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4-2017 newsletter (click to open)
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
As you may have already heard, late yesterday afternoon, we received verbal notification that QuickTrip intends to exercise its option to cancel the contract to purchase the real property of Ridglea Presbyterian Church.
Per the terms of the contract, QT must notify both the church and the title company in writing before the inspection period expires on March 6, and we expect to receive that letter very soon. As far as has been communicated verbally to us, QT’s reasons for canceling have nothing to do with Ridglea’s performance under the contract, but nonetheless, they have determined that it is not in their best interest to proceed. Per the terms of the contract, QT will be refunded all but $10,000 of their earnest money, which will be forwarded to the church from the title company once the written notice from QT is received.
This evening, the session of the church met to digest this news together, and there were decidedly mixed emotions in the room. Some elders were disappointed and angry, some expressed relief, and still others a sense of fatigue. All felt frustration on behalf of the faithful leaders in this congregation who have once again invested an incredible amount of their own time, energy, and professional expertise into this endeavor.
However, we also noted that nothing has really changed except for our expectations about what was potentially going to happen in the near future. Ministry and mission in the name of Jesus Christ continues at Ridglea Presbyterian Church, just as it has since the congregation first began considering this question nearly four years ago, just as it has since the congregation was chartered nearly 75 years ago. This is not now nor has it ever been a conversation about closing or dissolving the congregation. It is and always has been a question of which option is the best stewardship of the abundant resources that God has poured into this ministry.
As the elders who have been called by God and elected through the voice of the congregation, we believe that the upcoming season of Lent is an excellent time for all of us to take a step back from these issues and breathe a little bit. To that end, we are calling the congregation to join us in a Lenten season of prayer, reflection, and discernment. We call you, in your own prayer life during this upcoming season, to be intentional about asking “the God questions:” God, is this your will; yes or no? What are you guiding us to be or do?
In late April or early May, we will be calling the congregation to discuss our next steps and where God might be calling us to go from here. In the meantime, let us pray for the willingness to surrender our own expectations and presuppositions.
Let us be open to the leading of the Spirit, remembering the wisdom of the Proverbs, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Let us be gentle with one another, remembering the admonition of the Apostle to “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “weep with those who weep,” and “so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
Let us remember that there is nothing, neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
With God’s help, we continue to strive to fulfill our ministry in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture and the guidance of our church’s confessions, and we seek to serve you with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love. As always, we are here to listen and to pray with and for you.
Your servants in Christ,
Dear Ridglea Family,
The session of Ridglea Presbyterian Church calls the congregation to meet on Sunday, January 29, at 12 noon in the Sanctuary for the annual meeting. The purpose of the meeting is as follows:
- To receive a “state of the church” report from the session, including a report on the church’s 2016 financial performance and updated financial projections for 2017.
- To receive a report from the Ridglea Presbyterian Church Foundation regarding its 2016 financial performance.
- To hear a report from the nominating committee and elect officers to their respective boards.
- To act upon on a recommendation from the session for a change in the pastor’s terms of call, effective January 1, 2017.
This meeting shall fulfill the requirements of G-1.0501 of The Book of Order regarding the 2017 annual meeting of the congregation. Following the meeting, we will adjourn to Currie Hall for a fellowship luncheon.
Your servants in Christ,
Life and ministry have challenged me to set aside time for personal reading and devotion in recent days, but I’m back at it again today. As my dad used to say when coaching my youth sports teams, “We’re looking for progress, not perfection.”
Scripture: We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. — 2 Corinthians 4:8-11
Observation: In his second letter to the followers of Jesus living in the Greek city of Corinth, the Apostle Paul is laying out his credentials as a disciple of Jesus and a leader in the church. For Paul, faith in Jesus isn’t just about mental gymnastics or sentiment or assent to an intellectual idea. Faith in Jesus involves the whole self, including the physical body. And it’s precisely Paul’s faith in the Lordship of Jesus that allows him and his companions to be afflicted, but not crushed, perplexed, but not driven to despair, etc.
Application: It’s been precisely a week since last week’s election results came in, and a large number of our fellow citizens still seem to be crushed, driven to despair, etc. Rather than telling them to “get over it,” or “buck up,” those of us who carry significant privilege (read: white Protestants, especially men) are faced with an opportunity to demonstrate that our faith in Jesus is about more than just an idea. How might we live today so that the life of Jesus might be made visible in our whole lives, even in our mortal flesh?
Prayer: Holy and merciful God, grant me the willingness today to lay down my privilege and pick up my cross and carry you, so that you life may be visible in my mortal flesh. Amen.
Scripture: Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth — as in fact there are many gods and many lords– yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 1 Corinthians 8:5-6
Observation: Sometimes I think we forget that Christians have not always been the majority group in a given society. (And I have some serious reservations about the ways in which America gets defined as a “Christian” nation, but that’s another post for another day.) The fledgling group of Christians in Corinth to whom the Apostle Paul wrote this letter were a statistically insignificant part of the overall population. Corinth’s geography and politics meant that it was an exceedingly cosmopolitan city, and religious pluralism (many people worshiping many gods, and some no god at all) was the norm. Paul acknowledges these “so-called gods,” but then reminds the Corinthians of who and whose they are with that wonderful phrase, “yet for us.”
