Conference attendees encouraged to ‘make a difference on this side of heaven’
March 25, 2018
Presbyterians should reach out to those in need, in a world “where a few have a lot, and a lot have less,” says the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Preaching at the closing worship of the 2018 national gathering of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators, Nelson urged conference attendees to practice what they had learned about the conference theme — boundless hospitality.
Nelson preached from Hebrews 13, which states that by showing hospitality to strangers, “some have entertained angels without knowing it,” and Luke 24, the account of Jesus walking on the road to Emmaus with followers after his resurrection.
Initially, Jesus’ disciples didn’t recognize him, not understanding that he had risen. Yet Jesus stayed with them, through their disappointment of not knowing the way forward, giving them the possibility of life.
“We too struggle living in the uncertainty of the days ahead,” Nelson said, acknowledging “all the concerns about our denomination — and frankly, about Christendom all across the globe.”
Nelson spoke emotionally of “not knowing what the next day,” or even “then next minute” will bring, recounting a story from early in his ministry that profoundly shaped him. On the verge of leaving the first church he served, he traveled alone to the presbytery meeting instead of with church elders as he usually did. He didn’t see them at the meeting either.
“It was the first time I’d gone to presbytery meeting without saying a word to them,” he said.
Driving back to the church, he received a call. One of the elders had gone from the presbytery meeting to the church for another meeting and had died in the fellowship hall. She had been the one Nelson could talk to at the midnight hour, the one who prepared the baptismal certificates for him to sign.
For Nelson, it was a reminder that the essence of Christian education is that “God is love” — that we are called to love God and neighbor as we love ourselves.
“To know God is to know love,” he said. “Anything oppositional to this love is oppositional to God.”
In the midst of doing church, “we should learn how to become a vessel of healing, hope and possibility,” he added.
“The world does not belong to us. In living and in dying, we belong to God. One day we will have to give an account for our living,” Nelson said. “Go shake up the world and make a difference on this side of heaven.”
More than 675 attended the conference. During closing worship, APCE installed Ken McFayden, academic dean at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, as its new president.
McFayden listed three strategic priorities for APCE in the coming years:
- To increase the availability of APCE-generated and curated resources for people serving in Christian education ministries in the church
- To increase opportunities such as the APCE conference at local and regional levels
- To develop facilitated colleague groups and mentors, coaches or guides around topics of interest
Carl Horton of Presbyterian Mission’s Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries was installed as APCE president-elect.
Paul Seebeck, Mission Communications Strategist, Video and Digital Asset Manager, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Boundless Hospitality
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Gracious and loving God, we are grateful for the witness of those who work together to serve you. We ask that your healing presence would surround us and that your love and guidance would support us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, March 25, 2018, Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday) (Year B)
Liturgy of the Palms Readings:
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Reading Mark 11:1-11
Or alternate Reading John 12:12-16
Liturgy of the Passion Readings:
First Reading Isaiah 50:4-9a
Second Reading Philippians 2:5-11
Gospel Mark 14:1-15:47
Or alternate Gospel Mark 15:1-39 (40-47)