Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for May 31, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for May 31, 2015: Today our passages are 2 Samuel 17:1-29; John 19:23-42; Psalm 119:129-152; and Proverbs 16:12-13. The readings are the Co...

Saturday, May 30, 2015

New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – Faith, Not Sight

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.

2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling–if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord–for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.

Faith, Not Sight

I think we tend to be sight-oriented people. I mean, from the time we’re small, sight shapes what we learn. It’s the basis for how we’re entertained. And it’s often what we use to ground our basic beliefs. My goodness, I think there’s an excellent reason people say “seeing is believing.” Even though we live in an age of photoshopping, what we see often determines what we consider to be truth.

But for all it’s importance, sight has one glaring weakness; it doesn’t do a very good job of revealing the future. You see, what we see is trapped in the present. And even if we can get glimpses of the past by looking at old photographs and paintings, we can’t take pictures of the future; therefore, if we trust only what we can see, life around the corner is really a mystery, one that’s difficult understand much less anticipate. And that’s why Paul challenged the Corinthians and he challenges us to move beyond mere sight and walk by faith.

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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for May 30, 2015: Today our passages are 2 Samuel 15:23–16:23; John 18:25–19:22; Psalm 119:113-128; and Proverbs 16:10-11. The readings are...

Friday, May 29, 2015

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

On Sunday, May 31, Cove Presbyterian Church will lift to God the following needs.

Adults
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
M'Liz Held
Nick Mourat
Nick Petrovich Jr
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
Nick Mourat – The Laurels

Church Families
Michael Weaver
Pam, Kelsey & Rachel Weaver
Doug, Sue, Steven & Summer Wesie

Local Church
Mt. Olive Baptist Church

Special Friend
Corinne Ferguson – Woodland Hills, 608 North 10th St., Weirton, WV  26062

Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery Committees
Stewardship Committee – Jim Cochran, Chairperson
Training and Development Committee – Rev. Dr. Steve Cramer

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

Cove Kids: Children's Bulletins for Sunday, May 31, 2015

Cove Kids: Children's Bulletins for Sunday, May 31, 2015: Below are puzzles for children focused on Isaiah 6:1-8. There are two “bulletins,” one for ages 3-6 and the other for ages 7-12. Feel free t...

What's Happening at Cove Presbyterian Church?

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

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.

BOARD MEETINGS . . .
THE BOARD OF DEACONS  will meet tomorrow,  Monday, June 1 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES will meet on Monday, June 8 beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the board room. Members are urged to attend as there will be no meetings during the summer, see you in September.

MYRTLE MCHENDRY. . .
the June meeting of the Myrtle McHendry Class will be held at Gio’s Restaurant, on Pennsylvania Avenue, Tuesday, June 2 at 11:30 a.m.  Following devotions by Esten Jezerski the “Friendship Luncheon” will be served.  A short business meeting and a time of singing and games will complete the afternoon.  Hostesses are Bonnie Nichols, Barbara Losey, Betty Kraina and Karen Edwards.  The phone committee will be calling with more information and for reservations.  If any ladies of the church wish to share in our special day please call Bonnie for information and reservations at 304-723-5134.

OUR TUESDAY EVENING STUDY . . .
will  meet  on Tuesday, June 2, at 6:30 p.m. to continue our new series dealing with Paul’s Letter to the Romans. During this first session, we’ll discuss Romans 2. And so bring your Bibles and get ready to grow in your understanding of God’s word to us.

SCHOLARSHIP SUNDAY . . .
will be celebrated next Sunday, June 7 during the morning worship service.

THERE WILL BE NO CHOIR PRACTICE . . .
until September. The choir will be taking the summer months off.  Hope to see everyone in the fall - both old and new Faces!! For the summer months, we will have special music provided by members and friends of Cove each Sunday.

TWENTY-FOUR HOUSEHOLDS. . .
support Cove Church thru Kroger’s Community Rewards Program. For the period of February 1 thru April 30 these supporters earned $ 230.76 for the church! Thank You everyone!!  If you are not registered we beg you to please consider joining, it costs you nothing, you retain all your points with Kroger, they do not share your personal information with anyone and you earn Free Money for your church! If you have any questions please contact the church office.  FYI- if you were registered, the period ended on April 30th, 2015 - You Must Re-Register to keep earning money for Cove.

CHECK OUT . . .
the pictures in the main hallway downstairs, the most recent is  of the Cub Scouts who participated in Spruce-up Day. If you happen to see one of the young men- please extend a thank you to them for their hard work!

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, 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.  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. No envelopes -please. 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

Cove's Bulletin for Sunday, May 31, 2015

Below is a copy of our Sunday bulletin. During the 11:00 service, we’ll focus on how God has prepared us to share and to show our faith to others.











Growing in Grace: Paul’s Letter to the Romans - Chapter One

Growing in Grace: Paul’s Letter to the Romans - Chapter One: You may listen to a podcast of this session on the Cove Presbyterian PodBean page. The purpose of this session is to consider Paul's ...

Friday’s Essay – A Matter of Time

Below is an essay I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can find a podcast on the Cove Presbyterian Church PodBean page.

For me, this has been an incredibly busy week. Along with the stuff I normally do, I’ve had two board meetings outside the church, one funeral a couple of day’s ago and another one tonight, a luncheon, and about four people who’ve come in just to talk. And since I’m also leading worship at Two Ridges on Sunday, I did two very different bulletins to prepare. I’ll tell you, as the week progressed, I felt as though I was chasing a speedy train and running as fast as I could just to keep up.

Of course, if I stop and think about it, this may be more the rule than the exception. And based on what I see happening with other folks and families, I think my experience may be pretty typical. Let’s face it, an awful lot of us feel as though we’re in constant motion, and that feeling is only magnified when there are still kids at home. And for that reason, I thought I’d share a few ideas having to do with time management that y’all might apply to yourselves and that we all might consider as we help others deal with their whirlwinds. But before I go any farther, let me be clear, I’m not putting myself up as the poster boy for efficiency or organization. One look at my desk would contradict that notion. I’m not even suggesting that I always follow my own ideas. Sadly, with this, I seem to follow the words of George Bernard Shaw, “...those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Sill, these ideas generally help me keep my nose above the water, and they might be helpful for you.

You see, as you try to manage your time more effectively, you might want to consider doing the following:
  1. Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize – Separate the “must dos” from the “like tos”. In other words, I think it’s really important to identify those things that have to be done and to separate them from all those things that you might like to do. I’ve found, at least for me, if I don’t set priorities, everything becomes crucial, and I end up feeling as though I’m floundering.
  2. Make Lists – I’ll tell you, I’ve become a compulsive list-maker. I make them not just daily, but for the entire month. In fact, I’ve written them on an Excel spreadsheet, and I include all kinds of  things, including a bunch of specific tasks I do every day. For me, this prevents things from slipping through the cracks. And you know, it feels mighty good to check off those things that I’ve done. And, at the end of the day, I can see what I accomplished and what I need to do tomorrow.
  3. Keep Your Calendar Updated – I can’t tell you, how many times someone has made an appointment with me, often as they’re leaving the sanctuary after Sunday worship, and even though I’m 100% sure I’ll remember it, it’s gone by the time I get back to my study. When I assume that I can trust my memory, I prove that old saying about those who assume is right on the mark.
  4. Embrace Patterns – There are certain things I do every day. I’ve found that if I do them at the same time and in the same way, I get them done much faster. But it’s not just me. Yesterday I talked with a young man who cleans hotel rooms, and he told me about how following cleaning patterns speeds up his work.
  5. Delegate – On one hand, I can do some things really well, and I actually look forward to getting them done. Of course that’s great. On the other hand, there are plenty of things I don’t do well and/or really dislike doing. For example, if I’m asked to teach a class, to lead a worship service, or to write and record a devotion, I’m on it like “white on rice.” But if looking at making five phone calls, I’ll procrastinate for months. Although there are times when I need to force myself to do things I don’t enjoy doing, it also makes sense to ask others for help, especially if I ask someone who loves doing the very things I’d avoid if I could.
  6. Accept Reality – And this is reality: no matter what you do, you can’t please everybody. There are plenty of people who are not shy in sharing their priorities for you. Sadly, if you conducted a poll, those priorities aren’t always the same. I just remember when I was in a speech contest back in high school. I gave my speech to two judges, and when I read their evaluations, this is what they said. The first judge wrote that I showed energy and enthusiasm, and he gave me a superior rating. The second judge wrote that I far to energetic and active and rated me average. I think what Lincoln say about fooling also applies to pleasing.
  7. Take Responsibility – And this is really the bottom line. How we use our time is up to us. It’s grounded in the values we hold and the decisions we make. Although it may be really tempting for me to blame all the stuff I’ve done or left undone on God, people or fate, for good or for bad, I’m the one responsible. And because that’s the way it is, I can continue to do what I’ve done well and learn how I might become better at handling those things where I’ve come up short.

Now, these are just a few things we might want to do ourselves.

