Monthly Archives: September 2015

World Communion

One day I would like to truly have communion with the whole church.

Once a month we offer the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, the bread and the cup that symbolize the body and blood of Christ Jesus. Occasionally I mention that the table in front of that particular congregation is linked by this symbolic bread with every other congregation, not merely those within the Presbyterian Church USA but Presbyterians who have chosen to go separate ways, with congregations of other Reformed Churches, with Roman Catholic congregations and with Baptists and with induependent churches. Our unity through this sacramental meal is nothing short of miraculous.

In most towns where I have lived once or twice a year, typically for Thanksgiving, the various congregations come together to worship. We share bits and pieces that are uniquely from our heritage and from what we hold in common, occasionally editing out words that might divide us. Only once have we celebrated communion together, and then it was because the other pastor and I came from Churches that had officially recognized each other’s sacraments.

For, to begin with, when you come together as a church,
I hear that there are divisions among you;
and to some extent I believe it.
— 1 Corinthians 11:18 (NRSV)

Yet I continue to hope that one day we might briefly share one loaf demonstrating our oneness in Christ. Imagine six pastors from six congregations representing six different denominations all lifting one loaf of bread as we simultaneously say the words of institution, then breaking that one loaf to share with people from these congregations. In that moment there would be no visible divisions between us.

Bagietka

That day may be coming as various denominations recognize each other yielding a daisy chain kind of oneness as one denomination recognizes another and that recognizes a third who recognizes one that the first might have differences with and so forth. Perhaps in my lifetime, if we arrange the pastors in the right order, I could break bread with a Lutheran pastor who could break that loaf with an Episcopal priest who could …

And perhaps someday in the distant future such unity might last longer than a few minutes and have more than symbolic implications.

I will have more to say about this passage on Sunday, October 4th, at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Yours in Christ,
Robert Shaw, Pastor

Font and Pulpit

Wisdom for Health

I remember the first time I had included an anointing service in a Sunday morning worship service. The elders on that church’s board doubted that anyone would be interested for a special service of healing.  Instead they suggested that I tack it on the end of a regular Sunday morning worship service and perhaps one or two people might come forward. I came prepared with lots of oil, mostly because I wanted the people in the back rows to see it. The elders were partially correct, I had to stand by myself at the front of the sanctuary for a moment or two waiting for the first person to come forward to accept anointing with oil. But as soon as I had blessed her two more stood behind her. Within minutes the line stretched down one side and across the back of the sanctuary. Before worship had concluded that Sunday all but perhaps one or two had come forward.

That morning I experienced that, while no one said aloud a  particular sickness or suffering, each person in that room wanted healing.

Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.
— James 5:13-15 (NRSV)

I am confident that it made a spiritual difference in their lives. I am confident that the ritual of prayer with assurance of forgiveness provided spiritual healing that in turn had a physical impact. I am confident for although no one had touched oil to my head, through this ministry of oil that I had also shared in the blessing with each person I touched and thus had also received many blessings that day.

I will have more to say about this passage on Sunday, September 27th, at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Yours in Christ,
Robert Shaw, Pastor

Font and Pulpit

Wisdom We Seek

Growing up in the shadow of New York City I still remember who won the 1969 World Series and, with the Internet accessible through my smart phone, I can almost as easily tell you who won any other World Series. Thus today being able to recall useful data, even trivia with only marginal value, has little if any application, outside of parlor games.

What really counts is wisdom. The ability to filter and apply vast quantities of facts and act on the facts available. Schools may teach students how to ask good questions, but how does one define “good”?

Only God provides an objective answer about what is good and up lifting.

But the wisdom from above is first pure,
then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield,
full of mercy and good fruits,
without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.
— James 3:17 (RSV)

Our task is to continually remind ourselves of God’s wisdom.

Bible lightHave you ever watched a movie or read a book before bed and had a character from the story appear in your dreams? What might happen if the last thing you did before bed was to read the Bible or a devotional or spend a few minutes in prayer with God? What visions and characters might guide your slumbers?

I will have more to say about this passage on Sunday, September 20th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Font and Pulpit

Wisdom We Speak

In the early days of email, when most of the world still used dial-up to connect to the Internet, I would have to connect twice to the server. First to download all of my new incoming messages then a second time to upload my responses. The technology imposed delay of several minutes and frequently an hour or more between writing a note and sending it would give me an opportunity to reconsider my words, amend what I had written, and occasionally not send a reply, or at least not send my initial response.

I wonder if we lost more than we gained with instant communications of text messages over letter writing with pen and paper. An ill formed text message can easily incite unintended passions. I recall colleagues in an email thread, before even simple emoticons had become widely used, coming getting into an argument not over what had been written, but in how it had been read. The sender had written the offending remark imagining the two of them had been sitting in his office chatting over a cup of coffee. The receiver imagined a much different inflection, that the remark had been made in the midst of a heated argument and he responded accordingly amplifying their misunderstandings.

The tongue is like a spark.
It is an evil power that dirties the rest of the body
and sets a person’s entire life on fire
with flames that come from hell itself.

— James 3:6 (CEV)

What a strange creature we humans are with words of blessing and curses coming from the same tongue. Thus we seek wisdom so our words will contribute to building God’s kingdom.

If only we could once again return to the days of paper and pen, when the sending a note meant days not milliseconds, when the act of finding stamps and an envelope might give us a moment to reread and perhaps revise our messages before placing a note in the mailbox. I suppose even letting a message sit in the draft folder for a few hours might give time for the peace of the Holy Spirit to give us a dose of patience to hear our words with open-minded consideration. My blog entries often benefit from a second glance between when they are written and when they finally post a week later.

I will have more to say about this passage on Sunday, September 13th, at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

We will also be blessed by opening our worship service on September 13th with a traditional native Alaskan welcoming drumming song.