Category Archives: Worship Services

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King James I of England

Powerful men stand boldly on the pages of history. Cities, universities, even Bibles are named for them: Pharaoh Ramses. Cesar Augustus. Emperor Constantine. King James. Chief Pontiac. John D. Rockefeller. James Buchanan Duke. Joseph Stalin.

Thus when the Son of God steps onto the pages of history people might have expected greatness in the way of the world: Miracles performed that would end hunger and poverty. Angelic armies protecting the Prince of Peace. Kings and princes the world over would immediately bow to his name and tremble in his presence.

Thus the slanderer (the devil) taunts him: “If you are the Son of God …”

Instead of gathering his supporters and army, the King of Kings spends forty days and forty nights fasting in the wilderness, struggling with his humanity, responding to temptations with humility. Not in the fashion of great figures of history, but as one who might be a footnote or a comment in the margins of history.

How might we prepare ourselves during this season of Lent to understand the Prince of Peace who would not lift a finger even to end is own hunger for bread?

I will have more to say about Matthew 4:1-11 at 8:15 AM or 10 AM on Sunday, March 5th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Kirkin’ o’ tha Tartans

For thousands of years tartans have reflected the preferences of particular weavers and the tastes of particular regions, and families who lived in those regions. Following the Dress Act of 1746, when the British government attempted to suppress wearing tartans, particular designs became associated with clans and bear the names of the clan.

Tartan09On February 26th, in the year of our Lord 2017, the Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church will celebrate Scottish heritage with grand pageantry, parading tartans of clans that have worshiped in this congregation.

This service will emphasize Scottish influence: we will repeat portions of the Scots Confession of Faith, prayers from the Scottish Book of Prayer, and hear the Lord’s prayer in Gaelic.

Pastor Robert Shaw’s sermon will consider how Celtic theology might influence our appreciation of our place in the world.

Almost Divine

I remember a cousin calling out “Mrs. Shaw” at a family gathering then smiling as nearly every woman in the room turned to look at him. Such is the power of having someone’s name!

O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
— Psalm 8:1

Most translations honor a deep respect for the sacred name of God, using the word LORD in all capitals to represent the four Hebrew letters. A name so powerful ancient priests would only whisper it in the temple but once a year lest they use it too lightly or wrongly.

Yet we humans have been given this name to call upon the Creator of the heavens and the earth!

When I look into the heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what are humans that you are mindful of them,
Children of Adam, that you care for them?

— Psalm 8:3-4

The Celts perceived God not as sitting out beyond the edges of creation, but having created all that is from within the very substance of God, adding a divine dimension to all things seen and unseen.

I will have more to say about Psalm 8 at 10 AM on Sunday, February 26th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.


We taught our dog, Buddy, several of the usual commands: sit, stay, down, off, leave it, take it, roll over. But the most important command is focus. If when out for a walk I see something that might cause him to get unduly excited, I tell him to focus. Each time his eyes meet mine I say: “Yes!” Then when we are well beyond the stimulus he gets a biscuit.

Now by telling him to focus we usually can walk past a potential stimulus with him keeping his eyes on me.

Jesus has similar commands for us:

  • Look at the birds of the air.
  • Consider the lilies of the field.
  • Do not worry.
  • Do not be afraid.
  • Love one another
  • Forgive as you have been forgiven.
  • Remember me.
  • Follow me.

The world around us provides many distracting stimuli: bright shinny things to buy, debts to repay, malnutrition, health concerns, homelessness physical assault, untimely deaths, environmental disasters. When we keep our eyes on Jesus we can minister through distracting stimuli seeking the fulfillment of the Kingdom of Heaven.

I will have more to say about Matthew 6:24-33 at 8:15 AM or 10 AM on Sunday, February 19th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.


“I can work with the people here,” a city official had told me. He then compared the city where he currently worked with a previous city where people would take advantage of him and turn his offers of assistance into endless delays to avoid correcting violations.

In the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in the fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is not at interested in working with us nor giving us any wiggle room in complying with God’s moral code. If anything Jesus wants to give us less wiggle room, less opportunity to justify ourselves.

