Thursday, January 1, 2015

12 days of Christmas: "I Am Among You As One Who Serves"

That's what the young man said to his friends gathered around him. "But I am among you as one who serves." And, that my friends is what I discovered in 2014 as I was led to speak out on behalf of local church unity in Christ; Jesus makes me brave to serve in ways that do not conform with the rest of the world. Speaking prophetically about Christian unity has cost me a couple of friends, for whom I still grieve and pray. However, there's been immeasurable joy and peace, many more faithful friends and strong new friends too. I will report two things. One, sales have been strong of Eyes on Christ: Reflections on Being the People of God in the PC USA) From My Heart to Yours, irrespective of the fact that we gifted ~300 copies (majority, at our own cost).  Two, Path of Grace, my first children's story book was born with the New Year dawning. YES, it is published and will soon be available on Amazon. I am grateful to The Unknowns for their unconditional support.  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Christmas Blessing of Peace (By John Underwood)




Dear Friends,

May the blessings of Christmas and the abiding peace of God be with you.

Be assured that the peace of God is real.
The peace of God abides in the world
And the peace of God abides in you.

Peace is not an illusion, it is a promise.
It is God’s promise to be with us as we walk in this world;
It is God’s assurance of a still quiet voice in the midst of earthquake, wind, and fire;
It is God’s commitment to be a present help in trouble and so to dispel our fears;
It is a promise that is as dependable as the breath and light and love of God.

Peace is not a chimera, it is a prayer.
The more need for peace we see, the greater the prayers for peace that we should raise,
And the more fervent and persistent we should be in the petitions of our hearts for holy peace,
And the more full of confession we should be for the times we have failed to work for peace,
And the more thankful we should be for God’s assurance that if we seek peace we will find it.

Peace is not a dream, it is a responsibility.
It is incumbent on us to be instruments of peace.
It is incumbent on us, insofar as it is depends on us, to live in peace with all God’s children;
It is incumbent on us to have the clean hands and clean heart that give us peace in ourselves.
It is incumbent on us to repent of our sinfulness, that we may be at peace with God;

Peace does not await us in the future, it is with us today.
It is with us whenever we give ourselves to God in worship;
It is with us whenever we surrender ourselves to God’s sovereignty and will;
It is with us whenever we love others as God has loved us;
It is with us whenever we remember the depth of God’s love in the gift of his son;
It is with us at the manger and with us at the cross;
It is with us in our baptism and with us when we are raised to glory in the kingdom of heaven.

So I say once again, may the peace of God be with you.
May you hear peace in the angel’s song of peace on earth that comes to inspire you.
May you feel peace as the Prince of peace walks with you and as you walk humbly with God.
May you know the peace that passes understanding and fills you with oneness in Christ.

The deep, sure, abiding, holy peace of God be with you, this Christmas and always.

I wish you many and merry, holy and joyful Christmas blessings.

John
 

Friday, November 28, 2014

According to C.S. Lewis



A very dear friend sent me a letter by C.S. Lewis On the Evil of Christian Disunity ... just today and I am struck, yet again, by how God answers my endless questions. As I worshiped Thanksgiving Eve service at church, I began to miss many of my friends who were not there and quite a few questions began to pop into my head: Where were they? Why did I feel sad to be at church? Why did I not feel thankful for the leaders in my church? Was I sinning by not feeling grateful for my church leaders? From the beginning I have been sure about the wrong turn being taken by my church leadership. It is evil to break Christian unity and I am simply not able to be thankful for their efforts to take my church out of the PC(USA). "Schism is a very great evil, " wrote C.S. Lewis, more than 50 years ago, pithily! Reading his letter has also reminded me to be thankful for all the friends who were missing from our Thanksgiving Eve service. Not wanting to cause a schism, many have left quietly, heartsick, and too pained to worship with us anymore. Their faith too has been damaged but some continue to worship elsewhere. The letter reminded me, yet again, to encourage you to join me in prayers for them and for our leadership and to stay in dialog. Let us pray that faith is strengthened despite all the ugliness that is a part of the denominational discernment. Be encouraged by this graphic which shows that the number of churches that have left the PC (USA) are less than the new worshiping communities emerging. Cling to Jesus and above all, be steadfast in prayer for our church leadership, just like Lewis did.

Friday, November 14, 2014

#BeAnOriginal


#amexcited #amdelighted #amecstatic #booklovers #unite! Our project to build a Children's section, as part of a small public library ~10,000 books, for a community college has started! We have a few donors already and collected ~5000 books already. This post is not about this library project though, it is about the lessons I'm learning as I focus on the Spirit's leading. Here's what I learned today:  One, creative ideas do not spring from groups; they spring from originals (individuals). Originals are people not afraid of the fire within, that divine spark, ignited by God that is roaring within, consumed by the passion and gifts He's given them. Two, most of us are too afraid to be originals, and so we live our lives as copies, just following others (the world). Three, originals try to adapt the world to them, copies adapt to the world. Woot! The Scripture on which this is based is one of my favorites: Roman 12:2 The book I'm reading is: You're Born An Original, Don't Die A Copy by John L. Mason. Tulsa, Oklahoma, Insight International, 1993. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

#iamlistening

The denominational discernment update yesterday was not the whole truth. Yes, the Presbytery has appointed three people to the Joint Discernment Team (JDT). Our church is entitled to the same number but yesterday, I learned that our church has appointed at least 5 people; it may be even more as I lost track after the first three. I am wondering how this is even possible? Thus, one of the reasons for the delay is pretty clear :(. Clearly the JDT cannot meet until the two sides are evenly represented. Is equal representation really that hard of a concept to understand? And, what is the work of the JDT? I heard nothing about this. I wonder why. I just feel so very sad.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

#amreading

No beasts are so cruel as the Christians are in their dealings with each other. Ammianus Marcellinus (c. AD 330 - 95).  Absolution by Murder by Peter Tremayne. Set in #Ireland this is 7th century #historical fiction with meticulous research. Tremayne is, as you may know, the pseudonym for Peter Ellis, an authority on the Celts. This murder mystery is his imaginative re telling of the conflict of the Synod of AD 664. Celtic and Roman churches met at Whitby to debate and decide matters of liturgy and ritual. Instead of just discussion there is action! In fact, there are a couple of unholy murders. This is a Sister Fidelma and Brother Eadulf mystery. Interesting read. Recommended. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Update on the Remedial Compliants and Stays

10/02/14 Update - On the same day I posted Forrest Claassen, Stated Clerk posted Orders of the SPJC (the official announcement of the remedial complaints) on the Presbytery of Los Ranchos blog. You can read it from here: http://www.losranchos.org/orders-of-the-spjc/.

Earlier this summer I posted about the remedial complaints that resulted in Stays of the dismissal. Well, 7 congregations have now finally left our Presbytery of Los Ranchos. People staying in the presbytery are grieving their leaving. At the Gathering last week, September 18, we prayed by laying hands on them. Today, I continue to pray for God's blessings on all of us, the churches leaving, those staying, those discerning whether to stay or leave. Most of all, though, I pray for the Spirit's comfort and guidance of those whose faith has been negatively impacted by us. This is not one of our finest moments. Tom and Forrest have said it well in their posts Where Are We Now? (taking time and space to grieve) and Church Departures: What's Next? (for church member, pastor, inquirer/candidate, member of a presbytery committee, etc.). Here's what happened.