All posts by Robert Shaw

Witnesses

Each and every day, and increasingly in our connected world, we leave clues that some people can read and assemble into a portrait that depicts what we deem worthy of our time.

As a child might leave cookies to see if Santa had visited, many websites use digital cookies to track the pages you view. This site like nearly every other website uses cookies to track which pages you visit and carry information between pages, for example if you have logged in as a member or not. This helps us recognize important and popular pages so we can continually improve our content. While we do not intentionally track information about the actions of particular users, other websites remember which products you researched and use that information to show related advertisements even when you visit unrelated sites seeking to bring you back to their website.

What sort of picture do we generate about the importance of repentance and forgiveness of sins? If Jesus is central to our life, shouldn’t we leave crumbs about how Christ has made a difference in our lives or influenced the choices we make?

You are witnesses of these things.
— Luke 24:48

Do you share stories of exceptional examples of sacrificial love, someone’s willingness to forgive an outrageous misdeed, or even times when you experienced God’s mercy?

I will have more to say about Luke 24:44-53 and being witnesses of Christ on Sunday, May 28th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Robert Shaw, Pastor

Seeking Infinity

How can we be  in God and God in us?

On that day you will know that
I am in my Father,
and you in me,
and I in you.
— John 14:20

Can a three-dimensional object have only one edge and one side?

Try this at home. Put a half twist in a strip of paper then tape the two ends together forming a loop. This loop is called a Mobius Strip; a three-dimensional object with only one surface and one edge.

To prove that it has only one side, draw a line down the middle of the strip by sliding it under a marker. With a little patience you will come back to where you started and line now appears on both sides of the original strip. If you attempt to cut a third off of one edge, you will get a loop twice the diameter as the original loop plus the middle third of the original loop. Both of these experiments show that a Mobius Strip is three-dimensional object with only one side and one edge. Thus it should not be too much of a jump to thinking about one God being Father, Son, AND Holy Spirit; about one God being in us and our being in God.

But the best part of being in Christ and having Christ in us, is that we become an extension of Christ and Christ’s actions become an extension of Christ’s ministry in the world. When our actions reflect Christ, those that demonstrate Christ’s love for the whole world, we keep his commandments and the Father grants our petitions, for then we will be doing God’s will.

I will do whatever you ask in my name,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

— John 14:13

I will have more to say about John 14:12-21 and being in Christ on Sunday, May 21st at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Robert Shaw, Pastor

Building a Lasting House

Have you ever considered all of the expense that goes into building and maintaining a sanctuary, that part of a church building where we gather to worship on Sunday morning? A space that is difficult and expensive to heat or cool? A space that is seldom used during the week?

Since the first place of worship was merely an elaborate tent (see Exodus 26), what if instead of an impressive brick and mortar building that would only be used a few hours a week, we had a tent plus a few stacks of chairs,  a table, and a piano that could be rolled into place each week? Perhaps a tent we would inflate early Sunday morning then roll away that afternoon; for the church is not the building, but a people who worship together.

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
— 1 Peter 2:4-5 (NRSV)

For when a congregation is focused on shaping the living stones rather than maintaining brick and mortar, then their spiritual house becomes stronger as the living stones are hewn to fit exactly together, matching the shapes of adjacent stones supporting and provoking one another.

Yes provoking one another. Smaller congregations are particularly good at this. If someone misses worship, they either call ahead of time or someone will check on them, perhaps even before worship begins. And not merely Sunday worship, for living stones have many opportunities to be the Church of Jesus Christ in the world.

While large ornate cathedrals leave me wondering how resources might be used more effectively, I do recognize the value of a permanent place for worship over the labor and wear and tear to erect a tent every week, and how all that labor can be come a distraction to being living stones in a community.

How are you a “living stone”?

I will have more to say about 1 Peter 2:1-10 and living stones on Sunday, May 14th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Robert Shaw, Pastor

Testing Continues

St Mark's Cathedral
On Palm Sunday 2017, a bomb exploded at the entry of St Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, killing 17 people.

Recent bombings of Coptic Christian churches in Egypt remind us of the dangers of professing Christ as our Lord and Savior. This incident reminds us that following Christ has physical implications that will indeed test our resolve to trust the one true God.

Yet even Christians in Western nations are tested. First the Church is increasingly marginalized as Sundays, even Sunday mornings are being filled with secular activities. Our children’s coaches have told us that if our children wish to remain on the team they cannot miss games and practices, including those on Sundays.

Western Christians are also tested in the application of faith in political discourse. Should we support candidates who challenge our values for sexual morality, for responsibility to care for the earth, and for our neighbors who are hungry or homeless?