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.” — Matthew 5:21-22

“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, … Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.” — Matthew 5:33-34a, 37

Imagine a world where everyone spoke truthfully, so there would be no need to swear an oath when speaking in court. We would no longer have a need for contracts. Negotiations would be times when people openly explained all of their concerns and desires, their skills and limits, for all parties would seek to maximize everyone’s interests.

Imagine a world where anger and insults never happened, for people cared deeply about establishing and maintaining solid relationships with one another.

Such a place would truly be Heaven on earth!

What if people started acting as if God’s Kingdom already existed on earth? Yes a few hardhearted people would take advantage of the truth tellers and those who shun even verbal hostilities. Perhaps a small group of such high minded people might actually begin to slowly change the world? I would call such a group of people the body of Christ Jesus in the world or simply the Church.

I will have more to say about Matthew 5:31-37 at 8:15 AM or 10 AM on Sunday, February 12th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Yours in Christ,
Robert Shaw, Pastor

Salt and Light

Being called least in the kingdom, might not be so bad. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus clarifies that he means the whole law, every letter of it. We do not get to pick and choose which to follow and which to ignore.

“Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments,
and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven;
but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:19

For example I sit here wearing a cotton-polyester shirt knowing full well that breaking or ignoring one phrase, makes me as guilty as if I had broken every commandment.

Do not wear clothes made of two kinds of material. — Leviticus 19:19 (TEV)

Considering that no one has ever asked me to inspect their home for mildew (see Leviticus 14:33-53) nor offered a pair of pigeons as an offering following the birth of a child, I suspect no one may be found to have perfectly kept the entire law.

Yet we are called nonetheless to be salt and light. Like salt we are to enhance the flavor of the world and create a thirst for the Water of Life. Like light we are to shine with the light of Christ, so others will see the good that we do and praise, not us, but the Father in heaven. Perhaps God has a different interpretation of the law for us to show to the world.

This week’s question: What have you done and what will you do as light this week?

I will have more to say about Matthew 5:13-20 at 8:15 AM or 10 AM on Sunday, February 5th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Yours in Christ,
Robert Shaw, Pastor


When I think of peacemakers I have either met or read about, blessed or happy do not immediately come to mind. I am more likely to ascribe an adjective of long-suffering to peacemakers, to those hungering for righteousness, to those showing mercy, even to those who seek purity of mind.

Happy: those hungering and thirsting for justice, for they will be fed.
Happy: the compassionate, for they will have compassion.
Happy: the clean of [heart | mind], for they will see God.
Happy: the peacemakers, for they will be called child of God.
— Matthew 5:6-9 (author’s translation)

When I have and the pleasure of acting the peacemaker I quickly found myself in the midst of tense individuals who had divided into factions pro and con with no easy middle ground. Individuals who clearly demonstrated that something that they valued was threatened by those opposing them. Frequently there have been side issues that resulted in factions that crossed and complicated the presenting issue. Unlike sporting events, these individuals wore no easily identified uniforms or logos. Further some would mute their opinions showing only their unease, knowing that no matter what they said someone would be offended. In these groups would be bullies and victims. And victims might as any throw the first insult. Perhaps once all is resolve a peacemaker might be called a child of God, but until that fleeting moment they are more likely to be called a son of something else. Further the reward for doing this well once is to be called into even more complicated and tense situations. “Blessed?”

Some people view the Beatitudes as future blessings. Blessings received when we have arrived in heaven. But scholarly translators, those most familiar with Greek syntax and grammar insert a present tense verb; “Blessed ARE the peacemakers …” This blessing has present day implications for there is no greater pleasure for me than to be in service to my community and to the Kingdom of Heaven.

I will have more to say about the 5th chapter of Matthew’s Gosple on Sunday, January 29th, 2017 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor


Was there ever one Christian Church?

Today we squabble between claiming Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist, independent, or … This seems little changed from the problem St Paul had encountered with the church in Corinth.

