If I were to ask you, “who were Shiphrah and Puah, and what did they do?” would you know the answer? If not here is a hint: these two women played an extremely important role in the liberation of God’s people from slavery in Egypt as told in the biblical book of Exodus. If you are still stumped don’t look for help in the very long, classic 1957 movie, The Ten Commandments, the one where Charlton Heston played Moses, because Shiphrah and Puah don’t appear there. Apparently the courageous resistance of these two women wasn’t considered an essential part of the plot, not that this is entirely surprising. In the normal human way of recording history, it is the deeds of the mighty and powerful that are usually remembered, while the common people, especially women, are forgotten. But in this Sunday’s scripture (Exodus 1: the opposite is the case. The names of two humble women, Shiphrah and Puah are remembered and their courage celebrated, while the tyrant they opposed, the mighty King of Egypt, the Pharaoh, remains nameless. Their faithful resistance to injustice is one of many examples from scripture we can and should draw upon for guidance and inspiration.
Our current era is not the first time that the people of God have faced challenging, disruptive change. In the time of the prophet Ezekiel, in response to some truly devastating losses, God’s people were falling into despair. They said “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” (Ezekiel 37:11) But God wasn’t finished with them yet. God’s Word and Spirit revived their hopes and dreams and enabled them to begin again. I believe God wants to do the same with us today. God says to us as God said to Ezekiel “Mortal ones, can these bones live?” to which we can only reply in faith as he did, “O Lord God, you know!” (37:3) So let us open ourselves up to the new life that God wants to work within and through us.
On this Sunday following the celebration of July 4th, Independence Day, I will be sharing with you what our denomination, the Presbyterian Church USA, reaffirmed at the recent General Assembly in St Louis about HONEST PATRIOTISM. How does our faith call us to civic responsibility and engagement? What is the church’s prophetic role in society? How are the values of honesty and patriotism joined together in Reformed theology and practice? The Presbyterian Church has a long history of thinking deeply and critically about these crucial questions. I invite you to come and join the conversation.
I will be away this coming Sunday, July 1, in Clovis, CA at a baby shower celebrating the coming birth of my first grandson, due in mid-September. But you will be in good hands. Dr. John Shumway will preach on the important questions: What Is the Bible and Why Is It So Hard to Understand? We will celebrate the The Lord’s Supper a week later than usual, on Sunday, July 8.
Since last fall, a group of volunteers* from St Andrew’s has been working with Jim Kitchens, a consultant/coach from PneuMatrix, in a yearlong process which has the eventual goal of discerning new ways that St Andrew’s can fulfill its mission to be a vital, loving and faithful congregation in today’s changed world. In my message this coming Sunday, I will share with you where we are in this challenging process, and address the basic questions, “What Is Adaptive Change and Why Do We Need It? (click to listen)
I and the adaptive change group hope that this Sunday will kick off a more public phase of this discernment process. In the weeks and months ahead your adaptive change group will be soliciting your input with a weekly question in the bulletin, and a “hot spot” table during coffee time after worship. Please take the time to participate. Together we will discern what God desires to do through St. Andrew’s, and by God’s grace, we will do it!
*The members of the St. Andrew’s Adaptive Change group are: Alison Armand, Debbie Beveridge, Greg Gould, Harold Helm, Ernie Hess, Judy McNabo, Marge Munger, Trisha Oldenkamp, and Joan Toole. Please ask any of them about the adaptive change process and give them your input.
My message for this coming Father’s Day Sunday is titled, Confessions of a Grandfather: What My Granddaughter Is Teaching Me. I intentionally wrote “is teaching me” because the learning is ongoing and I suspect will never stop. Some of these lessons I already knew at some level but now I see them with much more clarity. These are lessons about life, about love, about God,and about what’s truly important.
Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their parents. – Proverbs 17:6
This coming Sunday, June 10, we will be celebrating The Good News of God’s Gift of MUSIC. Our worship will include a wide variety of special music by our talented bell ringers, singers, and instrumentalists. We will also hear from various people what music means to them. Does music really make the world a better place? I have no doubt that it does. I hope you will join us for this very special worship service, and bring a friend or neighbor.
The season of Easter just ended with two special Sundays, Pentecost and Trinity Sunday. This Sunday we enter a long season of the church year lasting all of summer and most of fall traditionally called “ORDINARY TIME.” Sundays in ordinary time have no special names, only numbers (ordinals), but that does not mean that they are not important. The truth is that we live most of our lives in ordinary time, and God continues to lead us to experience and do both ordinary and extraordinary things. The traditional green liturgical color for ordinary time is especially fitting for this is a time for lifelong growth and service.
All year we have been celebrating various aspect of the wonderful Good News that Jesus proclaimed and lived. This Sunday we will reflect on his command to the disciples, found in Matthew 28:16-20, to go and freely share his good news with all people. We have good news to share. Will you?
This coming Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. You are invited to wear red, orange or yellow to commemorate the gift of the Spirit of God experienced as dramatic “tongues of fire” by the first disciples of Jesus in Acts 2. This year, however, my message will examine the quiet, gentler gift of the Spirit as found in the gospel of John, particularly John 20:22. The Good News of God’s Spirit.