Grace to You, and Peace

Grace to you, and peace, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Isaiah declares, “Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” (Isaiah 58:6-7). On Youth Sunday this past week we heard Ricky Cross, one of our young people, preach a word on this text that helped us think about some rather large questions in light of this prophetic proclamation. Beginning with his reflections on the ways he has experienced our congregation living out this “fast” in missions such as Habitat for Humanity, Katrina relief, and Room in the Inn, he admitted that engaging in these missions does bring to mind the question of why such things happen to people at all. From there, including reflections on his very personal struggle with this question, he affirmed the radical hopefulness of the prophet’s message and the community of faith that centers itself on this hope.

Coupled with this outstanding message were the gifts of all our youth in crafting and leading the liturgy, in words and music. From beginning to end, I was filled with joy at the thoughtful and prayerful engagement they displayed, and I came away grateful for such a talented and faith-filled group of young people. Their leadership is a sign among us of the Spirit’s work.

The theme of hope is encapsulated in the piece of music that served as the canticle for the day –
“Blackbird singing in the dead of night,
Take these broken wings and learn to fly.
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise…”

Thank you to all the adults and youth who helped make this day possible. I hope each of us sensed the power of God to speak to us in the midst of brokenness and were lifted by the hope of Gospel, proclaimed with power by the youth of this church.

The Blake Lectures are coming up at First Presbyterian on March 6. Dr. Christine Yoder, Associate Professor of Old Testament Language, Literature, and Exegesis at Columbia Theological Seminary, will be the lecturer this year. She will preach at both morning services and will present lectures at 1:00 and 2:30 p.m. A lunch will be served at noon, and reservations are required and can be made by calling or emailing the church office. Dr. Yoder is an exceptional teacher and preacher. Please mark your calendars – members and friends of the church – and make plans to attend.

Not long ago, one of the children of the church gave me a full-color booklet that she wrote and illustrated herself entitled “Our God.” It is about twenty pages, and I think is a sign that the formative ministries happening here – so in evidence on Sunday morning among the youth – are ways God is, by the Spirit’s power, creating and sustaining disciples. In the booklet, the child writes:

“Some people don’t believe in God. I do. Hey, if you don’t believe in God, he still loves you. It’s fun to learn about God. If you want to teach about God, teach your friends, family, sisters, or brothers. God likes when you teach your friends and family about God. It makes God happy and it makes you feel good for making God happy.”

Making God happy, engaging in the fast God chooses, living the life of a disciple – thanks be to God for calling us to this wondrous life!

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