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Pastors' Column

Each week one of our pastors or staff members writes a column observing what is going on in our congregation, the Church and the world, and offering reflections on the Christian life and faith. Through this series of columns, we hope to connect your and our story to the enduring story of Christ; to offer pastoral reflections on our ongoing congregational life and mission; to report on news of the Presbyterian Church and Church universal; and to invite further reflection and deeper discipleship. We welcome your comments and suggestions. In other words, our words here are an invitation to continue the conversation.

Studying Scripture in Community

I still use the study Bible that I bought my first semester of seminary. It was the first Bible that I actually bought myself. Every other Bible I ever owned was either given to me by my church or one that I took down from my parents’ bookshelves at home.

One look at my study Bible and you will know that it has seen a lot of miles. The binding is taped up to keep it from tearing any more than it already has. The thin onion skin pages are dirty from being turned and flipped through. The pages are a little dirtier at those books I was required to translate in seminary. The pages are a little cleaner and fresher at the books and passages that I have neglected or that don’t appear in our regular cycle of lectionary scripture readings.

Read more: Studying Scripture in Community

Getting Ready for Rally Day

When I was growing up I loved getting ready for the beginning of the school year. There was always a bit of nervous wondering about which teacher I’d get or if close friends would end up in the same class. My memories of those concerns are now far overmatched by the excitement I recall in getting ready by shopping for a couple of outfits and picking out a pair of new shoes. But the greatest thrill was getting new school supplies: a box of crayons perfectly pointed and arranged in a rainbow of color, notebooks with pristine paper, an array of binders and a whole set of new books. As I got older the ruler gave way to the pencil compass, and long after I grew beyond being the child getting ready to become the parent who paid for the supplies, our children began to need calculators of such sophistication that I couldn’t tell you what they were meant to compute. As a child, as a parent, and as a pastor now conversing with BMPC families beginning a new school year, I cannot round the corner of Labor Day without remembering with fondness how I love getting ready for a fresh start.

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Taking a Lead

If you watched any of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, you likely saw a few swimming or track and field races. Races were won as Olympic and world records were set. At some point, an athlete can decide to take the lead in a race. Knowing when to take a lead is the goal of any race.

In our spiritual lives, God invites each of us to take a lead. Taking a lead doesn’t mean having all the answers, or always knowing the right direction to go. Taking a lead means setting an example that others can follow. Taking a lead means finding the courage to be out in front, ahead of the crowd. At times it may feel uncomfortable and you may feel unworthy, but ultimately, when you take a step of faith, God gives us the courage we need.

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God’s Presence and Providential Love Sustains Us

Psalm 90 proclaims with great certainty of faith the constancy of God from the beginning of time to life everlasting:

                       Lord, you have been our dwelling place
                              in all generations.
                        Before the mountains were brought forth
                              or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
                              from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

 

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Paperless Sunday

Over the past year, I have spent much of my time working with the Councils and Committees of the church to understand not just what they do as groups and leaders in the church, but also what they aspire to do on behalf of this congregation.

For example, when one looks at the work of groups like our Outreach Committee or Worldwide Ministries Committee, it is easy to figure out what they do. These groups are responsible for creating and maintaining partnerships with local, regional and international mission and relief organizations primarily through the use of the generous benevolent funding in our annual budget and foundation.

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A Future Not Our Own

In exactly one month, we will be celebrating Rally Day and the start of Sunday School—Bryn Mawr Presbyterian’s program year will be off and running. As I look around my office, I see large sheets of paper covered in details about fall planning. There are lists of potential and confirmed Sunday school teachers, calendar dates and planning timelines. There’s even a sheet with goals for each of our age groups. Over the summer, they have been filled with Post-it notes and penciled ideas. One sheet even had to be replaced because it simply couldn’t hold all the information!

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Getting Away with God

Jesus said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” -Mark 6:31

One of the great things about summer is that at some point it usually affords us a time to get away from the usual rhythm of life. Assuming we didn’t have travel complications or family drama, we often return feeling refreshed and renewed from having spent time away. We may find that we have more energy in our work and a more hopeful view of life after a time of rest and retreat.

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The Wonder of It All

What I love most about summer is the wonder of it all. Clear nights, bright stars and visible planets. The comforting rhythm of waves breaking upon the sand and receding only to do it again. Fish rising from the deep, shining and silver and reflecting the sun. Footprints in the sand. Fireflies. Mountain vistas. Ferns unfolding on the wooded floor. Tomatoes ripening in the backyard. Birds singing to summon the dawn.

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Reclaiming Evangelism

For the past month, we have been engaged in an Adult Education forum after worship on the topic of Reclaiming Evangelism. I wasn’t quite sure what kind of response a class like this would have, since so many of us tend to shy away from doing any kind of evangelism in our own lives - and have story after story of being made uncomfortable both by strangers and friends who seem bent on trying to save our souls.

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A Peace Which Transcends Understanding…

I recently clipped a little factoid out of a periodical I subscribe to that I thought was interesting:

“Amazon says that the most highlighted Bible passage on Amazon’s Kindle e-reader is Philippians 4:6-7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Read more: A Peace Which Transcends Understanding…