Our faith is tested in the hospital room watching a friend or family member suffer a debilitating disease. We ask: “How can a loving, all powerful God allow this to happen?” or “Where is God in all this pain?”

In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. — 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NRSV)

On Sunday, April 23rd, we anticipate receiving as new members, those who have completed the confirmation class. However, the tests of faith do not end when they receive a Bible during worship. If anything, this ritual marks the beginning of testing the integrity of faith in all phases of life.

I will have more to say about 1 Peter 1:3-9 and testing of faith on Sunday, April 23rd at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Robert Shaw, Pastor

Fear Not!

A young officer on his first dive in a submarine carefully inspects the equipment as the ship slowly descends to test depth. Prior to going to sea every system has been carefully inspected and tested using various equipment that simulates actual conditions when submerged. But the real test is taking the ship out for the first time and actually diving to to that depth where the test results indicate that the ship should function as designed.

Suddenly a pipe in front of the young officer jumps from a bracket with a loud bang. The officer freezes. He speculates: ‘should that have happened? Is that an impending crisis?’ At this depth, a rupture of even a small pipe could have catastrophic consequences as sea water would spray with horrific force inside the ship damaging equipment and quickly affecting the delicate balance of buoyancy and speed needed to resurface. But the young officer does not panic for facing him and staring at the same pipe is a first class petty officer, a rank that implies several years of experience. Since the petty officer did not panic, this must not be worrisome the officer supposes. Only later does the officer learn that this was that petty officer’s first cruise and that since the officer had not panicked, the petty officer saw no need to panic either. But when more experienced sailors learn of it, they sound the alarm quickly bringing the ship to the surface and back to port.

More frequently the lack of understanding causes inappropriate panic. Considered the two women went to see the tomb of a recently deceased friend when an angel suddenly appeared. Guards stationed to watch that tomb quiver then freeze stiff with panic. Yet the women hear the authority of the angel telling them: “Do not be afraid! The one whom you seek is not here. He has been raised as he said. Come and see the place where he had lain. Then go quickly and tell his disciples …”

How does trusting Christ’s resurrection affect how you live?

I will have more to say about Matthew 28:1-10 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church on Easter Sunday, April 16th, at 8:15 AM and 10:00 AM. We will celebrate the Lord’s Supper at both services.

Robert Shaw
Pastor, Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church

The Rose of Calvary

Our Palm Sunday celebration begins with children leading a triumphant parade around our building.

This year’s cantata conveys the emotional roller-coaster from the triumphant entry of Palm Sunday to the loss of hope at the crucifixion in nine movements.

  1. The overture samples themes of the entire work and introduces the Jesus as the Rose of Calvary.
  2. Isaiah’s prophecies of restoration of creation lie behind the rejoicing in second movement. Here Jesus is called the Rose of Sharon, an alternate translation from Isaiah 35:1-2.
    • Our offerings and prayers between the second and third movements will embody our rejoicing for God’s creation.
  3. The prophets also pointed to the need for people to turn from their sins. The aptly named third movement, “Call to Repentance,” portrays both our need and Jesus’s answer; his standing ready to save with love and power.
    • Between movements, the congregation will publicly confess our imperfections and failings.
  4. This movement, “A Rose in the Valley,” expresses God’s promise of pardon for our failings.
  5. The excitement of the fifth movement will have you bouncing in your seat as the people triumphantly “Shout to God” with a loud hosanna, musically evoking Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday.
  6. During his few days in Jerusalem Jesus taught us to live gently with loving kindness for one another and to love our neighbors as ourselves, for that is “Love’s Way.”
    • After this movement the congregation will demonstrate our compassion for one another in prayer.
  7. Not everyone was pleased by Jesus’s popularity. Leading the Rose to the Garden of Gethsemane to weep deep in prayer for his disciples and for release from the cup that the lay ahead, while also praying: “Father, let Thy will be done.”
  8. Meanwhile the priests had excited the mob “In the Praetorium” now to shout “crucify him!” The eighth movement resonates with anger at the Rose of Sharon, urging Pilate to plant the Rose on Calvary.
  9. Even the thorns had beg not to be placed upon the head of the Rose of Calvary as His petals fall and the flower dies.
    • Our Palm Sunday worship service will conclude with the congregation singing “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” receiving the benediction, then leaving.
  10. Joseph M. Martin’s The Rose of Calvary offers one more movement, but we must wait a full week to celebrate God’s surprise ending.

