God’s YES Will Overcome


Jer. 17:5-10, 14-17Phil. 4:1-13John 12:27-36

Notre Dame Cathedral burns.  Damaged.  But still standing.  Many of us were deeply moved as we watched, and relieved to find out the organ is intact, much of the structure, some windows, etc.

Dan Rather put it well: “Why has the burning of Notre Dame moved so many?  Because we believe in beauty, majesty, faith, art, history, and the human expressions thereof.  We recognize in this cathedral our common humanity.  A scar now emerges in our connection to our past, our future, and each other.”

And yet I grieve that the 3 burning black churches in Louisiana recently did not get nearly the news coverage.  And why?  One struck at the beauty and majesty that we know humanity can achieve.  The other highlights the hideous hate crime of one, but the racial underbelly of our culture.  We turn from images of our own destructiveness and as we bury it, it only serves to emerge as another layer to our racist past/present.

I think coming to terms with our past and God’s new future that he intends for us remains elusive.

In John’s gospel, Jesus cries out, “And what should I say – ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.”  Then later: “Now is the judgment of this world…And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  Judgment is promised.

And yet today the heart of the Good News comes.

Here we are in Holy Week, but already seeping through the cracks of the story are very powerful indicators of God’s GOOD NEWS.  Despite our shortcomings, it appears that by being washed in the blood of the lamb, we will be drawn into favor with God.  And not just us….but all people.

In today’s story we discover that hope is present.  Love will reign.  And God’s broad net of inclusive love will touch us all, and wipe away our tears.  That goes for Judas.  That goes for the white terrorist in Louisiana.  That goes for all people as we seek to move past the racial injustices of our land.

In Philippians we hear one of Paul’s famous exhortations: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice….  Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

And so here we are in Holy Week.  And we turn to the heart of the story to deeply listen for God’s Word to us again.  This week is ALL ABOUT listening to the Spirit, and trying to not listen to what society is telling us.  That is why Paul insists, “guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  This is a battle!  Coming to know and understand God’s “Yes’s” in a world of “No’s” is not easy.

Moving in that direction is a challenge.  But with the power of God’s YES, we too can overcome hatred, heartbreak, cynicism, and injustice everywhere.  We can witness to our common humanity, and experience the power of God drawing us together into a New Body.


That Little Spring – Part II


When I was asked to be part of a consultation team for World Mission in the PC(USA) I didn’t know what to expect.

The Synod of the Covenant sent me as part of the US Northeast Consultation.  It was a time to focus on the strategy and communication patterns we use in World Mission, how we organize mission, and how we can be more effective at connecting into the Holy Spirit’s work.

In addition to the radical hospitality of the Stony Point Center where it was held in New York (which I talked about in yesterday’s reflection), I also engaged with so many people in our denomination who love World Mission too, and see the powerful connection we can have with the Spirit if we can deeply relate to one another around the world.

It was an extraordinary time of connection.


The first connection was with those who often work behind the scenes and get little of the credit.  They are those huge hearts and hard workers for World Mission at our denominational headquarters in Louisville.  They resource and provide their expertise to the mission co-workers around the globe and to those of us in PCUSA congregations and mid-councils.  People like Jieun Han and Tamron Keith are the life-blood of our national office, particularly for World Mission, providing essential links of communication and HR support.

56732702_2881125518566101_8694528534695116800_o.jpgTake Tamron, for instance, (pictured above to the right) who as Associate Director for World Mission works in operations management and budget development.  His kind of operational leadership is essential, for instance with international properties and assisting in navigating  international law and equipping mission co-workers in various countries with the resources they need.  He also oversees the Young Adult Volunteer program, which plants and cultivates seeds in young hearts and minds, like Sarah Chancellor-Watson, who many of my readers know not as a former YAV to Peru, but as what she did after that experience – come to First Pres in Oklahoma City as our Dir of Children and Youth Activities.  Sarah is now the Associate Pastor of St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church in New Orleans.  The Young Adult Program nurtures leaders.

Another essential piece of our Mission together is Jieun, without whom our event would not have happened.  She draws hearts and minds together.  Thank you Jieun for drawing me in! (Top picture, front, right.  Second pic, right)

56702312_2881120681899918_2146329152200900608_oOur time together was an opportunity to listen deeply to one another.  We came to understand the continued need for solidarity and mutuality as we move forward together in Mission, and what deep partnerships will look like in 2020 and beyond.

