Preview of the MAY 2015 Issue
Grace and gratitude: a Presbyterian vision for the 21st century
Our response to God’s love helps define what it means to be Presbyterian.
by Charles Wiley
Have you ever been at a restaurant with other Christians, and after the meal comes there is an awkward pause as everyone waits to see if anyone else is going to mention praying before the meal? Years ago, my wife, Betsy, and I went to lunch with two men from our church, Bill and Jim. When it came time for the obligatory pause, Bill said: “Feel free to pray if you would like. I believe that we should be thankful for everything in our lives at every moment, so it seems odd to me that we would thank God for our food in a ritualistic fashion when we do not do so with all the other things we receive from God each day. Therefore, I do not pray before meals. But feel free to pray if you would like to.” I passed.
The awkwardness aside, Bill raised some good questions. If everything we receive is from God, why is mealtime often the only time we regularly express our gratitude? Can’t our gratitude become a dry ritual when we reflexively do it? What is the connection between God’s grace experienced in the meal and our gratitude?Continue reading
Faith, fear, and toenails
For a squeamish volunteer, a foot clinic for the homeless means stepping out of a comfort zone.
by Scott Dannemiller
You ready for lunch?” my wife asked.“Not yet,” I said. “Just need to pick a homeless man’s toenails out of my hair.” She nodded, like it was perfectly normal. And it was.
Allow me to explain.
A number of years ago, my wife, Gabby, and I quit our corporate jobs and spent a year in Guatemala as PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteers. While we had grand plans for saving the world, that obviously didn’t pan out. But we were filled with gratitude for coming face to face with the grace of God manifested in the generosity of strangers.
Ever since then, we’ve felt compelled to give back in some way—to push ourselves to the edge of our faith. That opportunity came when we received an invitation from Jeff Moles, a friend and former YAV, to volunteer at a foot clinic for the homeless in our hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.Continue reading
Steve Hayner: death and grace
The beloved seminary president and his hospice chaplain explore the meaning of grace in the face of cancer.
by Tom Livengood and Steve and Sharol Hayner
In 2014, over Easter weekend, Steve Hayner, pastor and president emeritus of Columbia Theological Seminary, began to feel out of sorts. Doctors soon discovered a small mass on Steve’s pancreas. It didn’t take long for the diagnosis we all dread. Steve had cancer.
Soon after, Steve began a blog on CaringBridge, a website for people ill or dying. Over the next year, he shared messages that brought inspiration and meaning to the lives of thousands. To share his story—a remarkable proclamation of grace and gratitude in the face of something as ugly as cancer—Presbyterians Today has pieced together, with Steve’s permission, adapted excerpts from Steve’s blog, including two posts made by his wife, Sharol. His hospice chaplain, Tom Livengood, introduces these reflections, which are being compiled in the book Joy in the Journey.
Steve died on January 31, 2015. May he now know the fullness of the love he shared, unreservedly, with so many.Continue reading
Unexpected grace from behind prison walls
by Patrick David Heery
As I, collared and sweating, stepped through the metal detector and into Albert C. Wagner Correctional Facility for the first time, I expected many things. Joy was not one of them.
I expected my Bible and papers to be searched. I expected the bars on the windows, the steely gaze of the guards, and the assault of monstrous beige—the floors, the walls, the uniforms. I expected the stories I heard—men conditioned to see prison bars long before they were ever locked up. I expected the beauty of the men who cried with me and taught me about God. I expected the depression, the undiagnosed learning disorders, the loneliness, the injustice, the machismo, the untapped genius, the manipulation, the violence, even the gentleness. But I did not expect the joy.Continue reading
One in Mission
‘Little one, for you Jesus Christ came into the world’
An old baptismal liturgy may hold the key for understanding what it means to be Presbyterian.
by Linda Valentine
When my colleagues Rob and Christine Coy Fohr’s daughter, Madeline, was baptized last December at Highland Presbyterian Church in Louisville, the children of our church sang the hymn “God Claims You” (2249 in Sing the Faith). As they sang, “Madeline, Madeline, God loves you,” the sanctuary filled with love and remembrance of baptisms precious to us. They then inserted Rob’s and Christine’s names and sang to them. This hymn has become a new, deeply moving tradition for our church family, as the children join in welcoming their new friend while members of the congregation vow to nurture the child and support their parents in faith.
Whether we are baptized as infants, children, or adults, it is in that profoundly gracious act that our journey of discerning and living out our Christian calling begins. For us Presbyterians, baptism is “a sign and act of God’s self-giving, by which God’s grace is made available to us” (Book of Common Worship). And our grateful response—at all ages and stages of life—is to become more and more like Christ in living out our faith.Continue reading
Happiness lends a hand
by Joelle Kopacz
The Declaration of Independence asserts everyone’s right to the pursuit of happiness—but are people actually happy?
For Presbyterians, the answer is an overwhelming “yes!”
Based on a number of measures, Presbyterians report that they are happy with their current situation in life and are optimistic about their future.Continue reading
What’s Next What’s Now
‘I want people to understand’
Young man with Down syndrome flourishes with help from Presbyterian friends.
by Emily Enders Odom
As a greeter-guide on Sunday mornings for First Presbyterian Church of Greensboro, North Carolina, John Vanderwerff regularly shows people where to go.
“I haven’t been stumped yet,” he says. And as a role model every day in his community, Vanderwerff—a young adult with Down syndrome—regularly shows people how to be at their best. “I want people to understand my strengths, my skills, my learning difference,” he says. “You really have to get to know people to know their strengths and weaknesses.”
And greater Greensboro knows Vanderwerff. Not only as an employee of one of the busiest Chick-fil-A franchises in town—where he radiates self-confidence and pride in his work—but also as a mentor to youth and a trusted advisor to their families, as the young adults transition from school to work, just as he did.Continue reading
Daring to celebrate
Despite the world’s woes, God reminds us of reasons to rejoice.
by Geoffrey Lawrence Snook
When was the last time we heard a sermon explaining that God’s Word invites us to set aside a portion of our income—not for the church budget, not for the poor, but for a big party?
Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice. (Deut. 14:26 NIV)
It sounds sinful—certainly not decent or orderly—to celebrate in the midst of the crippling poverty and deep darkness that we see so clearly in our world today. We have serious problems in our churches and in our communities, and they require serious prayer and serious work. Indeed, there is enough bad news in our world that we might conclude that the only prudent thing to do is to scrimp and save until the sky begins to fall.
However, it seems that a brood of dismal disciples is not what Jesus had in mind.Continue reading
Jeb Magruder dies; former Nixon aide later became Presbyterian pastor
Jeb Magruder, a top aide to President Richard Nixon who later became a Presbyterian pastor, died May 11, 2014, in Danbury, Connecticut. He was 79.
Presbyterians Today, in compiling its Transitions department for the May 2015 issue, decided to add this obituary to share more of the life of this man who played such a distinctive role at an important time in history.Continue reading
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This special issue is a must-read for everyone who wants to better understand young adults and engage them in worship, education, and service.
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What Presbyterians Believe 2
Volume 2 of Presbyterians Today’s new special issue and guidebook—What Presbyterians Believe 2—brings you even more of our most popular articles all about Presbyterian beliefs, worship, and practice.