This week many of you read the disturbing news that the mainline Presbyterian denomination, the Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA) not only approved its pastors performing same-sex marriages, but even changed the definition of marriage within its governing documents. The Stated Clerk of our denomination (PCA) was quick to present a thoughtful statement that made clear the position of the PCA (to stay with the biblical standard). Here’s a link to that statement, PCA Affirms Biblical Marriage. You should also read the remarks of Dr. Clair Davis as it relates to the stance of City Church of San Francisco. City Church is in another denomination, the Reformed Church of America, but he helps us deal with this challenging issue, learning how to speak the truth in love. We need both–to speak the truth, but also to demonstrate the love of Jesus. Thank you, once again, Dr. Davis.
This past Sunday (March 15) I used the simplified version of the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11 to explain my own experience of learning to pray all over again. I’m writing to reinforce the importance of that message. If you missed the sermon, I suggest you go to the Resources section of our website and listen to it. The heart of what I tried to say was not simply the value of the Lord’s Prayer—and for many of us it has been a treasure right in front of us that we overlooked—but the way I suggested using the Lord’s Prayer to shape our own praying.
While preparing my recent sermon on the Good Samaritan it hit me how much context matters. Multiple contexts, I should say! There’s the conversational context in which the parable occurs, namely, the interaction between the lawyer and Jesus. Then there’s the religious-political-racial context that is necessary to understand why a good Samaritan (gasp!) was such a provocative suggestion in the mouth of a 1st century Jew. But what I didn’t have time to describe was the covenantal context, which helps us better appreciate the relevance of a priest, a Levite, and a half-dead body. Yet understanding this might also cause some problems for us, and in particular why priests were told to act in rather bizarre ways.
On most Friday and Sunday nights, you’ll find me hanging out with our students here at New Life. The pattern is the same on both nights; we hang out as a big group for a while and then break out into smaller D-Groups. If you’re not familiar with D-Groups, it’s short for Discipleship Groups. Here, in these groups, we’re free to talk about what’s on our mind and in our hearts. To be honest, we don’t always go deep. Sometimes it’s all about hanging out – going on a 7-Eleven or Rita’s run, playing board games or (when spring finally arrives) playing volleyball in the fields.
I am always “walking into” things, not being sure what I’m going to encounter. You are too. (Imagine an automatic sliding door that opens before you as you walk toward it…but there are no windows through which you may have an advance warning of what to expect.) As a pastor, I make hospital visits, and as I go I often don’t know how bad the health report is, what the person’s state of mind will be, who else will be there. I meet someone for coffee, even someone I know, and there’s so much I don’t know in advance about the landscape of the person’s life, either externally or internally. I do a funeral service and three quarters of the room is people I don’t know, whose lives I know nothing about. And in three and a half weeks I’m supposed to get on an enormous Airbus and fly to the other side of the world, to a nation very different from mine, to interact with dozens of people I don’t know at all.