Monthly Archives: August 2017

Burning Coals

The executive officer on my ship would begin his daily meeting with us junior officers by grilling one of us. We never knew who would be on the hot seat or what minor infraction he had perceived. He seemed to be calling out smoke to see what fire he could ignite.

About that time I had been attending a Bible study over breakfast with the chaplain. Each week we would read and discuss a few paragraphs of Paul’s letter to the Romans. I still clearly remember hearing this verse from the 12th chapter:

No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them;
if they are thirsty, give them something to drink;
for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”
— Romans 12:20 (NRSV)

Heaping burning coals upon my executive officer’s head was exactly what I had in mind.

Alas a literally piling burning coals on one’s enemy’s head is not what Paul had intended. The best scholars consider this metaphor as pointing to an Egyptian ritual of carrying a basin of burning charcoal on one’s head as a token of penance or remorse for having harmed someone. As much as we might like to impose repentance, to urge atonement, to prod someone into mending breaches in community, this must come from within. We  must strive to be the examples of Christian kindness.

As Paul urges us:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
— Romans 12:17-18 (NRSV)

I will have more to say about Romans 12:9-21 on Sunday, September 3rd,  at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Statement Condemning Violence and Racism

Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church condemns violence and supports all efforts to end racism and promote justice and peace.

James 2:9 tells us, “If you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.” If we truly have faith in Jesus we will not treat some people better than others, but we will strive to love one another equally through the love of Jesus Christ.

Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church works toward building inclusive, caring communities. We condemn all forms of violence, particularly violence that tears at the fabric of God’s beloved community. The rhetoric of the “alt right” has no place in a civilized society that is built on principles of equality and God-given human rights. We condemn the racially motivated violence of white supremacy and the resurgence of neo-Nazism, with its bigotry and assumptions of privilege.

We urge all people to find ways to bridge the issues that divide Americans rather than widening the gap of distrust and misunderstanding. We support our brothers and sisters who are standing up for justice and peace. We encourage everyone to be steadfast and immovable in the fight against discrimination, prejudice and hatred.

We lift our prayers to God, and pray particularly for those immediately impacted by violence.

Adopted by the Session, August 20th, 2017.


Adapted from “Statement Condemning Racially-motivated Violence in Charlottesville” by Presbyterian Women, Inc.

Love Your Neighbor

Serendipitously our Mission and Evangelism Committee independently chose to present options for volunteering with local mission agencies on the exact same Sunday when our reading of Romans 12:1-8 would ask us how we might present our bodies as a living sacrifice, using our various gifts so that together we might be the body of Christ by loving our neighbors.

Please bring your friends and family with you on Sunday, August 27th.

  • Our day begins at 8:30 AM with a pancake breakfast.
  • At 10 AM speakers from six local ministries will inspire us to love our neighbors.
  • At 11 AM conversations will continue over ice cream sundaes.
  • Our annual talent show will conclude the morning’s festivities.

  Beth-El Ministries    Habitat for Humanity of Hillsborough County  Metropolitan Ministries - Hope is Here  


If these six speaker have not inspired you to use your gifts as you might the discern the will of God, then also consider service here at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church on our committees: Christian Education, Congregational Care, Facilities, Fellowship, Finance, Personnel, or Worship.

So be transformed by the renewing of your minds and discern how you might exhibit how the Spirit is good and acceptable and perfect.

Let these six local mission agencies inspire how you will present your bodies as living sacrifices on Sunday, August 27th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor

Who Are Our Neighbors

Summary

Discussions and responses on the demographic survey “Who are Our Neighbors” uncovered three major themes. See below for the demographic data presented in this survey.

Survey responses focused on continuing and expanding programs:

  • Outreach and engagement with our geographic community by shared meals, pantry assistance, fellowship, and collaboration on these with congregations near us, and with groups already connected to us (scouts, self-help groups, Weekday School families.)
  • Christian Education for all ages to include older adults, singles, widows/ers, teens and tweens. Learning opportunities for life skills such as budgeting, employment, parenting.
  • These descriptive terms came up in responses: listen, inviting, encourage, thoughtful, kindness, which seem to indicate a desire to engage with our neighbors rather than simply message them with outreach.

In light of this the Transitional Ministry Team seeks to find within our congregation the increased levels of skills and support for these endeavors.

