Posts Tagged ‘Marriage’

general assembly 3

Well, my husband has decided to teach summer school. He is teaching because he is a hard worker.  He is teaching because his district needs him.   He is teaching summer school this year because teaching 5th graders is something that he has not done before.   He is interested by a challenge.  Teaching summer school and attending summer school is not an easy thing.  It means finding energy to go against the school’s out for the summer energy that fills school districts, local school building and neighborhoods.  Those students who attend summer school do so because they or their families have an urgency.  The urgency is to improve skills and comprehension in state tested subjected like math, reading, history and science.  Attendance at summer school promises that one will be up-to-speed with one’s peers when the Fall arrives.

As it turns out, Presbyterians have their own summer school.  We do it every other year and it comes together as our General Assembly.  Like the summer school of the school districts throughout our nation, General Assembly requires some unusual energy. But teaching elders and ruling elders, observers and mid council folks, find the energy because there is also a promise.  Attendance at the Presbyterian summer school of General Assembly promises to bring us up to speed in our world and faith.  Summer school always happens when its hot.  General Assemblies are no different.

Presbyterian summer school is diligent in its efforts to develop reading skills.  Throughout the assembly we will read hundreds of documents …. words on a  page.  As we do that, we will be reading circumstances that are of concern and joy in our world.  Presbyterians are known for their political opinion.    We Presbyterians believe in asking the General Assembly commissioners to study. We  believe that a faithful reading of real life circumstances from margin to mainstream  is faithful to Christ.  Christ, who moved at the margins and within the mainstream in order to unite what would otherwise be divided.  As we practice our reading, we Presbyterians gather as a crowd into our Teacher’s  classroom.

Presbyterian summer school is also rigorous in addition and subtraction.  We will managing budgets and questions that surround them.  But the most important accounting will be the counter-intuitive accounting.  We will add up the cost of following Christ. Adding the cost will exercise us all day,  for the entire seven days of our assembly.

In some ways, it is the reading and the math that bring us to the science of being Presbyterian.  At our best we are a laboratory, experimenting with the ionic bonding of faith.  You remember ionic bonds.  Those bonds that are established between two atoms caused by the electrostatic force between oppositely-charged ions.  We teaching elders and ruling elders will come charged for our heated work.  Some say that the 221st Assembly promises to further split and divide our denomination.   But we are more discerning than that.  Even in our oppositely charged passions, we know better.   We remember the charge modeled by Christ to go out into the world and abide together in our differences.

I trust that we will try to find that Christ-like ionic bond that has long been the mystery of the church.  Yes, you are ahead of me…it is, indeed, the ionic bond that produces salt.  Matthew 5:13

9 days!




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wiresWe are just 30 days away from the 221st General Assembly.  Privileged to be a commissioner and to stand with Kelly Allen as her vice moderator candidate, I am full of anticipation for the assembly’s work.   We Presbyterians pride ourselves on being a connectional church.   To be connectional means that our congregants do not have to travel far to find a family of faith and a familiarity in worship.  To be connectional means that we are each caring for our corner of God’s world with intentional mission and ministry.  To be connectional means that we are giving particular expression to a strong reformed tradition.

But sometimes it is easier to be connectional than at other times.   General Assembly is the place that we come every two years to regroup in our connectionalism.  You can imagine the build up.  As the particular year of an assembly approaches, our connectionalism takes on a specific intensity.   I have heard it said, that as commissioners and guests arrive to the General Assembly, it is possible to feel the conductive power that is a natural part of being connectional.  We bring our passions, opinions and anxieties alongside our joy and anticipations.   As we do, intensity runneth over the brim of our Presbyterian cup.

In the midst of this intensity, the General Assembly embraces its highest calling.  “…the assembly seeks to protect our church from errors in faith and practice, is responsible for assuring that the expression of our theology remains true to the biblical standards in our historic confessions. The General Assembly presents a witness for truth and justice in our community and in the world community. It sets priorities for the church and establishes relationships with other churches or ecumenical bodies”. 

There are gifts to being a connectional church as mentioned above.  But being a connectional church is not for the faint-hearted.  To be connectional means that we are always attending to how we conduct our shared life.   It means that we are accountable to one another and must, like apprentices to the master,   learn how to safely splice, connect and insulate all that conducts our shared life.

Prayers for the assembly are intensifying.

