting, once fermented, old wine doesn’t need to be stored in old skins. If necessary, it can be poured into the new skins without much problem at all, while keeping the quality it’s acquired over time.

Of course, when Jesus offered this illustration he wasn’t talking about the wine-making business. No, we was talking about what he was going to leave after his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. You see, for two thousand years, the church has been in the business of taking people and helping them grow into the Christians God has called them to be. And the church has done that by using images that are meaningful to them so that they can understand the faith and respond to the call. Now, to do that, the church needs to be open to change. I mean, what worked in the past may not work now any more than old wine skins can hold new wine. In other words, the body of Christ needs to be flexible as it does it’s work in a changing world. And even though those who are older and more mature may prefer the old and established ways, I think it’s important for them to embrace and participate in the new approaches and structures. You see, unless we recognize the demands of new wine and decide to provide a place for it to ferment and mature, they’ll be no old wine in the future. And remember, it’s the old that’s good.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 25, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 25, 2015: Today our passages are Judges 4:1–5:31; Luke 22:35-53; Psalm 94:1-23; and Proverbs 14:3-4. The readings are the Contempo...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Prayer Requests, to be shared during Sunday’s worship service

On Sunday, April 26, Cove Presbyterian Church will lift to God the following needs.

Adults
Andy DiRemigio
Annette Goff
Audrey Vincent
Barbara Maze
Beatrice Sobolak
Betty Michael
Betty Potts
Bill Manley
Carol Mowl
Chad Wilson
Cindi Livingston
Concordia Poblete Nazaire
Corinne Ferguson
Darcy Keffer
Dave Rogerson
David Mowl
Deloris Chesebro
Dennis Wayne Allen
Dick Spencer
Edward Morgan III
Emery Edwards
Emmy Martinez
Evan Pulice
Gen Meyer
George Bownlee
Goldie Baly
Greta Billham
Jeff Grant
Jen's Mom
Jim & Shelley Pearson
Jo Magnone
Joanie Lawrence
John Guglielmo
John Philips
John Schlotter
Jonathan Smith
Judy Edmonds
Karen Lombardi
Kelly Stephens
Laurie Lehman
Lindy Starck
Lou Ann Seevers
Marcia Cooper
Martha Meadows
Marybeth Lewis
Matthew Kirtley
Michael Frank
Mike Churchman
Mitch Baltich
M'Liz Held
Nick Mourat
Olivia Young & family
Patty Notte
Paul D. Welch
Peggy Stewart
Penny Mourat
Phyllis Manley
Randy Willson
Rob Roy Jones
Robert Hans
Ron Neely
Ronnie Buffington
Rose Bell
Sam Fortunato
Sharon Wheeler
Shirley Everhart Kirtley
Stacy Jo Vogel
Sue Marsh
Susie Kurcina
Vicki Williams
Wink Harner

Children
Aksel Ace
Audri King
Basil Collen Slater
Ella Marsh
Daniel Marchione
Devon Bragg
Jeffrey Konovich
Jonathan Marte
Kade Haines
Kya Schwertfeger
Leyton Burket
Lily Ghrist
Lucian Hill
Michael Liptak
Shelby Kamarec

Military
Cory Shumard
Isaac Stephens
Jason Kerr
Jonathan Criss
Lisa Burk
Michael Criss

In the Hospital
Penny Mourat – Weirton Medical Center
Nick Mourat – Weirton Medical Center
Betty Morgan – Weirton Medical Center
Greta Billham – Weirton Medical Center

Church Families
Craig, Dawn, Ethan & Tyler Trushel
Kim Trushel & Taelor Costello
Mark & Barbara Trushel

Local Church
First Christian Church

Special Friend
Ila Mauk – 1234 Swearingen Rd., Weirton, WV  26062-4331

Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery Congregations
Evangelism/New Church Development – Rev. Sam Gibb, Chairperson
Permanent Judicial Commission

Also Remember in Your Prayers
Alice & Kenny Orr – Weirton Geriatric Center, 2525 Pennsylvania Ave., Weirton, WV  26062
Corinne Ferguson – Woodland Hills, 608 North 10th St., Weirton, WV  26062
Dolores Edwards – Wyngate, 100 Wyngate Dr., Weirton, WV  26062
Eleanor Dueley – Brightwood Center, 840 Lee Ridge Rd., Follansbee, WV  26037
Harry Hutch – Villa Vista, Room 507, 1800 Sinclair Ave., Steubenville, OH  43953
June Virtue – Grace Cottage, 195 Eden Dr., Weirton, WV  26062-3664
Margaret Heaton – Weirton Geriatric Center, 2525 Pennsylvania Ave., Weirton, WV  26062

What's Happening at Cove Presbyterian Church?

