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 something about snow that binds together a neighborhood. I noticed on my street that the first driveway cleared was the house of the widow of one of our more colorful characters. She never touched a shovel. People helped each other push their cars out of icy ruts. As our streets became more narrow, folks did the dance of who went first with some grace. Without any discussion we agreed to only attempt the hill at the entrance one at a time.
“The Brief Statement of Faith” says this:
The Spirit justifies us by grace through faith,
sets us free to accept ourselves and to love God and neighbor,
and binds us together with all believers
in the one body of Christ, the Church. (Book of Confessions, 10.4, Lines 54–57)
Being set free to love God and neighbor is no small work. It is a work built on the Spirit’s justifying us by grace through faith. The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus says one of the synonyms of justify is maintain, which means to keep in a state of repair. This definition speaks to me of the state of my repair and how it is kept going by the Spirit. It also binds me to my neighbor by not letting me claim my repairs are all done and theirs are incomplete. Or even more so to hope that their love for God supports my repair work in progress.
Snow puts all the homes in a neighborhood in the same state of repair. We might have different tools and various lengths of driveways and sidewalks. You might be a salter and I might be a sander. But we are bound in this common task, and a hot pad and aspirin for us all.
To know you are being kept in a state of repair by the Spirit is to bind yourself with all believers everywhere. We are not there yet. We are not there yet together. We are not there together yet as a Church. Thanks to the God who has come to us in Jesus Christ. May the repairs continue.
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 ...
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 ...