The fine voices of our choir will be supplemented by professional soloists and instrumentalists. You, your family, your friends, and your neighbors will not want to miss this musical account of Christ’s passion. Please share this invitation to experience the journey of the Rose of Calvary at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday April 9th, at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

The Skirl for April 2017

BagpipperGet your copy of our monthly newsletter at the speed of light by clicking here!

In this month’s issue:

  • Spirituality: Seeking to experience God, rather than merely learn about God.
  • April book club selection
  • One Great Hour of Sharing goal
  • See what is hatching at our Weekday School this month.
  • Read about the roller-coaster in The Rose of Calvary our Easter Cantata.
  • Tax Relief Luncheon.
  • Which fruit of the Spirit did we run out of this month?
  • Our congregation’s calendar.

Called to Live

Apart from trust in God, the world is a cemetery.

Calling Lazarus from the tomb disturbed many people.

  • John reports Jesus snorted in spirit and was deeply agitated: perhaps because Mary, like Martha, had regretted that he had not arrived soon enough to prevent Lazarus from dying, or perhaps because Lazarus was his friend and he regretted that his friend had to suffer through death, or perhaps because of the bitterness of death which is the wages of sin.
  • Many who saw the great sign, of Jesus calling a dead man from the tomb to walk among them, were sufficiently disturbed to believe in Jesus.
  • Others who had also seen the sign feared what Jesus would do to the status quo, feared him taking power from the fear of death that allowed the powerful to control people.

Belief in the resurrection, not only of Jesus which we will celebrate on Easter, but also of all whom God loves, should disturb many people: emboldening some to dare to challenge the status quo while making others fear that the future will be different. The promise of the resurrection has emboldened disciples to dare to proclaim the Good News even in the face of certain death and continues to do so even today.

Since death is not the end, what might we accomplish?

I will have more to say about John 11:1-45 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church on Sunday, April 2nd, at 8:15 AM and 10:00 AM.

Robert Shaw, Pastor

Seeing Jesus

Meeting a blind man in the New York Port Authority Terminal building formed my understanding of people with disabilities.

Hundreds of people rush through this building every minute, especially during the early evening hours. As I recall that building: subways trains would continually drop off and pickup passengers on at least two levels below the main level while buses disgorged and swallow passengers on at least two levels above the main concourse and above the buses were several levels of car parking. That building continually absorbs and wrings out enough traffic to fill an interstate highway.

I had met my father at his work earlier that day and we were heading to the bus that would take us home when my father recognized and hailed a friend of the family wending his way across the concourse swinging and tapping his red tipped white cane. We chatted for a minute or two when he flipped open the bezel of his watch, felt the position of its hands then told he might miss his bus. After explaining that he had lost count of his steps during our conversation, he asked if I would guide him to his bus. I agreed then he pushed me across the floor and up the escalator and to where his bus stood waiting. Slightly disoriented I mused aloud about getting to my bus, then he proceeded to give me accurate directions to my bus. Although fully blind, he had seen where I had not.

When Jesus healed a man born blind, his entire community failed him: his neighbors could no longer recognize him as his identifying disability had disappeared; the authorities would not recognize how he had been healed, as it did not fit the story they wished to tell; and his parents could not celebrate his healing as they feared the authorities. Only Jesus remained.

What blind spots do we have that keep us from seeing people around us for what they can do to build the kingdom of heaven?

I will have more to say about John 9:1-41 on Sunday, March 19th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Robert Shaw, Pastor

The First Evangelist

Are you seeking that big faucet in the sky?

Are you living the rat race, at least occasionally wondering which rats are winning or if its worth even running? Are you wondering how your contributions fit into the Kingdom of God? Are making an eternal difference, helping to usher in Jesus’ promised future on earth as it is in Heaven? May be you look around and want to make sense of the confusion of life all around us.

The woman Jesus met at the well had to carry a bucket down into the well, fill it, then carry it back up to her home probably several times a day. The modern convenience of tap water was beyond her imagination. She used a different term. She called the idea of running water “living water.” But she was so busy struggling with lugging water each day she missed the Living Water right in front of her.

The disciples had gone looking for food and were perplex by Jesus’ statement about his having food to eat that they did not know about, for they had missed the Bread of Life right in front of them.

In Cana the wine steward at a wedding was so perplexed with the wine that Jesus had made from water he missed the Wine of Salvation right in front of him.

Everyday people around us hunger and thirst for fulfillment for we are so caught up in the living we miss the Kingdom of Heaven.

I will have more to say about John 4:5-42 at 8:15 AM or 10 AM on Sunday, March 19th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.