Below are the announcements as they appear in Sunday's bulletin.

CHANCEL CHOIR PRACTICE . . .
is being held at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings in the choir room.  Anyone wishing to praise God through song is welcome to join us!

DON'T FORGET SUNDAY SCHOOL  . . .
we meet every Sunday morning at 9:45 a.m.

OUR NURSERY FOR CHILDREN . . .
(infant thru five years) is open during Sunday School and the Worship Service. We still need some volunteer help.  We thank those of you in advance who help to care for the future members of our Cove Family.

OUR TUESDAY EVENING STUDY . . .
will  meet  on Tuesday, April 28, at 6:30 p.m. to continue our study of the Gospel of Mark. During this session, we'll discuss Mark 13:1-37. And so bring your Bibles and get ready to grow in your understanding of God's word to us.

RE-ENROLL - P L E A S E  . . .
in KROGER COMMUNITY REWARDS PROGRAM to continue earning money for Cove Church. The current enrollment period ends April 30th. If you are registered, the bottom of your sales receipt will read - You requested Kroger to donate to COVE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.  Thank you one and all for your continued support!! If you have any questions, please contact the church office.

JOURNEY OF THE CARE GIVER. . .
is the theme of the World Day of Prayer sponsored by Church Women United. The event  will be held on Friday, May 1 beginning at 10:00 a.m. at Oakland Presbyterian Church.

DEACONS  FLEA MARKET & BAKE SALE. . .
will be held next  Saturday, May 2.  Please have all donations to the church by Thursday, April 30. If you need to arrange for a pick-up please call the church office. All usable "treasures" will be gladly accepted- housewares, figurines, books, small appliances, children's toys, children's clothes and furniture. Please no computers or televisions as those items do not sell.  If you like to bake, please consider making a delicacy for the bake sale.

MAY BOARD MEETINGS . . .
The Deacons will meet on Monday, May 4 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room.
The Trustees will meet on Monday, May 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room.
The Board of Session will meet on Sunday, May 17 after the morning worship service.

MISSION JOURNEYS . . .
is the title of the program that Shirley DeLuca will present to the Myrtle McHendry Class on Tuesday, May 5th, 2015. The program will begin at 12:30 p.m. in fellowship hall with a short business meeting.   A salad smorgasbord will be served.

SPRING CLEAN-UP . . .
for the grounds of the church will be held on Saturday, May 9 beginning at 8:30 a.m. We ask that you please consider giving a little of your time- even an hour - to help spruce up the exterior area of "your church".

PRAYER BOXES. . .
we ask that you please return your Lenten prayer boxes to the basket on the table in the narthex.

MISSING ANYTHING . . .
a jacket, sweatshirt, hat, dishes, or kitchen containers? Please check the main hallway downstairs or the pantry in the kitchen for the item. There have been a number of items left at the church.  If the items are not claimed, they will be donated to the Deacons' Flea Market.

A MEMBER OF OUR CHURCH FAMILY NEEDS OUR HELP. . .
Please let us know if you're able to do some light housework and offer personal help to a part of our congregation who needs our assistance.

NOTE THE CHANGE IN OUR OFFICE HOURS. . .
the church office will be open Monday thru Thursday from 7:30 a.m. till 1:30 p.m.  The office will now be closed on Fridays.

A SPIRITUAL MESSAGE . . .
can be found by calling 304-748-7900 Cove's Prayer Line. You can call at anytime to hear a message by Rev. Rudiger. The messages are changed every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  You can also hear the devotion at covepresbyterian.podbean.com and iTunes (search Cove Presbyterian). You can also read the devotion at www.thecovecommunity.blogspot.com.