And if you want to help someone else make better use of their time, you might do the following:
  1. Avoid Cliches – For example, it drives me nuts when someone says to me, “Well, you just need to make the time.” Now, I’m not stupid; I understand that they don’t actually believe you can manufacture time; still it’s a comment that I don’t find very helpful. Of course, if God ever blesses me with something I could really use, he could offer me an eighth day to the week, but only for me. That would be sweet, but I’m not holding my breath that God’s going to make me some time either.
  2. Don’t Offer, Do – I know plenty of well-meaning people who offer to help. As a matter of fact, I’ve done it plenty of times myself. Now, when someone makes that offer to me or me to them, the response is nearly always the same: “Thank’s for the offer, but I’ll be fine.” I think there’s a gulf between offering to help and actually helping.
  3. Talk To, Not About – One of times I really don’t like my job is when I hear that “so-in-so” told “so-in-so” who told “so-in-so” that they think I should have done something two weeks ago that I didn’t do. Give me a break. One of the most valuable people in my whole congregation is a lady who shares with me expectations rather than complaints. 
  4. Decide to Trust – Finally, it’s really helpful if we all decide to trust that we’re all trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got. You see, trust is always a decision, and we will choose whether or not we’re going to trust that our brothers and sisters are sincerely trying to do what God has called them to do. Of course, you may disagree with my conclusions without questioning either my sincerity or faith.

Now these are just a few ideas that you might find helpful. I have no doubt that you may have others, and if you do, please feel free to share them. And even though I may not always follow them to the letter, I can assure you, they’ve almost gotten me though this busy week and will do the same for the one that starts in a couple of days.

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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for May 29, 2015: Today our passages are 2 Samuel 14:1–15:22; John 18:1-24; Psalm 119:97-112; and Proverbs 16:8-9. The readings are the Conte...

Thursday, May 28, 2015

From Presbyterian Disaster Assistance - Response to Massive Flooding

couple walking rhough flood waters
Couple wading though flood waters — FEMA-Marvin Nauman

Situation

Numerous states have been affected by flooding this year due to the melting from heavy snow fall and a higher than average amount of rainfall. More than 150 locations in the central and southern Plains are currently reporting river flooding, the majority of which are in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, eastern Kansas and western Missouri.
The recent — and seemingly ongoing—spring storms continue to affect parts of Texas and Oklahoma. Severe weather over the Memorial Day weekend left at least 17 people dead, and at least 30 people missing, and thousands of homes washed away.
Officials in parts of Texas are warning that flooding could last for weeks in the wake of unprecedented amounts of May rainfall. According to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, at least 4 inches of rain has fallen on at least one location in the state of Texas everyday since May 5.
The prediction of additional thunderstorms and more rain expected to fall on areas that are water-logged will increase the severity of the flooding.

PDA Response

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has been in continual contact with mid-councils that have been experiencing storms and flooding. One Great Hour of Sharing funds have been sent to Grace and New Covenant Presbyteries, and we are expecting a request for funds from additional presbyteries. Currently, eight members of the National Response Team (NRT) — four teams— are in Texas to help Presbyterian leadership in responding to needs within their communities. We have learned of at least one church, St. Paul church in Houston, which has sustained flood damage.
NRT members will also be visiting the John Knox Ranch camp. The camp is situated on the Blanco River, location of some of the most violent and severe flash flooding.
The large area and the severity of flooding in Texas has prompted PDA to assign a NRT member to serve as coordinator to help manage the flooding response in Texas. 

A Walk with the Vice Moderator - Letter to Jonathan

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."

I was honored when my friend, Mihee Kim-Kort, invited me to be a part of her May blog series called, "The Meaning of Children." It's been a gift to read the reflections thus far about what we learn from our smallest teachers. My three-year-old son has been an important part of my cancer diagnosis and healing. My contribution to the series is a portion of a letter I am writing to him.  “The Meaning of Children” blog series can be found here.
Dear Jonathan,
I’m writing you this letter trusting that I will be around to see your first day of kindergarten, watch you graduate from high school, and be a part of every single step in-between (and after!). Writing to you during a time that you may or may not remember is important to me. I want you to know how you are an important part of my healing.
Everyone was confident that the lump would turn out to be nothing. Test after test, each doctor reassured me that this was just procedural, but that soon I could go back to life as usual. We both know how that ended: a phone call twenty-four hours after the biopsy with a shaky voice saying, “Larissa, I am so sorry to have to call you with this news. You’re going to be okay. You’re young and you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. But your biopsy came back malignant. You’ve got breast cancer. I’m so sorry.”
In the beginning, all we told you was that I was sick. There were doctors taking care of me and I would be better soon. We reminded you constantly to cover your mouth when you coughed and to be gentle with me. No more running at full force with a crash and peals of laughter. No more rough playing. It felt like a new list of rules. Sure, it was necessary for my health but this new life was full of boundaries and limits. You took it with a smile and went on playing.
It was only when my hair started falling out that I knew something was going to change. I wanted to protect you from the tumor inside of me, but it was no longer possible. You would see my cancer for yourself. I walked around the house with my head covered for two days because I didn’t want to scare you. Yet, for some reason on that third day, I showed you my scruffy head. You reached out your hand, rubbed my scalp, and smiled, saying, “You cut your hair like daddy’s.”
Do you know how much joy it brought me when you once ripped off my hat and said, “Why are you wearing this? I like your bald head!”?
People tell me that I am brave and courageous. I need you to know that I sometimes feel like I am doing what I can just to stay alive. Each of these twists and turns (chemo, surgery, treatment options), they are all decisions that need to be made one way or another. Then I live with my choices. It doesn’t seem brave to me, just necessary. It’s what cancer requires of me now.
But you, my son, are the brave and courageous one.
You’re the one who looked at me while I was putting you to bed one night and asked, “Mommy, why are you sick?”
My heart dropped as I sorted through the thousands of ways to answer that question before I finally said, “I have something inside of me that’s not supposed to be there. The doctors are helping me get rid of it.”
“Mommy, tomorrow when we get back from school, I’ll give you some of my medicine. That will make you feel better.” Then you hugged me and slipped off to sleep.
You make me stronger and healthier in the way that only a three year old can. I know that each day you’ll wake up and scream from your bed, “Mommy! I’m awake. Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” I’ll walk into the room and you’ll stretch your arms out, squeeze them around my neck, and hold on tight as I carry you downstairs. It’s the first hug of the day.
I can’t hide. I can’t slip into darkness or walk toward the wilderness because you’re always there to call me back. There are toys to be played with and meals to share. Those spontaneous dance parties that break out in our kitchen when we realize that you (unfortunately) dance just like us. Tickles that give birth to exploding laughter that cracks my heart wide open every single time I hear it. There’s just too much for us to enjoy together.
If I’m even slightly courageous or brave, it’s because of you.

