Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Our Welcome into ECO

An Inkling
What a grand Sunday we had!  We launched as an ECO church, ordained Elders with vows signifying our new ECO commitments, and then topped it all off with a picnic. 
Several of you who were absent or working on the picnic set up asked to see the welcome sent by Dana Allin, the Synod Executive for the ECO.  It’s attached here.  Dana is in the middle of a move in California, but he took time to send us this greeting.
We have much yet to discover about what God is doing in this fresh start season.  What happy discoveries to make!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New Challenges in a New Day

An Inkling
Wow – suddenly life is different!  For nearly two years we’ve been in the thick of seeking dismissal from the PCUSA to a new denominational home, the ECO.  Tuesday the Presbytery voted to dismiss us, though not without some heated debate, and efforts by some to change the settlement agreement we had worked out with their negotiating team.  But gratefully, in answer to so many prayers, the vote was nearly 3 to 1 to dismiss us with the terms we voted upon as a congregation last month.
So we’re in a new day.  But it is a day with its own challenges.  Let me suggest to you several that come to mind.
First, we have to learn how to identify ourselves without the foil of the PCUSA.  For years, when we have been challenged by evangelical friends about being part of the PCUSA, we have responded, “but we’re different.”  Now we are different – literally.  And we can no longer use that foil as an identifier, for which it was never really adequate anyway.  Now we must “identity ourselves” in Christ as a Reformed congregation, in Richmond, in 2013.  We get to do so in partnership with ECO congregations, a far more healthy partnership for us. 
Second, we must seek the Lord for healing in our hearts.  The dismissal process has been brutal at points.  Add that to many years of tensions with our former denomination, and the effect on our hearts has not been good.  For example, in my own heart I will be seeking God’s forgiveness and healing for some deep cynicism about my sisters and brothers in the PCUSA.  I suspect that your heart may need similar cleansing.  As we both repent and forgive, may God heal our hearts, that they may bear fruit fitting for his Kingdom, rather than the inevitably sour fruit of bitter hearts.
Third, we must pay for this.  We’re having to borrow $250,000 to pay Presbytery.  The justice or injustice of that is now God’s to judge, not ours.  It is the way that has been opened for us.  I suggest that we approach it as a privilege to sacrifice for what we believe God has called us to do.  It’s not exactly rare for disciples to be called to sacrifice!  Now God has given us that privilege.  We must answer his call.
And finally, we must not forget our sister congregations still in the dismissal process:  Third, Christ, and Crestwood departing for ECO, and Spotsylvania departing for the EPC.  In our urgency to get on with life, we must not forget those who have been our partners thus far.  By God’s providence, we are the first ones out.  But that only frees us to shift our focus from praying for our own deliverance to praying for our partners!  We will be prompting such concerted prayer in various ways.  Stay tuned.
As I said: suddenly life is different!  And in a good way.  Let’s see where the Lord takes us now.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Perspective Matters

An Inkling
Here’s some good news:  Apple is updating its iOS system; the Koreas look like they may have talks; and RG3 reports that he’ll be ready to go for the Redskins as the season starts.
Here’s some bad news:  riots continue in Turkey; the Syrian conflict continues unabated; and a storm damages homes in Hanover County.
Here’s some news that gives perspective on all other news:  This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. (The Message translation of John 3:16)
Perspective matters when hearing news.  It matters for understanding what matters, and what lasts.
Thankfully what matters and lasts is the best news of all – which gives a whole new perspective.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Fresh Start

An Inkling
It’s a saying credited to Albert Einstein:  Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. 
We can see it in Washington.  We can see it in the Middle East.  We can see it in (someone else’s) marriage.  We just don’t see it in ourselves.  We get into patterns that don’t yield what we’re after.  But rather than changing the patterns, we just double down.  Insanity.
So too with the spiritual life.  One form of spiritual craziness is pursuing ultimate things apart from who God really is.  But the more common craziness in the church is Einstein’s version.
Are you stale in your prayer life, or sluggish in your service?  Are you having a hard time hearing God?  Consider a fresh start in the forms of your spiritual disciplines.  Doing more of the same will not yield different results.
And what is true for each disciple is true for all disciples.  When things are not working in a congregation (fewer baptisms than funerals, fading zeal for serving the poor and hurting, stagnant patterns of study and fellowship, etc), it’s time for a fresh start – or fresh starts on multiple fronts.
St. Giles’ Elders are seeking God’s guidance for such fresh starts.  Expect some dynamic new patterns for our common life in the coming months.  We believe our partners in our new denomination, the E.C.O., will help foster such a fresh start.  (We will finally become official in the E.C.O. later this month.) 
And to encourage us to welcome the Lord’s fresh start, our sermon focus this summer will be on Isaiah 40-55 – God’s word addressed to his people in a season of fresh starts. 
If people want to call us crazy, let’s not have it be for Einstein’s reason!