WE WILL BE UPDATING OUR PRAYER CHAIN . . .
regularly. If you wish to add someone to the prayer chain contact the church office.

THE CELEBRATION OF A CHURCH ANNIVERSARY . . .
is significant because of its threefold impact: It expresses gratitude to God, appreciates members for their diligence and hard work, and looks toward the future.  The Board of Elders is seeking volunteers for the 225th anniversary celebration committee to include members who have abilities and interests in worship, publicity, and organization.  Let us seize the opportunity to gather the members of our congregation to celebrate God's faithfulness to our church and together step forward in faith.  Please contact the church office if you are interested in participating on the committee.  Celebrating God, recounting His blessings, and renewing Christian fellowship — that's a recipe for a great 225th anniversary celebration.

GREETERS NEEDED . . .
if you would like to serve as a greeter before a Sunday morning worship service, please contact Bonnie Nichols at 304-723-5134.

SERMONS, DEVOTIONS, LESSONS, AND ESSAYS ARE AVAILABLE ON . . .
the Cove PodBean page (covepresbyterian.podbean.com) and iTunes (search Cove Presbyterian).

WE ARE BLOGGING!
We now have eight blogs that you can check out for information and on which you can leave comments. They're listed below:
The Cove Community (www.thecovecommunity.blogspot.com) - This is for the whole church. I'll post sermons and announcements. I also Invite y'all to send in material that you'd like to share with other members of the congregation. And please feel free to comment on anything you might read.
Cove Kids (www.covekids.blogspot.com) - This is tailored for the preteen young people in our church. Again I'll post announcements. You're also invited to send in any writings, photographs and art work you'd like to post. And they don't have to deal with the church. We also post artwork from Jesus Time.
Bible Talk (www.cove-bibletalk.blogspot.com) - We've established this blog to give pastors and lay people the chance to discuss Scripture. The weekly passages are from the Common Lectionary, and we're posting the pastor's translation of the  Greek text. We want you to read any or all of the passages and to leave any comment or ask any question that you feel is appropriate. Please include any research you've done. As we share our ideas and insights, we hope that we'll all come to a better and deeper understanding of the Bible. Each passage is linked to a website that offers some informative information.
The Bible in a Year (www.cove-bibleinayear.blogspot.com) - Each day, we'll post passages so that you can read the Bible in one year.
Living the Faith in the Real World (http://livingthefaithintherealworld. blogspot.com/) - Our beliefs shape both our opinions and actions. And even though that's true for everyone, often people of faith struggle to apply their understanding of the divine to both practical and political issues. This becomes particularly challenging when we hear multiple voices, all claiming to represent the truth but coming to different conclusions. This Blog will provide a forum where we might share how our faith shapes our perspectives on some specific issues. We hope that through this sharing, we might all better understand how the sacred impacts the profane. We'll pose a question and invite you to respond. We only ask two things of you. First, we ask that you avoid profanity and demeaning language. Second, we want you to write the truth as you see it.
The Question of Faith (http://thequestionoffaith.blogspot.com/) - I believe that there are basic ideas that all people of faith share, but once you get below those "basics," there are many different ways to understand God and our relationship with the divine. Even within Christianity, Christians disagree about the nature of God, the identity and work of Jesus Christ, and how we might or should respond to his coming. As a matter of fact, some people consider certain things absolutely essential to the Christian faith while other believers are indifferent to the same ideas and actions. We hope this Blog provides us the opportunity to share and to understand better what we believe. We'll offer a question, and you'll have the chance to respond. And even though many of the questions will be distinctively Christian, we hope that you'll still share your insight even if it's from other faith traditions.
O, That's Interesting! (http://cove-talk.blogspot.com/) - The great thing about being part of a community is that you have the chance to share with other folks. Now, there are times when you're dealing with matters of great weight. But other times you may be talking about general plans, special memories, and personal hopes. Through this site, we hope to encourage you to share your thoughts and feelings on a variety of topics that may be meaningful to you. We hope you see this Blog like a water cooler or a kitchen table, in other words, as a place to share.
Growing in Grace (http://sproutsoffaith.blogspot.com/) - Although we're saved by God's grace, we can grow in our understanding of grace. At Cove Presbyterian Church, we offer a variety of different classes for children and adults, many of which are recorded and the podcasts posted on our PodBean (covepresbyterian). In this Blog, we'll offer the link to the podcast and notes from the particular session. You may also ask any question you might have and enter into a discussion with others.

