“What are you giving up for Lent.” There’s more to Lent than just foregoing something enjoyable for six weeks.
Several years ago I bought into the Konmari plan for decluttering. Clothes were scattered across the floor from closets and rooms all over the house. Eventually the books were in piles in the living room. And with every new task, I found that recognizing my joy was coming easier and easier.
If you are not familiar with Marie Kondo’s method of cleaning out, it is a defined process to rid your home of anything that does not “spark joy,” and thus to clear away from your life all that would suck the joy out of living. Ask me. Yep, it works!
If it is appealing to you to remove the clutter from your life, then this is your holiday season: Lent. If you are spiritual but not religious, this season is tailor-made for you!
Lent is better understood as a short time to put all your life out on the floor and take a look at it. Pick up the pieces of your life and hold them for a moment. Then ask yourself one question:
Does this part of my life and identity produce good fruit--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?
If you would like a day-by-day guide for this journey, you can access a “Lenten Calendar.” In our tradition this calendar is coupled with a fish bank offering for kids and the collection is offered on Easter Sunday in a special church-wide offering to help others.
Join us in sacrificing a few minutes every day to de-clutter and rediscover your joy.
After the month of Febraury are we as well versed in the history of Africans in the USA, their enslavement and subjugation, their resilience, their accomplishments, as we are in the history of European settlers and descendants?
We are still woefully behind in acknowledging the reality of white history as well.
I am so glad I have friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who, as people of color, have not given up on “educating Beverly.” While I am proactive in learning our whole history, and facing the present, to disentangle from my own racism, I am aware that I have blind spots to my benefits from white privilege. I need these willing neighbors to call me out.
They don’t have to. In many ways, they shouldn’t. Thankfully, they do! And it is not easy when they do. I get defensive, I admit. AND, I really try to stop talking and actually listen. Thankfully, my friends have been willing to wait with me to get on board.
Like a jazz band, that give and take, that listening and responding to the notes of the others, makes the music of life so much better!
I invite you to commit to a path of discovery and recovery from the racism that is the demon of our national inheritance. Love is the only One who can cast it out. Let’s love each other enough to transcend our dif-ferent skin tones in order to realize, and share in the creation of,
A week ago we heard from the President and then from so many other commentators about the status of the nation, I thought I might as well weigh in.
Here are my thoughts about what makes America great, though some of these things are missing, and, therefore, the state of the union is not great, but it is alive and well…on our way to reclaiming, reviving, renewing—one person to another, one meeting at a time.
At RSPC, we serve sandwich bags to people who have little money, no housing, and no place to use the bathroom. The state of the union is inhospitable when we cannot find in our common purse a way to make sure everyone has a roof over their heads and food to eat. Thanks be to God for the charitable contributions of religious institutions and other non-profits which share the abundance of creation with others in acts of justice. One which we support is Intown Collaborative Ministries.
At RSPC, we meet men and women asking for help with buying medicines and who are clearly in need of medical support. The state of the union is cruel when we cannot find in our common purse a way to make sure everyone has the basic healthcare they need and access to the medicines that cure or mitigate symptoms. Thanks be to God for the many non-profit hospitals and clinics that serve the uninsured with mercy and support from charitable contributions and grants. One which we support is Mercy Care street medicine services.
At RSPC, we celebrate diversity. Through our newest advocacy and educational program we are learning the gifts and needs of our immigrant neighbors. In additions we have chosen to affirm and celebrate the gifts of our LGBTQIA+ neighbors. The state of the union is inhumane when we cannot find the common humility to afford human rights to all without regard for nationality or gender identity, or sexual orientation. Thanks be to God for the work of so many individuals and agencies who advocate and provide for people in need, whoever they are. One which we support is Presbyterian Disaster Assistance refugee ministries.
At RSPC, we believe that finding common ground for the common good is not just a nice slogan; it is a vision and a call to join together to create a state of the union that is better today than yesterday and tomorrow will be even better. We believe that common ground is not the lowest common denominator; it is the highest human connection. We believe that the common good is not a redistribution of wealth making people poorer; it is a sharing of abundant resources that makes everyone richer.
At RSPC, we rejoice in each other. Because we have found that differences are not insurmountable, our similarities are not binding, and our intentions are benevolent. The state of the union includes all these things as well. We must quit hiding it behind the fear-based malevolence we so often hear about in social media, in the news, and face-to-face. We do not downplay the brokenness of our union. It is real. We simply believe it can be overcome, wherever 2 or 3 are willing to gather and listen and trust in the underlying good that dwells in each of us. That is our vision. That is what keeps us coming back together when failure stares us in the face.