Larissa Kwong Abazia loves navigating transitions and she’s thankful that her family is always along for the ride. Life without Dan and Jonathan would be incomplete and downright impossible. When she’s not doing “church-y” things, she enjoys cooking, exploring, travelling, and trying new restaurants. You can follow her personal blog (when she’s inspired to write!), blog about cancer (there’s really not a less awkward way to explain this one), and on Twitter.

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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for May 28, 2015: Today our passages are 2 Samuel 13:1-39; John 17:1-26; Psalm 119:81-96; and Proverbs 16:6-7. The readings are the...

Sunday's Minute for Mission - Multicultural Church

When I worshiped at New Covenant Fellowship, a multicultural worshiping community in Austin, Texas, I had no idea I would be inspired and feel so at home. My row was empty when I sat down, then people came and sat next to me. Rev. Trish Holland, a parish associate, was one of those. “In this worshiping community,” she said, “I can be myself.” Rev. James Lee preached a passionate sermon to a congregation made up of African Americans, European Americans, Latinos/as, Africans, new immigrants, persons with intellectual disabilities, and children. It is a beloved community of Jesus Christ.
Multicultural today goes by many names, including cross-cultural and intercultural. The use of these terms by those of us in the church and in society is part of our attempt to get at a deeper level of relationship, to move beyond the mere existence of people of different cultures in the same church or group.
To cross cultures in a religious context, or to be intercultural, is to reach outside ourselves and enter into another person’s or group’s experiences and understandings of life and faith. In doing so, new experiences emerge and opportunities arise to gain greater understanding of one’s own culture. By appreciating a person’s racial and cultural differences, hearing personal stories, and learning about and sharing in another’s heritage, we join with others in the PC(USA) in our efforts to become God’s beloved community—building multiracial, multilingual, and multicultural communities of faith and empowering congregations and mid councils as they seek to claim, celebrate, and appreciate all of God’s children of every race and culture.
Rev. Dr. Rhashell Hunter, director, Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, May 31, 2015 (Trinity Sunday)

Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, May 31, 2015 (...: Below are NRSV translations of the lessons from the Psalms (Psalm 29), the Old Testament (Isaiah 6:1-8) the Letters (Romans 8:12-17), and th...

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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for May 27, 2015: Today our passages are 2 Samuel 12:1–31; John 16:1-33; Psalm 119:65-80; and Proverbs 16:4-5. The readings are the Contempo...

Message from the Moderator - Two more points from the Moderator

Several weeks ago I spoke to the Presbyterian Mission Agency about nine areas where I was observing interest, concerns, joys, or activity in our denomination. It was an “in-house” speech that was ultimately shared more broadly when placed on the Presbyterian News Service. The response has been heartening and I am grateful that a number of these matters hit home to some of you in the church. One church has told me that they intend to use the list as a study guide for the next year—focusing on each area, and seeing how they relate to their individual congregation as well as to the denomination. They asked if I had three more so they could fill the year!