IF YOU'RE ONLINE...
"like" us on Facebook (Cove Presbyterian Church,  https://www.facebook .com/Covepresbyterian) or join our Facebook group (The Cove Community, https://www.facebook.com/groups/115579235630/). You can also connect with Pastor Rudiger on Instagram (rev_ed).

IN THE HOSPITAL? HOMEBOUND? RECENT ILLNESS?
if you know of someone who is in the hospital please contact the church office, due to privacy laws the hospital is unable to contact us. If you are unable to attend services and would like to arrange for a visit from Rev. Ed Rudiger or to receive communion please contact the church office. Also if you would like to receive the Sunday Bulletin contact the church office.

LOOSE CHANGE OFFERING . . .
Session approved the Deacons collecting a "Loose Change Offering" that will be used to assist the Deacons with their utility assistance outreach program for Weirton residents or Cove Church members. We hope church members can help with the assistance program by donating some of their spare change. A container is  in the Narthex for your contribution. The Deacons thank you for your support of their projects.

IF YOU DON'T PLAN TO TAKE YOUR BULLETIN HOME . . .
drop it in the purple container at the back door so that it can be recycled.

VASES OF FLOWERS. . .
can be purchased for a service. The cost is  $16.00 a vase.  You may also purchase silk flowers or live plants, the choice is yours.  You may  telephone the church office to place your order. After the service, the flowers will be placed in a plastic vase for you to take with you.

ONGOING MISSION PROJECTS . . .
Campbell's Labels are being collected by the Presbyterian Women for the Weirton Christian Center.  The labels including the bar code or just the bar code can be dropped off in the container located in the main  hallway downstairs.
Greeting Cards are being collected. Please drop off your used Greeting Cards or just the front of the card in the box located in the main hallway downstairs. The cards are being sent to St. Jude's  Ranch to be remade into cards to be sold in their gift shop.  FYI . . . Hallmark, Disney or American Greeting Cards can not be accepted as they are trade marked.
Can Tabs are being collected for the Ronald McDonald House in Morgantown, West Virginia. Deposit your tabs in the container locate in the main hallway downstairs.

Friday's Essay - Considering the Belhar Confession

Although the recent changes in the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), The Book of Order, has gotten a lot of press and caused a rumbling throughout the church, yesterday something happened that may be even more significant but that most people probably won't notice. You see, while many Presbyterians have been focused on marriage, the presbyteries in our denomination voted to add the Confession of Belhar to The Book of Confessions. The final step in this process will be a vote at the 222nd General Assembly (2016) meeting June 18–25 in Portland, Oregon. 

Now that's what happened, and even though debating the nature and meaning of Christian marriage may be more exciting if not divisive, this addition is also extremely important. For example, when deacons, ruling elders and teaching elders are ordained, they're asked a number of questions, including the following:
Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions as you lead the people of God?
The Confession of Belhar may soon be included in what they're asked to receive and adopt as an essential tenet of the Reformed faith. And as those who worship with us at Cove Presbyterian Church know, during our Sunday worship service, we reaffirm what we believe by reading a portion from one of our confessions. Once included in The Book of Confessions, we'll read from Belhar just like we do from Heidelberg, Westminster and Barmen. 

And so, for those reasons, I think it's important for us to know a little bit about this statement of faith. Therefore, below I've included the following:

  1. A Copy of the Confession of Belhar
  2. An article outlining a little of it's background from Wikipedia
  3. The contents of a pamphlet published by the PC(USA) responding to some questions you might have
I hope you find this material helpful. In fact, this could lead to a deeper discussion of what we believe as Christians who use Reformed Theology to interpret our faith.



Confession of Belhar

We believe in the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects and cares for the church through Word and Spirit. This, God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end.

We believe in one holy, universal Christian church, the communion of saints called from the entire human family. 