In 2018 we have come Alive in Christ in many ways!
Strengthening our faith and devotion to God:
Hello Neighbor: Isn’t it strange how watching someone on television can make you feel loved? Mister Rogers loved me. Maybe I’m showing my age! I was actually a little too old to be watching his show and I never wanted any of my friends to find out. I think, given my later college work and first career choice, I was initially intrigued by the use of puppets and humans and the writing that gave inanimate objects like the trolley a personality (you’re not buying that one are you?). There is no doubt I was hooked into the discoveries and visits Mister Rogers made with his neighbors, whether living or puppetry beings and the way he cap-tured my curiosity and made me feel alive in his neighborhood.
We can expand this line of thinking to the impact a television show can have on scheduling. Before VCRs (early version of DVR for you millennials). We had to watch everything live. I remember sitting in the sorority house with everyone to find out who shot J.R. The show Dallas had created a community much like the soap opera General Hospital had done during the Luke and Laura period. Soon it was Cheers, and Friends, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and more recently Orange is the New Black and Scandal. Rather than watching together in these later years, we chat during a coffee break. The way entertainment gives us something to discuss with colleagues and strangers points to the human need to find connections with one another.
To be human is to seek connection, community, friendships, and family.
The state of our nation is fractured, disjointed, isolating, and uprooted. There is no better time than now for our particular church to be declaring that with God’s help, we are finding common ground for the common good. The question before us is can our faith in a loving creator be strong enough to empower us to love our neighbors? Can we accept God’s love for all with enough ardor that we share Christ’s love our enemies? Can we allow the gift of liberation received from the servant Christ to free us for serving friend and foe?
This week – this week in particular – I admit, I am not sure I’m up to the task. Mister Rogers is dead. What if God is? What if all that love that came to me through virtual technology when I was younger has evaporated? What if that in-the-flesh Jesus ascended to heaven and never looked back?
On the other hand, what if the spirit of Mister Rogers lives on, and so does the Spirit of Christ? I’m pret-ty sure I’m not going to find it on television anymore. I’m more than certain I won’t find it by myself. I’m human. I want connection, community, friendships, and family. And it would be even better if the different things that we believe, and the things that make us unique, could bring us together. I’m not ready to give up on that possibility.
“Won’t you please, won’t you please, please won’t you be my neighbor?”
Are you “Alive?”
As pastor of Rock Spring Presbyterian Church in Atlanta Georgia, I am wondering about you. About the deeper part of yourself beyond a great night out with friends or the kickball championship your team wins at the local park. I’m wondering about the life you feel when you wake up every morning and choose to get out of bed.
What makes you get out of bed and go to work every day? Are you driven by the need for a paycheck?
Are you pushed because you need money to enjoy the fun things that make you feel good for a few hours every day or so? Are you a young parent who had no idea a child could cost so much?
Or does your paid work give you a sense of usefulness and meaning?
What moves you toward your unpaid daily labors? What gets you up to make breakfast? Or drop off the kids for daycare? Or rake the leaves and clean the gutters? Or clean up the pile of dirty dishes, empty wine glasses, and clothes strewn around your home?
What is the point of events and activities you look forward to?
I suspect more than a few of you thought, “to have fun, it makes me happy.” Is there more to being alive than fun and games, than doing what you want to do, when you want to do it? Some of my elderly friends and more than a few of my hospice patients have challenged this. Their question, after a lifetime of “having fun,” is, “is this all there is, my whole life has come to this?”
This question focuses us on a common aspect of being human: the search for meaning. This search distinguishes the human and animal spirit. Animals live for the moment. They rest, they hunt or gather. They reproduce. They die. Humans seek inspiration, emotional enlargement, accolades, growth. They, we, seek meaning and purpose in our resting-hunting-reproductive lives.
There was a successful businessman who asked the teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, how can I live forever? He already had a fortune. He was already known to be a strictly moral man obeying the law. Jesus (also known as Christ) said, “give up your holdings and come with me.”
To be alive, even eternally alive, is to be “alive in Christ.” To be alive is to be rooted in a life that connects with people not property. To be alive is to be able to choose a way of life that is rooted in something other than what you own, or what owns you. To be alive in Christ is to look at someone and love them and join together on the journey of life.
As Rock Spring church engages it’s new vision we are just getting started toward discovering the way of eternal life. It’s a journey. But not a journey of owning, gathering, holding. It’s a journey of giving, going, and gaining.
