Monday, April 27, 2015

Faces of Children: Prayer Concerns for This Week

Faces of Children is an ecumenical prayer ministry under the auspices of First Presbyterian Church of Midland, Texas. Our mission is to initiate ministries of prayer for children in churches, communities, and neighborhoods. In doing so, we seek to provide an opportunity for people of God to join together, learn about children and their needs throughout the world, and celebrate Christ's love (especially as it relates to children).

Prayer Concerns for the Week of 04/27/15


Please pray for children ...

Who are tormented and bullied in school and on the internet.
Who are neglected and unloved.
Who suffer from abuse, both verbal and physical, in their home.
Who run away from home and put themselves in danger of being trafficked.
Who are surviving on the streets on thrown away food and trash.
Give thanks for churches and organizations serving children in your community.



If you have prayer requests about children, those who care for them, those who have authority over them, or those who harm them (the really hard prayers to say sometimes), please send them to info@facesofchildren.net

C.S. Lewis Daily - Today's Reading

Presented by Bible Gateway
Today's Reading

TO SHELDON VANAUKEN, who had confessed to Lewis that, in his discouragement over the remoteness of God, he had tried to reject Christ: On how it often seems that God is “playing fast and loose” with us but how God is really the adult or the master to the child or the dog.

27 August 1956

I am very glad . . . to hear that you are re-visiting England. We must have some good and long talks together and perhaps we shall both get high. At the moment the really important thing seems to be that you were brought to realise the impossibility (strict sense) of rejecting Christ. Of course He must often seem to us to be playing fast and loose with us. The adult must seem to mislead the child, and the Master the dog. They misread the signs. Their ignorance and their wishes twist everything. You are so sure you know what the promise promised! And the danger is that when what He means by ‘win’ appears, you will ignore it because it is not what you thought it would be—as He Himself was rejected because He was not like the Messiah the Jews had in mind. But I am, I fancy, repeating things I said before. I look forward very much to our meeting again. God bless you.


From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis
Compiled in Yours, Jack

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook

The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer. How often have you wondered, where are the young adults in the PC(USA)? Wonder no longer. The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is devoted to the theme of young adults in the church. Its stories, many told by young adults, lift up how Presbyterians of all ages are engaging and joining with Presbyterian young adults in reforming the church for Christ’s mission.


Today in the Mission Yearbook: April 26, 2015

MINUTE FOR MISSION: PITTSBURGH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY - I get a bit depressed around this time of year, just weeks away from commencement at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Depressed because I begin to run through the faces of students I’ve gotten to know beyond simple recognition. I start wondering who will graduate soon and move on to wherever God is calling them to serve.

Nostalgia creeps in as I anticipate missing conversations with them in the hallway or over lunch in the cafeteria. Conversations about what they are hearing from God through their classroom discussions, their devotional lives, their engagement within this community ...

CLICK HERE to read more.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook

The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer. How often have you wondered, where are the young adults in the PC(USA)? Wonder no longer. The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is devoted to the theme of young adults in the church. Its stories, many told by young adults, lift up how Presbyterians of all ages are engaging and joining with Presbyterian young adults in reforming the church for Christ’s mission.


Today in the Mission Yearbook: April 25, 2015

PRESBYTERY OF NORTHWEST COAST, ALASKA/WASHINGTON - Having led the gathering in a Makah version of the Lord’s Prayer, delegates from Washington’s Neah Bay congregation presented shell necklaces to the new members from Alaska. In response, the Alaskans offered their hosts a copper tinaa (engraved shield) and a spirited rendition of “At the Cross” in Tlingit and English. And thus the Presbytery of Northwest Coast was born.

Our new presbytery embraces 1,100 miles of God’s people and creation: From the Makah people of Neah Bay on the tip of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula to the Tlingits of Yakutat on Alaska’s North Pacific Coast. From the islands of Puget Sound to the western slope of the North Cascades and up through the Alexander Archipelago of the Inside Passage. From metro Seattle to small mountain communities. From our largest congregation—the 1,750-member Korean-speaking Community Church of Seattle—to the new worshiping community of Tidelands in Stanwood, Washington ...

