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Newsletter – September 27, 2018

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Newsletter – September 27, 2018

Muslims and Christians:
Partners or Enemies?

Synod of the covenant Fall Assembly
Friday November 2, 2018
1:00 to 5:00 pm
Christ Presbyterian Church
4225 Sylvania Ave. Toledo, OH 43606

Guest Speakers PC(USA) Mission Co-Workers:
Bernie Adeney-Risakotta, Professor of Religion, Ethics and Social science, Indonesesian Consortium for Religious Studies, Yogyakarta, Indonesia and Farsijana Adeney-Risakotta, anthropologist, theologian and faculty member at Duta Wacana Christian University

“Our talk will share about creative ways Muslims and Christians are working together in Indonesia. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, but also has a growing and vibrant church. We will address the question of why the church is thriving in the worlds largest Muslim country and what are the threats, challenges and opportunities for the future. Both Farsijana and I will share about our separate ministries, with the emphasis of my work in Muslim universities and Farsijana’s work with villagers who are facing rapid social change.”


Featured Speakers
Participants in the Synod’s Mission to the USA program for 2018
Rev. John Hira

John is the pastor of St Thomas Cathedral Church and the principal of St Andrew’s Theological College. He lives in Dhaka Bangladesh. John will be hosted by Christ Presbyterian Church, Toledo, OH Pastor- Rev. Tom Schwartz Presbytery of Maumee Valley

Rev. Dr. Nosheen Khan
Nosheen is the first Presbyterian ordained women in Pakistan. She is a professor at Gujranwala Theological Seminary, teaching courses in Women’s Ministry. Nosheen will be hosted by Canfield Presbyterian Church in Canfield, OH Pastor- Rev. Larry Bowald Presbytery of Eastminster

Rev. Saman Perera
Saman is the pastor of a congregation and currently the Moderator of the Presbytery of Lanka. He is also the chairperson of the Board of Governors of the Theological College of Lanka, which is the Protestant Ecumenical National Seminary. Saman is the co-founder of a peace organization with a focus on co-existance based on non-violence. He lives in Kandy, Sri Lanka, Saman will be hosted by Worthington Presbyterian Church Worthington, OH Pastor- Rev. Julia Wharff Piermont Associate Pastor Tom Rice Presbytery of Scioto Valley

Korean Pastor’s Family Retreat


We had 28 people from Korean Pastor’s families within the Synod of Covenant. Some of them from Ohio state could not participate in the retreat because schools for children was already open for the semester. We decided to have the retreat earlier in 2019. Many wanted to have one more day so that the decision was made for the retreat to be held July 29-31, 2019 at the same place. For our retreat, Rev. Moon Kil Cho, Associate for Korean Intercultural Congregational Support from PMA gave a lecture about the recent change of the PCUSA, and Rev. Sung Joo Park, Executive Director of the NCKPC talked about how the Korean-American churches should cope with the rapid change of denominational environment. Ms. Carol Jeon from the Board of Pension also gave us a special lecture of how pastors should prepare for their retirement.

Newsletter – September 21, 2018

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Newsletter – September 21, 2018

Grants and Scholarships are due October 1, 2018

Higher Education Scholarship

Racial Ethnic Program Grant

New Covenant Grant


Muslims and Christians: Partners or Enemies?

Open Seminar hosted by the Synod at the Annual Assembly
Friday November 2, 2018- 1:00 to 5:00 pm
At Christ Presbyterian Church
4225 Sylvania Ave. Toledo, OH 43623


Welcome ALL Refugees

Urgent Appeal: Welcome Refugees

To: Presbyterians, Congregations, and Councils of the Synod of the Covenant
Re: WELCOME ALL REFUGEES (including Families from Iraqi and Syria)

Dear Presbyterians, Congregations, and Councils,

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)

Let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)

“For the Lord your God is God of gods…who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who love the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

In their intent to dominate, the super powers, including our United States, are responsible for causing continuous wars, unjust socio-economic systems and unjust geo-political policies. Millions of innocent people, who are victims to these conditions and wars, have had to flee their homes and families and abandon their livelihood and native countries to seek safety for themselves and their families.

Mary and Joseph also had to flee their home and country for the safety of their child.

