Posts Tagged ‘greg bolt’

Here is a fascinating blog about church structures, the comment section is also really full of ideas. I wonder if some of the died in the wool Presbyterians could embrace a more ad hoc approach to leadership?

I guess we’ll see.

Killing Church Committees and Other Reflections on Church Organization.

via Killing Church Committees and Other Reflections on Church Organization.


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Here is the text…mostly of the sermon I preached last Sunday at First Presbyterian Church–Bend, Oregon.

The scripture was Psalm 19:1-6 and Psalm 24:1-2. And if you don’t want to read…here’s the audio link

Also, let it be known that I learned I would be preaching this sermon about 3:00 PM on Saturday. Be nice!

The Picture of the World:

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night-to-night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

The Mountains give voice to the majesty of God, etc.

Speechless when I see them.

Often when I am running with my dog Walker, I’m listening to music and I am struck by how blessed I am to live in this place and I am brought to tears as I see God’s voice to me in the beauty of my surroundings.

I look at this picture of the Earth God created and entrusted to us and I am struck at how small it is, relative to the entire universe that God created.

I am struck by the fact that we look at this Earth from above and see how small it is, yet when we see pictures from India or China or Arkansas or West Virginia it feels like a totally different world. A world we have no connection to, a people we have no connection to, an Earth we have no connection to.

This morning I have a question for you. When you see this picture and you think about your place on God’s Earth, do you feel connected?

Sometimes I wonder if we feel connected to the Earth, not in a symbiotic way not in a tree hugging way, not in a way that I hear trees screaming when they are cut down way, but in a way that I understand that my actions have an impact on the Earth in the same way that my actions have an impact on my relationships. I certainly think about how, what I do affect my relationship to my wife, to my daughter, to my loved ones but do I think about how it impacts God’s Earth?

Steven in a letter to the editor of the Bend Bulletin in 2007, quotes William Sloane Coffin saying, “The modern world, in the pursuit of progress, has unfortunately divorced creation from Creator.” He continues, “As modern civilization has supposedly advanced and progressed, a sense of wonder and awe, reverence and respect for creation has declined. And, unfortunately, our souls and the soul of the community we live in are the poorer for it.”

I want us to take some time to look at some pictures and see if we can reconnect the creation to the creator. See if we can re-introduce ourselves to the Creator through God’s Creation.

Slide Show

We see the pictures, they take my breath and I wonder. I wonder if like William Sloane Coffin suggested, we have lost our sense of the awesome majesty that is found all around us, whether in a scenic view of the mountains or in the thistles of a juniper tree. My question is what do you see when you look at them? Do you see something to be used for your own pleasure? Do you see something to be celebrated and explored? What do you see?

Theologian and ethicist, James Gustafson talks about the entirety of Creation in a way I had never heard before. He talks about it in terms that are challenging and shocking and I want to get some feedback from you. Gustafson says that humans are not the center of God’s creation but only one part of the larger make up of what God intended for God’s creation. How does that strike you, the thought that we are not the center of the universe, we are not God’s favorite, but part of the picture of God’s Earth and the fullness thereof?

I love that idea, partly because I am fairly confident, some say cocky, partly because humility is not what I would consider one of my strengths. I actually have a hat that says “It’s Hard to Be Humble When You’re From West Virginia.” But that’s a sermon for another day and if I get off track now there’s no hope.

The humility it takes to recognize that we are part of the story not the whole story changes my mindset when I think about how I interact with other beings and living things on this Earth.


I’m not here to try to make you feel guilty, or to make you run out and buy a hybrid, or eat local or any of that stuff. I think there is plenty of trying to guilt you into caring about the Earth already out there. My hope is that we can get back to being in awe of God’s Creation.

On this Earth Care Sunday my hope is to invite you back into relationship with the Earth, invite you to remember how much God loves you and how you are part of God’s Creation just as the trees outside these windows are, just as the mountains we hike and ski and snowmobile and camp and play in, just as the rivers that we float and that give us electricity, just as every thing we come into contact with in God’s natural world.

My hope today is to remind us that, as the Psalmist said, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,”

I could probably wag my finger at you and say, “You’re not doing enough” but what would that solve? You’d probably just roll your eyes at me. Honestly, that’s probably what I would do if someone were trying to make me feel bad for not doing enough.  I mean I care deeply about environmental issues, not because of their political nature but because I think it is one way that I can respond to God’s call to love my neighbor.

Today I want you to remember that God loves you, and hopefully you love God. I also hope that one of the ways that you express that love is through nurturing the Earth that God has surrounded us with. Today we have a special opportunity to love our neighbor and nurture our world.

Following the service members of the Green Team will be stationed at the main door and the side door. We have the opportunity to pick up around Bend High. Green Team Members will give you 2 bags, one for garbage and one for recyclables such as bottles and cans.  You will also be given a glove or two just in case you don’t want to get TOO dirty.  When you return you can bring the filled bags downstairs behind the church where the big garbage bins and the recycle bin are located.  There will have someone there to show you where to put things.

May it be so.



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This is the proposal that started my involvement in Ignite Bend. This is from Ignite Bend 1 on February 9, 2011 7:00 PM at the Tower Theater in Bend Ignite Bend 6 will happen. I have been on the planning committee since Ignite Bend 2 and I am so thankful for the people that have gotten to know, the connections I have made and the opportunity to step out of my church circles and into the community.

Thank you Jen, Cass, Lisa, Heather, Melinda and Kate!



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That was the title of my sermon this week. The sermon text is John 20:19-31. My sermon had nothing to do with doubt it was about forgiveness. It’s what you get for listening to the Spirit…I guess.