CLICK HERE to read more.

Friday, April 24, 2015

From @FWMission ... Friday Story: "Above and Beyond for Mobility"

Founded in 2001, Free Wheelchair Mission
is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to providing wheelchairs for the impoverished disabled in developing nations. Headquartered in Irvine, California, FWM works around the world in partnership with a vast network of humanitarian, faith-based and government organizations, sending wheelchairs to hundreds of thousands of disabled people, providing not only the gift of mobility, but of dignity, independence, and hope.


Friday Story: "Above and Beyond for Mobility"

Greetings and happy Friday!

To provide the gift of mobility, Free Wheelchair Mission partners with hard working, in-country organizations who help coordinate the wheelchair distributions. They do amazing work and we are grateful for their partnership. This week I wanted to share with you how one of our distribution partners in Nicaragua went above and beyond the call of duty to help transform the life of a little boy named Maykel.

At nine years old, Maykel was out playing with friends and fell into a cistern—he was unable to move and desperately tried to get the attention of his friends or an individual passing by, but no one heard him. Sadly, he was forced to spend the night in the cistern and wasn’t found by his family until the following morning. Fearful, Maykel’s family rushed him to the hospital, but they were told that he had broken his back and he needed surgery that would cost them nearly $10,000—a cost far too steep for his family to afford. Instead, Maykel was sent home where his back healed improperly, causing nerve damage that left him unable to walk, and primarily bed ridden ...


read the rest of this story ...



Want to take one of these wheelchairs for a test drive? During normal business hours, visit the lobby at the Texas Street entrance of First Presbyterian Church-Midland, at the northwest corner of Texas and A streets, on the west side of downtown Midland. You can give the gift of mobility. The cost of $72.00 is a bargain to us ... but it is a life-changing gift to impoverished and disabled recipients ... and there are times when your contribution will be matched, reaching not one - but TWO, and sometimes FOUR recipients. Please note on your check "Wheelchair Gift."

Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook

The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer. How often have you wondered, where are the young adults in the PC(USA)? Wonder no longer. The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is devoted to the theme of young adults in the church. Its stories, many told by young adults, lift up how Presbyterians of all ages are engaging and joining with Presbyterian young adults in reforming the church for Christ’s mission.


Today in the Mission Yearbook: April 24, 2015

MINUTE FOR MISSION: ARMENIAN GENOCIDE REMEMBRANCE DAY - Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies ... The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. (Ps. 138:7–8)

On this day, we remember the Armenian Genocide that began a century ago. From 1915 to 1923, 1.5 million Armenians perished, and a million more were deported from Asia Minor. Through forced marches, torture, concentration camps, starvation, and executions, the Ottomans systematically expunged Armenians from their motherland.

Since 301, the tenacious faith of this first Christian nation has endured ...

CLICK HERE to read more.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

In the News ... "Willis brings 'Hope for the Hood' to south Odessa"

OA File Photo by Mark Sterkel
• Adhering to the original recipe used by the late Mrs. E.C. Adams, who founded the event in 1955

Staff Report
Odessa American


ODESSA, TEXAS - The adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is as applicable to spaghetti as it is to anything else.

That’s according to the cooks at the First Christian Church at 601 N. Lee Ave., where their 60th annual “Spaghetti Day” will be conducted from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. April 29, in the FCC Fellowship Hall, facing Sixth Street, and this year benefiting Meals on Wheels. ...

read the rest of this OA report ...


Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook

The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer. How often have you wondered, where are the young adults in the PC(USA)? Wonder no longer. The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is devoted to the theme of young adults in the church. Its stories, many told by young adults, lift up how Presbyterians of all ages are engaging and joining with Presbyterian young adults in reforming the church for Christ’s mission.


Today in the Mission Yearbook: April 23, 2015

PRESBYTERY OF THE INLAND NORTHWEST, IDAHO/WASHINGTON - Do you want to know where to find Jesus today? Have you ever wondered how to figure out what God is up to in the world? If so, then you must move back into the neighborhood, because that’s where you’ll find Jesus and connect with what God is up to.

