Monday, September 27, 2010


An Inkling
Ellen Andrusia reported a fun conversation with her five year old grand-daughter, Ellie, who visited our worship service with her grandmother, and then asked, “Why do people raise their hands in your church?”  Ellen answered, “They are worshiping the Lord.”  To which Ellie replied, “That also means touchdown!”
Isn’t it funny how what we’ve been exposed to shapes our perceptions?  Football as a grid for understanding worship – how American is that?!  And it’s not just children who bring a grid with them to worship.  We all bring our interpretive frameworks. 
I was reminded of this Sunday, when we had a lot of guests with us for Rowan Keyser’s baptism.  Some of them, coming from more reserved traditions, were surprised by how many “touchdowns” we score here at St. Giles!  And there were some other stadium trappings – clapping, and a few shouts – that caught their attention. 
Our “Contemporary” service tends to be more expressive than our “Traditional” service.  However, as Presbyterian services typically go, our Traditional service is also more expressive than people expect.  That service scores some touchdowns too!  Of course, if our guests come from a Pentecostal church, they’ll find even our Contemporary service to be pretty buttoned down.  We all have our grids.
So which is the right way to worship – expressive or reflective, standard Presbyterian or St. Giles or Pentecostal?  Wrong question.  For the One we worship delights in the variety of expression.  And we all do well to learn from each other, so that we might make his praise all the more glorious.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Why a Woman?

An Inkling
In this lull time between having called Sarah Marsh to be our new Associate Pastor, and her arrival here (mid-October), I thought I’d offer a brief reflection on women ministers.  Even though St. Giles has not called its own woman pastor before, for most of us women ministers are no longer a novelty.  The Presbyterian Church ordained its first woman elder 80 years ago, and its first woman minister 54 years ago.  Yet what seems simply right to us now did not seem so with our forebears, nor does it with many of our friends in other churches.  They cite various Pauline statements about women and ask, “How can you do that and take the Bible seriously?”  Good question.
Our church changed its mind not by setting the Bible aside, but by reading it more carefully.  Having seen women effectively “eld” before they could be “Elders” and “pastor” before they could be “Pastors,” the church re-read the scriptures with a renewed determination to understand God’s plan for women’s roles.
Whole books have been written about the interpretive quandaries caused by seemingly contradictory passages.  I can’t deal with all of that in a blog.  But I will simply lift up some passages that helped the church recognize women’s broad roles.  Genesis 1-3 shows how God created men and women equally in his image, and that it was sin, not God’s design, that put men and women at odds.  Jesus chose women as the first heralds of the best news ever:  his resurrection.  So they were apostles to the apostles!  Paul summed up the impact of Christ on human divisions:  There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 
By putting such passages alongside restrictive passages, the church saw that the overall trajectory of the Bible’s teaching supports equal roles for women and men, even while recognizing the God-given distinctives of the genders.  In that light, the restrictive passages are seen as directions for particular places where women had misused their new God-given freedoms.
I’m glad the church took a second look, for we are now richly blessed by the gifts God brings through women elders and ministers.  With Sarah’s arrival, we’ll witness the fruit of that second look in a new way in our own midst!  Seeing with our own eyes helps, but we must also be clear from the Bible itself why we believe women should take these roles.  Such clarity brings encouragement to our women, who must still sort out the claims of some churches that women don’t belong in such roles. 
Let’s be ready to launch Sarah well in her ministry here.  And you might find one of our women elders and speak a word of encouragement to her too!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Landscape of the Soul

An Inkling
One of the delightful passages in The Shack describes Mac (the main character) working in a garden with Sarayu (the Holy Spirit’s name in this fantasy of divine encounter).  As they work the garden, removing briars, digging roots, planting flowers, etc, they talk about many things, including the gardening work itself.  But it’s only at the end of their gardening work that Sarayu reveals that the garden they were working is really Mac’s soul – still with much work needed, but already showing an emerging beauty.
I was reminded of this when I was visiting with Jonathan Keyser about his beloved hobby, landscaping.  Thankfully he has plied his passion with some beds around the church.  You can see the attached before and after pictures of the back entrance.  How’s that for an amazing transformation?!  Not overnight, but over time, and with a lot of work on his part, Jonathan’s vision of beautiful possibilities has taken root and grown.
On several occasions I’ve talked with Jonathan about what could be done with a particular patch of ground.  I have no landscaper’s eye, and so I imagine some grass and a few flowers, at best.  But Jonathan sees possibilities beyond my imagining – grand visions of variety and beauty, tailored to grow in a particular place.  As he describes it, his eyes light up with excitement, for he’s already seeing a beauty that’s not yet grown to be. 
I have to believe that the Holy Spirit’s eyes light up as well when he surveys the gardens of our souls.  Weeds and briars don’t stifle his wild and wonderful imaginings for us.  With an ever-ready supply of water, and perfect timing for planting and pruning, he beautifies us.  I’ve seen some of his beautiful vision taking form in you.  Won’t it be fun to see his dream come to full realization?!  And in the meantime, we get to be his partners in the gardening.  Good company, and a meaningful task – what a deal!
Here’s to Jonathan,

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Life Weavers

An Inkling
My art education has been remedial.  I had little instruction as a youngster, and thus I am trying to fill in those gaps as an adult.  One art genre that has fascinated me is the tapestry.  Thousands of threads are woven to tell a story.  They may show a single scene, like Raphael’s picture of the miraculous catch of fish.  Or they may tell a longer story.  For example, the Prestopans Tapestry takes 104 meters to tell the story of the 1745 Battle of Prestopans!
In a tapestry, no one thread tells the tale.  But all the threads together can portray an elaborate scene, or recount a whole history.
You are a tapestry artist.  All but a few of us shy away from the title “artist,” but it’s true.  You are continually weaving threads that make up the tapestry of your life.  Particular threads may not seem of much import, say for example the way you do your meals, converse on the phone, or use your time in the evening.  But they become part of the larger portrayal of something quite grand – your life.  Everything gets woven in, both your best and worst.  And thankfully, God weaves his gracious and glorious threads into our tapestries too. 
It’s well to step back sometimes and ask, “What tale is my tapestry telling?”  I was put to thinking about this most recently when Sarah broke her ankle a week ago at the church picnic.  We heard a couple of days later that three little boys, Mikey, Sam, and James, had gone into one of the Sunday School rooms and prayed for her while we awaited the ambulance.  No one told them to.  They just did it.  How did they know to do that?
At this point in their lives, their tapestries are still very much interwoven with those of their parents.  Prayer must be woven right into the scenes of their everyday family life.  Thus it seemed natural to the boys to pray in an emergency.  Now, even at a young age, they are weaving such threads into their own tapestries – to the glory of God!
How’s that for a masterpiece?!