An Easter Message from the General Presbyter, Russell Gladding
Will Willimon, Methodist minister, Bishop and author tells this story in a sermon I watched recently online. He says while he was the Bishop of Alabama he was faced with a wayward Church that had run off their pastor. They had been in such conflict that he went to visit the small rural church in the southern farm country part of the state. On a Wednesday evening he met with the farmers who comprised the majority of the membership. Willimon says he gave it to them, telling them the way they had acted toward their former pastor had put them in a position that not a single preacher in the state would be will to come to be their pastor. Then, he said, an older farmer spoke up and said, “Well Bishop, if what you say is true, it is a strange coincidence that just about every Sunday Jesus Christ seems to show up. Willimon says, “He was right.”
An Open Letter from Russell Gladding
General Presbyter of Savannah Presbytery
Grace and Peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
By now, the news is making its way around Savannah Presbytery that the proposed amendment to our PCUSA Constitution has been affirmed by a majority of our 171 presbyteries across the country. Therefore the new wording will become part of W– 4.9001 within our Book of Order. This will take effect on June 21, 2015.
There Is No Room
We are almost through Advent once again, as 2014 is drawing to an end. In just a week from today as I write this, many of our congregations will be gathered for Christmas Eve services. We will light the Christ Candle on our Advent wreaths and welcome the babe born in Bethlehem, Christ the Lord.
Yet even in Christ’s Church, someway, it seems that there is not enough time to be prepared for His coming. We say our liturgies on Sundays and read our daily devotionals as a way of preparing, but they are crowded seemingly into a small corner of our lives by all of the other tasks which we have to get done; the shopping, baking, the parties, and yes the planning for the perfect worship service or the special sermon. We are busy, busy, busy!
I don’t know about you, but I often find myself fighting through an empty feeling in all of this preparation for the Christmas celebration. But my American independence coupled with my protestant work ethic quickly washes these feelings away with my remembering the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared” and a title of a business conference: “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
I try sometimes to rationalize this as just the way it is. We are good people doing good work in our churches. Being busy is not a sin! Or is it? How many of these important tasks ‘that only I can do’ have become idols in my life?
The words from Isaiah 40 and Mark 1 give me pause as I consider my harried and scurried life of preparing for God’s coming in this season and in all of our lives. God prepared and continues to prepare for by tearing and breaking into this world. I am reminded that it is my job to be still so that God may be with me and in me, so that I may receive this greatest of gifts, so that we all may receive this present and share the Grace and Truth of God through the Love that comes to us, over and over, and is abundantly alive for all of the world.
My friends, it need not be a perfect room, a stable full of open hearts and minds will do just fine. Blessings for you all as we are prepared to make room even in this final Advent week!
In this season of Thanksgiving with Advent beginning on Sunday, I wanted to continue my tradition in writing down and sharing with you all some of the things, experiences, and people that I am grateful for as we come toward the close of 2014. This idea is not original to me. It came from my reading throughout my life a Thanksgiving column each year in the Atlanta Journal Constitution penned by the late Furman Bisher. So here we go.
I am thankful for:
- My life and for good health with an assist from several good doctors and the miracles of modern medicines!
- A three legged cat named Tripod who is the most grateful creature I have ever known.
- For teenage grandchildren who don’t pay as much attention to Pop as when they were younger, but are bright and intelligent, and are part of the future hope of this world.
- For Kathy who patiently puts up with me and my new life at Savannah Presbytery. Going on 37 years she is still the one!!
- For Mack my trusty Chocolate Lab, now showing a little gray under his chin like me.
- For God’s Church in this world as it struggles with change in perhaps a time that will be seen as a new reformation and awakening. God, I believe, is in the midst of this and is leading God’s creation forward.
- For my colleagues in Savannah Presbytery who extend friendship and care, give of time and great talents, and are rocks in this place.
- For five adult children, now all in mid-life and who have never come back home to live. Well done children!
- For our retired clergy who have continued to be a vital and vibrant presence here in southeast Georgia.
- For Georgia Tech and Georgia playing in a big football game on Saturday. Bisher is surely looking down with a smile.
- For new opportunities for ministry in Savannah Presbytery with PCUSA 1001 New Worshipping Communities.
- For all who feed the hungry, mentor and tutor the children, give shelter to the strangers and homeless and proclaim the good news through actions and as needed by words.
- For a warm home and food to enjoy.
- For an occasional nap that seems to be more necessary that it used to be, especially on Sunday afternoon.
- For our country with all of its shortcomings, shown 24 hours a day in the media. We are most blessed to be living in this place where we are free and which we call America.
- For friends, old and new.
- For God choosing to create us and reveal God’s self to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ.
- For the Living Word, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that is alive in this world today through people like you.
Happy Thanksgiving! Selah