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.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Meditation on Sharing Responsibility from “Deep is the Hunger,” by Howard Thurman

“It is a great temptation to try to escape responsibility not only for one’s own actions but also for one’s own privileges. Responsibility means, essentially, standing up to be counted. It means the ability to look things squarely in the face and pay the price for what one does.

"In a family of children, there are usually at least two types represented. There is the child who always says, “I didn’t do it,” or “Betty made me do it, so it is really not my fault,” or “I wasn’t thinking when I did it. I am sorry.” Such expressions become a substitute for facing the consequences of one’s deeds. It is an easy settlement of one’s personal account by deferring to someone else. Such children usually grow up to become adults who increase the tasks and the work of all with whom they come into contact. When they marry, the wife or husband is always to blame for whatever happens. The net result is a quality of self-righteousness, a “King-can-do-no-wrong” aroma, which makes life difficult for those who must bear the burden of enduring it.

“The other type of child is one who is ever eager to take on more than his responsibility, particularly more of the blame, than he should. This means two things: (1) Other children easily learn to exploit and abuse him, because their weakness is aided and contributed to by the willing burden-bearer. (2) The sense of being a martyr becomes acute. This is self-righteousness in reverse.

“Of course there is a place in the world of weakness and temptation to come to the rescue, to take on responsibilities equal to one’s strength, to make life a bit easier for the over-taxed and depressed. Such zeal must not perpetuate weakness and turn into permanent cripples those who might find their own feet and strength by being compelled to stand up in their own right and be counted for what they do.”

-Deep is the Hunger: Meditations for Apostles of Sensitiveness, Howard Thurman (Harper & Bros, N.Y: 1951), pp. 127-28.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Isaiah 56:1-8 "The Sabbath"

Isaiah 56:1-8:
The Sabbath was a day of rest,and justice and peace. It was a day to remember that the Lord alone is God. And, since he had declared it a day of rest,that established the matter. It was a day to be free from your master, and a day to allow those under your authority to be free from your authority. Those who had particularly low status in society were given some real attention when it came to the Sabbath. In fact, the Sabbath rest was made to apply even to the animals that labored for humans.
The Sabbath was really the good news of God’s grace and freedom. And, it’s reach didn’t stop with the people of Israel, or with those in Israel considered holy and whole.
In Exodus, we read these words:
"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
[9] Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; [10] but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; [11] for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.
It is very significant that it says: “in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle or the foreigner who is within your gates.”
The reason given is that it was God who made the earth, the sea, the skies, and all that is within them in six days, and rested on the seventh day, and therefore blessed that day of rest and made it holy. And, right at the center of what it means to participate in this holiness is to grant rest to those who are under your authority, because you recognize that we are all under God’s authority and he has commanded a day of rest.
Treatment of the foreigner, the servant, the child under one’s authority – treatment of those without authority or status was very important in Sabbath observance. And, we see that tradition carried on in the day of Isaiah who said:
Thus says the LORD:
"Keep justice, and do righteousness,for soon my salvation will come,and my deliverance be revealed.[2] Blessed is the man who does this,and the son of man who holds it fast,who keeps the sabbath, not profaning it,and keeps his hand from doing any evil."[3] Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say,"The LORD will surely separate me from his people";and let not the eunuch say,"Behold, I am a dry tree."[4] For thus says the LORD:"To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,who choose the things that please meand hold fast my covenant,[5] I will give in my house and within my wallsa monument and a namebetter than sons and daughters;I will give them an everlasting namewhich shall not be cut off.[6] "And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD,and to be his servants,every one who keeps the sabbath, and does not profane it,and holds fast my covenant --[7] these I will bring to my holy mountain,and make them joyful in my house of prayer;their burnt offerings and their sacrificeswill be accepted on my altar;for my house shall be called a house of prayerfor all peoples.[8] Thus says the Lord GOD,who gathers the outcasts of Israel,I will gather yet others to himbesides those already gathered."
In our passage in Isaiah 56, the prophet says: “Let not the foreigner say, . . . . ; and “Let not the eunuch say, . . . .” Because the eunuch who keeps the heart of the Sabbath, and the foreigner who lives in the truth of Sabbath, are welcome in my house, are invited to enjoy the freedom and grace of a new kingdom.
“Everyone who keeps this holy way in reverence for me shall be welcome!!” EVERYONE.
Thus says the Lord GOD,who gathers the outcasts of Israel,I will gather yet others to himbesides those already gathered."
What we see is that the God of Israel is a God who reaches out to gather in all those who love what he loves, who live for justice and freedom and peace among humankind. Those who love God’s name, who rejoice in God’s presence, rejoice in the presence of God’s justice and mercy and peace. And, its good to remember that sometimes human beings join in God’s work of mercy and justice and truth before they figure out whose work it actually is. Better to do the will of God, than to speak God’s name without doing God’s will.
There are certainly better and worse beliefs about God. But, there are also ways of living in harmony with God’s will and in conflict with God’s will. And, when we are living in harmony with God’s will, we find others who are as well, and we celebrate that work and we rejoice in their partnership in this good work, whether they are Christian or not. Jesus was the one who said: “IT IS NOT THOSE WHO SAY, ‘LORD, LORD’ WHO WILL ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, BUT THOSE WHO DO THE WILL OF MY FATHER WHO IS IN HEAVEN.”
As we gather here on this last day of February, this is about the 14th February since I came to 1st United. I have experienced this congregation as a gracious place, a place where God’s gathering Spirit is alive. And, in spite of our own struggles as individuals, we continue to keep our doors open, and we continue to keep our hearts open. That must be because God’s grace is with us. And, that leads me right back to the gracious words of our passage.
As I hear these good words from Isaiah, reassuring those who feel unaccepted and outcast that they are welcome, as I hear these good words, I am reminded of those gracious words of Jesus who said: “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest – Jesus is our Sabbath . . . As we come to him, we experience God’s rest and renewal. And, that is what people need so badly in this world. You, I, they don’t need another burden, responsibility, worry, or duty; but need a place to release their burdens, to be relieved of the weight on their bodies and souls, and to feel the energy of new life from God. Jesus said: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” My yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Good news for a weary world. Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. I am the true Sabbath of God, given for you. When Jesus looked at the crowds, he felt compassion because they were helpless and harassed, like sheep without a shepherd. And, he was a shepherd who knew how to lead them to the green pastures, to rest beside the still waters. He is the one who leads in the path of righteousness.
When we gather as a fellowship of believers, we should enter into the Sabbath rest of God. The Sabbath used to be one day of the week; it was a holy day of rest and renewal and praise. The Sabbath is now a person, the Christ, whose presence is the holy presence of God; whose Spirit brings peace and rest and renewal. He was the one who called us to rest: “Come unto me

Not to your religious assemblies and rituals, but Come unto me!!!! I will give you the rest you seek and need so badly. I will not load you up with worries and guilt and burdens you can’t possibly bear. That’s what your religious leaders do. Come unto me, and I WILL GIVE YOU REST.
He is our rest in God, our renewal, our hope and our peace. All glory be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.