We believe
  • that Christ’s work of reconciliation is made manifest in the church as the community of believers who have been reconciled with God and with one another;
  • that unity is, therefore, both a gift and an obligation for the church of Jesus Christ; that through the working of God’s Spirit it is a binding force, yet simultaneously a reality which must be earnestly pursued and sought: one which the people of God must continually be built up to attain;
  • that this unity must become visible so that the world may believe that separation, enmity and hatred between people and groups is sin which Christ has already conquered, and accordingly that anything which threatens this unity may have no place in the church and must be resisted;
  • that this unity of the people of God must be manifested and be active in a variety of ways: in that we love one another; that we experience, practice and pursue community with one another; that we are obligated to give ourselves willingly and joyfully to be of benefit and blessing to one another; that we share one faith, have one calling, are of one soul and one mind; have one God and Father, are filled with one Spirit, are baptized with one baptism, eat of one bread and drink of one cup, confess one name, are obedient to one Lord, work for one cause, and share one hope; together come to know the height and the breadth and the depth of the love of Christ; together are built up to the stature of Christ, to the new humanity; together know and bear one another’s burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ that we need one another and upbuild one another, admonishing and comforting one another; that we suffer with one another for the sake of righteousness; pray together; together serve God in this world; and together fight against all which may threaten or hinder this unity;
  • that this unity can be established only in freedom and not under constraint; that the variety of spiritual gifts, opportunities, backgrounds, convictions, as well as the various languages and cultures, are by virtue of the reconciliation in Christ, opportunities for mutual service and enrichment within the one visible people of God;
  • that true faith in Jesus Christ is the only condition for membership of this church; 
Therefore, we reject any doctrine
  • which absolutizes either natural diversity or the sinful separation of people in such a way that this absolutization hinders or breaks the visible and active unity of the church, or even leads to the establishment of a separate church formation;
  • which professes that this spiritual unity is truly being maintained in the bond of peace while believers of the same confession are in effect alienated from one another for the sake of diversity and in despair of reconciliation;
  • which denies that a refusal earnestly to pursue this visible unity as a priceless gift is sin;
  • which explicitly or implicitly maintains that descent or any other human or social factor should be a consideration in determining membership of the church.
We believe
  • that God has entrusted the church with the message of reconciliation in and through Jesus Christ; that the church is called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, that the church is called blessed because it is a peacemaker, that the church is witness both by word and by deed to the new heaven and the new earth in which righteousness dwells.
  • that God's lifegiving Word and Spirit has conquered the powers of sin and death, and therefore also of irreconciliation and hatred, bitterness and enmity, that God's lifegiving Word and Spirit will enable the church to live in a new obedience which can open new possibilities of life for society and the world;
  • that the credibility of this message is seriously affected and its beneficial work obstructed when it is proclaimed in a land which professes to be Christian, but in which the enforced separation of people on a racial basis promotes and perpetuates alienation, hatred and enmity;
  • that any teaching which attempts to legitimate such forced separation by appeal to the gospel, and is not prepared to venture on the road of obedience and reconciliation, but rather, out of prejudice, fear, selfishness and unbelief, denies in advance the reconciling power of the gospel, must be considered ideology and false doctrine.
Therefore, we reject any doctrine
  • which, in such a situation sanctions in the name of the gospel or of the will of God the forced separation of people on the grounds of race and color and thereby in advance obstructs and weakens the ministry and experience of reconciliation in Christ.
We believe
  • that God has revealed himself as the one who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people;
  • that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged
  • that God calls the church to follow him in this; for God brings justice to the oppressed and gives bread to the hungry;
  • that God frees the prisoner and restores sight to the blind;
  • that God supports the downtrodden, protects the stranger, helps orphans and widows and blocks the path of the ungodly;
  • that for God pure and undefiled religion is to visit the orphans and the widows in their suffering;
  • that God wishes to teach the church to do what is good and to seek the right;
  • that the church must therefore stand by people in any form of suffering and need, which implies, among other things, that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream;
  • that the church as the possession of God must stand where the Lord stands, namely against injustice and with the wronged; that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others.
Therefore, we reject any ideology
  • which would legitimate forms of injustice and any doctrine which is unwilling to resist such an ideology in the name of the gospel.
We believe that, in obedience to Jesus Christ, its only head, the church is called to confess and to do all these things, even though the authorities and human laws might forbid them and punishment and suffering be the consequence.

