Monday, December 18, 2006

The Storm, the Wrapping Party and the Family of God.

Thursday night there was a “slight breeze” here in the Puget Sound region of Washington State. I got home from work at about 5 pm and we had no electricity. The power came back on for a few hours before the main part of the breeze came through. The next morning 1,000,000 western Washington residents had no power (I know of one person at the church who didn’t lose power). One couple from the church had a tree fall through their house. Another couple lay in bed and listened as shingles tore off their roof. Everyone has a story to tell; however, all of the stories end up at the same place—in the dark with no electrical power.

Fast forward to tonight (Sunday night). We had a gathering at the church to wrap the presents for the families we have adopted for Christmas (they are the same ones we adopted for Thanksgiving). People of all ages gathered with the joy of Christmas in their hearts. Some of our present wrappers still didn’t have electricity in the homes. But there they were, thinking of other families this Christmas.

Something else happened at the party. A young lady at our church has just learned that she has less than thirty days to live (she is the same person who has been battling two types of cancer). Such horrible news at any time, let alone Christmas. Our gift wrappers have volunteered to provide meals for the family through the end of December (more meals will be provided as needed.).

These events show the good side of the church. It has nothing to do with being Presbyterian—it has to do with being the body of Christ. It just so happens that we attend a Presbyterian Church called Evergreen. Your church probably has similar stories. And whether we like it or not the stories have NOTHING to do with being Presbyterian! The stories are based on a group of believers who are linked together with shared beliefs and a common focus. These events cannot be manufactured by a national organization or denomination. The PCUSA is SO diverse that we do not share common beliefs. We do not share a common purpose or purposes. We are like a couple that lives together in the same house and but their marriage is a sham. They have nothing in common but a little piece of paper that says they are “married.” Some of these marriages can be saved—others cannot be saved.

I have tremendous hope for our local churches that are bound together with shared theology, goals and dreams. It is difficult to have much hope for a denomination that does not have a shared theology, goals and dreams. Our liberal/progressive churches have more in common with Methodist, UCC, Episcopal and American Baptist liberal/progressive churches than with the conservative/evangelical churches in our the PCUSA. The conservative/evangelical churches in the PCUSA have more in common with similar churches in other denominations or non-denominational churches. We just have a little of piece of paper that says we are married.

Every day God reminds me that “denominations” are never mentioned in scripture. A denomination is manufactured by people for people. No one can manufacture the body of Christ.

So… what am I going to do? I am going to celebrate the birth of our Lord with a group of people who are my church family! Are we totally the same? No way! Are we linked with common theology, goals and dreams? You bet!! We worship God together. We laugh together. We cry together. We are there for each other when we live. We are there for each other when we die.


At 8:06 AM , Blogger John Shuck said...

Hi Lance,

Prayers for strength and courage to you and your congregation as you weather the after effects of that storm. As a pastor of a liberal church, I think you would find our congregation responding in a similar way to yours. The compassion of Christ trancends all theological or denominational identities. I think when it comes down to it, we have a great deal in common.

Merry Christmas!


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