Demographic Data

Population

Over the next five years the population within the study area is expected to grow from 37,292 to 37,946 at an average change rate of 0.4% per year. The racial-ethnic mixture of the study area is not anticipated to change.

Age Trends

The average age of all people living in the study area is 36.7 years old, five years younger than the state average, 41.7 years. This difference is expected to continue due to projected increases among those 35 – 54 years old and their children paralleling increases among those over 65 years of age, ~0.4%/year.

Income

The average household in the study area has an annual income of $56,900 while the 78 TTPC households within the study area average $84,800.

Study Area Household Annual Income (outer) versus TTPC households (inner)

Marital Status

Adults in our community are less likely to marry than the state average.

Education

Educational attainment had been rising among our neighbors, but is likely to decline over the next few years. These levels are higher than for all of Florida.

Education attainment by neighbors (outer) versus TTPC members and participants (inner)

Employment

People in the Study Area are much more likely to be employed as Office Administration or a Professional Specialty than the state average. Other occupations are about the state average or well below the state average.

Unopened Gift

Wrapped present with bowI like many Americans was brought up with the ideal that you get what you deserve and you deserve what you get. So you had better work hard and do the right thing. Or else!

But what about the Jews? Scripture tells us that Jesus came first to them and they rejected him, even crucified him to attempt to thwart God’s plan of redemption. If God should reject anyone, one might think the Jews would be long gone.

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! … God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. … for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
— Romans 11:1a, 2a, 29

And this is beautiful news for us! For since God has not rejected those who had attempted to thwart his plan of redemption, but instead God has used this attempt, the crucifixion of Jesus, to perfectly complete that plan. Thus we too can find mercy from our disobedience.

Thus God’s gift of mercy is like a gift irrevocably sitting on everyone’s door step, available to be open. The question for us who have opened the gift, bringing it into our lives, is how we might help other people to recognize and open God’s gift of mercy.

I will have more to say about Romans 11 on Sunday, August 20th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor

Shameless

Ticket to Admit OneI am amazed by the dedication of actors, actresses, directors, stage crew, and musicians who participate in community theater productions. They must learn their parts, faithfully attend practices, and reliably show up for performances for the entire company depends on each volunteer. Yes, volunteer! Most community theater productions are fully staffed by people who love to be on stage so much that they would labor intensely just to put on a show before a live audience. Tickets cover costs related to renting the hall, using the script, and other fees.

Which leaves me wondering how much people must love Jesus when they talk about why they attend worship, why they  make significant contributions to the church, and why they volunteer so many hours?

Unfortunately people who bubble over with joy about what Jesus has done in their lives are few and far between. Instead when I challenge people to invite their friends and family to a special worship service I often receive excuses or silent avoidance.

Paul had the same problem nearly 2,000 years ago and he replied:

“Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
— Romans 10:6-9

Apparently even in Paul’s day people worried about what others might say about them. But Paul has an answer for that too: “The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ ”

The big controversy in our day seems to be over evangelizing by deeds or by words. Street preachers are perhaps the worst example of the confessing only with one’s mouth. I firmly believe that the best evangelists take time to sit with and listen to people before speaking. On the other hand St Francis of Assisi answered the question about the value of what we do by saying: “Pray at all times; use words if necessary.”

How might you share God’s message of salvation?

I will have more to say about Romans 10:5-13 on Sunday, August 13th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor

God Chooses

Is there salvation for God’s chosen people? What about our friends and family who have drifted away from the faith?

Since Chapter 8 of Romans ends:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Broken PotteryThen how come God’s own people at least appear to be “separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus”? What allowed those who were once faithful members of the Church seem to have drifted away?

Later in chapter 9 and in the opening verses of chapter 10 Paul warns against attempting to establish one’s own righteousness, and not fully relying on God. The problem is not being sufficiently religious, but with attempting to be so religious as to establish one’s own righteousness through diligent observance of the law, proper prayers, and fastidious worship.

What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.
— Romans 9:14-16

And this is the best news, that although we might wish God would consult with us on who should receive compassion, or at least give us an insight as to why some people at least appear to be separated from the love of God, ultimately we must recognize God’s sovereignty and appreciate that the Creator of all thing seen and unseen, who placed us on this amazing planet, to be trusted with how God chooses to show mercy.

I will have more to say about Romans 9:1-18 on Sunday, August 6th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor