March 2011

A Message from Chip

Lent is one of my favorite seasons in the church year because it is an intentional time of examination of our lives and our faith. We prepare ourselves to experience again the new life found in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The traditional means of examination is to give up something during Lent that has become more important than God. This year, I’d like to go way further than giving up chocolate, dessert or coffee, and invite you to give up something BIG. Let’s give up God for Lent, at least our own vision of who God is so that God can be God.

In the book Being Presbyterian in the Bible Belt which the Sunday morning adult education class read last fall and this winter, the authors write, “The Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church (USA) characterizes one of the ‘great themes of the Reformed tradition’ as being ‘the recognition of the human tendency to idolatry and tyranny…’ In other words, Presbyterians are absolutely convinced that all of us as humans ‘pledge allegiance’ to choices we make. We ‘pledge allegiance’ to influences, powers, and situations (often ‘good’ influences, powers, and situations) with claims on us that are less than God’s claim; therefore, day by day, we actually live as if God’s claim is less than the others.” Over and over again, people throughout the Bible trade their allegiance to God for other, lesser allegiances, even while giving lip service to God. We turn God into our servant, and we expect God to bless our ways without ever examining our motives. We practice idolatry when we expect God to be on our side rather than to call us to a more faithful discipleship.

During Lent this year, our six-week journey has many ways to engage giving up God. During worship, we will examine different Bible passages that call us out of idolatrous living. On Sunday mornings, the Adult Education class will focus on Just Eating, engaging hunger issues as a way to accompany the people of Peru. On Wednesday nights and Thursday mornings, I will be leading a discussion of the book Suspicion and Faith by Merold Westphal. Westphal has written an engaging book that examines the work of Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche, three atheists and critics of religion. They were not so much interested in disproving the existence of God as they were in criticizing our motives for religion and how our faith can hurt others and our world while giving us an advantage. All three classes are open to anyone anytime. You don’t have to be an expert or even understand everything. The only requirement is that you come with an open heart and mind to listen for God in these writings and in our discussion together. BTW, Dr. Westphal will be joining us for worship and preaching on “Atheism for Lent” on March 27th.

I love the way FPCY engages faith and life, being church and doing ministry. I am looking forward to the ways God will invite us to give up God this Lent so that we may continue to grow into faithful, whole, committed, mission-minded disciples of Jesus Christ. We have good news to live, and a faithful God who will raise us to new life once again and lead us to share that good news with the world.

Looking forward to our journey during Lent.



P.S. Send me your favorite prayer that we may post it on our website during Lent. Our new website should be up and running by the time you read this.