Monthly Blog Posts

In a recent Pew Research poll, just a quarter of Americans in 2024 feel like their side is
“winning” on issues that matter to them. This means that the other ¾ of Americans feel like their
side is losing on issues that matter to them. 1 As one of my friends wrote, “Finally, something that
unites all party lines!” She went on to write, “In a real sense, though, we are all losing. We are
losing to tribalism itself.” 2 Tribalism is the human tendency to seek out and connect with like-
minded people. That is not always a bad thing. However, when that is all we seek, we begin to
lose creativity, curiosity, and empathy for the other side.
Early in Jesus’ ministry he got into the boat with his disciples and told them we must cross over
to the other side (Mark 4:35-41). A casual reading of this passage appears to be that Jesus and
his disciples are going to the other side of the sea to get away for some rest and relaxation.
However, the verb ‘crossover’ is not a verb Jesus would have used for a joy ride. Jesus and his
disciples are moving beyond their tribe and crossing into Gentile territory. When they arrive,
they will encounter a demonic man, a herd of swine, people practicing ‘unclean’ rituals, and
otherness. The other side is everything that we fear.
If left up to us, we would like to stay on our side. We like sides. Sides provide the illusion of
safety, control, power, and connection. Thus, we create all kinds of sides including
neighborhoods, politics, religion and many more. But Jesus did not come to the world to save our
side. Jesus came to save the whole world. Therefore, Jesus gets into the boat and says that we
must cross over to the other side. Because Jesus is calling us to go to the other side to speak to
and point to the love of God. However, if Jesus came to save the world, then that means that
Jesus is already on the other side too! Jesus needs us to go to the other side so that Jesus can use
the “other side” to tell and point us to the love of God.
Guess where I think the place that equips us better than any other place to travel to the other
side? You guessed it, Church! Within a congregation we have various viewpoints on all subjects.
God calls us together in our diversity and empowers us through the Holy Spirit to speak about
God’s love and listen to others speak about God’s love. Then equipped and ready, Jesus calls us
into the boat together and tells us to go to the other side!
Yours in Christ,

When I was in middle school, I do not remember exactly why we were at church or what we
were decorating but I do fondly recall the conversation we had after decorating. There were a
few families around and they all decided to go and eat together at Rumley’s (a local dinner) after
decorating. Due to one of my siblings’ activities my family was not going to be able to join the
other families. My little sister and I said to my mom, “Can we go with the other families to
Rumley’s?” My mom responded, “No honey, they have their own children to worry about.”
Without skipping a beat Mrs. Kirby quickly piped into our conversation, “Nell, you know better.
Your children are our children.”
Mrs. Kirby was right, and this was my first lesson on baptism. When we are baptized into a
church family we become part of the family. Our children are your children, and your children
are our children. We have been tasked with raising not only each other’s children but “raising”
each other spiritually. We do this not out of obligation but out of our gracious response to God
first claiming us. The psalmist in Psalm 139 writes:
15      My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16  Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
    all the days that were formed for me,
    when none of them as yet existed.
17  How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18  I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
    I come to the end [c] —I am still with you.

From before we can remember to beyond infinity, we belong to God. If this began before we can
remember and will last eternally, this means there is nothing we did to earn this belonging nor
nothing we can do to take this belonging away. This is the good news of Jesus Christ: we belong
to God; therefore, we belong to one another.
As our community is changing and with more and more people moving into the area, I wonder
how many of our new neighbors are yearning to belong? What does it feel like for you to
belong? Over the last five months, Session has been exploring these questions. I invite you to
join our exploration starting with the questions below.
My belonging feels like___________. When I outsource my belonging, I_______.
When I sense desire, it’s like_________. When I own my truth, it sounds like_______.
My healing looks like__________. 1

Yours in Christ,

It’s not the notes you play, Miles Davis reportedly coined, it’s the notes you don’t play.
Compared to the other four Gospels, Mark’s Gospel leaves a lot of notes unplayed.
In Mark’s account of Easter, the Gospel does not end with Jesus eating with his disciples on a
beach (John) or in a home (Luke), nor does it end in worship (Matthew). Instead, Mark ends his
Gospel abruptly with the image of women running through the cemetery afraid. Verse 8 reads,
“so they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they
said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
It is an interesting ending to the Gospel. It ends with a lot of uncertainty and the story unfinished.
This uncertainty must have bothered the early church; therefore, they added verses to the end of
Mark’s Gospel. Anything you read after verse 8, was added on by the early church. The church
of the 21 st century does not like uncertainty much either. With the uncertainty of church decline,
we have added words to the end of the Gospel. We tell others to be certain of your fate: you must
say the right prayer, go to the right church, or be baptized the right way. Which are not in any of
the Gospels.
I do not think Mark wanted or needed the early church or the 21 st century church to add to the
ending of his account of the Gospel story. I think Mark wanted it to end exactly as he wrote it.
The story of Jesus Christ is unfinished. The Easter message is that God has raised Jesus from the
dead and Jesus is ahead of us. It’s our call this Easter and every Easter to join God in God’s
Which leads me to ask, where have you encountered the risen Lord? Where have you seen God
at work in the world continuing the story of Easter? Please stop by the office, call me, send an
email, or text me and share your Easter story.
I wonder, what would it look like if we did not stop sharing these stories with only our church
family? To a world who is being bombarded with the fear of uncertainty, what if we as a church
run and tell everyone that the story is not over? What if we as a church pointed to every place
that God is bringing life out of death, hope out of despair, and love in every uncertain place
meeting us today. In other words, what if we shouted to the world, “JESUS IS ON THE
LOOSE!” and watch as God finishes the story.
Happy Easter!

This year on February 14, we will not only celebrate with roses and chocolates but with ashes. In
2024, Ash Wednesday and Valentines share the same day. Ash Wednesday begins the season of
Lent. Lent is a time of self-reflection and atonement. It is a season where Christians learn to be
honest, authentic, and vulnerable because during this season we are called to acknowledge our
sinfulness. However, Lent is not only about our sin. It is also about God’s mercy. Lent reminds
us of God’s unending love for us and this world.
To remind us of this love, Lent invites us to go on a journey with Jesus. This journey eventually
will lead us to a cross where God’s love is revealed, and our sin becomes real. This is not an easy
journey not only because it lasts six weeks but because it asks us to take an honest look within
ourselves. Because this journey can be so revealing, Lent can be a hard sell for some Christians.
Others love this look within and find Lent to be the most meaningful time of the year. However
you feel Lent, it is a season that takes courage. Perhaps this is why the Bible mentions fear so
Have you ever noticed how often fear is mentioned? Over and over again scripture tells us “to
not be afraid.” I think what the Bible knows is that to be as authentic and vulnerable as the
scripture calls us to be is scary. Because this much vulnerability pushes us to look deep within
ourselves and within our communities and ask hard questions. The good news is that along with
the hard questions and vulnerable journey we also get Easter. Which, without the journey, would
rob us of the true significance of Easter morning. 1
I invite you to journey along with us this Lent. Below are a few ways to be connected as we all
courageously, with Jesus and each other, take this six week walk to the cross and eventually the
empty tomb.
● Ash Wednesday: 12:00 pm (Cape Fear) or 6:00 pm (Lillington Presbyterian)
● Community Lenten Lunch: 11:00 am, Lillington United Methodist Church
● Book Study: Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
o 11:00 am – Tuesdays; February 27, March 5, 12 and 19
o 6:00 pm – Thursdays; February 29, March 7, 14, and 21
● Sunday School and Worship: 10:00 am and 11:00 am
Yours in Christ,

Thank you for the generous monetary gift at Christmas. Your generosity is overwhelming. My
family and I feel your love not only by this gift but your continued support and love for us
individually and as a family. We are thankful that God called us to LPC and thankful you felt
God’s call to have us. As any year does, 2023 brought a rollercoaster of emotions. As I reflect on
the year, I am grateful and humbled that I was able to spend the year with you in these emotions.
My family and I remain thankful that God continues to call us to LPC and look forward to all the
various emotions 2024 will bring and grateful they will be with each of you.
Reflecting on the year and looking ahead is an ancient practice. The month of January is named
after the Roman God, Janus. Janus possessed two faces to see the past and the future. Going back
as far as the Romans (and probably further), the first month of the year has been used to reflect
on the past and look towards the future.
As Christians, we call this time “renewal.” Renewal with God means that we go back to grieve
what we have lost, while God prepares us to face what is ahead. Often throughout the Bible our
renewal begins in the wilderness. A place where we go to be made new again. This is what John
the Baptist was doing when Jesus and the others that day were baptized. It is through Jesus’
baptism, life, death, and resurrection that we are made new again.
We do not have to keep getting baptized for renewal; however, we are called to remember our
baptism. Remembering our baptism is the heart of our renewal because it reminds us of our
identity as a child of God. Which means the emphasis is on God not on us. Our baptism reminds
us of God’s unconditional promise to accept us for who we are and to forgive our sin. This is
why we bring babies to the font. As David Lose points out, “babies, who have not particularly
done anything for or against God, remind us that all we can really do is receive God’s love with
gratitude and then try to live into that as a calling.” This is our renewal, our wilderness:
remembering God’s unconditional love and then moving forward by trying to live into the call of
receiving God’s love with thanksgiving.
January 7 is the “Lord’s Baptism Sunday.” It is a time for us to theologically contemplate why
Jesus was baptized and also make space for us to remember our own baptism. I invite you to join
us for worship as we together, as a church, remember God’s unconditional promise to us as we
prepare to move into 2024. All along, doing our best to receive God’s love with gratitude.

Happy New Year!

As the song goes, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” and I love it! I love the decorations, the music, the excitement, the parties, the shopping, I love it all except all the waiting. Have you ever noticed how much waiting there is during this season? Whether it is waiting in line at the store or on the road or waiting for the Red Ryder range model air rifle BB gun (Christmas Movie), or our Christmas bonus (Christmas Vacation), or snow (White Christmas), or our family to come home (Home Alone), this time of year there is a lot of waiting. Which is perhaps the most faithful thing we can do during this season.

Advent is the season of waiting. As much as I do not like to wait, Advent jolts us out of the ordinary hustle and bustle of December and says, “not so fast.” This jolt and call to wait is Advent’s gift to the church. However, this gift of waiting does not mean we wait passively by. Instead, Advent teaches us to hold the waiting of lamenting and hoping next to one another. As a church we lament that another year has gone by and the world continues to have wars, hunger, political discourse, among other woes. On a personal level, Advent gives us the permission to lament that our life may have not gone exactly as we had hoped over the last year. For some of us this may include praying for specific relationships, a new career, better financial situation, healing, forgiveness, and grace. For others we lament for our children, our neighbors, our parents, or other loved ones. No matter the loss, Advent invites the church and the world to lament it. 

However, Advent also gives us hope. Advent reminds the church that God is coming and giving us a Word. Not just any word on a piece of paper but The Word. As the Gospel of John records, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1) and “the Word became flesh and lived among us.” (John 1:14). A better translation for “lived among us” is “pitched a tent.” The literal translation is that God pitched a tent among us. Advent reminds us that our hope and trust is that God is coming in the middle of our laments and hopes, pitching a tent to bring us The Word. God does this in order to jolt us and the world closer to God because God so loved the world, that God gave us his only son.  

As we approach Advent I am curious. What are you lamenting this year? Where are you hoping that God pitches God’s tent and brings The Word in your life and the world? 

To help prepare us prepare for the coming of Christ, this year’s theme is Waiting on The Word and I pray as we wait together for the coming of Christ, you will be able to join us for some of our Advent activities especially for worship each Sunday at 11:00 am; Waiting on The Word study (Waiting on The Word by Malcolm Guite) each Monday at noon; our multi-

generational gathering, Sunday, Dec. 10 at 10:00 am; and our Communion and Candlelight Christmas Eve service at 8:00 pm. For all of our Advent activities, please see the Advent Calendar insert.


Happy Advent,


In a recent sermon, I referenced Farm Church ( in Durham, an agricultural
based ministry that focuses on the problem of food insecurity in Durham County. Because it is
also a working urban farm, its welcome sign has a sign below it that reads, “Watch Your Step.” 
A prudent warning given the rugged setting but in reality, it is a good sign to place at any church
entrance. When we walk into church where God calls us together, we are all subject to change.
I think this is why most of us come to church. We want to be changed. I am sure there are some
who come to church hoping to hear a message that fits nicely within their preconceived ideas of
this world so that they can remain the same. However, for most of us, I believe we are yearning
for a faith that goes beyond an inspiring or motivating message and seek instead a faith of
transformation. The good news to you, me, and the world is that God is in the business of
transformation. Which means it is not up to us to change ourselves, our church, or the world,
God has already changed the world through Jesus Christ. All we need to do is side-step our own
agendas and follow how God is continuing to change the world through the love, grace, mercy
and forgiveness found through Jesus.
The type of transformation that Jesus brings isn’t as simple as it sounds…which brings us back
to the “Watch Your Step!” signs. As you enter the church be careful. God is up to something
and it is for this reason that he calls us together, changes us together and commissions us
together. This is why church is important. As we stumble along the path that God has laid in
front of us we have our church community to steady us, challenge us and love us. We need the
church because when we try alone to witness God’s work in the world, it is hard to recognize.
But with our church family we can take the steps together to follow where God is calling us to
be transformed and where God is transforming the world.
I invite you to look at the calendar with this letter and note all of the ways God is bringing us
together and preparing us to be changed. Along with the calendar, this month the Stewardship
Committee has enclosed pledge cards. Over the next few weeks, the Stewardship Committee
invites you to prayerfully consider where you see God changing your life and the life of
Lillington Presbyterian Church. Additionally, where are you witnessing God’s transformative joy
beyond the walls of the church? As you consider God’s changing work in your life, the church,
and the world, prayerfully consider your confidential Lillington Presbyterian Church pledge.
Please return the pledges to the church during worship on November 19, 2023, or bring them by
the office. The pledges not only help session plan for our ministry and mission in 2024 but more
importantly the pledge cards are a conversation starter between you and God. Beginning with
thanking God for all the ways God is active in your life and then listening to where God is
calling you in 2024. And don’t forget, as you enter this conversation to, “Watch Your Step,”
God has a way of changing every one of our lives.
Yours in Christ,

Did you know that World Communion Sunday started in a Presbyterian Church? With the fear of
the economic fallouts and growing military concerns in Europe during the 1930’s, the moderator
for the Presbyterian Church General Assembly, Hugh Thomas Kerr, persuaded the denomination
to begin World Communion Sunday. Kerr visualized that one Sunday a year all the Christian
churches would come together around the Lord’s Table. The idea grew and was adopted by the
National Council of Churches in the 1940s. Since then, the celebration has grown into an
international ecumenical celebration of Christian unity. 1
In a time when everything seems so polarized, it has become more difficult to define what
Christian unity looks like. If we look at the life of Jesus’ ministry, Christian unity does not
necessarily mean that we are like-minded or share the same views (see the 12 disciples Matthew
9:35-10:4). Nor does Christian unity live or die on uniformity or mean that the majority rules.
Instead, Christian unity is literally a commandment not only seen in the 10 Commandments and
the Beatitudes, but nearly every single page of the Bible including being laid out for each of us
by Jesus during Holy Week. Which began around a table.
I think this is Jesus’ call to us when he says, “Do this in remembrance of me.” John Buchanan
has noted that Jesus is not only referring to the Last Supper, but “to his entire life of teaching,
healing, and welcoming all – a welcome so radical it scandalized religious leaders” 2 and
continues to be a scandal today. What is interesting is how threatened the world is of Jesus’
scandal, to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. That is the scandal! If we think about
it, the world crucified Jesus once and continues to try and crucify Jesus again for loving
radically. Wow!
What if God understands that God’s love is so radical that we are unable to receive it all at once?
Therefore, God repeatedly calls us back to the table to slowly fill us up like yeast rising in bread.
Until one day, like a mustard seed, the love and grace in us grows so wildly we cannot keep it in.
What if part of God’s scandal is that God’s love is at work within us and our community
radically changing lives without us completely understanding it.
I am curious. Where have you seen God’s scandalous love at work recently? Where have you
witnessed Christian unity being created in the most unlikely places? Stop by the pastor’s study,
or stop me in the hall, or call me and let’s have a conversation about God’s radical, scandalous,
unifying love.

Yours in Christ,

A few months ago, the McCormick family gathered in the Lillington Presbyterian Church
sanctuary to celebrate the life of Ed McCormick. Lydia, Ed’s daughter, tells of many afternoons
when she was relaxing on the couch and Ed would gently place his hand on her shoulder and say,
“Can you come here, I need to show you something.” This was Ed’s way of teaching Lydia,
Duncan, and many others. He would invite them to look at a situation, such as a dirty room,
gather their opinion, and politely ask them to make a few changes.
The 18 th chapter of Jeremiah begins with God inviting Jeremiah to the potter’s house. God says
to Jeremiah, “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words”
(Jeremiah 18:1). In essence, God is placing his hand on Jeremiah’s shoulder and saying, “I need
to show you something.”
I wonder if this is what God is doing to us each week on Sunday mornings? What if God is
placing God’s hand on our shoulder and saying to us, “Come here, I would like to show you
something.” What if God is inviting us to see (experience) the Kingdom of God and through
worship at church, God is at work changing us?
The church word, liturgy, is a word we use to describe what goes into our worship service. The
prayers, the songs, and the readings. The word liturgy comes from two Latin words, one meaning
people and the other work. Worship is the work of God’s people. On the majority of Sundays
this work is predictable. We begin by welcoming each other, then we call each other to worship,
which is followed by confessing all the ways we have not connected what we say within the
walls of the church with how we live outside of them. By confessing our sin at the beginning of
worship, we also remind ourselves of God’s steadfast promise that there is nothing that we can
do or leave undone that can offend or anger God to the point that God does not want to draw us
to God’s own heart. After receiving the gift of forgiveness, we are prepared to praise God in
song, open our hearts and minds to God’s Word, pray for those in need, and offer God a portion
of the resources of our work.
What if during this service, God is spending God’s time molding and shaping us like a potter
does a clay jar? What if God uses this time so we can see God’s work on us? Which may then
prepare us to see God’s work everywhere we go. In other words, what if God is molding us to be
able to recognize God’s fingerprints on the faces we meet, the landscape we drive by, and the
communities we encounter? I do not know about you but that gets me excited to come to church.
It excites me to know that no matter how old I get, God is not through molding and shaping
me…not only that but God is not through molding and shaping the world. Not to who we want
to be but who God imagines us to be.
I pray you hear and accept God’s invitation to “show us something” and worship in this
wonderful community as God molds and shapes us beyond our imagination.

Yours in Christ,

Greta Gerwig, the director of the movie Barbie, made history last weekend. Barbie, the movie, made $356 million dollars worldwide and became the biggest debut ever for a film directed by a female.[1] Barbie (which my family and I saw last weekend) has created a lot of publicity. For me the most interesting part of the publicity is how political it has become. It appears that after watching the movie some people believe the movie highlights the inequalities in our society while others believe the movie creates false narratives about United States culture. Whether you fall in one camp or the other, or neither, the movie could make us pause and ask a few questions about society and how we utilize the things we create. Using Barbie as an example, is Barbie a feminist icon, does she challenge our culture norms, or does she set unrealistic body images and hold girls and women back?[2]  I wonder if it is ever a bad idea to pause and ask such questions?


Beginning on July 30 and ending on August 27, we will pause and look at eight various women in the Bible, one each Sunday (July 30, August 6, 13, 20 and 27) and three during the adult Vacation Bible School class (July 31, August 1 and 2). As we prepare to encounter these women in the Bible there are a few things to keep in mind. First, there is no hidden political agenda. Nancy Lee (the VBS teacher) and I developed this series in January, way before either of us knew about Barbie the movie. However, we will explore ways some of these women may have been misrepresented and misused by society. For example, why is it that the woman at the well (John 4) has become known to be either a prostitute or an “Elizabeth Taylor” type character? And what does the original Hebrew language suggest about Eve and the pains of childbirth that we may have gotten lost in translation? Second, we are not highlighting these women so that they will become role models. If we took this approach, that would limit their roles in scripture and limit our readings. These women, like all characters in the Bible, bring us face to face with Jesus Christ. As these women help us to encounter Jesus, we are guided by the Holy Spirit to open and expand our imagination of God’s Kingdom. Lastly, we will encounter eight women in the Bible to honor the eight women (Mrs. F.J. Cox, Mrs. E.A. Atkins, Mrs. F.P. Johnson, Mrs. S.A. Salmon, Mrs. W.F. Hockaday, Mrs. U.H. Parker, Mrs. M.R. Morgan, and Mrs. J.A. Green) who founded Lillington Presbyterian Church. From day one, our church has been a safe place to pause, reflect, ask tough questions, and most importantly, be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit. 