Actually, I did have two more that were not included in my presentation due to the constraint of time. So I offer my other two insights concerning what I am seeing and hearing across the church, with a follow-up question as to what might be some next steps.
  1. (or number 10)—This issue relates to education. For decades, education has been the hallmark of Presbyterians. I remember a dear little devoted Southern Baptist woman from North Carolina telling me years ago, “I love my church, and I love my preacher. He is a good Christian and a good man. But whenever I want to hear a good sermon I go to the Presbyterian church because they are so much better educated to preach.” Well, we all know wonderful Baptist preachers these days. But our denomination still has a reputation of being educated, and providing education for others.
    1. Our Christian education efforts are legend. We have historically provided outstanding resources and materials for our church members and attendees to explore and study. But in recent years, we have not been as committed to this effort. Fortunately our “Grace and Gratitude” materials for children are emerging, and they look promising. But as a denomination in which many of us cut our teeth on the Covenant Life Curriculum, or other such efforts, we are not providing a training ground for future members of the church.
    2. Our emphasis on providing basic education in the USA resulted in us forming the first kindergartens, and building schools in Appalachia and beyond. We provided teachers. We built colleges. We did this not only here but around the world. I have visited schools in Lebanon and Iraq, as well as in South Sudan and Mexico, that were begun by Presbyterians. We have now begun a new initiative called “EDUCATE A CHILD.” Some folks in our denomination consider this to be a new thought or idea. I propose that it is a part of our DNA. We must be intentional as we look at ways to help provide educational opportunities for those who are without them.
    3. Theological education is also crucial. Our ten seminaries are remarkable gifts to the PC(USA), but there is concern that we may not be using them as wisely nor as effectively as we could. Fortunately there is a subcommittee of the Committee on Theological Education that is exploring options for increased effectiveness in coming years. Here are some of the questions that I have been asked:
      1. Should our seminaries stop being “generalists” and focus on specific areas of theological education in the future. In other words, should global missions be a focus of one, Christian education another, the local church pastor another, specialized ministries in others, etc.? Might this be a way to stop duplication and competition and to focus in new ways on these ministries? Do we need ten of them? Are they located where the needs are?
      2. How might the denomination use the seminaries more effectively? Could their faculties be called on to write curriculum? Could the training of commissioned ruling elders be moved under the seminaries oversight? Might a renewed emphasis on education of the laity be incorporated into the curricula of these schools in ways that could incite enthusiasm throughout our denomination in new ways?
      3. What should our relationship be with seminaries who are not part of our PC(USA) heritage and stream of education? Should we continue to have ministers ordained from other seminaries into our fellowship? This issue is particularly sensitive, since we have many wonderful ministers who have been trained in institutions other than our “ten.” But if we continue to welcome graduates into our denominational leadership, are there additional accountability matters that must be explored? A study done at Austin Theological Seminary this past year focused on issues related to churches that pulled out of the PC(USA) to join other denominations. One question asked was which seminaries did the pastors of the churches who left the denomination attend. We must be careful when we look at the answer to that question, because the object of this is not to demonize nor criticize any institution. Instead, it is intended to see if there are issues related to these schools that need to be focused upon more directly in order to affirm the relationship between our pastors and our denomination. Two of the seminaries graduated 58 percent of the pastors whose churches had left. They are Fuller, with 38 percent, and Gordon Conwell with 20 percent. Let it be known that a number of very faithful and loyal PC(USA) pastors are graduates of these schools—including our Stated Clerk and our director of Global Missions. Yet the question I am being asked is if all graduates of these schools are being grounded adequately in PC(USA) polity, theological positions, etc. There are numerous factors that might impact these, for instance the large number of graduates of Fuller could make the number of pastors in this category appear inflated. Princeton is next in line, and again, their large size could have an impact on this factor. But I am being asked about this often, and it does need to be addressed.
So my question is—What should we do in the PC(USA) to restore our role of leadership in church education? I admit to a bias, since I am a certified Christian educator, and also was president of one of our theological schools (and now am honored to have honorary degrees from two of our Presbyterian colleges/universities). Yet our efforts to educate both the Presbyterians in ways of the faith, as well as the masses, in areas that may help to assure their quality of life and affirm issues of justice, are crucial.
  1. And number 2 (or 11). This item has an indirect relationship to a number of the others, but it is important enough that it needs to be raised up for consideration. In a day when secularization and lack of affirmation for mainline denominations seem to be increasing, how do we maintain our historical, and even more so, our Christian responsibility to work for justice. What has been happening in Fulton, in Charleston, in Baltimore, and other places isn’t just a civic issue. Discrimination and prejudice continues to be a horrendous scar on our society. What are we going to do about black and white relations? How about Christians and Muslims or Jews? What about human trafficking, and abusive relations in families? How about economic discrimination when it goes beyond mere capitalism and becomes totally self-serving? Are our migrant workers treated fairly?
Well the list is long, and I have just started. But my dear fellow members of the PC(USA), when we join the church we profess to caring for one another. When we witness a baptism we offer to be there for that child—no matter his race, or gender preference, or economic position. We as a denomination have immense power. Even with the church on the “decline,” do you know how many of our lawmakers are Presbyterians? Should more of us run for office? Do we know how to utilize the resources of our church to speak up for Jesus’ sake?
This is not a Democratic or Republican debate. This is a call for us to be the Christians we profess and were called to be.
So my question is, what should your local church do to make life better for the people who live in your community? What should your presbytery do to help bring about changes, and to help provide resources to those whom we are called to serve? How do we tell the story of love and acceptance to people so that we might all see one another as God’s children, not as members of different tribes? And how do we organize at our denominational level to transform the world? Yes, that’s an idea that seems idealistic. But if it isn’t what we are called to do, then I believe we are missing the message.
Heath Rada

