Meeting Times at 4th United Presbyterian Church

Cafe' Worship: 9:15 a.m. each Sunday in Gathering Hall (activities provided for children; coffee; snacks)
Adult Sunday School: 10 a.m.

Sunday Worship: 11 a.m.

Bible Study: each Thursday at 6 p.m.

Community Forum: last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. with meal (no community forum in November, 2011)

About the 4th United Presbyterian Bible Blog

Posts on this blog are from me, Rev. George H. Waters, one of the two organizing co-pastors of 4th United Presbyterian Church. Our other organizing pastor was Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen, who is now pastor of a church in Charlotte, N.C. Since June of 2011, Rev. Elizabeth Peterson has been our parish associate pastor for new church development. The earliest posts are sermon notes from the few I have typed the last two years. Then, there is a series of notes posted on the book of Romans. After that, it varies from week to week, sometimes church news, sometimes reflections on a happening, a passage of scripture, or even some pictures. This blog is meant to open the conversation we have going on in our church to others in our community.

The picture below is of our church's sanctuary, built in 1913.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thinking about new church development at 4th United Presbyterian

One thing about doing something new is that you get to make it up as you go along. And, in a new church development, there is really some of that “making it up as you go along.” But, there is always something very “old” in every genuine “new” church development. What we hope to develop has a living tradition almost 2,000 years old. And, with our connection to the faith of Israel, an even longer living tradition. Those of us who seek to follow the way of Jesus of Nazareth do so as the “contemporaries” of the first disciples. That “old” tradition is experienced as “new” and relevant in our lives. So, this vital connection to the tradition of faith means there is something very old and deeply embedded in any true new church development. As we hear the Word of the Living God: “Behold, I make all things new,” we are humbled and hopeful, realizing that it is God who is creating and redeeming in our lives and through our lives and in this “development” of a new mission.

Paul speaks of “the faith of Jesus Christ,” which may also be translated as “the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.” This is that wonderful union of humanity with God as a human being shows complete faithfulness to God, the Creator, and as God reveals his faithfulness to that human, Jesus, by raising him from the dead to be the head of humanity, the Lord of the earth, and declared for all the world as “the Son of God,” one with the very being of God. But, the revelation of God’s faithfulness to humanity goes even deeper than that. Because in Jesus, God is made known in human flesh. Both God’s will for humanity and God’s character are made known in Jesus. And, what is revealed is that Jesus came from God as the love and redeeming will and power of God on earth. “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son . . . ."

The “faithfulness of Jesus Christ” opens a way, a way of human beings living in peace and joy with God and each other. That is the way of Jesus Christ on earth. It was a way revealed in his life, suffering and death. It was a way that was shown to be undefeatable in his resurrection. When humans are reconciled with God, they are given to share in God’s eternal love and life.

So, this way of Christ is not something we are ‘making up as we go along.’ Nor, are we proclaiming some “new” gospel of God. What we are doing is bearing witness to this way in our midst. What we are doing is bearing witness to the ways of God which are always new among us. This old and living tradition is not primarily a set of beliefs passed down from generation to generation, nor is it primarily a set of rituals or precepts for living. No, it is a living allegiance and love for our God who remains faithful to human beings and to all the creation. It is an old way, but in this way, we attend to the ONE who makes all things new. It is the character of God to create new amidst the old, to bring life out of death, hope out of hopelessness, light out of darkness. It is our “attendance” to this living, moving Spirit of God that causes us to declare this a “new church development.” It is the newness of God’s Spirit moving among us. It is the fact that we have awakened to God’s calling that makes this a “new thing.” And, as we continue to experience God as the “God who raises the dead” and “the One who makes all things new,” we respond and realize a certain newness in our own spirits.

But, in taking part in a “new thing,” we are joining with all who are “attending” to the movement of God’s creative Spirit in the world. If we do something truly new, then it will reverberate in the faith of those other church’s around us. We will be mutually strengthened by each others faith. For, the truly new will ground us in the truly old. For, in the end, what we want to be is not so much a “new” church development, but a “true” church development.

The “newness” in our situation is that we have been shaken, turned around, displaced, so that we are seeing those around us in a new way, seeing the church’s mission in a new way, seeing ourselves in a new way. This is a “new” church development because we have departed from the old ways of “doing church” and are willing to learn from God a new way of “being church.” We are coming to understand this divine disruption of our lives as the coming of God’s costly grace into our lives and through us into the lives of others. Aren’t so many of the most wonderful gifts initially experienced as “disruptions” in our lives?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Time to Move On

Romans 3:21-26, that I have worried over, because I didn't trust any of the translations I have read. Well, when I got to this point in Romans 1:16-17, I felt I could offer a reliable translation, but not only do I not find any of the translations convincing of Romans 3:25, I cannot offer one on my own. I simply do not have the level of knowledge of ancient Greek necessary for this problem. So, I leave it as a problem. I don't trust the renderings of Romans 3:25 by our translators - whether they be the King James group or those of the RSV group. But, I trust in my experience of God and my reading of the rest of scripture. And, I trust in my reading of the rest of Paul's letters and the rest of this letter to the Romans.

I am zealous to proclaim the wonderful goodness of God whose grace was poured out through Christ, who has always worked at saving humanity, and who was so intent on saving us and our whole world that God, our Creator, took on our flesh - which means, took on our vulnerabilty in this flesh and blood life - and, God be praised, somehow has gone to the depths of our pain and suffering and hopelessness and created a new way - a way of purpose and love and hope that cannot be defeated.

That's what Jesus Christ means. He means something unbelievable about the Creator of the world. He means that God is with us, God is for us, against all odds, against all expectations, God is our redeemer and for some reason will not give up on us.

And, I'll get back to Bible Study next time, with some real attention to detail in vv. 25-26.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Getting Back to this Study

It's been 13 days since my last post. I have had a lot of work lately. And, just not as much time to sit and read and write.

If you do read this blog, I would encourage you to go back to the start, and read through Romans passages by passage and read the blog to this point, and comment if you want to comment. After I get through 3:21-26, I will be summarizing the study to this point, and coming up with some issues that are unresolved at this point in Paul's letter.

More later today or tommorrow.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Romans 3:21-26 "The Greek is a Mess"

Paul's use of Greek is usually pretty clear, but here, it doesn't seem like him at all. I almost have trouble believing he wrote these words. Many scholars suspect that he has adopted some early creedal summary of the church that he didn't write and has included it perhaps because it was meaningful to the Romans. I don't know about this. But, a literal translation of the Greek at v. 25 ends with something that really doesn't make much sense at all. So, even scholars who are very proficient in Greek are making some big guesses when it comes to verses 25-26, but most especially verse 25!

I will start with a translation of 3:21-24 which can be done with some confidence, and then I want to move to a translation of v. 26 which can be done with a little less confidence, but still it can be done. And, I want to act as if v. 25 has been lost, but we know a v. 25 exists. From the context surrounding v. 25 (vv. 21-24 & v. 26), I want to guess what I would have expected to have been in verse 25.

But, I'll have to get back to this a little later.

I can get a start before leaving this behind for other work:

"Now, separate from the law, God's righteousness has been and is being revealed, the very righteousness to which the law and prophets could point but could not bring about, that righteousness of God that comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ to all people who rejoice and participate in this faithful way of Jesus with God. In this revelation of God's righteousness through Jesus, it is shown that there is no distinction between people since all have sinned and lack the glory of God, being made righteous by the gift of God's grace through the freeing power that is in Christ Jesus,"

Note: "the Greek word apolutroseos can be translated as "release" or "redemption," having the sense of an exchange of some value given to procure physical freedom or freedom from financial debt (which in those days debt often meant loss of liberty). I wonder if the Greek will bear the translation "through the redemption of Christ Jesus" ????? The preposition "ev" makes this unlikely.

Now, I know that not everybody reads Greek, so bear with me until I get through this part. I am just not willing to accept English translations any more on sections of the Bible where the translation involves a huge interpretive decision because the Greek is difficult to render into English. When I hit these sections, I am digging in to give myself some peace of mind that I have actually heard what was originally written, instead of being cut off from it by a big "interpretive" decision of a translator. But, I will have worked through this in a day or two, and then we will be back to english as usual until I run into another passage like this, which won't happen very often in Romans.

I will move to v. 26 next, and then go back and make some guesses about what I would think v. 25 would be about in light of its context, and then the hard work of really translating with the help of others guesses as well.