Monthly Archives: August 2014

Weekly Devotional Podcasts

Beginning September 2nd I will post a weekly devotional podcast here on the website and on Facebook (if I can figure that out).  The series between now and Advent will be on simplicity.  The aim is to reflect on the value of simplicity and its theological implications for matters of Christian living.  The podcasts will be between 2 and 4 minutes and will usually be posted on Sunday afternoon each week.  I hope you will listen and share your thoughts.  If you have ideas about what you would like to see as content of the podcasts please leave comments.  Read the comments of others and affirm them as you agree so we can get a sense of what ideas are most widely shared.  Come back on September 2nd and look for the first podcast on Simplicity and Sincerity.

Thanks and I hope these will be “useful” reflections to start your own theological reflections for the week.


Scotland 2014


It was a wonderful few weeks in Scotland. As the trip to Geneva two years ago gave me a deeper appreciation for the roots of our Reformed Tradition and John Calvin’s contributions, so the time in Scotland enriched my understanding of the Reformation in Scotland, the development of the Church of Scotland, and the Presbyterian values and traditions which immigrated to the United States.

John Knox, a student of John Calvin, brought the Presbyterian form of government along with the reformation of the church to Scotland in 1560.  Regretfully, the Reformation is a resistance movement within Christianity and thus continues to bear the birthmarks of rebellion.  There was a lot of violence associated with the reformation in Scotland. It was in St. Giles Cathedral that Knox preached the reformation through interpretation of scripture and fidelity to Presbyterian polity. Sociologists have noted that the identity of any institution, while changing and growing, bears the marks of its birth.

The PCUSA is no exception. We boldly claim our heritage as a church reformed and always reforming. But reformation has its roots in rebellion and our church has suffered more than its share of divisions and splits. We are currently in what could be termed as a period of reformation, of our understanding and use of the Bible, the ordination of gay and lesbians, and marriage of same sex couples. As the church reforms its understandings and conserves its traditions our church is going through a difficult transition – not dissimilar to the splits that took place over the ordination of women. Yet, if history teaches us about ourselves, we know that the Presbyterian polity  we share usually brings us back together once the discernment process is complete. Glory to God! As John Knox and John Calvin before him we trust not in human truth but in the sovereignty of God who has all human history in God’s hand.

Visioning for the Future – Congregational Gathering August 10th

It would be so much easier to know God’s call if God spoke to us through burning bushes columns of smoke and fire, or even just sent a text message. But unfortunately, we’re expected to discern God’s call without specific, written-down instructions like an Individualized Educational Plan.

For me, I can usually tell if something is a calling if it meets several criteria; the thought of doing it is invigorating and terrifying, more or less in equal measure. Of course this isn’t enough to make it a Christian calling or skydiving would be a divine calling. For me to discern what God is calling me to do it has to be something that I have spiritual gifts to do and it needs to meet a need I see in the world.

Theologian Frederick Buechner defines calling as the point of intersection between your deepest gladness and what you see as the world’s greatest need. Yes, the world may need more climate experts planning for good stewardship of the earth, but if I’m not a climate expert that isn’t my calling. The world may need more medical missionaries but if that doesn’t inspire joy and excitement in me I’m probably not called to do it. By the same token, I might get real joy from preaching, but if I’m not employing that joy-giving gift to better the world around me, I’m not fulfilling my spiritual call.

While discerning our individual calling is important, for God to work in the world, our call needs to be in congruence with God’s saving, reconciling work in the world. God calls the church to be a demonstration of harmony between God’s work, and the individual’s calling. In his letters to the Romans and to the Corinthians – two of the larger early churches – he explains how individual members of the church are to work together to be the Body of Christ in the world. “For as in one body we have many members, and not all members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ and individually we are members of one another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given us…” (Romans 12:4-6a). That’s right, churches have a calling too. And Central is one individual church in a denomination among denominations within the church universal.

Ten years ago, through a mission study, Central Eugene discerned its call as follows:

Our Vision for 2015


–that challenges our minds and fills our hearts
–that reflects our common faith but celebrates different expressions of it
–that provides welcoming sacred space that enlivens worship

Mission & Service

–that works for justice and peace in witness to God’s promises
–that aids the homeless and hungry; spread Christ’s love in community and world
— that provides mission and service projects that engage the young, old, and the          in-between


–that projects being an inclusive, friendly, and caring church
–that welcomes children, youth, and young families through worship, program, and outreach
— that reachs out to University students, faculty and staff


–provides an Intergenerational ministry that is pervasive
— provides strong Adult Education Program encourages thoughtful inquiry; takes the Bible seriously, but not literally
–Pastoral Ministry: emphasis on seniors, involves more than the pastor and deacons
–Social opportunities promote community among members and friends of all ages


–that is open and honest
–provides opportunity for discussion and dialog on church and social issues
–that is able to debate and disagree without losing sight of our common faith

Church Facilities

–that are used for the benefit of the community and activities that complement our mission focus
–that are safe and accessible to all

In ten years a lot has changed and it’s time for us to reflect and discern, confirming those things we still feel called too but also willing to let go when something just isn’t working or something new requires our attention. Sometimes our call changes as new members bring new gifts, or others leave the fellowship. We must also stay present to the changing needs in the community. As such, we should be ready to change with it, following the call wherever it leads next. In the next few months you are going to be asked to engage in a visioning process to help us all explore our ministry and discern where God is calling us to go. It will include a frank conversation about our current mission, ministry, and program, your personal convictions about what is important, our needs as a congregation, the financial capacity of the congregation, the location of our ministry and program, our assets and liabilities, and the needs in the community we feel called together to engage.

A Vision Team is being put into place by the Session, a new structure for congregational participation in decision-making has been constructed, and we are kicking off the process this Sunday, August 10th with a shorter worship service and Congregational gathering after worship to take a look at what things we do have the strongest support of our members. We need everyone’s participation. Please try to be with us if at all possible.

**The congregational gathering should be done in time for Cascade Manor folks to catch the bus home for lunch. The process will take around 30 minutes.


Kerygma at Central

Bible_Theo_1_grandeBeginning September 10th through November 12th
6:30pm to 8:00pm in 121A

Please call the church office to sign up


Materials Cost: $15.00

Scholarships are available

Ordering deadline: Aug. 25



Every year we do something new in Kerygma studies. This year and next year we will be working through some of the major theological questions: Who is God?, Who is Christ?, What is the Church?, Who is Humanity?, How are we saved?, What is authority?, What are the Sacraments?, What is the Realm of God? Each study session we will look at one question, examining texts from the Old and New Testaments, interpreting how our answers to these questions inform our faith and guide our lives.

Hindsight and Foresight

Sunday Scripture: Genesis 32:22-31
Sermon: Hindsight and Foresight – Jacob wrestles at Jabbok

Soren Kierkegaard wrote, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Some of life’s crucial turning points are recognizable only in retrospect. We look back and discover decisions made thoughtlessly or those that changed the whole direction of our existence. In other times, we are keenly aware of the intensity of the struggle to make choices. In the sermon on Wheat and Weeds I shared my own experience of living in an ambiguous world where the choices we sometimes have to make are neither clear nor easy.  This week Jacob wrestles with decisions he made earlier and the natural and logical consequences of those decisions.  He meets a messenger of God sat the river Jabbok who holds up a mirror to help Jacob understand how he contributed his being caught between a rock and a hard place.  Our difficulty perceiving is one of the reasons we need so deeply the guidance of the Holy Spirit when we take God seriously in our lives.  In worship we will explore this passage more fully.