Four year ago, our presbytery began a mission study—surveying our congregations’ perspectives, engaging in appreciative inquiry at presbytery gatherings, holding training sessions on adaptive change, and studying books on transformation ...

CLICK HERE to read more.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

In the News ... "Money makes eternal life his business"

OA Photo by Mark Sterkel
• “The kind of person who would literally give you whatever you needed to get by”

By Bob Campbell, Reporter
Odessa American


ODESSA, TEXAS - Sherwood Church of Christ Family Life and Outreach Minister Lynn Money says it is one thing to aspire to Heaven and quite another to understand it.

“The inner being, the spiritual essence of man, is carried away for eternity, I like to think, on angels’ wings, so far above this finite world, this world of sin, that time is no more,” he said. “That existence is greater than physical minds can translate” ...

read the rest of this OA report ...


40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer: "Day 38"

Presented by Bible Gateway
"Day 38"

"Words and thoughts are not enough. Doing good involves all the things of daily life. “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink” (Romans 12:20). In the same ways that brothers and sisters stand by each other in times of need, bind up each other’s wounds, ease each other’s pain, love of the enemy should do good to the enemy. Where in the world is there greater need, where are deeper wounds and pain than those of our enemies? Where is doing good more necessary and more blessed than for our enemies?"

Biblical Wisdom

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Luke 6:27-28

Questions to Ponder

Does it seem counterintuitive to “do good to the enemy”? Why, or why not?
Why should the needs of our enemies matter to us?
What happens to the word “enemy” if we follow Bonhoeffer’s advice and treat them like brothers and sisters?


Psalm Fragment

“Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is always with me.”
Psalm 119:98


Journal Reflections

Does Jesus command to: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” give you strength and vision for living in the midst of enemies? Why, or why not?
Jesus teaching seems to call for non-violence in dealing with our enemies. Reflect in writing what you think about that.


Intercessions

Pray that your “enemies” might receive every good from the hand of God and in response become instruments of God’s love and justice.


Prayer for Today

Holy God who loves us all with an everlasting love, let my love for my enemies be a matter not only of words or thoughts but of specific and concrete actions.


Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook

The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer. How often have you wondered, where are the young adults in the PC(USA)? Wonder no longer. The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is devoted to the theme of young adults in the church. Its stories, many told by young adults, lift up how Presbyterians of all ages are engaging and joining with Presbyterian young adults in reforming the church for Christ’s mission.


Today in the Mission Yearbook: April 22, 2015

PRESBYTERY OF CENTRAL WASHINGTON - Trailseekers, a ministry supported by the Presbytery of Central Washington, has served in the communities of Yakima and Tri-Cities for the past 23 years. Its goal is to be a path to meaningful and comforting close personal relationships with the Lord for kindergartners through second graders and their families. Trailseekers serves about 450 children in the Yakima area and 450 in the Tri-Cities areas. More than 150 volunteers provide services that support the ministry. Through group meetings, home visits, recreational activities, and regular contact, Trailseekers provides mentoring, guidance, and encouragement to the students and their families. Referrals to Trailseekers come from teachers, concerned parents, and youth in the program ...

CLICK HERE to read more.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Reports From Lulwanda: Administrator's Report for January-February 2015


January-February, 2015


"It is a blessing for us to have seen God’s Mighty Hand in 2015 so far. We are grateful to God for the wonderful gift of life that He has given to us. I bring salutation from the entire Lulwanda family and we say PRAISE JESUS!! Below are highlights of what has happened since December 2014 ..."

"... We continue to appreciate all the financial support that you send. We also appreciate all your fervent prayers without which the smooth running of Lulwanda would have been difficult. We say thank you All."

