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Dr. Brian K. Blount’s book “Go Preach! Mark’s Kingdom Message and the Black Church Today” sits on my desk. It’s one of the books that survived the move from our rental in Maryland to our Vermont home. During packing, I promised my husband I would limit the books to three large boxes. What didn’t fit wouldn’t come. There just wasn’t room in our 1760-something home for my dog-eared friends. It was painful, but I was brutal in my decisions as to which ones to keep and which ones to give away. It says a lot that “Go Preach!” made the cut.
Growing up in South Africa, Bobby Musengwa couldn’t imagine coming to America to attend seminary. The path simply wasn’t visible to him — and he couldn’t imagine serving as a pastor. But it was his uncle’s friendship with Heath Rada, who later served as moderator of the 221st General Assembly (2014), that brought this possibility to light for him — and the mentoring community of professors, pastors, family and friends reinforced Musengwa’s call.
As we approach the fall kickoff to the church program year, my thoughts keep coming back to the Protestant idea of the priesthood of all believers. This doctrine teaches that because of Jesus Christ, there is no need for someone to act as a mediator between the people and God. Everyone is just as spiritual, just as capable of speaking to God, and just as called to deliver God’s message to the world. Everyone is equally called to do God’s work and to minister to God’s people.
Growing up, one of my favorite shows was Little House on the Prairie. The characters were old and young, likable and unlikable. Even though some (like the Olesons!) were petty and others made mistakes, they were always there for each other when it counted. Little House had story lines for both kids and adults on the show.
Quickly, kids! We need to get going or we’ll miss the service! This was my plea one Easter morning as I ushered my children out the door to make it to church. My husband and I served in different churches, and worshiping together was impossible. However, on this morning he was the guest preacher at a church that had a different worship schedule from ours. We were thrilled. Our family could celebrate together.
Which version of Jesus do we settle for? A wise philosopher? A meek and mild but constant caregiver? A macho conqueror? A divine butler? It’s challenging to resist the impulse to settle for a Jesus who does not fully represent the Lord and Savior presented in the New Testament. Challenging, of course, but not new. Looking at John 6:35, 41–51, we see Jesus’ followers missing the boat as they long to settle for a miraculous baker rather than the Bread of Life.
Mark lived on the streets of Hollywood, well known by social service providers as one of the toughest homeless cases in the city. He was often found standing on a street corner, looking disheveled, staring into space. His looks scared most people away.
It is Easter morning and members of Del Muerto Presbyterian Church assemble around a roaring fire. They gather close to the edge of Canyon de Chelly in northeastern Arizona — an ancient home of the Anasazi Indians and a historic hideout for Navajos resisting Spanish and American invaders. The morning gathering is the culmination of “SingSpiration,” the congregation’s three-day tent revival, which has been so successful that they ran out of mutton stew at Saturday’s lunch.
Ministry candidates talk about them. Moderators share them with session members during meetings. Pastors do sermon series on them. “They” are the Great Ends of the Church — statements crafted in the early 20th century to guide the vision and mission of the Presbyterian Church. But who can recite all six Great Ends? (Be honest.) And what do these Great Ends look like when lived out? Presbyterians Today explores how congregations embrace these guiding principles in ways that show their communities the power of love in action.
Too often we hear about something that is successful for another church and, when we look into it, our immediate thought is “that won’t work here.” We often reject what it is before understanding why it works. Why it works is about inner connection, not surface trappings.