In 2015, the Synod Assembly earmarked $100,000 to help congregations to host refugee families fleeing the intense war and destruction in Iraq and Syria and other neighboring countries in the Middle East. Our Church has been helping support the church in Iraq for the past 17 years and the church in Syria and Lebanon for the past 7 years. In fact, the Presbyterian Church has been in serving in the Middle East and Asia as early as 1820s. Because wars have forcibly displaced millions from their homes and from other neighboring countries where many have sought refuge, local and church resources have been stretched beyond thin. People seeking refuge had to flee their homeland and relocate temporarily anywhere safe in order to survive. On August 3, 2018, on the recommendation of the Peacemaking and Justice Committee, the Synod Assembly voted to expand our outreach to ALL who seek refugee in the United States, including those from Iraq and Syria.

Hospitality is the essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We acknowledge that individuals and congregations have rich and different gifts, and there is so much we can do collectively and as disciples, congregations, and church councils within our Synod, especially “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). We hear loudly and clearly how the Spirit, through the Church and this Synod, invites us urgently to demonstrate the love and teachings of Jesus by hosting individuals and families who seek refugee and sanctuary. A host congregation may request financial assistance from the Synod to help host and show hospitality to individuals and families in need, including to refugees who have been settled by a refugee agency. Individuals, congregations, and councils are also urged to partner and become active in ecumenical and interreligious collaboration to respond with practical hospitality and genuine love.

Interested individuals, congregations, and councils may contact the Synod Executive to discern ways to respond, and/or finalize a funding proposal for financial assistance.

We have been working closely in Michigan with Samaritas (https://www.samaritas.org/). We encourage you to work together with the Synod to explore and develop more meaningful ways and practical partnerships.

Please, do not hesitate to contact the synod should you require additional information or assistance.

Welcome Refugee Grant – Download ApplicationWelcome- 

National Council of Churches Announces April 4th A.C.T. to End Racism Rally on National Mall

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National Council of Churches Announces April 4th A.C.T. to End Racism Rally on National Mall

Alex Goss 203.260.3985 | agoss@fenton.com
Steven D. Martin 202.412.4323 | steven.martin@nationalcouncilofchurches.us

National Council of Churches Announces
April 4th A.C.T. to End Racism Rally on National Mall

Yolanda Adams, Marvin Sapp, Vashti McKenzie, DeRay Mckesson, Y’Anna Crawley, Julian DeShazier, Jennifer Harvey, Jim Wallis, Lou Gossett Jr., Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield Join Thousands from Across the Nation in Washington D.C. to End Racism

Washington, D.C. (March 15, 2018) – Today, the National Council of Churches (NCC) announced plans to hold a rally to end racism on the National Mall on April 4. The A.C.T. to End Racism Rally is the starting point of a multi-year effort, launched by NCC, to remove racism from the nation’s social fabric and bring the country together.

In remembrance of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who inspired and challenged America to confront and put an end to racism, the rally will take place on the day the nation marks 50 years since his assassination. “We have for too long lived under the scourge of racism in our society. To begin the process of healing our nation, we as Christians must join with people of all faiths in holding ourselves accountable for our complicity, and commit to righting the wrongs,” said Jim Winkler, president of NCC.

NCC and its coalition of over 50 partners recognize that the faith community and those of moral conscience have a specific responsibility to address and eliminate racism, but also unique gifts that enable them to do so. “As we look at our society today, it is painfully evident that the soul of our nation needs healing. We must not only pray, but take concrete action to realize and achieve racial and social justice, and we cannot possibly put an end to racism unless we commit to change at all levels — including within the faith community,” said  Bishop W. Darin Moore, chair of the Governing Board for NCC.

“Christian churches, present in every town and community across the country, are both part of the problem and the solution. NCC and our partners are committed to addressing the systemic evil that many Christians and church institutions have yet to fully acknowledge,” said Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, Director of the Truth and Racial Justice Initiative for NCC.

