Pastor Robert Shaw did not enter the ordained ministry until his third career. Prior to entering the ministry he taught Physics at Nuclear Power School and the served as the Reactor Controls Officer on a US Navy Submarine. He also worked as a Systems Engineer designing, integrating and evaluating Sonar and laser systems.
View all posts by Robert →
Throughout history creeds have been used to define a community of faith. These statements are usually developed and affirmed by representatives of each of the various factions within a community to affirm core beliefs that would bind them together.
The Nicene Creed is the earliest example of this process within the Christian Church. After Emperor Constantine had united the Roman Empire a theological dispute threatened to undo what his armies had accomplished. Thus he gathered 318 bishops at Nicaea to hammer out a creed that the whole Empire could affirm.
In AD 320 a new theology was forming around the idea that God the Father had formed God the Son. Thus the Father and the Son would be of different substances and the Son would be subordinate to the Father. Established theologians insisted that God is both the source of being (Creator) and the order of the Universe (Word) and that the Son must be fully divine (same substance) to effect salvation. After much bitter debate a creed was adopted, named after the city where it had been written, and those who affirmed different substances were excommunicated.
Yet the minority party was not defeated and drew many supporters, including Constantine’s son and subsequent Emperor, Constantius. During Constantius’ reign the Creed was amended adding one letter, the smallest letter in the Greek language, an iota, changing the meaning of the key phrase from the “same substance” to “similar substance”. Thus a saying arose from what had been the majority party: “Not one iota more!”
In AD 381 under yet another Emperor, formed a new council which made a few modifications to the Creed from Nicaea giving us what we now call the Nicene Creed which includes the phrase: “being of one substance with the Father” and expanding the statement on the Holy Spirit.
After rigorous study this Creed was officially adopted in AD 451. Those 130 years of debate gained the Church four key elements to the understanding of the nature of Jesus Christ:
Jesus Christ is fully divine.
Jesus Christ is fully human.
Jesus Christ is fully integrated, one being.
Jesus Christ has two natures: divine and human, a mystery beyond human understanding.
This would have been a great ending, except that in AD 1014 the Bishop of Rome unilaterally added two words to the Latin version of the statement on the Holy Spirit so that it then would read that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” This assumption of authority over an ecumenical council incensed the Eastern Church contributing to a split in AD 1054.
None the less, with or without those words added over a thousand years ago, the Nicene Creed remains the one statement accepted by Roman Catholics, by Eastern Orthodox Catholics, and by Protestants. Thus with these words we can affirm what “We believe” as the universal Christian Church.
I will have more to say about the Nicene Creed and its implications for us at 8:15 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Sunday, October 1st, World Communion Sunday, at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor
Statements of faith have existed for thousands of years. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Deuteronomy 26:5-10 are two early Hebrew statements.
The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church contains eleven theological statements each summarizing what we believe that God is calling us to be and to do. The Apostles Creed while the second Creed to be formally adopted by the whole Church, has its beginning in the second century if not earlier.
About the time that the Nicene Creed was being formed, a legend supposed that each of the twelve Apostles had proposed a phrase for the Apostles’ Creed, including rationalizing why each Apostle had suggested that particular phrase. The legend supposes that the Apostles came up with this Creed so that they would all a common standard that they would teach to future generations of disciples as they spread out to the far corners of the world. From that legend we call this particular theological statement the Apostles’ Creed.
Like many congregations, Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church recites the Apostles Creed during worship most Sundays. Yet there are a few phrases that I am frequently asked about including: What do we mean by “God the Father?” How do we reconcile “Maker of Heaven and Earth” with modern science? Explain what we mean by “He descended into hell,” and “holy catholic Church”?
I will some of these questions about the Apostles’ Creed as my message for Sunday, September 24th, at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
My worship notes for our weekly ritual of passing the Peace of Christ with one another reminds me and our liturgist to allow 30 seconds for people to greet one another. It probably should say allow a couple of minutes. We observe this ritual immediately following our confession of sin before God and one another. For a few minutes we seem to forget and forgive one another of any disagreements, smile at each other, offer a blessing to each other and shake hands. In my dash up one aisle and down another, I manage to touch at least a quarter of the congregation.
My title for this Sunday’s service is a pun based on that ritual. The Apostle Paul had perceived a disunity among Christians in Rome over the practice of eating meat. One group refused to eat meat, eating only vegetables, perhaps because it was not butchered according to the rules for keeping Kosher or because that the meat in the market had been sacrificed to idols. The other group perhaps saw that the source of the meat was meaningless under the grace of God made manifest in Christ Jesus. Paul advised them:
Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them.
