Discernment Devotionals #5

Leading in times of Change
Devotion 5
Listen, Receive and Create Space

…, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.  (Proverbs 2: 1-5)

Book of Order (W-2.1000)
Prayer is a conscious opening of the self to God, who initiates communion and communication with us. Prayer is receiving and responding, speaking and listening, waiting and acting in the presence of God. In prayer we respond to God in adoration, in thanksgiving, in confession, in supplication, in intercession, and in self-dedication.
Poet Judy Brown writes
What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.

Serving people and organizations through change is full of challenge and reward. Listening, intentionally paying attention, sincerely offering an ear and the space for you to speak, creates space between the logs, breathing space so that your gifts can “show up”, burn, crackle and fuel how you live, breathe, serve and ultimately inspire positive change in your communities.

Creating space to listen and ask good questions leads to all kinds of possibilities. It engages and invites ALL of us into the conversation. It sounds simple yet I have discovered there must be intentional “receiving and responding, speaking and listening, waiting and acting in the presence of God”. Wind, oxygen and space for a fire to burn is not neat and tidy, it can be messy. Yet, building a good fire, says Judy Brown requires attention  “to the spaces in between, as much as to the wood.”

Meditation Questions:

Prayer can allow us the space we need to breathe, pause, listen, reflect and wait in silence. When or how do you allow prayer to be your “space in between the logs”?
How do you make sure there is space, so the flame that called you to this work can burn, continue to be healthy, grow and engage those around you?

Discernment Devotionals #4

Being and Doing Presbyterian
Devotion 4
Celebrating Our Reformed Identity
Scripture:  Colossians 1:3-14
Focus: You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.
Book of Order:
F-3.0202 Governed by Presbyters
This church shall be governed by presbyters, that is, ruling elders and teaching elders.  Ruling elders are so named not because they “lord it over” the congregation (Matt. 20:25), but because they are chosen by the congregation to discern and measure its fidelity to the Word of God, and to strengthen and nurture its faith and life.  Teaching elders shall be committed in all their work to equipping the people of God for their ministry and witness.
         The Year of Our Lord 2017 shall be the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s  publication of his Ninety-five Theses in Wittenberg, Germany, thus laying the foundation for the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  From that momentous day on October 31st, the rich heritage of Protestant Denominationalism took off.  Among the great gifts that our ancestor, John Calvin, left the world was the understanding of church governance known as Presbyterian.  The third chapter of the Foundations section of our Book of Order lays out the principles upon this way of being and doing Presbyterian rests.  It is a way of church life that has borne much fruit in the world.  The shared practice of this way has spread across the Earth.  As a way committed to deep discernment of the truth of the God’s Word, it has strengthened and nurtured the faith and life of many.
            One of the things that has occurred in the last century is the great multiplication of denominations, groups and independent congregations in the U.S.A.  There are now literally tens of thousands in America alone.  In our highly mobile world, more and more church going families chose their church not by denominational heritage or loyalty, but by many other factors.  And the pattern of church going has markedly changed by those who do.  As we move into a new structure and paradigm for living out our Presbyterian Way in 2017, the 500th anniversary invites us to renew ourselves in the great gifts of our heritage, but in the same Reformation spirit, ask how we can faithfully be joined in ways that bear the fruits of God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ.

Meditation Question:

What is distinctive about your congregation’s presence in your community/ neighborhood?

Discernment Devotionals #3

Being and Doing Presbyterian

Devotion 3
Sharing Mercies

Scripture: I Peter 2:1-3, 9-10
Focus: 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Book of Order:

The mission of God in Christ gives shape and substance to the life and work of the
Church. In Christ, the Church participates in God’s mission for the transformation of creation and humanity by proclaiming to all people the good news of God’s love, offering to all people the grace of God at font and table, and calling all people to discipleship in Christ. Human beings have no higher goal in life than to glorify and enjoy God now and forever, living in covenant fellowship with God and participating in God’s mission.