What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
— 1 Corinthians 1:12-13 (NRSV)

Differences, frequently appreciated only by those who have either been to seminary or have worked in the church hierarchy, keep us from celebrating communion together, recognizing each other’s clergy, even doing mission together. For this reason many noteworthy mission agencies, even those with a Christian origin, have become secular rather than ecumenical institutions. These arguments come from those with power to divide and rally those who are less powerful into submission behind them. Among those sitting in the pews, these divisions are of little value compared with the music chosen and how people are treated. Thus pew sitters easily transfer from congregation to congregation jumping denominational walls with ease.

Lately we have seen similar divisiveness in politics, with candidates being smeared with distorted charges and being labeled un-American along with their followers.

Imagine what these United States could accomplish if citizens considered ourselves first Americans and then followers of a particular party or leader?

Imagine what the Church of Jesus Christ could accomplish if Christians considered ourselves first as disciples, and then as members of a particular congregation or denomination?

I will have more to say about verses 10 through 18 of the 1st chapter of Paul’s first the Corinthians on Sunday, January 22nd, 2017 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor

Enriched for Mission!

I am thankful that God has called me to a diverse congregation. If we were of one mind on everything I doubt we would be as successful.

I suspect that Paul particularly liked the church at Corinth because it too had a some strong personalities leading to some sharp differences of opinion. Yet to this church he began his letter:

I give thanks to my God always for you
because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus,

— 1 Corinthians 1:4

Paul did not thank this church for their work, not for the work of particular individuals, not for the work of particular factions with whom he might have agreed at least occasionally, but thanks for what God was doing in them and through them.

Similarly I am thankful for the diversity in this congregation, for when we disagree as well as when we agree. Our disagreements, when approached with Christian tolerance for one another, help us practice our strengths and nurture our weaknesses transforming our imperfections into new strengths.

Just as we benefit from a diverse diet, we also benefit from diverse experiences.

I will have more to say about verses 1 through 9 of the 1st chapter of Paul’s first Letter to the Church at Corinth on Sunday, January 15th, 2017 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor

Glow with the Flow

The ancient Celts discerned that creation did not come from nothing, but from within the very substance of God. Thus the Holy Spirit enlivens and flows in and through all that we can see, touch, hear, smell, and taste. They saw the light of Christ in the sun as it arose each morning, reminding them of Jesus’s resurrection. They saw the light of God reflected in the moon as it rose each evening, assuring them of the Father’s watchful presence during the night.

If, perhaps since, the light of God flows in and through all matter, and flows in and through each person, how then could we not arise and shine? How then could we not glow with the flow of the Spirit? How then could we not be drawn to that light in all that God has made, including every person? How then could we not see in those whom we love as well as in those from whom we are separated the light of Christ?

This is the miracle of Christmas. The awakening of all of humanity to the presence of God in all people, in all matter, and seeing that light in one another. A light to which we are drawn and to which all people and things are drawn. The light from which all matter has come and will ultimately return.

Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.

— Isaiah 60:5 (NRSV)

I will have more to say about the 60th chapter of Isaiah on Sunday, January 10th, 2017 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor


I still enjoy receiving a paper calendar, seeing the pages and rows of blank unsullied squares each ready to receive opportunities to meet with people and to advance the kingdom of heaven. Those fresh new pages remind me of the gift of God’s grace, coming to us fresh each day. This reminder of not merely a new day, but a new year with all of previous years put behind to grow on without being weighed down by the burdens of what might have gone less than perfectly, is what drives my desire to celebrate not merely on New Year’s Eve, but also on each Sunday when we affirm the truth of God words.

He who was seated on the throne said,
“I am making everything new!”
— Revelation 21:5

The assurance of pardon is perhaps my favorite time during worship. The pouring of water into our baptismal font adds a visual and auditory reminders of God making all things new. Plus you might notice me dipping my hand into the font as I leave worship, one final physical reminder of God’s act of grace affirmed in our baptisms and recited each Sunday.

I will have more to say about the 21st chapter of Revelation on Sunday, January 1st, 2017 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor