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Archive for February 2017

Journey From Bethlehem to Jerusalem

Over the past several weeks we have been hearing the stories of Jesus’ childhood from our Canon. Stories of Jesus’ birth and childhood are found only in Luke and Matthew.

I chose this path for us to learn together as we embark on our Lenten journey, because we squeeze the stories from the Gospels to fit into our Liturgical year. So we celebrate Advent, then Christmas and then right into Epiphany and then Baptism of our Lord, eventually Transfiguration and then, because of the way we need to fit Easter in around the time of the Passover, we go immediately to our Lenten readings starting on Ash Wednesday.

This year we will be looking at the whole arc of Jesus’ life and story, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. So far that arc has taken us from Bethlehem to Egypt to Nazareth and to Jerusalem. Where will our journey take us next? Come Sunday and find out!

With Joy,

Rev. Paula

PS: Last week I didn’t send out my Midweek Missive, so this is a two-for-one bonus edition. The first article below is from Feb 19’s service on Refuge and the Flight to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-23); the second article is from Feb 26’s service on the 12 Year Old Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52).

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Jesus, Mary, Joseph: Refugees
“Refugee”
noun
a person who flees for refuge or safety, especially to a foreign country, as in time of political upheaval, war, etc. (Dictionary.com).

The plight of refugees has been in the news lately. The heart-breaking stories of families trying to flee war-torn Syria has captured our attention. In typical American fashion, their plight hasn’t affected our lives much, but we hear a lot about it.

If our hearts were aligned with God’s heart, I am convinced that we wouldn’t be able to think of anything else. Throughout our story of being God’s people, we read that God has a tender heart for the “Sojourner” or the “Stranger” or the “Refugee.” Take a moment to peruse this partial list of times when God teaches us about the alien, the stranger, the wanderer; about offering Radical Hospitality to those who are from different places:

Genesis 12:1 Abraham becomes a sojourner.
Genesis 37:27-36 Joseph is solid into Egypt but learns to adjust to the new culture.
Exodus 23:9 “You shall not oppress a stranger, you know the heart of a stranger, for you were stranger in the land of Egypt.”
Leviticus 19:15-18 “You shall do no injustice in judgement; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”
Leviticus 19:33-34 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love himself as yourself…”
Deuteronomy 10:18-19 “[God] executes justice for the fatherless, the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore; for you were sojourner in the land of Egypt.”
Deuteronomy 26:12 The Israelites tithe to help the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless and the widow.
Joshua 20 The Israelites establish cities of refugee for those who need asylum.
Ruth: Ruth leaves Moab to join Naomi in Bethlehem and learns of another culture.
I Samuel 23-24 David hides in the wilderness (23:15) “because Saul has come out to seek his life.” (Similarly, many refugees today flee from life-threatening situations.)
II Samuel 22:2-3 “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence.
Job 31:32 “The sojourner has not lodged in the street; I have opened my doors to the wayfarer.”
Psalms 2:12 “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”
Psalms 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Psalms 57:1 “Be merciful to me, O God, for in thee my soul takes refuge.”
Psalms 61:1-3 “Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to thee, when my heart is faint. Lead thou me to the rock that is higher than I; for thou art my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.”
Psalms 146:9 “The Lord watches over the sojourners, he upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.”
Proverbs 24: 11-12 “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this, does He who weighs the heart perceive it?”
Proverbs 31:8-9 “Open your mouth for the dumb, for the rights of all who are left desolate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, maintain the rights of the poor and needy.”
Isaiah 1: 10 “…you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the rock of your refuge.
Isaiah 58: 6-9 “Is not this the fast I choose; to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?…to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house?… Then shall your light break forth like the dawn…”
Isaiah 61: 1-3 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”
Zechariah 7: 9-10 “thus says the Lord of hosts, render true judgements, show kindness and mercy each to his brother, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor…”
Matthew 2: 14 Joseph, Mary, and Jesus flee to Egypt.
Matthew 14: 13-21 Jesus takes loaves and two fish–and feeds more than five thousand people. (The pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Mobile, Alabama, said, “Whenever we felt overwhelmed by the urgent needs of the refugees under our care, we have reminded each other of our Lord’s promise: ‘Give them what little you have and it will be enough!)”
Matthew 25: 31-46 “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Luke 10: 25-37 The parable of the Good Samaritan. Here our Lord even chooses a stranger, a Samaritan, as our role model for actions of love.
Luke 14: 13-14 “When you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.”
Acts 8:26-40 Philip shows concern for the spiritual needs of a foreigner.
I John 3: 16-18 “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.”

So it isn’t surprising to me that the story of our very own savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, contains a reference to a perilous flight to Egypt by Mary and Joseph in their attempt to find refuge and safety for their beloved Jesus. The story in Matthew 2 offers this interpretation, “This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’” Of course we know the author of Matthew reminded his reader repeatedly about the fulfillment of scripture found in the entire story of Jesus.

On this particular Sunday, we were privileged to also be celebrating the baptism of one of the CEH family. Eight-month old Elden Martin was a welcome addition to our growing number of baptized members, and his parents Kelly and Earl, and big sister Raelee, grandparents,and even more aunts, uncles, cousins — all of them joined together in professing their faith in Jesus Christ, and made an agreement to help Elden grow in his faith. The entire congregation made that same pledge — to walk with Kelly and Earl and encourage Elden in his own faith journey.

I celebrate this baptism as I do every baptism — with an immense sense of gratitude and joy. Somehow, with the Grace of God, parents have found CEH to be a place of refuge, a place where they can bring their child for safety from this crazy world we live in. Let’s continue to work together to make CEH a place of refuge for all families, all of God’s Children, and especially to those lost souls who are looking for a bit of safety.

With the Hope of Christ Eternal,

Rev. Paula

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Sassy Jesus; Worried Mother
The story of Jesus in the temple from Luke chapter 2 is wonderful. In this story we see every bit of Jesus’ humanity shining through his divinity. Sometimes we focus so much on the divinity of Christ, that we forget he had a very human side. A human side that sometimes was a little sassy (like any 12 year old boy!).

Here’s the story, right from Luke 2:41-52:
Now every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travellers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.

After three days Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, ‘Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.’

Jesus said to them, ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’

But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour
(NRSV).

We see here the very human reaction of his mother as well. Can you just imagine how angry Mary and Joseph must have been? That anger/relief feeling that only the most terrifying of situations can arouse within the heart of a parent. My friend Rev. Heather Scherer, of Living Water United Methodist Church in Glenpool, OK says it’s that mother’s expression she’s uttered many times before, “You’re okay! OH! I’m so mad at you I could kill you!”

And then we hear Jesus’ response — the one I call kind of sassy. Here’s my version: “Mooooooooom! Daaaaaad! Why are you so freaked out? Seriously! Didn’t you know I’d be here in my Father’s house? Jeez.”

Sassy. Human. Jesus. Sometimes we focus so much on the Divinity of Christ that we forget he had his human frustrations too. But here is our God-made-flesh, just 12 years old, teaching the teachers themselves through his questions — so it is easy for us to recognize his Divinity. Did his parents not notice it?

That might be a fault of human parents. They fail sometimes to see the great gifts in their children, which is one of the things that makes being a part of a church family so important. At CEH our children are surrounded by loving adults, who (because they are not the child’s parent), can see the wonderful gifts in our children and youth. They recognize those gifts and point them out to the child and to the parents. That is a wonderful and holy thing. I get to see it every week at Service Station, and it makes my heart so happy.

With that in mind, I’ll share one last funny for you to end this missive. It happened at this week’s youTHursday during dinner. One of the sixth graders at youth group exclaimed, “Pastor Paula, you have lots of white hairs popping out of your head.”

Quickly, a seventh grade boy came to my rescue. “Didn’t you know?” he asked. “Pastor Paula is so holy her body can’t contain it. That’s her holiness popping out!”

With Joy,

Rev. Paula

Half-Truths Sermon Series

We have just finished the sermon series based on Rev. Adam Hamilton’s book, “Half Truths: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves and Other Things the Bible Doesn’t Say.” They are simple phrases. They sound Christian – like something you might even find in the Bible:

▪ Everything happens for a reason
▪ God helps those who help themselves
▪ God won’t give you more than you can handle
▪ God said it, I believe it, that settles it
▪ Love the sinner, hate the sin

If you missed any, order the book here.

Rev. Paula Steinbacher

PS: What’s next? We are going to study all the references to Jesus as a child in the Gospels: all the stories of him and his family before we begin our “Journey to Jerusalem” for Lent. Join us each week to learn a little about Jesus’ life prior to his baptism!

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Love the Sinner; Hate the Sin
“Love the sinner, hate the sin?” What on earth is wrong with that? Sounds like a good way to avoid being “Judgy.” (Is that a word? “Judgy?”)

We all do it, right? Judge others just a little bit for any number of reasons. This common adage, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” seems to remind us that we are called to love the person no matter what their actions are.

But stop — let’s begin with the very basic premise that this saying is just NOT scriptural. We are not called to love the sinner. Actually, Jesus called us to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (this should ring very familiar because we find this verbatim in many Hebrew laws, Mark 12, Luke 10, and Matthew 22).

When we say, “Love the sinner” we are categorizing people by judging their lives and actions. Jesus had a lot to say about judging. Take a look at this clear example from Matthew 7:1-5:
‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye.’

There’s no way to misinterpret this passage of scripture! Indeed, if any of us were placed under the microscope that we place others, we would certainly be vulnerable to many kinds of judgements and conclusions about our righteousness or sinfulness. Scripture does have something to say about this as well. In Romans 3:23 we read, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

What is sin? Maybe understanding that would help us along towards the understanding that we all “Fall short of the glory of God.” The Greek word used in the gospels and epistles that is translated as sin is “Hamartia.” (Click hereto read an interesting article on the use of hamartia in Greek Tragedy if you’d like to learn more). Basically, the word indicates “Missing the mark.” The Hebrew word, “Chata” indicates the same kind of idea: straying from a path or missing a mark. I think we can all agree that if the mark is the “Glory of God” then we have, indeed, missed the mark on that.

Why are we so quick to point out that other people are sinners? Evidently, Jesus knew this was our human proclivity, because he warned his disciples against just that thing (read through Matthew 7 again if you’ve already forgotten his warning).

I realize that people use this to remind themselves that we are called to love people no matter what their choices without condoning their self-destructive behaviors or addictions or lifestyle choices. Adam Hamilton suggests a much better way to reframe that without implying someone else’s faults. He says we should live by this adage, “Love my neighbor; even though I’m a sinner.”

In that way, we are honoring the intent of Jesus without pointing fingers at anyone other than ourselves.

May you find it a little easier this week to love — not just those who make it easy for us to love, but also those who we find difficult to love.

With Prayers for your Hearts to be Full,

Rev. Paula

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More CEH Encouragement

During our 2016 Extravagant Generosity Stewardship Campaign, I asked those in attendance to write down the reasons why they support CEH through their gifts of time, talent, and/or treasure. We had so many wonderful responses! I’ll be featuring them over the next month or so. I hope you enjoy reading the reasons why people attend and support CEH:

I have been a member for many years – choir member, Sunday School teacher, Deacon and Elder. I’m now unable to take part but for my pledge – I appreciate those with the talents to keep us with Christ.

CEH provides a weekly uplifting experience that provides the fuel and desire to get through another week trying to be a “person of God”.

Need for the uplifting music and enjoyment with friends. Need for relating Christ to my everyday activities.

I give of my time since it is what the Spirit nudges me to do! When I’m away, I have a hole until I return. We attend churches in other places, but CEH is home and where I’m led to help out.

Commitment: The belief that when I promise something, I want to do it and I promise to do and I WILL do it. (Even if I don’t really want to.)

I have always found that multiple acts of volunteering or assisting in communal efforts yields the occasional unpredicted reward of a gift or gesture that makes all worth it. This congregation allows these opportunities to contribute and the rewards are outstanding.

Half-Truths Sermon Series

Our current sermon series is based on the assertions made in Rev. Adam Hamilton’s book, “Half Truths: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves and Other Things the Bible Doesn’t Say.” They are simple phrases. They sound Christian – like something you might even find in the Bible:

▪ Everything happens for a reason
▪ God helps those who help themselves
▪ God won’t give you more than you can handle
▪ God said it, I believe it, that settles it
▪ Love the sinner, hate the sin

We’ve all heard these words. Maybe we’ve said them. They capture some element of truth – yet they also miss the point in very important ways.

We’ll be taking one saying per week through the month of January and into February and learning about why they are only half-true.

Join us each week! If you have to miss, be sure to read the Midweek Missive during the following week. Order the book here.

Rev. Paula Steinbacher

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God said it, I believe it, that settles it!
On Sunday I shared the pulpit with veteran preacher, the Rev. Dr. Bob Bielenberg. Bob spent over 50 years in the Presbyterian Church, serving through the tumultuous times of Civil Rights and facing extreme divisions over such issues as Women’s Ordination. Bob and his wife Donna retired to Grand County, and were active members of CEH for nearly 20 years. Bob helped to establish our adult discussion class, “The Forum,” which still meets on Sunday mornings at 8:15.

When Bob expressed interest in this sermon series, I asked him to help me with this specific topic, because the interpretation of scripture is a point of division for many denominations, families, and neighbors. I wanted to lean on his experience and wisdom as we approached a delicate topic. We decided on a question/answer format for the shared sermon, and below is our script:

Paula: What’s your reaction to “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”?

Bob: I guess I would respond by saying, “What do you mean ‘God said it’?” I agree that they are referring to the Bible, which we call “God’s Word.” It’s our sacred book. But it has been abused more often than a sacred book should be abused. And I think that is because we don’t really understand what kind of a sacred book the Bible is.

Paula: Can you explain that?

Bob: The Muslims have a sacred book. Mohamed produced it. Said the Angel Gabriel appeared to him and told him what to write. It had one author. It was written in Arabic. It is sacred only in its Arabic form. And because it was dictated by an angel, for the Muslims it is literally “God’s Word.”
The Mormons have a similar book. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, was told by an Angel named Moroni where a book was buried in upstate New York. Its authors were ancient prophets who supposedly lived on the continent of America many thousand years ago. Because an angel told of its existence, it is deemed to be authentic—“God’s word.”
I don’t know if I am describing the Muslim or the Mormon sacred books correctly, but I am trying to point out the difference between other sacred books and the Bible.

Paula: It’s almost as if we have adopted this Muslim and Mormon understanding of how the sacred texts came into being as our own. This was never the claim of our Hebrew texts (think of the Rabbis sitting around the synagogues and debating the law for hours each day), and prior to about the 19th C was not the claim of our Christian writings. Would you explain how we understand how our own sacred texts came into being?

Bob: The Bible is the story of a people, God’s people. It is a collection of books, 66 of them written over a period of two thousand years by many different authors under many different circumstances. It contains many different styles of writing—history, poetry, family remembrances, short stories, and a lot more. We believe the Bible was inspired by God, but we don’t claim it was written by God.

Abraham lived in about 2,000 B.C. Of course no one was writing back then. The stories about Abraham and others were stories told around camp fires for over a thousand years before they were written down. And then there was the Exodus. Stories about the escape of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt, and the forty years they spent in the wilderness, how a people who were no people learned how to be a people and how to survive in the wilderness, and how to worship the God who led them through that experience.

I could go on, but I wanted to show that our sacred book is different from other sacred books.

It wasn’t until about 200 years after the birth of Christ that the books of the Old Testament were selected and became the Old Testament. And even then there was disagreement as to which books should be included and which should not.

The story of the New Testament is similar. Many books, gospels, letters, etc. were written after the time of Jesus. Most of them were not written as sacred scripture. But people found them helpful in understanding their faith, but it wasn’t until the fourth century after Jesus’ birth that it was determined which gospels, letters and other books should be selected for the sacred text we call the New Testament.

I’m not trying to suggest that the books of the Old Testament or the New Testament are not sacred scripture or that those who selected the books that are a part of our Bible were not guided by God as they did so. I’m just trying to point out that our Bible has a large variety of literature from a long period of history, that it was written by human beings, reflecting the times and beliefs of the times in which they lived. It is still God’s Word, but we have to recognize how that word has come down to us and the nature of that writing.
I think the understanding of the nature of our Bible is very well expressed in the Confession of 1967 which is a part of the Book of Confessions of our Presbyterian Church.

The Bible is to be interpreted in the light of its witness to God’s work of reconciliation in Christ. The Scriptures, given under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are nevertheless the words of men, conditioned by the language, thought forms, and literary fashions of the places and times at which they were written. They reflect views of life, history, and the cosmos which were then current. The church, therefore, has an obligation to approach the Scriptures with literary and historical understanding. As God has spoken his word in diverse cultural situations, the church is confident that he will continue to speak through the Scriptures in a changing world and in every form of human culture.

God’s word is spoken to his church today where the Scriptures are faithfully preached and attentively read in dependence on the illumination of the Holy Spirit and with readiness to receive their truth and direction.

Now, I have said that the Bible has been abused. It has been abused by not taking into account exactly what kind of sacred book it is.

Paula: Many people use 2 Timothy 3:16 as “proof” that “God said it.” There’s so many things about this passage we could say, but the first is that it says that all scripture is “God-breathed.” It’s a beautiful thing to imagine God breathing scripture into us – almost like that breath of God at creation. It’s a beautiful metaphor. But we can’t forget that when this letter was written, the only scriptures that existed at the time were the scrolls read in the synagogues and temples – basically the Law and the Prophets. We know that there are all sorts of “problems” within our Old Testament texts. Can you give some examples?

Bob: Adam Hamilton, who has suggested these series of sermons in his book “Half Truths,” has an example I wasn’t aware of until he pointed it out to us. It’s rather silly, but it is a good example of how the Bible has often been abused. It’s in the Book of Deuteronomy which tells the story of the people of Israel during their years in the wilderness. Duet 23:12 says, “You shall have a place outside the camp and you shall go out to it; and you shall have a stick with your weapons; and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it, and turn back and cover your excrement . . . God walks in the midst of your camp . . . therefore your camp must be holy . . . he must not see anything indecent among you, and turn away from you.”

That makes perfect sense in the context in which it was written. But in the 1880’s when indoor plumbing was coming, some people suggested that indoor plumping was contrary to the will of God. There was series debate in at least some of the churches because God had said it, they believed it, and for them that settled it.

A rather more serious debate took place in the 1830’s and 1840’s about slavery. Preachers in the South presented to their congregations 200 verses of the Bible that affirmed slavery. Even after the Hebrews were rescued from their slavery in Egypt, they took their slaves with them, and there were rules regulating slavery.

In Exodus 21:17 we read “Whoever curses his father or mother shall be put to death.” Exodus 35:2 says: “On the seventh day you shall have a holy sabbath of solemn rest . . . whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.” God said it. Actually Moses said it, but he was laying down the law for God. There are other laws about eating bacon, wearing clothes of mixed fabrics, not trimming one’s beard, not wearing jewelry.

If all this sounds like something from long ago, let me bring you up to date, There are some who don’t believe in climate change because God promised Noah after the flood that he would never again send a flood to destroy the earth (Genesis 9:11). They interpret that to apply to climate change. So they feel there is no need to do anything about it. God said it. They believe it. That settles it.

In the gospels we read of Jesus’ enemies coming to him with a woman caught in adultery. They said, our laws say (which was another was of saying “God said”) that a woman caught in adultery should be stoned to death. What do you say? Jesus said, “Let him who is among you without sin throw the first stone.” And the crowd melted away. And Jesus said to the woman, “Go and do not sin again.”

Jesus had disagreements with other laws from the Old Testament. He had a whole lot of things to say which he prefaced with the words, “It was told to you in the old days, but I say to you . . . .”

Paula: I guess what makes that difficult is that Jesus also said, “I came not to abolish the law, but to complete it.” Are we not to believe anything that’s in the Old Testament?

Bob: No, there’s lots of wonderful things in the Old Testament, but we need to remember lots of things in the Old Testament reflect the times in which they were written. The New Testament too.

Paula: How do we tell the difference between them?

Bob: I was once told that it is best to compare a single verse of scripture to the whole rest of the Bible. When the Bible says that it is God’s will, as it does, that when the city of Jericho is captured that everyone was to be killed including women and children, compare that to all the places in the Bible that respects women and children and ask yourself, “Would God really say that?”
When Jesus was asked “What commandment is the greatest of all?”, he answered “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And another commandment was second to this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

I think there is one more example of misreading the Bible, or taking a verse reflecting human opinion rather than God’s opinion. I think you’ll love this one.
It has to do with the role of women in the church. In 1st Corinthians 14:34, we read “Women should keep silence in the churches. They are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, even as the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”

When I began my ministry—years and years ago– women were not permitted to be ministers in the Presbyterian Church. Today we take it for granted.
But there was quite a debate about it at the time. When it was decided that they could serve as ministers, a number of people left the Presbyterian Church and formed another denomination called the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. After all, God said it, it is in the Bible, so they believe it, and that settles it.

Fortunately our church finally came to the conclusion that this opinion reflected the time in which it was written and is not the opinion of God.

Paula: So is the Bible the Word of God or isn’t it?

Bob: How would you like to try to answer that?

Paula: I find much truth in the opening chapter of the Gospel of John. It says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It continues by reminding us that the Word made flesh is Jesus Christ. Think about it. The Word of God –everything we know about God through the voice of God calling order out of chaos at the very creation of time; everything we know about God through the law and the prophets– all of that is summed up in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ! The Word made Flesh!

So it seems to me that if we were to remember to read everything in the light of Jesus, we would do much better at approaching the truth.

Bob: This all raises the question, “How can we tell the difference between what is God’s direction for us and what is just human opinion?” I like what Adam Hamilton suggested. He used the example of a colander. A colander is a kitchen utensil with holes in it used for draining food. We believe Jesus came to show us what God was really like. Hamilton said Jesus could be used to help us understand what is truly from God and what is not, so we can retain the good and let the other drain away, like with a colander.

Paula: A “Jesus Colander.” That reminds me of the importance of Bible study. And I remember that Jesus himself told his disciples that, after he had gone, he would send us the Holy Spirit to help us continue to understand and grow. As Presbyterians we especially believe in group Bible study, openly discussing the text, asking questions, and listening for the Holy Spirit to help guide us.

Bob: Yes. And I would say that Bible study in a group is the best way to study the Bible. We share our ideas with others and they react to what we say and share ideas of their own. We don’t get that feedback and sharing of ideas when we just read it on our own. That’s what I liked about the Forum when I was here. We could express our own ideas but we also could learn from others. Women’s Circles also provide this kind of group study. I think you provide it too in your Monday and Tuesday noon groups. I could wish every member of the church were in some kind of group to wrestle with the Bible and learn from each other what God is saying to us through our Holy Book, the Bible.

Paula: Bob, thank you so much for your interest and your help in this topic. Your wisdom has been such a great asset to us today.

Bob: I’m thankful to have been here and it has been so good to see old friends and remember how much we love Eternal Hills.

Paula: Let’s pray: Our God and Author of Life. We thank you for your word, and for your Word made Flesh Jesus Christ. Help us to learn from the scriptures by using Jesus’ life and teachings as our guiding light, and always help us be aware of your Holy Spirit guiding us to hear and understand the Living Word. In Your Name, Amen.

***
CEH Encouragement

During our recent Extravagant Generosity Stewardship Campaign, I asked those in attendance to write down the reasons why they support CEH through their gifts of time, talent, and/or treasure. We had so many wonderful responses! I’ll be featuring them over the next month or so. I hope you enjoy reading the reasons why people attend and support CEH:

Joy of Fellowship with members. Enjoy helping with CEH, community, and charitable events as well as helping each other with love and hugs. willing to cook/bake food when needed.

To Really Hear.

God put us on this earth to help one another. I have always believed this. He guided me to CEH and uses my talents to help other through the preschool, PEER or just being with a group of loving Christ-centered people who have been with me through cancer, death of loved ones, and many of life’s challenges.

I give in service since money is short right now.

To support the members of my church and make the tasks lighter and more enjoyable…To hold up members in time of need and celebration.

To serve God through service to others.

I give by showing God’s love through participation in local mission, children’s’ ministry and coffee fellowship at CEH.

Bruce gives freely because Christ meets our needs accordingly. Glory in Christ Jesus.