Buses will bring rally-goers from across the country for the three-day event that will see thousands convene on the National Mall. Special guests at the rally include Yolanda Adams, Marvin Sapp, Bishop Vashti McKenzie, DeRay Mckesson, Y’Anna Crawley, Grammy Award-winning artist Rev. Julian DeShazier (J.Kwest), Dr. Jennifer Harvey, Dr. Jim Wallis, Lou Gossett, Jr., Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Dr. Raphael Warnock, Naeem Baig, and Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. Additional names will be announced in the coming weeks.

The schedule of events is as follows:
 
  • April 3: 6:00 p.m. ET: Orthodox Christian Bridegroom Service of Holy Tuesday; 8:00 p.m. ET: Then and Now: An Ecumenical Gathering to End Racism
     
  • April 4: Silent March (starting near the MLK Jr. Memorial), Interfaith Service, and A.C.T. to End Racism Rally on the National Mall, 7:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. ET
     
  • April 5: National Day of Advocacy & Action

The rally is open to all people of faith and moral conscience. To learn more about the rally, visit: www.rally2endracism.org.

###

About the National Council of Churches

The National Council of Churches is the nation’s largest ecumenical body and includes more than 45 million members. Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC’s 38 member communions form a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches.

Keep Hope Alive

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Keep Hope Alive

By Dr. Nahida Gordon

Since 2001 Israel through its military and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza has uprooted and taken, burnt and destroyed hundreds of thousands of olive trees that belong to Palestinian farmers who depend on the olive tree for their livelihood.

As an act of solidarity and support The Synod of the Covenant hopes to join individuals and many other organizations including churches, church related organizations from around the world to help Palestinian farmers keep Hope Alive by distributing and planting olive trees.

The Campaign, though its network of friends and partners brings awareness about Palestine and encourages others to get involved. The Campaign serves both an educational, lobbying, and advocacy tool, which target policies that continue to support the ongoing land confiscation, and also serves to stabilize the Palestinian farmers’ economic situation by allowing them to continue to stay on their land and provide a livelihood.

In addition to donating trees, there are two other ways to Keep Hope Alive.  One is planting the trees that have been donated – and this occurs in February.  And the other is the harvesting of the olives, which occurs in early October.  Settlers and the Israeli military frequently interfere with the harvest and the settlers quite often steel the harvest. I had the privilege of joining this campaign several years ago.  It was an extremely meaningful experience.  We had the opportunity to pick olives with 70 other individuals from many counties including the United States. One of my fellow pickers was the daughter of Holocaust survivors and she reached out to me to let me know how important it was for her to help the Palestinians in their steadfastness.

In spite of the destruction of the very foundations of their existence, Palestinian women, men and children are committed to rebuilding their society without the use of violence. They need our support and involvement.

I hope you will donate to this meaningful activity and I encourage you to travel to Palestine and take part in either the planting or the harvesting of the olive tree.  I think you will find it to be a life altering experience.

Keep Hope Alive Campaign — http://jai-pal.org/index.php/en/campaigns/olive-tree-campaign/sponsor-trees

“WOULD THE REAL NINEVITES PLEASE STAND UP?”

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“WOULD THE REAL NINEVITES PLEASE STAND UP?”

First Presbyterian Church, Marietta, Ohio
April 29, 20178
Jonah 3: 1-5, 10

By Rev. Marc van Bulck

Our Scripture reading is one of the most familiar stories in Scripture.  Sunday School curriculums have been made about it.  Veggie Tales made a movie about it.  I’ve met people who have told me that they’ve never heard of Jonah in the Bible, but upon hearing “He’s the guy who got swallowed up in the belly of a fish,” they’ve said, “Oh, yeah.  I know that story.”  It’s also a great story for seminarians and Bible snobs who love to correct people and say, “You know, the Bible doesn’t actually say it was a whale.  It says it was a ‘large fish.’”  Whatever.

Jonah is one of the most beloved Bible stories that we tell to children, but when I read it today, it reads a lot more like a religious, political satire.  The business with the fish only takes up about a fourth of the story, and in my opinion this narrative feels like something much closer to Mark Twain than Mr. Rogers.

God has had it up to here with Nineveh’s shenanigans and warns Jonah that they’re goose is cooked if they don’t get their act together.  Nineveh was the capital of Assyria whom the writers of the Hebrew Bible largely looked down their nose at.  They were foreigners.  Outsiders.  They didn’t exactly believe what we believe.  They didn’t go to our church.  They behaved differently.  They were sinners!