In many respects I came to understand our need to practice boldness in this fearful world of ours.  I also came to see how we often are operating from FEAR – in our churches and in our US context.  It has become our model: fear of loss of members, fear of diminished resources, whatever.

So often we have embraced and rely on our culture in the US, which has led to this fear, in a way that other Christians in other countries often have not.  We as Christians say we need to be countercultural standing against powers and principalities like Paul calls us to, but I wonder when we are going to get around to it.  Rick Ufford-Chase summed it up well when he addressed our fears in the context of last week saying “We are gonna have to move to the edge of Empire and it’s gonna hurt.”

We spent many days together in prayer, calling on the Spirit to lead us in new ways to engage our communities as they seek to become Matthew 25 churches, reaching out to the poor, the lonely, the lost, and struggling against racism, poverty, and injustice of all kinds.


I love our church.  I see so many resources – so many possibilities – so much reason to hope for a better future.  And together with our mission partners churches around the world, I believe we can TOGETHER build a better future.

Mission is finding out where the Holy Spirit is at work, and joining in.  There are abundant opportunities to join with the Holy Spirit in the PC(USA) and in 2019.

Finally, I learned a new and better translation of 1 Cor. 3:9. “We are co-laborers with God’s synergy, building up the economy of God.”  From Greek straight to Spanish, this really does hit at the heart of what Paul was talking about, and as it relates to our mission engagement.

Only when we are co-laborers with God and with one another can we plug into the only economy we truly need: God’s.

May your Holy Week be a profound week of plugging into the love story of God for you.  And may the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in this week lead us to new ways to co-labor with God, and together build up God’s great kingdom of love and light.





That Little Spring


I had been longing for Spring to arrive.  Last week I saw signs of hope.  I saw some amazing things blossom and flourish.  But it wasn’t in the trees.  It was in the hearts of those people around me.

OK, let me back up.  Last week was an extraordinary time at Stony Point Center in New York.

I had been asked by the Synod to be part of the World Mission US Northeast Consultation.  It was a time of strategizing how we do mission and communicate that within the PC(USA).   It was also an opportunity to connect with one of our PCUSA Camps and Conference Centers.

Stony Point Center is extraordinary.

It is more than a conference center.  It is a place of welcome: welcoming across boundaries, nurturing inclusive community, and cultivating peace and justice.

Yes, I was there for a conference.  I was there to use their accommodations during the day and some simple comfortable guestrooms for my overnight stay.  But what I encountered was so much more.

I was transformed by the intentional multi-faith community that is living there: Muslims, Jews, and Christians – all dedicated to study and the practice of hospitality, nonviolence, peace, justice, and earthcare.

I visited the greenhouses, met some of the Muslim farmers that have come to live there.

I broke bread with Muslims, Jews, and Christians, in addition to some of our mission partners from around the world.  There was a palpable support and building of unity, as we lifted one another up in our individual faiths and found common ground as it related to peace, justice, and nonviolence.

I reconnected with my buddy Rick Ufford-Chase, former moderator of the General Assembly, who I first met in New Mexico at a Presbyterian Assoc of Musician Conference, and him sitting criss-cross applesauce with our youth, engaging in their stories, and drawing them into Mission at the Menaul School, showing the Holy Spirit at work in powerful ways.

I saw the Holy Spirit at work in Rick again as the co-Exec Director of the conference, and the radical hospitality that was emerging at Stony Point, and has been a part of their DNA from the beginning, well before Rick arrived.

But it was more.  It was a time of hearing stories.  There was an openness, a transformation that began within me, as I heard the powerful stories that brought some of these folks together in collaborative efforts.

I believe Stony Point is a beacon of the well-spring that we are called to drink from as Christians.  As the earth cries out for justice, we must engage one another in deeper ways, and seek healing and peace for our souls, our communities, and the world.

What I saw at Stony Point was a hopeful sign that that is already happening.  The shoots of new life are already emerging.  And by the power of the Holy Spirit, springtime will continue to emerge in the hearts and minds of those who dedicate themselves as deeply as those who live and work at Stony Point.

May justice and peace reign.

And may we find where the Spirit is at work in our communities, and join her.