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – Let’s Not Return the Favor

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.

Deuteronomy 4:15-24

Since you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire, take care and watch yourselves closely, so that you do not act corruptly by making an idol for yourselves, in the form of any figure - the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. And when you look up to the heavens and see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, do not be led astray and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples everywhere under heaven. But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron-smelter, out of Egypt, to become a people of his very own possession, as you are now.

The Lord was angry with me because of you, and he vowed that I should not cross the Jordan and that I should not enter the good land that the Lord your God is giving for your possession. For I am going to die in this land without crossing over the Jordan, but you are going to cross over to take possession of that good land. So be careful not to forget the covenant that the Lord your God made with you, and not to make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you. For the Lord your God is a devouring fire, a jealous God.

Let’s Not Return the Favor

The great French philosopher Voltaire wrote, “If God has made us in his image, we have returned him the favor.” In other words, according to Voltaire, we have a tendency to recreate the creator in the image of the creature, namely us. We do that by imposing on him our values and perspectives so that he condemns those things we already dislike and he blesses us with stuff that we really want. As a matter of fact, his definitions of sin and service and sacrifice are actually the same as ours. We recreate God in our image, and then we worship this new and comfortable god as the lord of the universe and the giver of eternal law, which is lucky for us, especially since that law reflects our values and prejudices and assumptions. Sadly, this seems to be a part of human nature.

But it’s also something that both the writer of Deuteronomy and the Apostle Paul condemns as idolatry. You see, even though we may never kneel to a statute, when we reshape God, the creator, so that he reflects us, the creature, we’re doing the exact same thing the pagans did with their idols. As Paul wrote to the Romans, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.” And since this may always be a temptation, it’s important to be careful, and when our God becomes too comfortable, we might want to take a step back and ask ourselves if we’re worshiping the judge of all creation or an idol that we’ve created in our likeness. Or, using Voltaire’s image, we might want to do whatever we can do not to return the favor.

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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for May 26, 2015: Today our passages are 2 Samuel 9:1–11:27; John 15:1-27; Psalm 119:49-64; and Proverbs 16:1-3. The readings are the Contem...

From Presbyterian Disaster Assistance - Syria

Woman and childrenJune 20 is World Refugee Day, a day established by the United Nations General Assembly to raise awareness about the growing refugee crisis.

In 2015, the number of forcibly displaced persons around the world exceeds 51 million, including some 13 million refugees who lack access to the most basic necessities of life, including food, clean water, safe shelter, health care, education, and protection from conflict, war, and violence.
Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in March 2011, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has been engaged in responding to the needs of displaced persons and refugees. The response has been in collaboration with and support of ACT Alliance (Action by Churches Together) members and other ecumenical partners who are providing relief to refugees in neighboring countries and to internally displaced Syrians. PDA has also been providing direct assistance to our mission partner, the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL), which is also providing relief and care.

Rebuilding begins in Homs, Syria

PDA recently provided a grant to in the amount of $50,000 to help restore permanent infrastructure within the country. The funds will be used to rebuild 40 homes in Homs, Syria.  An additional $50,000 will be provided upon receipt of a report on the initial disbursement.

Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States

In addition to providing funds for humanitarian response for Syrians overseas, PDA is working with our partner in refugee resettlement, Church World Service, to resettle Syrian refugees who are coming to the United States.  1,000 Syrian Refugees have now found a new home in the US, but more are ready to come. Help them find peace and a new hope this World Refugee Day.  To find out more about supporting refugees in your community please contact Susan Krehbiel.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Cove's Worship Service – Day of Pentecost (Ezekiel 37:1-14)

Below is a copy of the service I led in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia, on Sunday, May 24. You can also find a podcast of this service at The Cove Podbean page.