So, God tells Jonah to get his butt over to Nineveh and warn them that a can of you-know-what is about to be opened if they don’t start to straighten up and fly right.  So, naturally, Jonah hops on the first boat for the exact opposite direction instead as you do when you’re a Biblical prophet.

This makes Yahweh very grumpy who sends a storm over the water that threatens to break the boat to pieces out on the open ocean, and in a rare moment of self-awareness Jonah recognizes that maybe the problem is him!  So, he has the crew to toss him overboard.

As Jonah is sinking into the depths of the water, Jonah begins to drown and begins to die.  And so the large fish that God sends to swallow him up is not there to seal his fate; it saves his life.  Jonah is vomited back onto dry land, and our Scripture reading catches up to him:

“The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, ‘Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.  ’So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.  Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.”

I relate to Jonah a little bit more than I like to admit.  I used to like this story back in seminary when I thought that relating to him was a good thing.  I’m not so sure I feel that way now.  Jonah is the very definition of privilege.  He’s got all the right religious beliefs.  He’s the good, well-behaved church-going boy.  He can recite the B-sides to the Psalms even when he’s swimming in fish guts.  When his life is in danger, God swings in and saves him and makes sure he’s okay.  When Jonah gets uncomfortable, God plants a nice, shady tree just for him.  Isn’t that nice?

Jonah has everything he could possibly want, and yet throughout this entire story, all he ever does is whine about it.  Jonah whines all the time.  He is spoken to by the very voice of God (a privilege afforded to very few), and the first thing he does is slam the door like a moody teenager and run in the other direction.  God saves the lives of every living person in Nineveh, and Jonah still manages to find a way to make it all about him.  One minute he’s all, “Thank you, O Lord, for saving my life!” and the next minute: “I’d be better off if I was dead!”

And why?  “Because a worm was eating my shady little tree!  Boo, hoo, hoo!”  God says to Jonah, “Is it really right for you to be angry about this?” and Jonah says, “Yes, it is!  Angry enough to die!”

You know what the real irony here is?  The way this story sets up how horrible, evil, sinful, and depraved these Ninevites are, we might expect this kind of behavior from them.  The irony, though, is that when God asks them to do something, the text tells us they wasted no time jumping into action.  Verse five tells us “the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast…everyone, great and small!”

They don’t whine.  They don’t complain.  They don’t ask stupid questions.  They don’t try to argue with God.  Their very first response is, “Holy Moses!  Thanks for letting us know, God!  Quick, come on, gang.  Let’s get it together.  Maybe there’s still a chance we can turn this ship around before it’s too late.”

The supposedly horrible, sinful people who we’re not supposed to like are the ones who come out looking like the heroes in this story, and it is the supposedly good, faithful, religious-type who is portrayed as a selfish, entitled hypocrite who has everything he could possibly need but can’t seem to do anything but complain like he’s being persecuted all the time.  It’s just the saddest commentary on our religious institutions you’re ever going to find in a story like this.  It would be a pretty biting piece of satire even by today’s standards, and this was written over two thousand years ago.

I’ve never been to Nineveh.  I’ve never traveled to that part of the world, but I’ve seen plenty of Ninevites in my own life – or at least people that I was raised being told were Ninevites.  People who were outcasts in my neighborhood but not because they were from some old country from the Old Testament.

They were outcasts because they were gays and lesbians.  They talked about things like “gender identity” that we didn’t understand and rolled our eyes at.  Maybe they were Ninevites because they lived over on the other side of town, or maybe they were atheists and agnostics.  Maybe they were Ninevites because they went to that other school, and heaven forefend one of them actually muster up the courage to wander into our church on Sunday morning.  Most of the time, however, we never really saw them that much.  They lived over in Nineveh.  They kept over there.  We kept over here, and that was just the way we liked it.

I also remember many people I knew who were supposedly good, faithful, church-going Christians who had everything they could possibly want.  People…well, like me!  We grew up in beautiful homes in beautiful, safe neighborhoods.  We knew the lyrics to every single hymn in the hymn book.  We had beautiful families who often had plenty of money to send kids to good schools.