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BTW – for the challenge read the end of this blog first!:)

Valentine’s Day originates when a priest refuses to abide by a ban on marriage.  The ban on marriage was issued for soldiers in the Roman empire.  The thought was the marriage made soldiers “soft” and a more aggressive soldier could be produced if they were not distracted by romantic love. The priest married soldiers in secret and defied the emperor’s edict. The priest accommodated an early stage of love (romantic) and engaged a more complex sort of love (challenging oppressive power).  For a more detailed history of Valentine’s Day, click on the following link.   http://www.theholidayspot.com/valentine/history_of_valentine.htm

The premise of this blog is that love emerges through various levels of maturity.  Valentine’s Day calls us to honor not only romantic love but the more complex experiences of love that the human being longs to understand. 

Last week I began a sermon series on the Johannine letters of the New Testament.  The first sermon focused on 1 John 1:5-10, 2:15-17.  The congregation and I considered, together, the definitions of love as presented by David H. Kelsey in his book Eccentric Existence:  A Theological Anthropology (vol. 2).  Most ministers attend to the language loss of love’s meaning as it travels from the Greek text to the English language.  It is not uncommon to hear ministers parse the english “love” into the greek words phileo, agape, and eros. 

Kelsey summarizes the New Testament’s employment of the various Greek words for our English love:

  • the majority of references to love within the New Testament are the greek term, agape (as verb and noun)
  • about dozen references within the New Testament utilize the Greek word, phileo 
  • while no references within the New Testament contain the Greek word, eros

He then defines the three words so that we can hone in on the experience of love that is most relevant for our faith. 

Eros is defined (using non-biblical Greek texts) as “…a desiring love that is grounded in some lack or need and perceives its object to be desirable because it can satisfy the need” (733).     So, in other words…this is the Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger moment….”You complete me!”.  When we human beings look at an object and understand that it will fill us up…we are engaging love as eros.  And our New Testament does not reference this kind of love.

Phileo is defined as the love between brothers and sisters and within the New Testament this is nuanced to include brothers and sisters in the faith. “Outside the New Testament, philanthropia generally means love for humankind or lovingkindness either by a ruler or deity” (734).  This is a love bestowed in order to remedy or fix a feeling or situation.  The New Testament references this only a few times. 

Agape, however, carries the majority of New Testament references but very few references to it in “non-Christian Greek inscriptions and texts”(734).  Kelsey then notes that agape is used in such a wide variety of contexts that one might be lead to believe that its definition might be vague…however the word agape really means something very specific.  Let’s take it step by step:

  1. Agape is God’s love for the creature. 
  2. The creature is not God
  3. Therefore, agape is a love that the Creator has for the Created. 
  4. The created person or thing may fall short of th expectations that the Creator has for him or her…but the Creator still loves (agape). 
  5. The loving that is done ( despite the Creator’s expectations or imagination being unmet) is for the purpose of keeping the Creator and the creature in relationship.

Now, let’s try to apply agape to the human experience.

  1. We human beings are created in God’s image
  2. We are therefore co-creators with God of our relationships and circumstances.
  3. The  relationships and circumstances of  our lives are often less than what we imagined they would be.
    • Often relationships and circumstances fall short of a “brotherly or sisterly love” or they cannot be “fixed” by a brotherly or sisterly love.  (phileo)
    • Often our relationships and circumstances cannot “fill us up” or satisfy us as we thought they might. (eros)
  4. When our created relationships and circumstances are less than we thought they would be we are offered a choice.
    • we can disconnect from relationships or circumstances
    • We can engage agape and be reconciled to the very thing that seems so different from our goals, expectations and hopes. 
  5. Agape opportunities arise not when life and relationships are good….Agape arrives as  a God-given tool when times are difficult and relationships and circumstances fall short of our anticipated mark.

Agape is not eros and phileo…though we have plenty of eros and phileo experiences in our life.  Agape is the sort of love that we are invited to exercise.  We might know we are receiving an agape invitation when we are faced with people and circumstances who hassle us.   Then for whatever reason, we begin to realize that the hassle is a more unavoidable challenges that requires our response.  The challenge and the person who embodies the challenge eventually morphs into a messenger for our life and faith. Because of the tenacity of the situation, a person of faith might assume divine initiative.   It is our response will determine if we are able to receive the God-given message. 

Agape is a method to love our way through an agitating message so that our life and faith might be enriched.  Agape can be avoided…but the human being who avoids it will survive in a diminished state.

On Valentine’s Day we are not just to celebrate the romantic love that a saint facilitated.  We are to celebrate the more radical agape as we remember the saint who engaged and challenged an emperor.  As we rise up and lovingly engage life’s contrasts ….process theology would remind us that in so doing we might experience a deeper sense of harmony with our Creator….who loves us.

Be Saint Valentine to the one who is a thorn in your side!  And let God receive a valentine…agape style!

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