The Order of Worship
The Day of Pentecost – May 24, 2015

Prelude

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: "Spirit, Now Live in Me"
Hymn: "Many Gifts, One Spirit"
Our Song for the Children: "The Butterfly Song"

Approach God with Humility and Thanks

A Special Time for Children

The Choir Offering Praise through Music: "My Country Medley"

Our Congregational Prayer, followed by The Lord's Prayer

Our Song Glorifying God: Gloria Patri

Giving Back to God: "If We Truly Believe"

Song of Praise: Doxology

Our Prayer of Thanks and Dedication

Affirming Our Faith: From The Westminster Confession of Faith
...good works, done in obedience to God's commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, besides the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit to work in them to will and to do of his good pleasure; yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.

Hear the Word with Understanding

The Word Read: Ezekiel 37:1-14
The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, "Mortal, can these bones live?" I answered, "O Lord God, you know." Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord." So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live." I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. Then he said to me, "Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.' Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act," says the Lord.

The Word Proclaimed: The Advantage of  Being Dry Bones



Leave Worship with Joy

Hymn: "Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart"

Charge and Blessing

Congregational Response    

Postlude: "Chorus of Praise"

Sunday’s Sermon – The Advantage of Being Dry Bones

Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday 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.

Ezekiel 37:1-14

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.

The Advantage of Being Dry Bones

Now, in light of the passage we just read, I thought this little clip might put us all in the tight mood.



Now if you hadn’t seen it before, this is the skeleton fight from the movie, Jason and the Argonauts. And just as an aside, the man who animated this scene was named Ray Harryhausen, the guy who also did 20 Million Miles to Earth, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, and the original Clash of the Titans. And what we saw is called stop-motion animation, which means the skeletons where little models that were moved a little bit each time a frame was shot, and although we just saw a couple of minutes, I read that this whole six-minute sequence took over four months to complete. I guess it takes that long to get dry bones to move.

Of course, what’s happening here stands in pretty clear contrast to what Ezekiel described at the beginning of the passage we just read. I mean, even though both deal with same sort of thing, I think the prophet’s valley of dry bones looked more like the cover of the bulletin than sword-wielding skeletons. And even though, I’m sure some of y’all thought when you looked at the cover, “Why would he use that for the bulletin? Wouldn’t a nice picture of Jesus look better?”; I have a reason. You see, if you can get past all the skulls and other creepy stuff, there’s something kind of appealing, almost tranquil about the scene. As a matter of fact, I think there are some definite advantages to being in a valley of dry bones. I mean, I’m not sure you could find any place on earth more predictable and reliable and sure. Good night, it’s not like anybody’s going jump up and say “boo,” or even “boohoo.” No sir, those dry bones aren’t going anywhere.

And I’ll tell you, since they’re so, let’s say, settled, well, that leads to three things that I think most of us find kind of appealing; I know I do. For example, first, I can’t imagine a place more comfortable than being in a valley of dry bones, again if you can get past the skulls and stuff. My gosh, you can pretty much bet the farm that things are going to stay the same; therefore, if I were there, I’d never have to change. I’d never have to adapt. I’d never even have to adjust. If I were some of the dry bones, I’d just find myself a cozy spot and settle in. Comfort, that’s one plus. And second, you tell me, what would easier than being a bunch of dry bones? My gosh, you wouldn’t have to do anything, but just kind of lie around, soaking up the sun, doing absolutely nothing productive, not unlike Paris Hilton. You wouldn’t need to punch any clocks. You wouldn’t need to meet any expectations. Good night, you wouldn’t need any real skills or talents or abilities, again, not unlike Paris Hilton. For the unmotivated and the underachiever, being a pile of dry bones is a dream come true, because it’s so stupid easy. For me, that’s the second perk. And third, when you think about it, being in a valley of dry bones is about the safest place you can be. It’s not even like the elephant graveyard from the old Tarzan movies, you know, where hunters might come looking for tusks. Nobody’s going into a valley of dry bones. I mean, outside of a few bikers or Goth kids who might wander in looking for a couple of souvenirs, if my home is a valley of dry bones, I’m probably not sweating bullets about the future. I think you could call it a safe place, right? And you tell me, who here this morning wouldn’t like to be in a place that’s safe? And who wouldn’t want to be in a place where life is easy? And who wouldn’t want to be in a place that’s absolutely comfortable? And so, do you see what I’m getting at when I say there are some real advantages to being dry bones? And if it can’t be in a valley like this, maybe there are some other places that are just as comfortable and just as easy and just as safe. And if we can’t find any, maybe we can build them ourselves, predictable little valleys where we never have to change or actually do much or worry about the future. Now that’s appealing.

Of course, there’s a problem, there’s always a problem, right? You see, no matter how attractive and enticing it might be, God just doesn’t want us to be dry bones. I mean, isn’t that the point of this prophecy from Ezekiel, where we start with the comfortable and easy and safe predictability of this valley, only to hear God say to the prophet, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” And of course that’s what happened. After they came together and were covered by sinew and flesh, “...the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.” You see, God wanted his people not just to lie around, but to live.