Yet sometimes it seemed like all we were able to do was complain.  “Oh, my God, can you believe what so-and-so is wearing to the Christmas Eve service?”  “Here comes that horrible person from the committee.  Can you believe she wants to change the colors of the drapes in the fellowship hall to chartreuse?”  “He’s an alcoholic, you know.”  “I heard they’re getting a divorce.” “Christianity is under attack!  Why can’t these poor people just get a job?!  It just makes me so angry!  It makes me angry enough to die!”

The truth is that the Ninevites are dying both in our world and in Jonah’s.  Like any good satire, the book of Jonah does not end with a nice little moral that spells out the lesson that we’re supposed to learn.  It ends with a punch line, and in this case, it’s a real zinger.  God says, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow…should I not be concerned about Nineveh…in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons…?” (4:10-11)

The painful irony, though, is that when the original audience first heard this story, Nineveh had been destroyed long ago.  Was that God’s will?  It didn’t sound like it in the story.  Either way, humanity let it happen anyway, and the city was never rebuilt.

Many of the Ninevites in our neighborhoods today are dying, too.  Dying from poverty, from hunger, from suicide, or from occupying forces.  For all its wit, irony, and sarcasm, I believe there is also a vision of possibility embedded deep between the lines.  A commentary from the author that says, “It doesn’t have to be this way.  History doesn’t have to repeat itself.  The cycle can be broken.”

However, like any good satire, it doesn’t let us off the hook either.  It is also a cautionary tale.  That’s the other side of the coin.  The cycle can still continue.  We can choose to just ignore all that stuff and imagine all of the ways that we think we have been persecuted instead and how we are the real victims here.  Not these Ninevites.  The thing about satire is that it doesn’t always wrap everything up in a nice, comforting reassurance that everything is going to be okay.  Rather, the author uses irony and wit to simply tell it like it is.  To show us both choices and say, “It’s up to you.”

Jonah may have a thing or two to learn from these Ninevites.  He might learn something from their example and the way that they respond to God.  It makes me wonder if we could learn a thing or two from the Ninevites in our own midst.  Many of those same Ninevites I told you about that I grew up with were people who acknowledged that our society is guilty of letting things like poverty, hunger, prejudice, misogyny, and addiction become problems in our world and that they were guilty of participating in it!  Even though they were not always necessarily churchgoers, it was often through their example that I learned a thing or two about the practice of repentance.  To come to that realization and to respond with humility by actively taking steps to change it.

I have seen Ninevites in my own life model that example.  Maybe you have, too.  I have known Ninevites who volunteer in soup kitchens and homeless shelters over the weekends.  I have known Ninevites who have spoken up far louder and at far greater risk to themselves than I ever have about equality, prejudice, and social injustice.  Who have demanded vocally and visibly that the marginalized be treated with dignity and integrity.  I’ve known people who have shared with me that they are in AA who were far more open, honest, and willing to own up to the issues in their own life than I fear I am even on my good days.  These issues were of far more interest to them than the local gossip about so-and-so and what they did about such-and-such.

Not to bring Jesus up when preaching about an Old Testament story, but when we see Jesus treat the wretched, the outcasts, and the sinners as if they were royal guests of honor at his table, we remember that in the Biblical world of Jonah, God saw people like Ninevites as the real heroes in this story.  They are the ones who really, truly get it.  They are the ones who know what time it is.  Maybe we have something to learn from these Ninevites.  Will the testimony of our faith look like theirs, or will our response look more like Jonah’s?  The choice is up to us.  Would the real Ninevites please stand up?

To God be the glory now and forever.  Amen.

“Finally Comes the Poet”

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“Finally Comes the Poet”

Community Worship for the Inauguration of Dr. Susan Hasseler
“Finally Comes the Poet”
John 1:1-5, Matthew 5:14-16, Isaiah 40:25-31
Rev. Anne Weirich, April 2, 2017, 7pm
College Drive Presbyterian Church

The first several times that I drove into New Concord – about four years ago – I always came on on highway 40.  During my interviews, the church had been putting me up at one of the hotels at Airport Road, and it was late April – just as the redbud trees are starting to show their beautiful blossoms.  I think that the search committee wanted me to see the how pretty that drive can be.