Blessings,

Simon Peter Musagala
Administrator

read the rest of Musagala's January-February, 2015 report


In the News ... "Church plans hospital ministry in former bookstore building"

MRT Photo by Tim Fischer
• Will serve as a resource for the loved ones of long-term hospital patients

Steve Kuhlmann, Reporter
Midland Reporter-Telegram

MIDLAND, TEXAS - While a shopping center changing hands is not too surprising, it’s not often that the organization buying it is a church. One Hope Church of Christ, which bought the shopping center that previously housed local bookstore Miz B’s Books, is hoping to move into its new property by the end of May.

The young church’s pastor, the Rev. Scott Sheppard, said the church chose the location for one very specific reason — its proximity to Midland Memorial Hospital.

“We really want to be a ministry to the hospital,” said Sheppard, adding many of the church’s members have had personal experiences with family members in long-term hospital stays ...

 • read the rest of this MRT report ... 

40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer: "Day 37"

Presented by Bible Gateway
"Day 37"

(Bonhoeffer’s view of a life among enemies was formed in the Nazi Germany of the 1930s, a situation that was becoming increasingly hostile to Christians.)

"The Christian cannot simply take for granted the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. In the end all his disciples abandoned him. On the cross he was all alone, surrounded by criminals and the jeering crowds. He had come for the express purpose of bringing peace to the enemies of God. Christians, too, belong not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the midst of enemies. There they find their mission, their work."

Biblical Wisdom

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16

Questions to Ponder

How would you define the “enemies” Christians are to live “in the midst of”?
What is the “mission” or “work” of Christians toward these “enemies”?
Jesus said: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). Does this fit with the reading from Bonhoeffer for today? How, or how no?


Psalm Fragment

“You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.”
Psalm 23:5-6


Journal Reflections

As a Christian, do you find yourself living “in the midst of enemies”? How, or how not? If so, who are they? How do you feel about them?
What do you understand to be your personal mission or work in the midst of these enemies?

Prayer for Today

Lord Jesus, give me the faith, the courage, and the love to live faithfully in the midst of enemies as you did.


Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook

The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer. How often have you wondered, where are the young adults in the PC(USA)? Wonder no longer. The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is devoted to the theme of young adults in the church. Its stories, many told by young adults, lift up how Presbyterians of all ages are engaging and joining with Presbyterian young adults in reforming the church for Christ’s mission.


Today in the Mission Yearbook: April 21, 2015

SYNOD OF ALASKA-NORTHWEST - he Synod of Alaska-Northwest continues to live into a new and creative way of being a synod. After decades of being a large program body, it has recently moved to a reduced function as provided for by the Book of Order. Although mission in the form of programs no longer occurs, the ties between the member presbyteries are perhaps stronger than in the past. The synod now carries out mission by supporting its member presbyteries, taking seriously the mandate of the 211th General Assembly (1999) to “develop, encourage, equip, and resource congregations and their leaders, ... enhance the effectiveness of congregations, and find simplified, flexible, and more responsive ways to . . . work in a rapidly changing environment” ...

CLICK HERE to read more.

Monday, April 20, 2015

From ChinaAid: "Zhejiang pastor sentenced to 1 year in prison on 'gathering crowd' charge"

The China Aid Association is a non-profit Christian organization - based in Midland, Texas - with a mission to uncover and reveal the truth about religious persecution in China, focusing especially on the unofficial church. They do this, they explain in their website, by exposing the abuses, encouraging the abused and equipping the saints to advance the kingdom of God throughout China.

Zhejiang pastor sentenced to 1 year in prison on 'gathering crowd' charge
Distributed by ChinaAid, March, 2015 ...
China Aid Photo

WENZHOU, ZHEJIANG, CHINA – More than 500 Christians from Wenzhou and surrounding areas in China’s coastal Zhejiang stood outside the Pingyang County People’s Court in Wenzhou today during the trial of first instance for Pastor Huang Yizi who was charged with “gathering a crowd to disturb public order” following his detainment on Aug. 2, 2014 ...

more on this story from China Aid  

Faces of Children: Prayer Concerns for This Week

Faces of Children is an ecumenical prayer ministry under the auspices of First Presbyterian Church of Midland, Texas. Our mission is to initiate ministries of prayer for children in churches, communities, and neighborhoods. In doing so, we seek to provide an opportunity for people of God to join together, learn about children and their needs throughout the world, and celebrate Christ's love (especially as it relates to children).