And I’ll tell you, I think we see something very similar happen in that story of Pentecost. Remember, after the crucifixion and resurrection, there was the ascension, in other words, Jesus left, and the disciples, well, they were alone.  And even though, like we talked about last week, they appointed a replacement for Judas, they were still waiting for the power, the life that had been promised. And ten days after Jesus ascended it came. According to Luke in Acts, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” You see, when the Spirit, the breath of God, came, they lived.

And I’ll tell you, that’s exactly what’s happening right now. You see, God still doesn’t want his people to fill a valley of dry bones, he didn’t then and he doesn’t now. Instead he wants us to be alive and active. And I’ll tell you, I think that’s really important for us to remember. You see, even though there are times when we really wish God would dump some comfort and ease and safety into our lives, he’s actually giving us a whole lot more. You see, instead of giving us predictability, he gives us power, and I think he does it in three ways.

I mean, through his breath, first, he gives us the ability to change and adapt as we try to live and share our faith in a world never stays the same. You see, through the Spirit we can understand what’s essential and true and separate that from what has more to do with tradition and culture, political ideology and personal taste. As Jesus himself taught, “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” I’m telling you, we have the ability, the power to focus our attention on living the kind of lives Jesus told us to live, namely to love both God and neighbor, and to accomplish the work he called us to do, and I’m talking about to make disciples of all nations. In this world that we have, God gives us the power to step outside of our comfort zoneand to change. That’s one.

And second, through his spirit, he gives us the talents, the gifts we need to make a difference, and I don’t care if you’re talking about make a difference to a million people with whom we might share the good news or with one other person, a spouse or a child or a neighbor, who can begin to see God’s love and mercy in our lives. And since none of us have all the talents we might need all by ourselves, the Spirit leads us together so that my gifts might compliment your gifts. It’s just like Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” I guess you could say we all have something that we might offer one another and that, when we come together and intentionally put aside all the mess that might divide us, together we carry the potential to become the people God created us to be. God has given us this power. And that’s number two.

And third, through his Spirit, his very presence, God gives us the ability to trust, to have faith, in other words, to step into a dark room, believing that there’s a floor on the other side of the door. Of course, I recognize that we’ll probably always be drawn by the siren’s song that promises complete safety. I mean, we’ll probably continue to allow the government to require that we remove our shoes before boarding a plane. And we’ll probably continue to dress our kids up like medieval knights before they can ride their bikes around the block. And we’ll probably continue to invest huge amounts of money to protect us from threats both real and imagined. But at the end of the day, absolute safety is absolutely impossible, and deep down, we all know it. But I’ll tell you, that’s why this faith business is so important, because in spite of what’s happening around us, God gives us the ability to trust that the future is in his hands and that on our last page is written two words: mercy and compassion. You see, even though we might want the comfort and ease and safety that comes from predictability, right now, God is giving us power, power to make changes, power to remain active, and power to trust.

Now, it’s shouldn’t come as any great surprise that in that movie, Jason and the Argonauts, the skeletons are defeated. And as we read in the passage from Ezekiel, the dry bones become living men and women. And in Acts, the disciples become the church, and when the Apostle Paul is taken to Rome, the witness of Jesus has reached the known world, the ends of the earth. And for us, well, even though being a pile of dry bones may have a certain appeal, God’s given us the power to be so much more. I mean, even when we’d prefer comfort, God’s given us the ability to adapt and change. And when we’d like to take it easy, God’s given us the ability to move forward. And when we’re willing to trade too much for the illusion of safety, God’s given us the ability to believe that the universe is in hands far stronger than anything you’d find in a valley of dry bones.

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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for May 25, 2015: Today our passages are 2 Samuel 7:1–8:18; John 14:15-31; Psalm 119:33-48; and Proverbs 15:33. The readings are the Contemp...

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for May 24, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for May 24, 2015: Today our passages are 2 Samuel 4:1–6:23; John 13:31–14:14; Psalm 119:17-32; and Proverbs 15:31-32. The readings are the Co...

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – God is Bigger

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 11:14-23

Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? — for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

God Is Bigger

I think, from time to time, we all face situations that seem huge. For example, something happens at school or work that we certainly didn’t expect. We get a diagnosis from a doctor or we’re forced to deal with a personal issue that we don’t feel we deserve. But the specifics aren’t relevant; things happen. And for reasons that we may not be able to understand, we’re forced to deal with a situation that seems a lot bigger than our capabilities. And we’re left trying to figure out how we can survive, something that might appear doubtful given the size of the problem.

But it’s at those times I think we need to remember that God is always bigger. You see, God is always bigger than school or work. He’s bigger than the diagnosis we get or the situations we might face. As a matter of fact, he’s bigger than any problem and pain we might have to endure, because he bigger than us. And he holds our destinies in his hands. You see, no matter how small we feel or how huge the opponent, I think we need to remember that God is always bigger.