By the great grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord we are established as a people of God’s mercy. Mercy from the Word and therefore called to be people of merciful words. Mercy in beholding the birth, life, mission, ministry, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension and glorification of Christ, and therefore called to people to show that in word and deed to the world. Mercy in being joined together in Christ’s Living Body, and therefore called to be merciful with our pew neighbors, our church neighbors, and those who do not know the comfort of God’s mercies. What a Calling!
There’s an old joke that preachers sometimes hear or overhear. “Well, you know the preacher, he’s got a pretty good job, he only works one hour a week!” When I heard the teasing I always said, “That’s exactly right, it just takes all the other hours of the week to get ready for that one!” So it does for the preachers, so it does for all members of the Body of Christ. That’s a lot of hours! But the great Good News is those hours are all gifted in Mercy.
In our shared Ecclesial Work of Mission Presbytery gathers to make sure the pulpits are full, the congregational leaders are nurtured and equipped, the Sessions and Diaconates rightly resourced and guided, and our congregations are meaningfully joined for shared mission. All of that is about God’s mercies. And in our shared Diaconal Mission Presbytery gathers to make sure we are sharing those mercies with children, youth, college students, seminarians, families, singles, seniors…everybody! This is God’s Calling. It is our mission.

Meditation Question: Name five works of mercy for which your congregation is known.

Discernment Devotionals #2

Being and Doing Presbyterian
Devotion 2
A Holistic and Holy Order
Scriptures: Luke 10:2-9 and I Corinthians 12:27-31
Focus: 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace   to this house!” 6 And if anyone is there who shares in   peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues.
Book of Order:

F-1.0303 The Notes of the Reformed Church
Where Christ is, there is the true Church. Since the earliest days of the Reformation,
Reformed Christians have marked the presence of the true Church wherever:
the Word of God is truly preached and heard,
the Sacraments are rightly administered, and
ecclesiastical discipline is uprightly ministered.
            “Connectionalism” is a term that is a part of Presbyterian jargon.  As we are a denomination that names ourselves by the way we order, organize and govern the Church, the term connectionalism tells us that an essential part of our character is that we are people in worship and service together.  In his charge to the 70, Jesus sent out apostles of God’s peace to establish a living, vibrant network of “Peace of God” houses.  In his reflections about Calling and leadership Paul sought to bring order to those gifted in the different aspects of sharing the Good News of Christ. Faith, witness, mission and ministry is all about being connected to God, with our own congregation members, but also with our neighbor congregations.
            In the work of the Discernment Task Force two questions quickly arose and those two questions guided the whole assessment of the life and mission of Foothills Presbytery: What must we do together to be faithful to our Presbyterian Identity?  and What do we need to do together that we cannot do separately? A whole, holistic and Holy practice of our common life always works to connect our Identity and our shared mission.  The proposed structure aims to connect our core Ecclesial Mission responsibilities to ensure we are always centered in the Word proclaimed, the Sacraments administered and good discipline practiced, and our Diaconal Mission of works of witness, service, mercy and love.  Connected by God’s grace to Him, to our fellow members, to those in our fellow congregations the aim of shared life is to be a people of God’s peace.
Meditation Questions:  List five gifts your congregation shares with others?

Discernment Devotionals #1

Being and Doing Presbyterian Devotion 1

Covenant Faithfulness

Scripture: Exodus 18:13-27

Focus: 17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘What you are doing is not good. 18 You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.

Book of Order: F- 1.0203 Christ Gives the Church Its Life Christ gives to the Church its faith and life, its unity and mission, its order and discipline.

Scripture teaches us of Christ’s will for the Church, which is to be obeyed. Inthe worship and service of God and the government of the church, matters are to be ordered according to the Word by reason and sound judgment, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Meditation: Change, change and more change is what we as individuals and communities live with every day. We walk around with devices that flash texts and tweets and emails and newsflashes constantly. That great virtue of patience is often sorely lacking. What an extraordinary gift God gives us by joining us to the Living Body of Christ where we are loved and nurtured in His patient love.

We Presbyterians love to strive to do things “decently and in order,” per the great charge of our forebear, John Calvin. We have a tendency, however, to become as harried as Moses was when his father-in-law saw him at work leading the Covenant community.

In this incredibly busy world the very last thing we need is to design structures and meetings that wear God’s people out. Instead, as wise Jethro commended, we need to organize ourselves in ways that meet the needs, but that focus on helping us all discover the rich peace of God.

The plan of organization and shared mission that the Discernment Task Force has laid before us is one that is aimed at helping us be a lively, energetic people in service to God and neighbor in the Upstate of South Carolina. The design is founded in an understanding of the Covenant Faithfulness of God and one that calls us to relationships
that nurture and sustain us in the love of Christ Jesus. As we live amidst times of ongoing and rapid change, the design is clear, but flexible; orderly, but open to experimentation; established in the Presbyterian Foundations, but aimed at helping us live in these ever changing times. To be energetic in witness and service, the world needs and we need a shared life that helps the world to see and us experience the peace of God that passes all understanding (see John 14:25-31.)

Meditation Question: What is it about being and doing Presbyterian gives you a sense of God’s peace?