Prayer Concerns for the Week of 04/20/15


Please pray for children who are displaced by conflict ...

7.5 million Syrian children are in need of humanitarian aid and 2 million are living as refugees in neighboring countries. (www.unicefusa.org/mission/emergencies/conflict/syria)

Thousands of Iraqi displaced children and their families ... Samaritan's Purse

Those under constant attack by the Sudanese Army in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan ... Free Burma Rangers

Thousands from the Karen State, Arakan State and Kachin State of Burma living in dire conditions and always under threat of the Burma Army.

Give thanks to Free Burma Rangers and Partners Relief and Development for loving and caring for children in Burma.



If you have prayer requests about children, those who care for them, those who have authority over them, or those who harm them (the really hard prayers to say sometimes), please send them to info@facesofchildren.net

40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer: "Day 36"

Presented by Bible Gateway
"Day 36"

"When another Christian falls into obvious sin, an admonition is imperative, because God’s Word demands it. The practice of discipline in the community of faith begins with friends who are close to one another. Words of admonition and reproach must be risked when a lapse from God’s Word in doctrine or life endangers a community that lives together, and with it the whole community of faith. Nothing can be more cruel than that leniency which abandons others to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than that severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin. When we allow nothing but God’s Word to stand between us, judging and helping, it is a service of mercy, an ultimate offer of genuine community. Then it is not we who are judging; God alone judges, and God’s judgment is helpful and healing."

Biblical Wisdom

“My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.” Galatians 6:1

Questions to Ponder

Is sin taken seriously in today’s church and by today’s Christians? How is it, or how is it not?
Why might it be “cruel” not to admonish someone whose behavior is obviously sinful? What are the dangers in admonishing someone?
How might the church and individual Christians avoid being hypocritical and judgmental when admonishing a Christian brother or sister?


Psalm Fragment

“Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation toward us.”
Psalm 85:4


Journal Reflections

Have you ever been admonished by another Christian? If so, write about the experience. How was it done? How did it feel? What were the results?
Have you ever offered a word of admonition to another person? If so, write about the experience. How did it feel? What were the results?
If you answered no to the above two questions, spend some time in writing reflecting upon the idea of taking sin seriously enough to admonish another and receive admonition from another.


Prayer for Today

Lord, open my ears that I may hear from your Word whatever words of admonition I need to hear that I might grow in love and faithfulness.


Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook

The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer. How often have you wondered, where are the young adults in the PC(USA)? Wonder no longer. The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is devoted to the theme of young adults in the church. Its stories, many told by young adults, lift up how Presbyterians of all ages are engaging and joining with Presbyterian young adults in reforming the church for Christ’s mission.


Today in the Mission Yearbook: April 20, 2015

PRESBYTERY OF WEST VIRGINIA - n 2014 I had the privilege of tagging along to Nicaragua with a January-term class from Davis and Elkins College. We were there to learn about the work of CEPAD, an ecumenical ministry group, and explore liberation theology in Central America.

Padre Antonio Castro spoke to our group about liberation theology in the context of his life. Padre Castro lived under the rule of an oppressive dictator and through a violent revolution and bloody civil war that gripped his country for over a decade. He reflected on his lifetime of ministry ...

CLICK HERE to read more.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A precious moment at 1st Prez

A big day at 1st Presbyterian Church of Midland, Texas a couple weeks back ... THE day, really ... not just for Christians, but for all people ... Easter Day, Resurrection Sunday, Empty Tomb Day, whatever.

It was also a day of added significance for me, in a small personal way ... it's the one time I have the courage to go up front and sing in public. As I have noted before, little remains of the fine tenor voice I carried into high school. If maturity had replaced it with an equally fine baritone, I wouldn't have minded so much ... but, alas, such was not the case. I still sing in public, but only that one time each year, and in the particular circumstances we have at 1st Prez that day ... when I am surrounded by a large choir, accompanied by chamber orchestra and organ, and singing for a packed house of people feeling more than the usual level of Christian charity and forgiveness.

