Programs encourage people to hear God’s voice in biblical stories
by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service
Jesus used stories and parables to educate and inspire his followers. Presbyterian World Mission and New Castle Presbytery are carrying on that tradition in creative ways by publishing resources that engage readers in the work, prayers and practice of mission.
As a missionary in residence last year, Nancy Dimmock used letters and stories from mission co-workers to develop missional lectionary-based stories, each illustrating a Sunday New Testament reading.
“The stories help the biblical readings come alive through a lens of mission and how God is at work around the world through our PC(USA) mission co-workers and the church partners with whom they serve,” said Ellen Sherby, coordinator of Equipping for Mission Involvement. “It’s a great resource for pastors and Christian educators.”
For the Day of Pentecost, May 15, 2016, the scripture is John 14: 8-17 and 25-27. Sarah Henken, mission co-worker and regional liaison for the Andean region, writes about the first delegation visit from the Presbytery of San Fernando to Presbiterio Central in Colombia.
The group visited Ibagué Belén Church, where the congregation meets in a house that was once a location to buy drugs. Neighbors are grateful for the positive presence, which brings life, not death to the community
Henken wrote: “In a troubled neighborhood; to underprivileged youth who need options beyond drugs and poverty; in a building dedicated for a new, life-giving purpose—the kingdom comes to us in all of these places and by many others, near and far, through the transformative presence of the One who does not stand idly by. Where do you see the coming kingdom in your surroundings? How is God calling you to help usher it in?”
Bruce Gillette, co-pastor of Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington with his wife Carolyn, is the current moderator of New Castle Presbytery. One of his goals as moderator was to create a compelling way to encourage people in the Presbytery to learn from one another as they read the Bible together. He proposed including a “Daily Bible Guide” on the presbytery website.
“The Bible is for the whole church,” he said. “I thought it was important to hear interpretations and views from all across the church. There is so much we can learn from one another and from the stories we share.”
Gillette began issuing invitations to individuals to write 300 word devotionals representing the varying perspectives and experiences of the writers. There are young pastors and old pastors, an immigrant pastor from Ghana and a pastor whose church is 358 years old, conservatives and progressives, ordained and lay persons, newly married and some who had celebrated decades of anniversaries. He asked people to write about things they knew well or for which they felt passionate.
Lisa Diller, former pastor of Christiana Presbyterian Church in Newark, Delaware, and a member of the New Castle County Council created a devotional on Jesus and the temple tax. Gillette also knows of one young couple, building their relationship with God and one another, separated by a long distance, that Skypes every night and talks through each day’s devotion.
Ebenezer Kotei, who served as a Ruling Elder at the Limestone Presbyterian Church and is a leader of Olivet Presbyterian Church (a church of Ghanaian immigrants) in Newark, Delaware, wrote a devotional on the Great Mission in Matthew 28 that told the story of the first mission workers coming to Ghana. They died quickly from tropical diseases. A new group of mission workers followed and soon died. Wave upon wave of mission workers came knowing they would soon die. Their witness eventually resulted in a church that today has 773,504 members and runs 1,907 schools, a university and over 2,200 congregations.
Both the lectionary-based stories from World Mission and the Daily Bible Guide are available for download.
“The important thing is that we encourage people to read the Bible and hear God’s voice through scripture,” said Gillette. “Taking time to read the Bible not only draws us closer to God but closer to one another.”
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