Jesus is Lord.
To the one and only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be the honor and the glory for ever and ever.

Note
This is a translation of the original Afrikaans text of the confession as it was adopted by the synod of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in South Africa in 1986. In 1994 the Dutch Reformed Mission Church and the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa united to form the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA). This inclusive language text was prepared by the Office of Theology and Worship, Presbyterian Church (USA).



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Belhar Confession (Afrikaans: Belydenis van Belhar) is a Christian statement of belief originally written in Afrikaans in 1982. It was adopted (after a slight adjustment) as a confession of faith by the Dutch Reformed Mission Church (DRMC) in South Africa in 1986.

Themes in the Belhar Confession

According to the Belhar Confession, unity is both a gift and an obligation for the church.[1] This unity originally referred to non-segregation between Christians of different races, but after the formation of the URCSA in 1994, the word "unity" came to refer to administrative unity within the managerial structures of the URCSA.

Another key theme of the Belhar Confession is the dichotomy of reconciliation and the justice of God. According to the confession, God is the God of the destitute, the poor, and the wronged, and for this reason the church should stand by people in any form of suffering. It claims that individual, racial and social segregation is sin, and that all forms of segregation always lead to enmity and hatred.

Adoption by the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa 

The URCSA (United Reformed Church in Southern Africa) has made it a prerequisite for the DRCSA (Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa) to join the united denomination that all of its members adopt the Belhar Confession. Although the DRCSA is eager to join the new denomination, it has decided not to compel existing members to submit to the confession. The DRCSA had offered to compel only new members of the DRCSA to submit to the confession, and to request existing members to submit to it voluntarily, but this offer was rejected by the URCSA. The URCSA's position was that all members of the DRCSA should be required to swear that the Belhar Confession is true, or face expulsion from the denomination.

The DRCSA's opinion of the Belhar Confession had varied over the years. Initially, the DRCSA rejected the confession as being a political document or as a statement of Liberation Theology. Some time later the DRCSA acknowledged that the document's contents were true, with the proviso that references in the Belhar Confession to "the poor" not be regarded as an implicit reference to non-whites. At the 2011 meeting of the General Assembly of the DRCSA, it was decided that processes to make the Belhar Confession part of the confessional base of the DRCSA should be initiated by its leadership.

Adoption by non-South African churches

The Evangelical Reformed Church in Africa in Namibia (ERCA) adopted the Belhar Confession in 1997 and in so doing became the first non-South African Church which adopted the Belhar Confession. Apart from the URCSA, the Belhar Confession was also adopted by the United Protestant Church in Belgium in 1998.[2]

The Reformed Church in America (RCA) adopted the Belhar Confession as a fourth Standard of Unity (or confession; alongside the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort) at its 2010 meeting of the General Synod, having adopted it provisionally in 2007.[3]

The 2009 Synod of the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA) proposed to the 2012 Synod that the Belhar Confession be adopted as their fourth confession of faith.[4] Instead, the CRCNA created a new, less-binding category for the Belhar, and adopted it as an "Ecumenical Faith Declaration"[5]

The confession was also instrumental in the RCA's efforts to found the Reformed Church in the Dominican Republic.[6]

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) considered adopting the Belhar Confession. In 2008 a Committee from the 218th General Assembly requested that a committee begin the formal process of including the Belhar in its Book of Confessions.[7] That committee recommended adoption of the Belhar Confession to the 219th General Assembly in 2010.[8] The General Assembly approved the recommendation and referred adoption to a vote of the Presbyteries.[9] The Belhar Confession fell 8 votes short of the 116 necessary for adoption.[10] In 2012, the 220th General Assembly began this process anew,[11] and in 2014, the 221st General Assembly approved the new committee's recommendation to refer adoption to a new vote by the Presbyteries.[12]

References
[6] http://www.iglesiard.org/1b.html (page in Spanish)


Frequently Asked Questions about the Confession of Belhar


What is the Confession of Belhar?


