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.
The Blessedness of Unity
1 How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.
3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life for evermore. (Psalm 133)
Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings are on a concert tour these days in conjunction with Welch’s new CD. In a recent interview with Welch, the reporter noted the challenge of distinguishing between their voices in a couple of songs because of the fine harmony. She replied that the two of them had been singing together for so long, they have trouble with that, as well.
While the Psalmist paints a glorious image of harmony, other passages indicate more discord. It appears that fine harmony was lacking throughout the reign of King David. It is also difficult to imagine the disciples singing in harmony after their who-is-the-greatest squabble. In Acts 2, we see a fleeting glimpse of harmony in the early church that is soon interrupted by the Hellenists complaining of unfair treatment of their widows. The epistles are filled with one unharmonious church after another.
Singing in harmony requires balancing a dissonant chord (a chord with tension) with a consonant one (a relaxed chord). Thus, harmony happens when a balance is struck between "tense" and "relaxed" chords.
The challenge for us in the church is how to balance tense and relaxed moments. For example, congregations are gearing up for a new church school year. How do we balance the tension of having enough children for a class with the joy of watching a 7-year-old begin the discovery of God? Stewardship season will soon be upon us, as well. How will we balance the tension of having enough pledges to cover the budget with the free gift of a 90-year-old member’s volunteer hours?
How? Historically, we have had to rely on grace. And in that we have harmony.
Read the column in Korean. (PDF)
Life after disasters is full of stories of tragedy and miraculous survival.
Recently, I visited Joplin, Missouri, which was devastated by a class E-5 tornado in May. It was the deadliest tornado since 1950, killing over 155 people and destroying around 7,000 homes. The tornado tore a path three-fourths of a mile wide and ten miles long through town.
It is difficult to see what force the church has against the magnitude of such destruction. Yet, what impressed me in Joplin is the extraordinary power of the ordinary life of the church.
It seems only appropriate to begin the July 2011 column with a quote from the new Form of Government. The very first paragraph begins with a statement that lifts up the mission of the congregation where it is planted:
The congregation is the church engaged in the mission of God in its particular context. The triune God gives to the congregation all the gifts of the gospel necessary to being the Church. (Book of Order, G-1.0101)
I rarely see a really meaningful moment on a television medical drama. But I will have to confess that the writers for Grey’s Anatomy captured just such a moment.
An airplane had crashed into the harbor. The hospital was to be the trauma center where all of the survivors would be brought and families could gather for information. Then comes the sobering news: no survivors. So the doctors who had prepared to do lifesaving surgeries become grief counselors instead. One by one, the families are notified and most leave the hospital.
Frederick Law Olmsted was the American creator of the craft of landscape architecture. He had no college degree or much experience beyond a little farming when he was awarded the contract to oversee the construction of Central Park in New York City. He later went on to design college campuses, the Chicago World’s Fair, and the beautiful city parks that grace Louisville, Ky.