I was already to preach this week about Thomas…you know “doubting Thomas”. I think that guy gets a bum wrap sometimes. I believe that faith and doubt are inseparable and have said so on many occasions. I think that it is unrealistic to think that you or I will be 100% certain about our faith 100% of the time. I know I have doubts; my guess is you have doubts, Mother Theresa had doubts, Martin Luther had doubts, even Jesus had doubts. This week I doubted that the Holy Spirit was with me, doubted that it would move me to find the message in this text that God was calling me to share, the message that I needed to hear.

Then I sat down with a group of people and we talked about this passage. I didn’t realize that I needed to hear a message of forgiveness and be reminded that for the author of the Gospel of John forgiveness of sins was at the heart of the community of believers. I found this quote from a retired pastor, theologian and author, Lamar Williamson, Jr., who I have had the pleasure of breaking bread with on many occasions.

“The context in the Fourth Gospel is the Johanine understanding of the church: a community of believers in Jesus, bound together only by his command to love and serve one another. This word of the risen Lord in the present text can therefore be read as descriptive: if members of the community forgive one another their sins, those sins are forgiven and the community is living from and in the Spirit of Jesus; but if members of the community harbor grudges and resentment toward other members who have sinned against them, then those sins remain to spoil the bond of unity, and the Spirit of Jesus is no longer resident in the community…the forgiveness of sins in John is an essential component of life in a community whose life breath is the Holy Spirit of Jesus, alive and well in and among its members.”

The forgiveness of sins is an essential component of life in community whose life breath is the Holy Spirit of Jesus, alive and well in and among its members.

That’s sounds good enough.

If members of the community harbor grudges and resentment toward other members who have sinned against them, then those sins remain to spoil the bond of unity, and the Spirit of Jesus is no longer resident in the community.

That makes me uncomfortable, I certainly don’t want to think about something that I do contributing to the Spirit of Jesus no longer residing in the community. Jeesh…that’s a tough pill to swallow.

For John, however, it’s not about a remarkable music ministry, young people who are engaged, or even fabulous preaching; it’s about the words of Jesus “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Well that sounds easy enough…right?  I wish!

I certainly struggle with my own “grudges” and “resentments”. This week 29 West Virginia miners were killed in an explosion at the Upper Branch mine in Raleigh County, WV. The worst coal mining disaster in 40 years. I didn’t know any of the miners or their families, however they are still part of my family. As my father used to repeat to me “Nobody messes with my family.” Right now today I hold a lot of anger towards Massey Energy, the coal company that owns the mine, and specifically Don Blankenship, its CEO. You may have never heard of Don Blankenship before this week, but I can assure you that I have and I have held my anger towards him and his continued business practices for years. I won’t go into all the details <if you like to know more we can get coffee, you might want to block out a significant amount of time> needless to say I’m angry and I have been for a while. I’m really not sure if I’m ready to let go of my anger towards Mr. Blankenship, I’m sure he doesn’t care what I think. How to I balance justice and forgiveness? Certainly there should be consequences for his actions; do I need to be the one to ensure those consequences happen? How can I forgive this man for the things that I believe he is responsible for when families, my family is still grieving the loss of their loved ones from what seems to be a preventable tragedy.

I don’t know the answer to those questions and I’m sure there are NO easy answers, what I do know is that Jesus says, “Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me, so I send you.” I am called to model the example of Jesus to forgive in the face of those that appear to be unforgivable. That is hard stuff. Who am I to tell YOU to forgive, I don’t know your pain, I don’t know the hurt that you have been through. The thing I do know is that “if you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven them, if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

The paraphrase of the bible called “The Message” puts it another way, “if you retain the sins of any what are you going to do with them?”

Steven has talked about one of his favorite writers, Anne Lamott, who happens to be one of my favorites as well, says in her book “Traveling Mercies”, “not forgiving others is like eating rat poison and expecting the rat to die.”

The other day I was twittering with a pastor friend of mine about this passage and he said, “forgiveness says, “I’m not going to allow you to push my buttons any longer. You have no claim over who I am.” While retention of sins says, “I give you power over me, to burden me with expectations and perceptions that are not who God is creating me to be.”

I certainly allow Don Blankenship to push my buttons and because I do I allow him to hinder me from living as God created me.

There are certainly stories that are more powerful than mine, stories that challenge us more deeply. One such story I read in the book that we studied as a Lenten group. I believe it shows the courage it takes to forgive and the power to heal that act can have on a person and a community.

[Hole  in Our Gospel Story pg. 158]

Forgiveness is a beautiful thing, unfortunately it also can be extremely difficult.

Forgiveness is an individual process. I wish I had the answers that would make the pain go away…I don’t…all I can say with certainty is that God is with you, God is with us and we will need to walk together with one each other as we try and navigate the waters of what it means to live from and in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

As we welcome these new young people into our community we welcome them into our questions, we welcome them into our doubts, we welcome them into our faith, we welcome them into a community that attempts everyday to live from and in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.  We pray that they will help us model what it means to be a community of believers that do not hold grudges but forgives the sins of any.

I pray that I have the strength, I pray that you have the strength, I pray that we have the strength to do the difficult work that Christ calls us to knowing that he will continue to meet us, like Thomas, where we are, he will continue to respond to us before we speak, he will continue to stand with us, to prop us up, to walk with us away from the things that hold claim on us and hinder our ability to live into all that God has called us to be and towards the power of the unconditional love and compassion modeled by Jesus the Christ.

May it be so.



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Today was the last day of family leave, it’s going to suck not spending all day with TLO. We had a good run and I hope to keep posting vlogs about once a week to keep everyone updated on TLO’s progress and Beloved and I’s growth as parents. Thanks for watching.

TLO's French Mobile

TLO Enjoying Her New Mobile



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Had my proudest daddy moment yet and other stuff happened



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