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.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Hunger for Peace and Grace and Truth

In today's society, there is a noticable hunger for peace and grace and truth. People don't come to church anymore looking for something real showy or fancy - they can get that on T.V. or in the movie theatre or over the internet. No, what people look for in church these days is something real, something humble, something decent, something free of anger and compulsion.

Churches used to make a living by fussing at people through teachings and interpretations of scripture meant to control and change people, but people like me and others in society, aren't looking to be fussed at. We want someone to speak a sane word to us like we mattered, like we shared the same reality and struggles of the speaker.

In today's society, people are looking for an unpretentious church, a place to worship in truth, a place to worship in peace.

So long as we want to bring our anger to church, our desire to control and our need for applause, people will find other places to be - other places where they might worship God in spirit and in truth.

a prayer for openness to the sadness of life and openness to the joy of life

"O Lord, let me see the darkness without losing the light in my eyes."

April 23 at Fourth United Presbyterian Church

I have been so tired the last two Thursday evenings as I start my drive from the Public Defender's Office in Maryville to our church's Thursday night Bible Study in Knoxville. And, each time, I have gotten new life, new energy, a second wind. I don't know how else to describe it but to say that there is just something very real and very hopeful that is happening at our church. After over a year of struggle to deal with merger issues, conflicts, building problems, racial prejudice, the hope I had for this new church is looking like something real. We are a black church, but we have some white members, and now we have a new group of Presbyterians who are looking for a home because they are too progressive and liberal for the churches in our Presbytery. These new friends are all white people, and there is also this group of Anglicans who are meeting as a house church who are interested in joining with us at times.

There is a real hunger in our world for something real, especially in religion where we meet with what is most real and also more often with what is most unreal.

All I can say for our church, 4th United Presbyterian Church, is that it is real. I am tired these days and seeing things through dark glasses. But, something about these Bible studies just breaks through that. We really tell the truth when we meet. We really struggle to find something holy. You just can't find that in this world, or, at least not too often.

And, it is seeming to me and Sonya (my co-pastor) that there is something going on that just feels a lot bigger than us. We may be delusional, but we know that something good is going to happen - something new is going to happen. It seems to me that we are going to burst the bonds of religion and even break down the barriers between those who are "religious" and those who are not. We are feeling the universal reach of God's reconciling love in Jesus Christ.

I am really lucky to have Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen to work with. Because she is who she is. She loves the truth, and stubbornly works to put truth at the center of the life of our church. It is uncomfortable at times when she seeks to break through the comfortable traditions to the truth, but at this time when I am in so much need of truth, it is very, very comforting.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reflecting on the Sermon Today, April 11

Rev. Allen read from Acts, Chapter 5, beginning at v. 12 and going through about v. 33 or so. It was about the Apostles preaching the Gospel and being told not to by the authorities, and about how the Apostles continued to proclaim the truth of God and then being arrested for it. But, the prison doors opened, and they went right back to preaching the Gospel. The Apostles say:"We must obey God, not human beings." And, at the end, the Jewish elder, Gamaliel gives some wise advice: "If what they are doing is nothing, it will perish; if it is of God, you will not be able to stop it no matter what you do."

Turns out, it was from God.

And, so here we are almost 2,000 years later looking to this Gospel for hope and truth amidst times of despair and falsehood.

What Rev. Allen focused on today was the part of the passage where the Apostles explain their disobedience to the local authorities - they simply said: "We must obey God, not human authority."

And, what she said in her sermon showed that she was really trying to bring that word into our lives; into the lives of those who want change so badly, but can't seem to find it. She spoke a word to reach those who are held back from needing acceptance from human beings, when God's acceptance is what brings redemption and freedom - both in this life and the next.

It left us with something to think about. For those who really care a lot about how others view them - which is the overwhelming majority of us - it may have really hit a nerve. It may have raised a question that ought to be repeated in the soul: "Why can't I forget them and serve the Lord?!"

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Congratulations to Melissa Paul! Welcome to Alex!

Melissa Paul, a deacon at 4th United Presbyterian Church, has given birth to a little boy, born on April 5, 2010. He was 8 lbs., something, looks great, and both mother and son are doing very well. Missy was to be home with Alex by yesterday. We celebrate and give thanks to God for Missy's joy and this new little person among us.

Bible Study is tonight, April 8, 6 p.m. We will be discussing where we are in this new church development process, including discussion of some new things that are coming just around the corner. I look forward to seeing all who are able to be there.

Read Psalm 67 in preparation.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Good Friday Reflection on the Meaning of Lent

Many Christians observe "Lent" and practice "giving up things" for Lent. Some give up chocolate, others give up t.v., others give up soft drinks or coffee or wine or beer.

I don't ever give anything up for Lent - at least not voluntarily. But, this Lenten season, I ended up pretty much giving up two things: coffee (which I love, but which was hurting my stomach) and blogging (which I just lost the desire to do).

It occurred to me tonight that Lent is the voluntary practice of giving up things, because in life we have to undergo and survive the experience of involuntarily giving up things. We have to learn to give up so much that is so important. We have to learn to give up our health eventually, our ability to control this and that, and even our loved ones. It is actually a pretty solemn spiritual discipline, learning to give up things in preparation for giving up what is most precious in life and even life itself.

Life is a joy, and life is a struggle. As OCMS sings: "Walking a line between faith and fear." And, though we have each other to travel with, there is something deeply personal that each of us has to bear. There is a moment when you just plain have to bear it by yourself.

I always liked a song by Jackson Browne called "For a Dancer." Here are a couple of lines from it:

"Just do the steps that you've been shown
By everyone you've ever known
Until the dance becomes your very own
No matter how close to yours another's steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you'll do alone."

In worship this Sunday, we sang: "Jesus Walked this Lonesome Valley."

"Jesus walked this lonesome valley. He had to walk it by himself. Nobody else could walk it for him. He had to walk it by himself."

When we come to understand this, then we can help each other out, not necessarily by taking the load off of each other, but by understanding something about the load each other is bearing. In that way, we really do help each other bear the load.

These two thoughts are before me: one, about learning to give things up and reflecting on that as being a central learning of life, and two, about the deeply personal nature of that learning process.

As I have watched people I have known and loved die: some younger, some older, they have to learn to give up this and that precious part of life. For one, it was financial security, for another, it was sanity, for another it was the ability to walk, for another, the ability to drive, for another it was the ability to live on their own. But, nothing is more painful to give up than those we love. As we lose those we love to death, we learn the meaning of Lent: learning to give up that which is most precious, while learning the courage to live with the loss. At some point, even those with faith cry out to God: "My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me!?" Faith outlasts that cry in the end, endures it. Or, maybe that very cry is at the heart of faith - completely pouring out the deepest heartfelt experience of life and death before God. And, that painful question gets an answer - someday, it gets an answer, not in words, but in the shocking appearance of God in our midst, the life-giving presence of the Holy. I guess that is what Easter is all about.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Rachel Taylor

Rachel Taylor, one of our church members, and the first new member of 4th United Presbyterian Church, died this Tuesday, March 30 after suffering for much of the last year with cancer. We remember Rachel with gratitude to God for her encouraging and kind and joyful spirit. And, we remember her mother, Barbara Taylor, and the rest of their family in our prayers this day.

At the request of Rachel, which is being honored by her mother, there will be no funeral service.

"O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in Thy mercy grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." Book of Common Worship, 1946 Edition


We will celebrate Maundy Thursday this evening at 7 p.m. at Central United Methodist Church, remembering the passover meal our Lord ate with his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion.