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Grabbing onto the incarnational theology of Jesus

Presbytery leader and former GA Co-Moderator the Rev. Dr. Jan Edmiston tells Everyday God-talk she clings to ‘God being with us’

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — In the latest Everyday God-talk from the Office of Theology and Worship, the Rev. Dr. Jan Edmiston tells host So Jung Kim that incarnational theology assures us that Jesus is with us. It nurtures her soul.

“When I was having a hard time in college, I remember an overwhelming sense that Jesus knew what I was going through,” she said, “even though he was born over 2,000 years ago as a Middle Eastern man.”

God coming to us in human form has been impactful in the life of the Rev. Dr. Jan Edmiston. (Photo by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo of the Yorck Project, 2002. 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202.

Edmiston, the general presbyter of the Presbytery of Charlotte and the Co-Moderator of the 222nd General Assembly (2016), told Kim that the incarnation of Jesus — God with us — has always been very powerful for her, especially now, during these heartbreaking days of war, terror, and trauma following the recent mass shootings in our country.

“I grab onto that because I can’t imagine what the families in Texas are going through,” she said. “It is crisis upon crisis and overwhelming for all of us.”

On the day of the mass shooting of school children in Uvalde, Texas, Edmiston heard from her son, a teacher in Alexandria, Virginia, that one of his students had been stabbed to death right off campus. She also phoned a friend on that day when 19 school children and two teachers were gunned down in Uvalde. That friend lost a daughter at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

“I really didn’t have words, so I simply said, ‘Don’t look at the news,’” Edmiston told her friend, “because it’s so triggering and overwhelming. Regardless, God is with us”

Edmiston believes there’s a need for an authentic spiritual community where people can be themselves, unafraid to share their hot messes or their failures — a place where people will not be banished from the community.

“Everybody needs that safety net of a church community that loves you no matter what,” she said.

Together with the Rev. Denise Anderson, at left, the Rev. Dr. Jan Edmiston was elected Co-Moderator of the 222nd General Assembly (2016). (Photo by Danny Bolin)

Yet Edmiston sees what the institutional church has done to itself by teaching its children to be good church people but not disciples — and by focusing on metrics that involve money and attendance rather than stressing what kind of impact it is making on people’s lives and how it is expanding the reign of God and transforming the world for good.

Like the little church — which is the only one in South Carolina in the presbytery Edmiston serves, a church that is showing what the love of God looks like in real life.  First Presbyterian Church of Pageland, South Carolina, is in a town with one or two stoplights. The church is without a pastor, but it does have an amazing Bible study ministry for differently developed adults who have intellectual disabilities.

“There’s like four people in the Bible study, but it makes such a difference in their lives,” Edmiston said. “They know it is specifically for them.”

One of the key ways Edmiston keeps her relationship with God and her heart in ministry is through writing, journaling, reading and praying. In her blog A Church for Starving Artists, which she started in 2005, she’s been writing love letters as of late to pastors and churches on specific issues they might be wrestling with.

“I love the church, but I watch us make significant mistakes,” she said. “We’re so used to doing church in certain ways without realizing that the certain way we were is sometimes killing us and doing the opposite of what we think.”

Sometimes the way of thinking that “we could just go back to whatever things were back then would be great” actually keeps us from being better disciples, Edmiston said.

“It’s a great time to be part of the church of Jesus Christ, but it’s also particularly hard,” she said. “But Christianity is the only faith, as far as I know, that states God came to us in human form and served — that is really impactful in my life.”

 Listen to the three parts of Kim’s conversation with Edmiston — Her Soul, Her Body of Christ, Her Heart — collected here.


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