When I came to New Concord to move here – later in July – I came all the way to the 83 exit.  My friend was behind me driving the moving van and we thought it might be better to stay on 70 as long as possible.

I’ll never forget my first view of the village from the Interstate.  I hadn’t quite realized just how much the university and parts of town are really quite like a city on the hill.

Most of the time, when I’ve seen cities on hills, the prominent buildings on the ridge are the churches.  And it’s true that it’s easy to catch a glimpse of Westminster Church from the highway.

But it’s really the buildings of the university that stand out.

I remember appreciating the image.   I liked the idea that perhaps there was a great deal of thought that may have gone into placing the first building – right to the north here – on a promontory.

It’s good way to raise up the importance of education I suppose – by putting the buildings high on a hill.

The Presbyterians who helped build places like Muskingum University certainly held education in high esteem.  When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus said, that we were to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  (Luke 10:27)  Presbyterians and their Congregationalist colleagues took the “with all your mind” seriously and supported all kinds of education for children and adults.

Heart-love for God – soul-love for God – these are gifts I think.  We were made for God and our hearts and souls or spirits are restless and searching for God.  We can strengthen these aspects of our love for God through practices like prayer and worship and reaching out compassion and practicing grace through seeking reconciliation.  This is how we love in strength.  We focus – we increase the strength of our lens – on these practices and connections to bring ourselves closer to God.

When we love God with our minds, I think it’s a bit different.

I think it is this aspect of loving God that calls us out in the world in ways that can be stunning in richness.  When we love God with our minds, we exercise our minds – we discipline our minds to study the world around us.  With eyes of faith, we seek out the secrets God has hidden there for us to discover.  And if we are loving God with our minds, and getting it right – then we use what we find for good and we teach what truth we have learned to the next generation, and we grow in wonder at the “Creator of the ends of the earth.  [Who] does not faint or grow weary;  [whose] understanding is unsearchable.”

It can work the other way, too.  Sometimes the elegance or the mystery that the mind encounters while searching out the way things work in the world, can overcome us with the knowledge that there is something – some power – some force for life – that must be the ground of all being.  So our minds, engaged in the work of academia, can lead us to love God.

I believe we love God with our minds, because God is Mind – a mind that is so immense that it is unsearchable, says Isaiah.

What could be more indicative of that than one of our names for the Lord – the name Word?  “In the beginning was the Word.”  God spoke us – used language – to bring us into the world.  And words – language – is one of the great repositories of our knowledge.   Our minds – and our souls and our hearts – are quenched from the endless well of words that is God still speaking.  God still creates, still uses speech to give strength to our fainting, weary efforts….helping us, lifting us, so that even when we are most exhausted, most dejected, confused, depleted or discouraged, we suddenly find ourselves soaring easily like a kettle of eagles in a morning thermal.  We are renewed – given life – revived by the Word – by the Mind of God.

And when the Word brings life, it brings light, too….

So when we love God with our minds, we are seeking God’s light – which chases away the darkness in all its forms.

As those who love the light – those who love with our minds – we are then called to run that light up the hill – to show how God’s mind works in us and in the world.

We say, “Have you not known?  Have you not heard?”

We say, “Don’t hide, don’t despair.  Lift your eyes on high and see what the Mind of God has brought to light!  Put it high on the lamp stand!”

This is certainly the Word that the second prophet of the great Isaiah prophecy was bringing to Israel.

There had been 160 years of silence between the end of Chapter 39 and these words of comfort to the exiled people of God in Chapter 40.

Conquerors and political infighting and corruption had decimated God’s people and now they wept, the Psalmist tells us, by the rivers of Babylon.  The Temple and the holy city on the hill, Jerusalem, were in ruins.  And Isaiah was sent by God to bring a word of healing and hope and restoration to God’s people.

And this healing and hope was not only spoken to the heart and the soul and spirit of the people of God.  It was spoken in concrete terms.  This was to be a restoration of all things.  The Word of God, the Mind of God spoke and said that everything was going to be reordered.

And this is because God spoke to Israel with a very special kind of word …  the Mind of God was given to the exhausted, weary, fearful, broken and dispersed people as lines of poetry.

