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.
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 scenes probably should be earthier.
As a Calvinist I am supposed to like these plainer versions of worship and Christmas. Part of our history is that we cleaned out the artwork of sanctuaries like a rock band in a hotel. As my children grew into wonderful adults our Christmases did get plainer. Then we had a grandchild and welcomed Fisher-Price back into our lives.
Somewhere between the barns, the baby, and the big story of God entering human flesh is the sweet spot. It is the spot where God can once again find us expectant and hopeful. It is the place where we are once again surprised by this wonderful act of grace.
In England and parts of Europe there existed tithe barns. Farmers brought their tithe of their farm crop to the barn in support of the local church. Many of these tithe barns were themselves grand structures capable of holding large amounts of grain. The relationship between the field and the sanctuary was much clearer in an agrarian economy.
I hope this Advent we are able to link our daily toil and our holy quest in a much deeper and earthier way. May we inhale the worldly air that comes from God and breathe out joy at the joyous news that God has come looking for us.
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.
School has started in our city. I watch the young people from our neighborhood trudge up the little hill to the front of the subdivision to catch their bus. Because it takes a while to figure out which bus is the right bus, the mothers are often seen standing in front of homes watching their children until the bus comes along. Then, one by one, they take their coffee mugs and head back into their houses.
I am even more aware that some of the moms still carry a great deal of anxiety about those children. The mothers of color have the extra burden that some unintended action by their sons may get them into trouble and possibly shot. They might not receive their sons back at the end of the day, but receive a phone call or a knock on the door with the message that no parent ever wants to receive.
In August there will be a major change in my family’s life. My daughter’s family will be moving from our home to her new call as the college chaplain at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina. This means that my grandson Dylan, who has lived with us since his birth in March of 2013, will be leaving our daily life. I thought I would share some things he has taught me these past months.
YEA as a liturgical response. Dylan says a loud Yea to preludes, hymns, prayers of the people, sermons and the passing of the peace ...