I hope you’ll join me and the church as we strive to follow Christ, come alive in new ways, and find common ground for the common good.
Welcome to the new Rock Spring Presbyterian Church! We are
Alive in Christ, Finding Common Ground for the Common Good!
This week an article appeared in the AJC Intown Living magazine highlighting the difficult decision many churches face to sell property in order to stay financially viable. But the author missed one extremely important point about us:
The MINISTRY of Rock Spring church was, is, and will continue to be ALIVE IN CHRIST—not because of money, but because of God!
Granted, we were not yet using those words when the author visited. This is the new articulation of God’s Vision for our ministry. After several years of consultations and evaluations, retreats, and untold prayers, the Session is excited to share with you a new revelation of this vision of who God created us to be and continues to call us toward becoming.
In the highly polarized culture of this decade, Rock Spring can attest to the difficulty of being on opposite sides of an issue. Indeed, from the earliest years of its existence, our history is a fascinating tale that includes topics as timely today as they were then. Race relations, sexual misconduct, changing neighborhoods, even use (or misuse) of funds, and many other typically divisive concerns have all been part of the past which members have had to work through while walking with each other in faith. More than that, and even with the challenge of selling property, members have always worked for the greater good of the community through it all.
Rock Spring PC has provided a preschool, choral space, self-help groups and community space, community service, global mission, and excellence in theological lay education. The church has been at the forefront of women in ordained leadership, media and religion, becoming an inclusive LGBT community, and acknowledging the difficulties of our own racism, heterosexism, and xenophobia.
Sometimes these conflicts have been pushed underground only to rise up again in conflicts that force us to find common ground and pledge ourselves again to working for the common good. In other words, we have been practicing something for nearly our entire ministry that the world, especially our social and political spheres of influence, desperately need right now.
Rock Spring is here today celebrating the approach of our 148th birthday by claiming our history as a gift for the future of our community. We have experience in sticking together and working through difference. We have a story to tell. We have a mission to serve. And we are ready, willing, and, with the help of God, able to become more fully:
Alive in Christ, Finding Common Ground for the Common Good
If you have a hope for the world to find ways to get along better, Rock Spring may be for you. Come and See!
Community Blessing of the Animals service celebrated at Rock Spring Presbyterian Church
Sunday September 30th
Rock Spring church members and Piedmont Heights neighbors gathered on Sunday for a time of gratitude for our animal companions and a time of blessing for all. After hearing words of scripture and thanksgiving from Rev Bev and elder Mary Gowing, all the participants paraded inside the sanctuary for a time of individual blessing for each pet. Dog and cats came with their people companions and enjoyed pet and people treats at the end of the event, getting to know one another better.
Blessing from the service
Having received the blessing of Love's Spirit in the form of the bond between you and your pet,may you know always the blessing of Love's companionship,may you find in yourselves new depth of character and lovingkindness as you provide and even sacrifice for your pets,may you be blessed by the unconditional grace of God's love in the eyes of your pet, and may the sweet touch of heaven surprise you with every touch. May the creator fill you with all joy.
As pastor of a "vintage" Prebyterian Church (USA) in the city of Atlanta I’ve been challenged to (re)think about creating programs that will grow the church. This is not a new concept. Need-based ministry became, years ago, the go-to strategy for church growth. This is a direct adaptation of a simple sales strategy that identifies the product, the need it fills for a known consumer, and directs the sale to them. We called these churches “seeker sensitive.” And thus we eventually neglected the core of our faith.
God is the seeker. God is the one who seeks the lost. We are a people who have long-forgotten that we need God (total depravity in Presbyterian lingo). We do not seek God.
Neither is God a product we can shop around in different packages until we find the one that fits the consumers we want in our buildings and circles of friends.
The lost less often want something like a program and more often want someone -- like you. Yes, you, disciple and child of God.
God is love. God is slow to anger, abounding in mercy, and steadfastly loving. God is holy. The only way to package that is to be a holy, slow to anger, abounding in mer-cy, and steadfastly loving person. This is the work of Holy Spirit within each one of us. God is recreating us in the image of the divine through Christ. That’s the meaning of being clothed in Christ. Or that it is Christ who lives in me.
Evangelism is not about creating the right program to meet the right need.
It is being good news to people who forgot they needed it.
It is being more than doing.
The church is not meant to sell God. We are meant to praise God. The God who said, “I am with you,” sends us out to be with others. When our programmatic efforts be-come opportunities of with-ness, we will be witness to God.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Jesus, to his disciples, John 15: 12