Thursday, May 22, 2014

Points of Interest

These are just some things for us to think about:

Only 5.6% of our Gospels contains events that happened upon or after Jesus' resurrection.   Matthew and Mark have only 20 verses in their final chapter while Luke and John both proclaim 53 verses to Jesus' resurrection. 

But over 13% of our Calendar year is dedicated to this season of "After Easter"

So, every year from Easter to Pentecost the same verses are read, the same topics are preached on.  There are 6 Sundays between Easter and Pentecost, according to John Jesus only appears to his disciples 3 times before his ascension.

It is kind of amazing to me that so much of our Christian faith relies on the fact that Jesus did not die on the cross but instead ascended to heaven.  This is important because it proved that Jesus was divine, that Jesus was indeed the Son of God.  But the fact that the Gospel writers, those who followed Jesus the most, spent so much more time telling us about Jesus' life then on his resurrection.
I believe the Good News for us is this - in life Jesus' showed us the way.  In life, Jesus was a perfect example of what a pure relationship with God is.  We are called as Christians to live into that life.  We are called as Christians to proclaim and spread Jesus' teachings.  We do not inherit the Kingdom, if we do not live the way.  We do not inherit the Kingdom by making our minds up after death.  Jesus ascend to new life, in order that all who come to believe may inherit the Kingdom.  His commission to the disciples was to go and spread, go and tell people all that he taught about not just his death and resurrection, which confirmed his divinity, but more importantly about his life.

The passages about the events after resurrection are powerful passages of doubt and truth. About God's love and the amazing grace that Jesus offers.  Jesus appears to Mary, Jesus appears to "unimportant" followers on the road to Emmaus and Jesus appears to his disciples in a lock room.  Such a powerful message to us that no matter who we are, we may experience Christ in our life.  And a stark reminder that Jesus' resurrection was just confirmation of the claims of his divinity but it was his teachings and his life that changed our relationship with God, that gave way to the forgiveness and love that our merciful God has granted.  It was Jesus' death on the cross, the culmination of a life lived in order that we may have new life.

Let us spend the last part of our "Sundays after Easter" trying to discover in new ways what Jesus' resurrection means to us in our life and how these few passages transformed the disciples into fearful, doubtful and lost people into the truth-living and grace spreading founders of the Church today.  Let us let these passages speak anew to us and keep moving us into a deeper relationship with our Savior.  Let us not get caught up in the "familiar" but instead inspired by the power of the Good News!  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Presbyterian Polity Crash Test

Many of you recall about a year ago when we prayed for our fellow congregation in Newark.  Your clerk remembers all too well the 5+ hour meeting in which we as a presbytery voted to place an Administration Commission at the church.  For those who are confused, AC (for short) can be placed in churches and presbyteries for several different reasons, but the one the presbytery voted to in June 2013 was an AC that gave original jurisdiction, essentially taking all authority away from the session. 

This may seem extreme.  And I assure you that the Committee on Ministry did not offer this option to the presbytery with joy but instead a heavy heart.  But we are a member of the PC (USA) which means we are larger than just the few churches.  And in this case, this allowed the church in Newark to bring the Presbytery up on charges - charges of irregularity, both in the process and the decision making. 

Last week I along with 2 colleagues traveled to Albany to represent the Presbytery to Synod along with several representing the session at the Newark church that were replaced with the AC. After a very long day for the trial and another long day of waiting for an answer the Synod found in favor of the Presbytery and the AC at Newark can now move ahead with original jurisdiction.  For the last 10 months much has been in limbo as the decision was waiting to be made. 

Surprisingly, the Bible has several passages that would discourage us as Christians from going to court with each other and to work out our differences.  And yet, so too often we are the first to go against our fellow Christians - our courts and lawyers are full of lawsuits. 

Yet, when we are in conflict, especially a church in conflict with itself, it is easy to triangle your conflict to beyond your group.  This is what happen in this case.  Once one side just got too personal, the other side began to entertain the conflict and before anyone could stop the forward movement of the conflict - it was at a high level and no matter what happened - more conflict was in the future.  Perhaps this ended last week when the Synod found in our favor and everyone can begin steps to move forward.  Hopefully we all learned from this.

Our reading for this Sunday is from Acts 7 and the martyr of Stephan.  We often focus on the murder and the actions of the crowd.  Clearly the crowd had a preconceived idea that Stephan was guilty as they were easily turned.  And we could focus on all the details of the martyr but then we would missed the glory of God.  You see, even in the midst of his martyr Stephan, offers forgiveness to the crowd.

I believe we have learned from this, I believe that Newark can move on for this.  I pray that all those hurt by this can still find the glory of God in the midst of our angry.  I pray that we don't have to go to trial again.