Walter Bruggeman writes – with great vocabulary and gusto,

It is an intellectual travesty, such an act of chutz-pah, such a subversive poetic utterance that dumps a poem in the midst of resignation. The poem works a newness, not because it is good poetry, but because the subject of the poem, the God who lives in and through and with and under such outrageous assertions, is at work overriding despair, inviting hope, responding to our waiting and starting the world free again, outside the regimes of weariness… The key religious question among us is whether there is grounds for an alternative rooted not in self-preoccupation or in deadening stability but rooted in a more awesome reality that lives underneath empires, that comes among us as an odd poem, as inscrutable as power, as dangerous as new life, as fragile as waiting.  The poet names the name and imagines new life, like eagles flying, running, walking.
(A Way Other Than Our Own, Westminster/John Knox:Louisville, 2017, p. 58-59.)

So, when we love God with our minds – we are called – I think – to this ‘intellectual travesty’ of poetry.

To quote the preacher Bruggeman again, “poets speak against a prose world.”  (Finally Comes the Poet,” Augsburg Fortress:  Mnpls, 1989, p. 3.)   And a prose world isn’t bad.  But it can be settled into complacency and riddled with disinformation or “alternative facts.”

When we love God with our minds, we are capable of the kind of speech that raises us up.  Not by proclaiming doctrine or parsing morality or solving problems.  But by bringing an alternative word – a poem – about an existence that is formed by the Word and mind and heart and strength of God.

Our poetry – whether it’s preaching from a pulpit or a formula inscribed on a white board in a classroom or scattered in the notes and staff of a musical score or a proposal at the board of trustees meeting,  teamwork on the basketball court or the compassion needed to tend the sick or when we prepare a lesson plan or defend a dissertation or a point of history or politics or philosophy – our poetry is needed.  Poetry is the language of God – prophetic language that has power – “shattering, evocative speech that breaks fixed conclusions and presses us always toward new, [even] dangerous [and] imaginative possibilities.”  (Ibid., p. 6)

The title of this sermon came from the poet Walt Whitman.  He wrote,

After the seas are all cross’d, (as they seem already cross’d,) After the great captains and engineers have accomplish’d all their work, After the noble inventors, after the scientists, the chemist, the geologist, ethnologist, Finally shall come the poet worthy that name, The true son of God shall come singing his songs. (“Passage to India,” 5:1101-5 Leaves of Grass, Mentor Books:  NY, 1954, p. 324.)

In other words, God will have the final word.

And if we be poets in the meantime, we will shine the light of our alternative realities – from this village on the hill – into a future that we cannot quite see.

This is how we show that we cherish the truth – that we are open to the truth – that we are not afraid of the truth that can break the fearful realities that can bind us and divide us and reduce us to a fainthearted and stumbling people.

And, Dr. Susan Hassler… even though I’ve known you for just a little while…  I think you can receive the mantle of inauguration as a poet.  Already, we’ve seen your grace and openness and energy and imagination.  I think we’ve even seen a little chutz-pah. You seem to know already about loving God and others with your mind.

And I believe I can speak for us all to say that we look forward to your inauguration into this calling as President at Muskingum University.

I think the time is right for your poetry here.

And, I can’t help but smile and be struck by what I consider an act of poetry in the word “inauguration.”

The word itself is rooted in the French term for install or consecrate.  But in the deeper meaning – the Latin root – it infers that these installations need to take place when the time is right.  The root word is “augury.”  Augury is the practice of searching in creation for the signs of the right time for moving forward.

The Latin word inaugurare means to “take omens from the flight of birds before consecrating or installing.” (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/inauguration?s=t)

Seems like the one true poet is bringing us right back to the promised flight of eagles…

Sounds poetic in the deepest sense of that word…

Poetic, meaning we may we all take heart that as we move toward to your inauguration on Friday, as we move into the whole future beyond where we can see, we can be sure that we are carried along on the wings of eagles – with our way illuminated by the light of the Holy One – the Word – the Poet – the Everlasting God.