— Romans 14:3 (NRSV)
Hence the pun in my sermon title and the title of this post.
But Paul does not argue for accepting one position over the other, but for generously accepting that both positions —eating meat or eating only vegetables— are intended to honor God.
Similarly when we pass the Peace of Christ each Sunday, I do not expect people to shed their differences of opinion about deeply held positions and find some middle ground. Instead I rejoice that for a few minutes we can accept that each of us are doing the best we can to honor God.
Promoting Personal Power and Preventing Power Struggles
Personal power is all about inner strength and the ability to get our needs met in appropriate ways. But we are not born with this ability, and parents must create an environment where children learn to use their personal power in a positive way. Come meet other parents in your area while you learn about techniques for reducing power struggles and positive parenting strategies to help your child learn healthy personal power.
This workshop will be taught by Noelina Alvarez, MA, RMHCI, a family counselor with.
6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Thursday, September 28,
at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church
Please register so we know how many chairs to set up.
Hurricane Irma has encouraged us to worship differently this Sunday. Instead of gathering in one place, please use technology (phone or Skype) to connect with a friend.
Call to Worship Based on Psalm 148
Praise the LORD.
Sing to the LORD a new song in the assembly of the saints. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
Let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise God’s name with dancing and make music to the Lord with tambourine and harp.
For the LORD takes delight in the people; God crowns the humble with salvation. Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy.
May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, to carry out God’s sentence. This is the glory of all God’s saints.
Praise the LORD.
Hymn “O God Our Help in Ages Past”
1 Our God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home:
2 Under the shadow of your throne your saints have dwelt secure;
sufficient is your arm alone, and our defense is sure.
3 Before the hills in order stood or earth received its frame,
from everlasting you are God, to endless years the same.
4 A thousand ages in your sight are like an evening gone,
short as the watch that ends the night before the rising sun.
5 Time, like an ever-rolling stream, soon bears us all away;
we fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.
6 Our God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
still be our guard while troubles last, and our eternal home!
Merciful God, deliver us from hurtful disagreements and irreconcilable differences. Turn us away from the death sin inflicts and lead us into the abundant life that Christ brings.
Forgive us, we pray, and teach us to forgive, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Moment of silent reflection …
Assurance of Pardon
Hear this good news! Who is in a position to condemn us? Only Christ; and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us.
Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. The old life has gone; a new life has begun.
In Jesus Christ we are forgiven and raised to new life. Thanks be to God. Alleluia, Amen!
A store owner once asked me: “When will Christ come again? When would this current age would end?”
“To get to your store and when I leave to continue home,” I replied, “I must cross that highway in front of your store. There is a traffic light, but if the brakes on one of those coal trucks should fail as they come down that hill, they are not going to stop regardless of the color of the traffic light. Should I be crossing at that moment, then at least for me, this age would end.”
The store owner laughed at my answer.
Life is surprisingly fragile. That we can get through dozens of days without a scratch makes us unaware of the risks that each day presents. What if the driver of a car should choose to answer a text message or phone call rather than watch you make a turn? What if a manufacturing defect should leave a deadly bacterium in your dinner?
When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Romans disciples interpreted his urgent appeals that Christ would come soon, perhaps within Paul’s life.
And understanding the time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
— Romans 13:11
If you knew that Christ would come soon how might you live your life differently?
Love is NOT a transaction
Paul’s solution is simple:
Owe no one anything,
except to love one another,
for the one who loves the other has fulfilled the law.
— Romans 13:8
The Christian love advocated by Paul is not adoration, as in: “I love ice cream.” Christian love is not does not yield a debt of gratitude. For example if I buy your child’s Girl Scout cookies, you might feel obliged to buy my child’s Cub Scout popcorn. That is not love. That is a business transaction. Christian love is far more difficult. It is closer to ‘charity.’ Christian love allows for connecting with someone you don’t even like, perhaps even a foe. Christian love flows from a transformation “by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (c.f. Romans 12:2).
Love honors God.
Christian love cannot be repaid, only shared, and in sharing love is multiplied.
Christian love honors God.
For the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. — Romans 13:8
A missionary from the Philippines taught me their custom of bowing toward each other as a sign of honoring the image of God that each person bears. One congregation adopted this practice as a means of passing the peace when virus germs made shaking hands risky.
If we truly recognize God in one another the Ten Commandments become easy.
Love, don’t merely like
Love does no wrong to another, therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
— Romans 13:10
Paul regularly uses the Greek word for love that might also be translated as ‘charity.’ Thus one may ‘love’ one’s neighbor without feeling anything positive toward him or her.
Nikka, a six year old, phrased it this way: “If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.”
Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day,
— Romans 13:12
Light, even lasers, provides no physical protection. Paul called Christ’s followers to love radically; even risking one’s life for an enemy.
Billy, age four, puts it this way: “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is safe in their mouth.”
Thus my question for this week: Would an enemy know that you love Christ by how you say his or her name?
We thank you, Christ, for calling us to live honorably with one another and pray for your grace as we try to do all that you require of us. Increase in us, we pray, the capacity to love you and our neighbors without reserve and to love even those who harm us.
We remember before you those who are at odds with one another in families, in neighborhoods or offices, and even in the church. Help us to speak the truth and to listen with understanding when perspectives are far apart. Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
We pray for nations in the midst of internal or external struggles and conflict. Teach us, O God, to seek nonviolent ways toward resolution. We pray for love to bring peace into every troubled heart and place.
We remember our neighbors who opened their homes, houses of worship, and hearts to give shelter in wind and rain ravaged communities. We remember First Responders and volunteers who embody your love in a hurting world. Lift all of these heavy burdens with your light and peace, we pray.
We remember before you those who have physical needs today. People who are hungry and thirsty; people who are exhausted by the demands of work or care-giving; people who are sick, or undergoing surgery; and people who live with chronic pain. Bring relief and rest, we pray.
We remember before you not only our cares, but also our joys—a birthday celebrated, an anniversary enjoyed; new beginnings—a baby born, a roof over our heads, a new job, a new relationship. We thank you, O God, for the gift of laughter, for enduring friendships, and for cherished memories.
We give thanks that with you there is always a new beginning, always a hope beyond hope, and always life beyond death.
And now let us pray as Jesus us taught us, saying: Our Father …
“My God, my rock in whom I take refuge.” Psalm 18:2
As the floodwaters in Texas only begin to recede, new devastation has arrived in the Caribbean, with Hurricane Irma closing in on Florida and additional storms developing in the Atlantic.
Members of PDA’s National Response Team are currently in Texas and the Gulf region, assessing damage, providing aid, and offering spiritual and emotional care for those impacted by the devastating winds and floods of Harvey. Even in the midst of that aftermath, PDA is working with its partners to provide relief to those in the wake of Hurricane Irma, and reaching out to networks in its path. This category 5 hurricane carries sustained winds of 180 mph, and is expected to remain a category 4 or 5 storm as it proceeds through the Caribbean, toward the United States. As people in Barbuda, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Florida and other areas nearby begin digging out from the storm or bracing for this storm’s impact, PDA is already engaged.
In this season of devastating storms — the likes of which are rarely seen — will you help us expand our witness to the compassionate Christ by standing in the GAP?
Support Presbyterian Disaster Assistance’s emergency response and long-term recovery work in the areas affected. Gifts can be designated in two ways: Hurricane Harvey (DR000169-Harvey) and Atlantic Regional Hurricanes (DR000194). You can also give with a credit card by visiting presbyterianmission.org/GIVE-Harvey or by phone at 800-872-3283.
Put together Gift of the Heart kits for survivors in the affected areas — hygiene kits and cleanup buckets are especially needed. For more information, go to pda.pcusa.org/page/kits/.
Contact the PDA Call Center to be notified of volunteer opportunities. Call 866-732-6121 or email email@example.com.
Learn how your congregation can help families who have lost everything in the devastation. Stay informed and like us on Facebook or visit pda.pcusa.org. Be sure to share updates with your congregation.
Please also remember this congregation. Our bills continue to come in even when violent storms might keep you from coming to our door.
View Words and Music
O God, we’ve prayed in wind and rain and now we pray once more
For those who felt the hurricane and heard the waters roar.
We pray for those who watched the storm destroy the life they knew,
Who wait in shelters, tired and worn, and wonder what to do.
We thank you, God, for acts of love not bound by race or creed,
For hands that reach across the flood to all who are in need.
We pray for others far away who’ve seen destruction, too;
We look beyond ourselves, for they are also loved by you.
We pray that leaders of our land will heed creation’s cry,
And bravely care and take a stand for earth and sea and sky.
Where rains flood cities, homes and towns may we go out to be
A witness that your love abounds in each community.
God of our salvation, we know what time it is
— time to wake from sleep and turn from selfishness.
Connect us with your love with neighbors near and far
so we might show hope in the Lord Jesus Christ
through this storm and all the storms of life.
1 – Permission is granted to churches to reprint individual prayers and liturgical texts for worship provided that the following notice is included: Reprinted by permission of Westminster John Knox Press from Feasting on the Word® Worship Companion. Copyright 2014. With adaptations.
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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)
Adults in our community are less likely to marry than the state average.
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)
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.
I 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.