Participating in God's Mission

In Luke's Gospel, Jesus begins his public ministry with the following words from the prophet Isaiah:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-21)

When I was ordained as Minister of Word & Sacrament, our denomination's Book of Order began with the "Directory for Worship," followed by the "Form of Government," and concluding with the "Rules for Discipline." I thought that was an excellent way of organizing the church. We begin with worship, then we organize ourselves for ministry, and finally we address the problem of sinners trying to lead saintly lives.

At first, I was not very happy when we reorganized the Book of Order following the reunion of the Northern & Southern Presbyterian Churches. We moved the Form of Government to the front of the book and pushed the Directory for Worship to second place. It took me quite a few years to grow into this new way of organizing the church, but eventually I discovered how much I liked it. While the old, old Book of Order began with worship, the new, old Book of Order began with these words:

All power in heaven and earth is given to Jesus Christ by Almighty God, who raised Christ from the dead and set him above all rule and authority, all power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. God has put all things under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and has made Christ Head of the church, which is his body. (G-1.0100a [old])

In other words, as Presbyterians, who we are and what we do begins with Jesus Christ, Lord of the world and Head of the church.

The world has changed in the 40 years since we Presbyterians placed that declaration at the beginning of our Book of Order. Back then, even if people did not believe, most of them still knew who Jesus was. Today, we are much more like the early church. Most of those around us do NOT know the story of Jesus.

The new Book of Order reflects that changed setting, and as hard as it is to teach an old dog new tricks, I am doing my best to grow into this new, new way of organizing the church. It calls us out of our comfort zone and into the world to participate in God's mission.

The good news of the Gospel is that the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—creates, redeems, sustains, rules, and transforms all things and all people. . . . The Gospel of Jesus Christ announces the nearness of God's kingdom, bringing good news to all who are impoverished, sight to all who are blind, freedom to all who are oppressed, and proclaiming the Lord's favor upon all creation.  The mission of God in Christ gives shape and substance to the life and work of the Church. . . . Human beings have no higher goal in life than to glorify and enjoy God now and forever, living in covenant fellowship with God and participating in God's mission. (F-1.01)

In other words, our calling is to continue the work Christ began – sharing God's love in word and in deed. Let us do our best to read the signs of the times, to discern how we can give shape and substance to the life and work of First Presbyterian Church of Jeannette, and to glorify and enjoy God as we participate in his mission in this community.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Bill

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