On that day, a notice in the church bulletin announces that, "Those who have sung the 'Hallelujah Chorus' and would like to join with the choir in this great anthem, please come to the chancel during the singing of the closing hymn" ... so I do.

I do the best I can with the voice I have ... or maybe it's not the voice I usually have. I remember a quote by Edward Hoagland that I have shared before, about positive expressions of mob behavior ... "It manifests itself, for instance, in the extraordinary quality that singing by a congregation acquires," he once wrote. "The humdrum and unlovely voices gradually merge into a sweet, uniquely pristine note, a note angelic-sounding, hardly believable. Looking about, one can't see who in particular might have such a voice. Everybody in the pew has an expression as if he were about to sneeze, and squawks just a little. It is a note created only when hundreds sing ... it needs them all. No single person is responsible, any more than any individual in a mob lends that its bestiality."

Maybe that's why I am no longer mindful of my voice, or that lump in my throat - not the result of stage fright but, rather of exhilaration. What can I say? For me, it is a tear-maker as I near the end, "King of Kings, and Lord of Lords ..." It is a wonderful moment. It IS "a great anthem." And even as I mangle this note or that, I didn't care ... I am part of making a genuinely joyful noise, nonetheless.

Easter comes just a week or so before the anniversary of the that night in 1742, in Dublin, Ireland, when George Frideric Handel's "Messiah" oratorio premiered. It's presentation has grown over the centuries, particularly in the expansion of the musical accompaniment. It's reputation and popularity has grown, as well, especially the Hallelujah Chorus. At the moment, historians say that England's King George II probably did not stand during the performance of the chorus ... but the tradition of standing continues to this day, and was observed by all in the pews at 1st Prez-Midland on Easter Sunday, followed by a long and enthusiastic ovation ....

YES, that's right, Presbyterians were clapping and cheering in church!!! For one precious and all-too-brief moment, we were of one voice, one mind and one spirit.


And that made the moment all-the-more precious to me. You see, 1st Presbyterian Church of Midland, Texas is not so much a building or an organization as it is a family ... and like all families, there are times of sharing and times of bickering, times of accord and times of discord. Lately, the discord has become more pronounced. We are part of the Presbyterian Church USA denomination. Actions by that denomination's General Assembly have been in the news over the last several months, as have the reactions of the denomination's individual congregations. Those reactions run the full range from enthusiastic acceptance to outraged rejection, and everything in between.


Right now, we're somewhere in between. Several weeks back, our congregation voted to enter into the 'discernment process' with Tres Rios Presbytery (our regional council of PCUSA congregations in western Texas). For now, a team from our congregation will discuss agreements and disagreements, problems and solutions with a team from the Presbytery. When all is said and done, we could be facing another vote by our congregation, deciding upon reconciliation, disaffiliation or something in between. While they discuss these matters at the official level, we in the congregation discuss them among ourselves at the unofficial level ... how we feel, what path we might take, the consequences of taking one path or another, and the issues that - through the thoughts and actions of others - have brought us to this point.


Please keep our church family in your thoughts and your prayers ... that as we consider and discuss, debate and - yes - argue, we will keep in mind that we are brothers and sisters and that, for our occasional bickering, within us all are shared memories of precious moments in which we have stood up as one, sung as one, and offered praise - to God and one another - as one.

Alleluia, amen.




40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer: "Day 35"

Presented by Bible Gateway
"Day 35"

"Thus there remains only one path for those who in following Jesus want to truly serve God in worship, and that is the path of reconciliation with their sisters and brothers. Anyone who comes to the word and sacrament with an unreconciled heart stands judged by doing so. Such a person is a murderer in God’s sight. That is why you must “first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” It is a difficult path Jesus imposes on his disciples. It includes much humiliation and dishonor for the disciples themselves. But it is the path to him, our crucified brother, and thus, it is a path full of grace. In Jesus, service to the least brother or sister and service to God became one. He went and was reconciled to his human kindred, and then he came and offered himself, the one true sacrifice, to his Father."