The Confession of Belhar is a powerful confession of Christian faith that emerged in South Africa during the years of apartheid. It is named for the city in South Africa where it was first adopted. It is a statement that focuses on three themes, Unity, Reconciliation, and Justice, in a church environment where racial separation made it impossible for brothers and sisters in Christ to worship together or come to the Lord’s Table together Churches around the globe have recognized the power and theological insight of Belhar as an expression of Scriptural truth for their own contexts.

What is a confession and how does it function in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)?

THE PURPOSE OF CONFESSIONAL STATEMENTS
The Presbyterian Church (U.S A.) states its faith and bears witness to God’s grace in Jesus Christ in the creeds and confessions in The Book of Confessions. In these statements the church declares to its members and to the world who and what it is, what it believes, and what it resolves to do. These statements identify the church as a community of people known by its convictions as well as by its actions. They guide the church in its study and interpretation of the Scriptures; they summarize the essence of Reformed Christian tradition; they direct the church in maintaining sound doctrines; they equip the church for its work of proclamation. They serve to strengthen personal commitment and the life and witness of the community of believers. (Book of Order F-2.01)

Who wrote the Belhar Confession?

The Belhar Confession was originally adopted & the Dutch Reformed Mission Church as it protested the sin of apartheid. Just a few years later it became the confession of the Uniting Reformed Church of Southern Africa, the reunion of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church and the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa. The two principal authors were Russel Botman and Dirkie Smit.

Does Belhar focus primarily on the church’s unity or confessing Christ?

Belhar very clear proclaims the Lordship of Christ. The confusion begins with an affirmation of the Trinity and ends with the most basic confession: Jesus is Lord. The call for unity is in response to Jesus’ prayer in John 1, that we might all be one. The call for reconciliation is our response to the reconciliation between God and humanity accomplished by Christ on the cross.

Is Belhar really just another way to promote church acceptance of homosexual ordination and marriage?

Belhar makes no mention of sexuality or marriage issues. Once a confession is adopted the church may find that confession to shed light on a wide variety of issues; however, Belhar is focused on unity reconciliation, and justice within a context of forced separation of races.

Why should we adopt a confession that addresses the issues of another country and the sins of another culture? Isn’t Belhar just about one particular time and place?

“Confessions address the issues, problems, dangers and opportunities of a given historical situation.” (BOCpp. xv) Historically the confessions have been a written response to particular situations. For example, the Westminster Confession spoke specifically to the role of the monarchy and the sovereignty of God. The Barmen Declaration addressed the sin of idolatry during the rise of national socialism in Germany in the 1930’s. In these cases, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has made the judgment that these confessions written in particular situations articulate for the PC(USA) who we are, what we believe, and what we resolve to do (F2.01). Only two of our eleven confessional statements were written by the Presbyterian Church. Each of the others has become our confession. The Confession of Belhar should only become a confession of the PC(USA) if the church determines that it, like these others, expresses our faith: “In these statements the church declares to its members and to the world who and what it is, what it believes, and what it resolves to do.”

Why should we, 21st century North American Presbyterians care?

The Special Committee on the Confession of Belhar has proposed that the General Assembly adopt an Accompanying Letter to express its conviction that Belhar is important for our church. It begins with these words:
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is again facing a critical time in its history. We are rent apart by division and schism, we have yet to directly confront and confess the racism that has been a significant force in our own history, and we have shown a failure of resolve to make courageous stands for justice. We believe that the Confession of Belhar, a profound statement on unity, reconciliation, and justice in the church, comes to us as a word from God for this particular time and place for the PC(USA).
We understand confession as both the church’s response to human sin and as witness to our faith. Confession by the church is necessary because sin is present in social injustice and our conscious or unconscious participation in human suffering. Confession is not a way to cast aspersions or in any way denigrate, castigate, or delimit any person or group of persons. We the church are called to confess sin because the Word of God as revealed in and through the life of Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures calls us to bear witness to a just, loving, and compassionate Creator.
Why include a PC(USA) accompanying letter?

The Special Committee unanimously recommended Belhar because it believes that Belhar confession of the faith in its time and place speaks to our expression of the faith in our time and place. The accompanying letter is the Special Committee’s articulation of that connection—an effort to show how Belhar can shape our faith in twenty-first century North America. The PC(USA) has not dealt in depth with issues of racism that divided the church in the past, and today and the Confession of Belhar addresses the theological reasons for unity reconciliation and justice. These theological reasons apply to our past and present context and the accompanying letter delivers a theological statement about how the Confession of Belhar is a confession for the PC(USA).

