Written by Gradye Parsons
Each month the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Moderator or Vice Moderator of the 220th General Assembly write a column of general interest for the church-at-large.
There is this space between the Baptism of the Lord and Ash Wednesday when we return to ordinary time in the church calendar. In ordinary time there are still plenty of extraordinary occasions. There is this general sense of leaning into the New Year. We get a lot of ordinary questions during these days. Questions such as “what is the proper order for committee reports at a congregational meeting?” Questions like “which is better, a pipe organ or electric?” Or, “can I count the Smiths on our statistical report even though they never joined?”
In a season where the church is wrestling with big questions, these questions may seem unimportant. A congregation is a collection of people wrestling with their own questions big and small. Who is God and how am I forgiven in Jesus Christ? Should I speak to Alice who just lost her husband when I don’t know the right words to say?
I think when we ask, we open ourselves up to new possibilities. We acknowledge that we don’t know everything. We make ourselves vulnerable to other’s wisdom and experiences. When we ask the scriptures questions we are drawn into narratives as insightful and complicated as our own. Quarreling kings, hungry beggars, desperate sisters are there. Hands raised in alleluias, hands committing violence, hands reaching for Jesus are all there too. Big stories and small stories tell us the long story of God with all of our questions and questionable behaviors.
What is your question in this ordinary time? What big answer to your small question will move your heart? What big answer to your small question will help you find your path down the road to greater faithfulness?
In the months ahead our grandson will start to talk. Having walked that walk before I know there will be lots of questions big and small. I am looking forward to it. I am hoping I will have greater patience this time around. I am hoping that I can focus less on my answers and more on his journey of discovery. And maybe he will teach me some things too.
If you ever watch any show on HGTV you know that every remodeling project will involve a wall coming down. The homeowner usually takes a few swings with a sledgehammer for show, and then the pros take over. The reasons these walls come down vary. Usually it is about creating greater flow, or better entertainment, or a more spacious feel. Whatever the reason, it is the opposite reason of what a wall does.
Tracy Kidder wrote a book titled House. It followed the construction of a house from acorn to last nail. He states that walls define a room's purpose. I have often thought about that when I am faced with walls that attempt to define people.
A barn with cattle and horses is the place to begin Christmas. After all, that’s where the original event happened, and that same smell was the first air that the Christ Child breathed.—Paul Engle
It is probably fair to say that those candle shops that do a big business at Christmas don’t have candles that smell like barns. Before anyone goes on the offensive, I have been around enough barns to know that a farmer worth his or her salt keeps a clean barn. Engle does make the point that the rarified air of our elaborate nativity ...
Sometime in November after this little column is posted the grand jury in St. Louis County will present its judgment of the Michael Brown shooting by Officer Darren Wilson. Unless King Solomon is the foreman of the jury it is hard to imagine that its’ decision will satisfy everyone. However, I think we might want to reflect on this moment of chaos and what it calls the church to be about.
We are studying the Belhar Confession as a possible addition to The Book of Confessions. This could not be a more Kairos moment. The confession ...
October contains World Communion Sunday, Reformation Sunday, and All Saints Day. While the Reformation is not just about the Reformed family of faith, I would like to share with you what some of our Reformed saints in the making are doing in the world.