Kind of a Big Deal

No, not me. Well at least not anymore than anyone else.

This evening one section of my spiritual and vocational journey meets a signpost. After several years preparing for ministry in my chosen (or has it chosen me?) church – Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) – and after many meetings, conversations, tests, classes, internships, and an unexpected end around with missional community and The WordHouse instead of a traditional pastor job, I am being called to be an Evangelist for the Sacramento Presbytery. And tonight I read my Statement of Faith and enter one last “examination” to be welcomed into the local governing body as a member, and subsequently, be free and clear – and so ordered – to be ordained.

I will be sharing an important scripture verse and its importance to me (Phil 2:5 – one of the most challenging and comforting passages) after I read my current faith statement:

I believe God is three-in-one: a community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is unified; God is one. God has specifically and sufficiently revealed God’s self in the Old and New Testaments. These Scriptures bear witness to God’s truth in the life and person of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus Christ, the self-revealing Word of God, is still breaking into our world through the Holy Spirit and therefore his Church, inviting people to find themselves in God’s story, as witnessed by the Reformed Confessions and Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
I believe in God the Father. God is creator, ruler, and sustainer of all, even me. God’s love is all around; I am created, as well as all of humanity, in God’s image. In God there is wholeness, completeness. All of creation is good. The earth and everything in it bears witness to God. However, there is still a deep fissure inside of all humanity. This crack is often described as sin. Sin does not rightly acknowledge God’s sovereignty, warping and misconstruing God’s good and wonderful creation. Yet, like the woman who searches after lost treasure and finds it, God seeks, finds, and proclaims we have value. God is the heavenly parent who providentially leads us beside still waters, who renews and guides us in righteousness for God’s namesake. God is greater than everything in and beyond the earth; God is too great for words. And yet, God can be known.
I believe in God the Son, Jesus the Christ. Jesus was sent by God and as the Son of Man is one of us, and yet as the Son of God is not like us. Through God’s gracious initiative, baptism, in Christ we have new life. His life becomes ours. The waters at baptism represent Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan in which God said, “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased.” We hear the same voice proclaim over us that we are God’s child, that God is also well pleased with us. Through the Lord’s Supper, God’s covenantal meal, we are reminded of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection for us all. When we eat the bread and drink the cup we can experience his forgiveness and the grace displayed on the cross. Through Jesus’ death we die; and through his resurrection we are raised to new life. Jesus saves us from harm and saves us to the good work of God’s kingdom. Through his love – through Jesus himself – we are reconciled to God and have a way to be reconciled with one another. At the table of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, we are nourished and have a foretaste of what is to come – life everlasting. We pray for his return to finally bring everything to complete fruition through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I believe in God the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is in all and through all. The Spirit is everywhere and meets us in the darkest places. The Spirit prays for us. In prayer the Spirit enables us to know God’s word and move our hearts and renew our minds. The Spirit empowers us to live the way Jesus did, to be Christ-like. We are enabled then to honor God, to do what is required: to be just, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God—to follow the law of Christ. This law reveals our shortcomings and shows us how to live, even gratefully, as a community. The Spirit gives God’s gifts to God’s people, the Church, to further God’s reign in this needy world. Jesus is the head of the Church, the body of Christ, and the Holy Spirit leads the Church in its mission: to do the will of God. The Spirit desires for all to enter into God’s abundant life and freedom, now and forever and ever. Amen.

With a nudge to Adam Walker Cleaveland, I end with this: #welcomejeff


UNCO West #unco12

Design by Ryan Kemp-Pappan, @rk_p

Earlier this week I participated in UNCO or #unco12, if you follow along on Twitter, on the west coast at San Francisco Theological Seminary in Marin County. UNCO is short for unconference. So, instead of people attending a conference lead by experts, this organization facilitates participants to draw up from themselves and within the gathered body, in real life and on social media, what needs to be shared, taught, and taken away. This unconference relies heavily on the Holy Spirit to stir up among the people, drive what happens and then guide their steps. It’s as if the over-riding belief is that the two entities are so intertwined  – Holy Spirit and people – it is difficult to distinguish where one begins and the other ends.

As someone who is enraptured by God to help form, support and be a part God’s kingdom in and through community, I am bursting with joy over UNCO. This is a laboratory that takes seriously God’s desire to work among God’s people – which is all people, since all are created – to experience what God desires for those made in God’s image – namely grace, peace, and justice.

Over the first night people shared on a dry erase board what they wanted to discuss and explore. We worshiped and invited God’s presence to move among us. The next morning we distilled the ideas people wrote down into breakout sessions and scheduled them throughout the day. After spending several hours – if you chose to go to each slated time slot – sharing our hearts and listening intently to one another, we enjoyed one another’s company (again) over beer, wine, orange juice and Coke Zero. For many, this communal and relational bonding went well into the night and into the morning on both nights. Sleep, what sleep?

Our last day at #unco12 was spent distilling even further the discussions that gained the most traction, in which folks agreed there was some sort of action worth pursuing at the time. One group worked on fleshing out an ecumenical database of churches and individuals interested in or currently doing innovative ministry (read: whatever innovative ministry means to you) which could be searchable by location and key word entry. Another group set some groundwork setting up a peer-to-peer resource production house. This organization would offer a platform for resources online to be provided by fellow church workers, as well as produce materials for purchase which are currently scarce or hard to come by, in areas like bi-vocational ministry and other current church education and culture issues. And even another group spent time looking at current structures and what it would mean to inform and resource bi-vocational and alternative forms of ministry. As you can tell, there is a lot of overlap. But that is the beauty of coming together and seeing what God is doing in our midst, particularly amongst our individual struggles and difficulties.

What will become of these actionable ideas? Who knows really (Okay, yes, God does). The course of these “take-aways” may alter over time… and they might not even happen. But that’s alright, and in some ways it might not even be the point. For faith and the Kingdom of God is a sacred mystery, one in which we, through the power of the Holy Spirit, faithfully partner with Jesus Christ in his reconciliation of the world. We ended our time by worshiping together, reading and contemplating 2 Corinthians 5 as well as singing “Awake My Soul” by Mumford & Sons and going out into the mess that God blesses.