Application: In America today there are indeed many “gods.” The names of these “gods” may not be Zeus or Dionysus or Artemis, but we certainly live and move and have our being in a culture that acknowledges many “gods” and many “lords.” (And I would say that xenophobia, homophobia, isolationism, classism, elitism, hubris, racism, misogyny, privilege, and more have been “gods” and “lords” who have been worshiped mightily during this election season, and I do not believe that the worship of these gods will stop now that the election is over.) Yet for us, says Paul. Yet for us, there is one God, from who are all things and for whom we exist. Our chief purpose remains unchanged, regardless of who is in power: to give glory to God and enjoy God forever.
Prayer: Holy and merciful God, help me reject the false gods and lords of this world. Help me to remember that for us, there is one God, one Lord, Jesus Christ. Help me to remember and to proclaim with all that I am that the King of Kings is and always will remain on the throne. Amen.
If you’re wondering what this is all about, check out this post.
In lieu of my regular devotional schedule today, I went back and reread the sermon that I preached last night at our Election Night worship service. In all honesty, I composed these reflections expecting a vastly different outcome of the election than what actually transpired. So I ended up preaching last night to myself this morning, if that makes any sense, and it formed the basis of my morning’s devotional time.
For what it’s worth, the manuscript in its entirety is below. May God bless you and keep you.
Some Kind of King
November 8, 2016 — Election Night
Rev. Ryan J. Baer — Ridglea Presbyterian Church
When George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States in 1789, absolute monarch kings ruled over England and France, absolute monarch emperors ruled over China and Japan, and an absolute monarch czar ruled over Russia. Of those ruling offices in 1789, only the Presidency still exists in anything approximating the same form 227 years later.
Even though we have struggled over the years to live into the self-evident truth that all people are created equal and endowed by God with certain inalienable rights, it’s a testament to the enduring strength of American democracy that for more than 200 years, we have been about the business of electing our leaders, and most of the time, that process has been done relatively decently and in order.
But to me, there’s just something that feels different about this particular election. And I don’t think I’m the only one that has felt it. People who are multiple years my senior have expressed to me that they can’t remember and election that has been as divisive, acrimonious, and downright mean-spirited as the one that is mercifully concluding in the hours or perhaps days to come.
In the 73 years of this congregation’s history, I cannot find any evidence that the session of this congregation has ever scheduled a worship service on Election Night. But this year of all years it felt right and fitting to do so. I think all of us, whether you voted today or didn’t, whether you’re a Republican or Democrat or none of the above, whether you’re a lifelong member of this congregation or tonight is your very first visit with us, need to gather around God’s Word and around God’s Table and be reminded of a few things about who and whose we are.
Our sung reading from the Psalms tonight was and adaptation of Psalm 146. Another translation of Psalm 146 puts it this way:
Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them.
Regardless of who is eventually declared the winner of tonight’s election, and regardless of their policies or plans or personality, if we put our ultimate hope and trust in a human, we will never truly find life or liberty, and our pursuit of happiness will always be just that – a never-ending pursuit. Happy, says the psalmist, are those who put their trust in the God of Jacob, the one who made the heavens and the earth and the seas and all that is in them.
As Christians, we can and should respect our nation and its flag, and we can and should pray regularly for its leaders. And as Christians, we can and should respect our fellow citizen’s right to exercise their freedom of speech in peaceful protest of our nation, its flag and its leaders. But as Christians, our ultimate allegiance must never be to any nation, flag, or leader. As Christians, our ultimate allegiance is and must always be to Jesus Christ, the king whose kingdom is not of this world.
Some day, the United States of America and every single one of its Presidents might become a footnote in human history. Nations come and nations go. Kings and emperors and czars, and yes, even presidents, come and go.
But we put our trust in the king of kings, who rules the world not with a spear or a sword or an improvised explosive device or an F-35 strike fighter, but with a towel and a washbasin, the king who, after supper, washes our dirty feet and then says, I have set you an example, go and do likewise.
As Christians, we put our trust in the king of kings, whose economic plan calls us to see to it that there is always enough to feed everyone who comes to the Table, and not only enough, but 12 baskets full of leftovers.
As Christians, we put our trust in the king of kings, who touches those deemed untouchable, who breaks down every barrier of hatred and hostility. We put our trust in the king of kings, who abjectly refuses to meet insult with insult and violence with violence.
We put our trust in the king of kings, whose kingdom is not of this world. For this he was born and for this he came into the world: to testify to the truth. And everyone who belongs to the truth listens to his voice.
On this election night, of all nights, may we never forget who and whose we are.
To God be the glory. Amen.