Biblical Wisdom

“TSo when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother and sister, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24

Questions to Ponder

Bonhoeffer states that: “It is a difficult path Jesus imposes on his disciples.” What makes it difficult?
He also states that, “it is a path full of grace.” Where is the grace?
How did Jesus model the truth that, “service to the least brother or sister and service to God became one"?


Psalm Fragment

“O guard my life, and deliver me;
do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.”
Psalm 25:20-21


Journal Reflections

Is there someone with whom you need to be reconciled? Write about the circumstances that led to alienation from this person.
What step(s) might you take to begin the process of reconciliation?


Intercessions

Pray that you, your family, and friends (name them) might follow the path of reconciliation with their sisters and brothers in Christ.


Prayer for Today

Gracious God, thank you for reconciling me to yourself; now make me a reconciler.


Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook

The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer. How often have you wondered, where are the young adults in the PC(USA)? Wonder no longer. The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is devoted to the theme of young adults in the church. Its stories, many told by young adults, lift up how Presbyterians of all ages are engaging and joining with Presbyterian young adults in reforming the church for Christ’s mission.


Today in the Mission Yearbook: April 19, 2015

MINUTE FOR MISSION: McCORMICK THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY - I will long remember the rich fellowship that we shared last year.

Though it may sound like something Paul wrote, this sentence is from a letter dated November 2, 1960. Addressed to Dr. Arthur McKay, then president of McCormick Theological Seminary, the letter is signed, “Very sincerely yours, Martin Luther King Jr.” ...

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer: "Day 34"

Presented by Bible Gateway
"Day 34"

"Often we combat our evil thoughts most effectively if we absolutely refuse to allow them to be verbalized. It is certain that the spirit of self-justification can only be overcome by the spirit of grace; and it is just as certain that the individual judgmental thought can be limited and suppressed by never allowing it to be spoken except as a confession of sin … Thus it must be a decisive rule of all Christian community life that each individual is prohibited from talking about another Christian in secret. It is clear and will be shown in what follows that this prohibition does not include the word of admonition that is spoken personally to one another. However, talking about others in secret is not allowed even under the pretense of help and goodwill. For it is precisely in this guise that the spirit of hatred between believers always creeps in, seeking to cause trouble."

Biblical Wisdom

“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

Questions to Ponder

Talking with people about someone else you are having trouble with when they are not there is called “triangulation.” In what ways does triangulation harm a community of faith?
How can a community of faith enforce the rule “that each individual is prohibited from talking about another Christian in secret”?
Would this be a good rule to generalize and apply to the workplace, school, families, among friends? Why, or why not?


Psalm Fragment

“Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not turn my heart to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with those who work iniquity.”
Psalm 141:3-4


Journal Reflections

Have you ever experienced being triangulated․being talked about negatively when you where not there? If so, write about the experience. How did it feel?
Have you ever engaged in triangulation? If so, write about the experience. How did it feel?


Intercessions

Pray that we might all overcome evil thoughts and the spirit of self-justification, by the spirit and word of grace.


Prayer for Today

Spirit of love, may the words I speak be the kind that build people up.


Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook

The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer. How often have you wondered, where are the young adults in the PC(USA)? Wonder no longer. The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is devoted to the theme of young adults in the church. Its stories, many told by young adults, lift up how Presbyterians of all ages are engaging and joining with Presbyterian young adults in reforming the church for Christ’s mission.


Today in the Mission Yearbook: April 18, 2015

WASHINGTON PRESBYTERY, PENNSYLVANIA - In January 2014, Jeanne Clapp traveled to rural Nicaragua to visit with farmers whose lives are being improved through the Presbyterian Coffee Project. She stayed in their homes and trekked a mountainside to see where the coffee beans are grown.

“If it were up to me, I would be charging $100 for a cup of coffee,” says Clapp, hunger action enabler for Washington Presbytery. “It took us an hour to get up to this coffee patch in the jungle. These farmers work so hard in very difficult conditions!” ...

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