“The church is called to undertaking this mission even at the risk of losing its life, trusting in God alone as the author and giver of life, sharing the gospel, and doing those deeds in the world that point beyond themselves to the new reality in Christ.” Book of Order G-3.0400.
It it is not often that one quotes from the Presbyterian Book of Order in ones sermon. Yesterday was one of those days. I was preaching in the morning about how we (the church) are the living embodiment of the Kingdom of Heaven, but not totally revealed (a whole another subject in itself). As as church we are called to be ones of unity, living out the embodiment of Christ, and are to be sent (John 17:20-26). Blah, blah,blah… I could just keep writing on what I preached on, but I won’t (because you can buy the CD, actually you can’t, we are not that high tech). But the point is that we, as our congregation are to shed our labels. No longer do we want to be the know as the Hispanic New Church Development or the poster-child of Hearts and Hands in our Presbytery, but point to Christ in all things that we do.
It could be quite easy to do the status quo and make our way through ministry, but is that what we as a church is called to? The Book of Order says that we need to fulfill the mission of the church, otherwise known as evangelism, to the point of its own life. That is a radical thought! How many churches can say that they do that or even willing to consider that: put the risk of closing the church doors on the line for the sake of the mission of the church.
And Trusting in God Alone…uh.. smart elders would want to have everything nice and structured and organized. Maybe a nice pie chart and everything else, maybe a plan b or c. In order that we can be best assured of success. That is not what this is saying. It is saying “JUMP! and I’ll catch You”. Trust in God, and not to what you can see, make logic of, or touch. Put full faith in God. Remembering that God is the author of life or in charge of everything… That’s right God is in control and not me.
Doing those deeds in the world that point beyond themselves to the new reality in Christ. Going beyond ourselves, huh? What does that look like? A new service or maybe two? Outreach to the underprivileged? Stretching the congregation to areas that they have never even dreamed that they are capable of? THAT IS WHAT IT MEANS!!!! It is not about what we are comfortable in doing or even willing to do, but beyond that. I loved having a fifty year old former elder who worked for NASA come and be present with wild and reckless Junior Highers. That was beyond himself and it made a difference in the kids lives. And in it all transforming themselves and others in fuller knowledge and depth in their own relationship with God.
In other words: GAME ON!!!
If you have not figured it out from my previous posts, I have spent the past seven days at General Assembly with SFTS. I was surprised today when I got a text from Ron to come up to the Assembly floor. Where I watch the Assembly is in a classroom on the other side of the convention center. Not because I cannot be on the floor, but this way I can talk through the procedures and happening more than on the floor. One can only handle being shusshed so many times. Anyways Ronnie texts me that I need to meet up with him. He shows me the a brochure that is being distributed from the denomination about Hearts and Hands. On it is Kett (AKA Jessica Woods) and my son. He is famous. Shouldn’t we get some royalty or something for it?
End of day…. uh four or is it five. I have been here since Friday and am really starting to lose my bearings. All I can see is the day that is in front of me. Committee Meetings, to small groups, back to committees, dinner at McCormick’s, SFTS Reception, and back to committee meetings. What did I learn today… my feet hurt. Stupid concrete floor, my feet and ankles are killing me. I sat through the Committee on Church Ministry and Order today. Boy was that fun…not. It is the committee that has some of the hot button topics such as the Peace, Unity, and Purity Report Response. It is quite charged on both sides of the subject. I was in there to look at the different issues that have to do with the Commissioned Lay Pastors. While it was interesting, I left and figured that I would catch it online later in the day.
I am beat from the pace. This whole assembly goes through Saturday afternoon. We have not even gotten to the General Assembly debate, it is only committees. As I make my way through this I am realizing that if I try to make it to everything that the week offers, I will be drooling on myself. Looking to the next couple of days I am excited about some of the “extra-curricular” activities that will be going on. Imagine this tomorrow night is a dance put on by one of the groups here. Ahhh…yeah not attending that. Instead Ronnie wants me to “break him out”. He has been stuck in the blocks immediately surrounding the conference center due to not having a vehicle. Should be interesting taking him out. I wonder where we should go?
Well another day down here and it was REALLY exciting personally and some cool opportunities presented themselves, so we shall see. Night all.
My background in attending conferences have been mostly through Youth Specialties among several others. Those conference tended to have more than a little bit of energy in it. Whether that is through finger darts or a constant state of “one up one ship” between exhibit booths. Well, not so much here at GA. Just not anybody can be a “central” part of the Assembly. At its very core is representatives from 174 Presbyteries or Regional bodies that get to actually vote. Around them are different lobbing groups, observers, Presbyterian staff, and then there is me… a student observer.
While I am used to a bunch of running around and energy, this is a bit different. There is energy as groups are hopeful for the delegates to bring about change, whether it is more liberal or conservative. The enormity of what happens here is great. In many ways it is like what I imagine the US government to be like in a smaller context. What happens here affects every PCUSA congregation from rural Iowa to Los Angeles. At last nights class session we were talking about looking for the Holy Spirit in the midst of this Assembly. Should be interesting.
I am more than a little brain fried. This past weekend was the PCUSA ordination exams. It is the 2-5 part of a series of exams. The first one is the Bible Content Exam, which tests ones knowledge of the Bible. While some are obvious, others are pretty hard. Thank goodness that I passed last year.
Skip forward to this year. It was a lot more complex than multiple choice questions of the previous exam. The four tests that I had to pass where the Polity, Theological Competance, Worship and Sacraments, and the Exegesis.Each test was three hours long and required you to have good knowledge over a variety of topics. I came to the conclusion that it was something that you could not really study for but have to know. Through January I reviewed a bunch of notes and books to get a good idea of what to say.
After taking the the first three tests (Polity, Theological Competence, and Worship and Sacraments) I was really comfortable. I knew the questions that were asked, it was a question if I formed my answer well enough. There is both an assessment of ones knowledge and its application in ministry on the tests
The last test was an exegesis. Where you are assigned a passage, in this case Revelation 13:1-10. You are given four days to write a sermon, translate it from Greek, and answer questions based on the text. Wow, was that hard and tedious. I spent over 21 hours on it. It was a tough scripture to translate and answer on. I did it but man am I spent. It was due on Thursday at 9 a.m. and I finished at 1:30 a.m.
Now I just have to wait until April to get the results. Cross your fingers that I passed!
Ever wonder where you fit in? I have been lately. Sitting at lunch last week with my class and my professor, I wondered who am I? First off I know that I am reformed in my theology and Presbyterian by embracing its heritage and creeds. Beyond that what am I? Moderate by political beliefs, conservative with a moderate lean in theology, but liberal in ministry style. What is that?
As I see it. Presbymergent. It is a newly organized movement of pastors and people seeking to combine the emerging church and Presbyterian. It is interesting to see the rigidness of our polity combined with the free flowing conversation that is Postmodernism and the emerging church. Can two seemingly exclusive entities co-exist? Only conversation, the future, and God can tell.
A couple of weeks ago I got a email in regard to one of my blogs. It led to an interview with the Mission Initiative: Hearts and Hands of the Presbyterian Church. The article came out today and can be found here. Instead of it being a nice little small article it got picked up to go national. Uhhh. OK.
First off it goes to the question. Why does anyone read what I have to say here? Second, this makes me INFAMOUS! Not famous which is of good reputation and excellence, but notorious. Muhhhaaaa. Watch out the Notorious Seanster is coming to town.