The Accompanying Letter refers to Belhar “as a word from God for this particular time and place for the PC(USA).” Does this mean that Belhar is being elevated to the status of Scripture?

The Westminster Confession says clearly that councils and confessions are a help to the faith and the understanding of scripture and are not to be equated with scripture or considered without error: "All synods or councils since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice, but to be used as a help in both." (6.175) The Special Committee would never want anyone to confuse Belhar with the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. That being said our confessions have an interesting way of articulating how God’s Word comes to us, particularly in the 2nd Helvetic Confession. This confession begins with an affirmation of the authority of scripture. “We believe and confess the canonical Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles of both Testaments to be the true Word of God (5.001). After expanding the depth of this conviction, the confession goes on to say that “The Preaching Of The Word Of God Is The Word Of God: Wherefore when this Word of God is now  preached in the church by preachers lawfully called we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed and received by the faithful  (5.004) The conviction that the Word of God preached is the Word of God is not based on an overly high view of the preacher, but on the belief that when the Scriptures are proclaimed the Spirit works through that proclamation. If it is the Word that is proclaimed then what is preached is considered the Word of God even if the minister who preaches it “be evil and a sinner.” Because the Special Committee believes that the Confession of Belhar is derived from Scripture, thoroughly immersed in Scripture, and reflects the long arc of Scripture, it is confident that the claim that “it is a word from God” is faithful to our confessional tradition without any confusion of elevating it to the status of Scripture. We would commend the resource written by Steve Hayner and Mark Labberton, The Bible and Belhar (http://www.pcusa.org/resource/bible-and-belhar/).

Who else has adopted the Belhar Confession?

The Reformed Church of America adopted Belhar in 2010 as a “Doctrinal Standard” (https://www.rca.org/BelharConfession/). The Christian Reformed Church in North America in 2012 adopted Belhar as “an ‘Ecumenical Faith Federation’ of the Christian Reformed Church.” (http://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/ecumenical-faith-declaration/confession-belihar) Numerous Reformed Churches around the world have also adopted Belhar in some way (http://wcrc.ch/belhar-confession/).

How many Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) presbyteries voted to adopt the Belhar Confession?

The tally of presbytery voting on Belhar following the 219th General Assembly (2010) was Yes, 108 and No, 63. An amendment to the Book of Confessions requires an affirmative vote by 2/3 of the presbyteries, or 116 votes.

Why is the General Assembly moving so quickly to consider the Belhar Confession again?

National Capital Presbytery submitted an overture to the 220th General Assembly (2012) to consider Belhar again. In the rationale for their overture, they wrote, “The Presbytery of National Capital, a multiracial inclusive presbytery with a history of activism in civil rights, voted on June 28, 2010, in favor of inclusion of the Confession of Belhar, in spite of knowledge that the denominational vote had already failed. The action taken now represents the presbytery claiming its prophetic voice.”

How do you respond to some of the early concerns about adopting the Belhar Confession?

The Belhar is not biblical. - The Special Committee commissioned a resource to directly answer this question: “The Bible and Belhar.” You can find it at: http://www.pcusa.org/resource/bible-and- belhar/

The Belhar is not Christological. - Belhar’s theological focus is on the doctrine of the church and on Christian living and ethics, but in its short text there are approximately 30 separate references to Jesus Christ (“Jesus Christ,” “Christ,” and “the Son”) and ends with the affirmation that Jesus is Lord.

The Book of Confessions is large enough as it is. - There is no doubt that the Book of Confessions is a thick book However, our tradition is one that recognizes the value of stating our unchanging faith in ways that speak to changing contexts for that faith. The Confession of Belhar does that for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

If the Belhar Confession is adopted, what will be the effect on the Presbyterian Church?

While the Special Committee strongly supports the adoption of the Confession of Belhar, it is even more interested in a deep engagement by the PC(USA) on the themes of Unity Reconciliation, and Justice in a church where racial, cultural, and class divisions continue to divide us and weaken our witness to Jesus Christ.