Amen

Rev. Anne Weirich

Currently the pastor at College Drive Presbyterian Church in New Concord, OH – home of Muskingum University and John Glenn – Anne is a graduate of Princeton Seminary (MDiv. 1998.) Prior to this, she has served a UCC church on Cape Cod, Claremont Presbyterian Church in CA, and Westminster, Grand Rapids, MI and First Presbyterian in Lansing, MI. She travels annually to the Holy Land, leading pilgrimages and has also worked with many PCUSA mission activities and partners including PDA in New Orleans, the Border Ministry and the World Communion of Reformed Churches. Currently Anne serves on the executive committee of the General Assembly Committee for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations.

Learn about Rev. Weirich’s latest trip to Israel/Palestine.

Download Pilgrimage 2018 Registration form.

A Hopeful Cry for Peace

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A Hopeful Cry for Peace

In light of recent events of these past several weeks, and the ongoing six-year crisis in Syria, we of the Syria-Lebanon Partnership Network (SLPN) feel compelled to issue a response regarding the current state of affairs. The continuing loss of life and displacement of innocent people speak to the dark and destructive evil behind the use of chemical weapons and any military responses, whether by accident or by intention.

Such responses must be deemed as unacceptable going forward in the Syrian crisis. Prior to these events, negotiations were going on near Homs to begin working toward some shared resolution. After these attacks, negotiations between local parties inside Syria have ceased and a wider polarization has resulted. It appears to us that military responses such as these will always bring even more violence and quash efforts at resolution through discussion and negotiation.

The military response taken by the Trump administration has been called by some a “measured” action. This has been said even though it was one that was unilateral and immediate and took lives on the airstrip in Al Shayrat. The repercussions of that action are now emerging and show the likelihood of an escalation of hostilities and yet more carnage to be inflicted on the Syrian people.

The question of responsibility for the chemical attack remains but, as more time passes, it becomes harder and harder to find the truth. In the “fog of war” it is frequently said that “the first casualty of war is the truth.” Yet we must always be committed to understand as much of the truth as we can identify in order to help us respond truthfully going forward. Responses devoid of such truth in the end will show no effect at bringing about lasting resolution. To achieve this kind of understanding requires time and a fuller understanding of the far-reaching implications of what our actions may be.

It has seemed to us irresponsible and unjust to follow the bandwagon created by government officials and the western news media in immediately casting blame on one side or the other for such deplorable behavior. It seems any rush to judgment allows guilty parties to take refuge in the “fog” and make plans for other such uses of chemical weapons. Therefore, as the Steering Committee of the SLPN, and having spoken with our partners on the ground in the region and those who are part of our network here in the United States, we call on all parties to view and portray this crisis not as a “civil war” amongst the Syrian people, but much more a “proxy war” that admittedly involves many forces within the country, and one that has been seized upon and escalated by the outside influence of warriors from more than 90 countries. These outside combatants have been allowed open access through bordering countries in the region who have a stake in the outcome and who clearly desire a government change in Syria.

We also call for any influence of “super powers” to be used in a just manner for the cause of peace in this troubled country. Such influence clearly means the cessation of providing military resources and actual hardware that bring a continuance of this deadly conflict. The vast expansion of military force in the region provides an economic boon for countries around the world. No civilized country should be complicit in advancing the spread of this war. Violence only creates more violence and not lasting peace. All parties must use their power to help rebuild this country in the post-war period and to create an incentive for those who have fled to return to a peaceful homeland.

Today is the open window to do something new, something prophetic in the cause of peace. It must be done thoughtfully and prayerfully. In this season as we continue to celebrate the great sacrifice and resurrection of the Prince of Peace, we are committed to peace in real terms. May we too give our lives for the cause of peace in the world. To that end we offer a prayer given to us by our PCUSA General Assembly co-moderator Jan Edmiston.

“God of hope and peace, we pray for your healing of our world. We mourn for the children, women and men who have been killed by today’s swords and spears. We give thanks for those who seek to heal rather than harm. We pray for peace that seems so far away, yet that through you, we know is possible. We pray that the communities of nations will practice wisdom and restraint in this vulnerable and broken part of your creation. May we be part of a resurrection to life and peace in Syria and embrace a future where no one will learn war anymore. Amen.”
Looking Ahead with Hope,

The Syria Lebanon Partnership Network
Tim McCalmont, moderator