I look forward to seeing you at Vacation Bible School (July 30, 11:30 am; July 31-August 2, 5:30 pm) and each Sunday in August as we encounter these eight women in scripture. As the Holy Spirit continues to provide a safe place for each of us to know Jesus.


Yours in Christ,


In 1968, Frank Sinatra and Paul Anka met for dinner. Sinatra revealed to Anka that he was
retiring and was going to record one more album and asked Anka if he would write a song for
this final album. Astonished that this was Sinatra’s last album, Anka went home and wrote a
song as if he was Sinatra, singing his last finale. The result was the famous song, “My Way.” 1
Over the years “My Way” has become somewhat of a deathbed universal declaration of
independence. With words such as “Regrets, I’ve had a few; but then again, too few to
mention…The record shows I took the blows, and did it my way,” Sam Wells argues, what
makes this song so powerful is that “it elevates independence not just to the level of a virtue, but
to the level of being the only virtue that really matters.” 2 I have heard it said many times – you
live your life, I’ll live mine. Is this what God wants for us? Perhaps that is how many within our
country define independence today.
On this 4th of July weekend, I’m curious, how does living a life of independence and freedom
coincide with living a life in line with following Christ?
The word independence is never used in the Bible. However, there is a lot of discussion on
freedom. In his letter to Galatia, Paul writes, “you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters,
only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become
slaves to one another (Gal. 5:13). What Paul is suggesting is a far cry from “Let the record
show, I did it my way.” In fact, it appears Paul is suggesting that true independence (freedom)
can’t be found through self-indulgence at all but only through loving one another.
However, before we begin singing another 1960’s song “All We Need is Love,” let’s jump back
to the beginning of chapter 5. Paul begins this chapter with “For freedom Christ has set us free”
(Gal. 5:1). Therefore, Paul is suggesting that we don’t just need any love, we need the love of
Christ. What I think he means by this is that the love of Jesus Christ is completely unconditional
and it is through Jesus’ love that we begin trying to love ourselves and others the same way.
Furthermore, until we begin trying to love others through Jesus, we are not free because even our
love is self-centered. Which means, our independence depends on God’s love to guide me in
loving God back, myself, and you, as well as, receiving your love in return. It is an ironic twist to
freedom. Our independence is completely dependent on God’s love.
What are your convictions of independence? How do these convictions work next to the
Christian gospel? Please stop by, text, call, or email me and let’s have a conversation on
independence. I would love to hear your thoughts. Until then, Happy 4 th of July.

Yours in Christ,

1 Heard this story on the Smartless Podcast “Paul Anka” released May 8, 2023.
2 Sam Wells, Dependence Day, July 4, 2010.

This past Sunday we celebrated the Day of Pentecost. In the liturgical calendar this marks
the last day of a celebration for many Sundays. We now enter “ordinary” time. Ordinary Time,
will take us all the way until November 26, 2023, when we will celebrate Christ the King Sunday
followed by Advent.
Perhaps ordinary is the perfect name for this time. Gone are the exciting liturgical days of
Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. There are no special periods like Lent and Advent creating
their own reflection and excitement. Instead, we have just Sunday after Sunday where we are
invited to gather in worship to sing, pray, listen, read, and speak the Gospel. But this is how most
of our life is, isn’t it? The majority of our lives are spent in ordinary time. We get up,follow a
morning routine, enter into the world, come home for our nightly routine, and then go to bed.
From time to time, there are periods of excitement such as weddings, graduations, special
birthdays, promotions, and vacations. In addition to the excitement, life also gives us heart aches
including loss, death, unknowns, and disappointments. If you are like most people, though, most
of our days are spent in regular, ordinary, routines.
Maybe the ordinary Sundays are the most beautiful Sundays in the whole calendar?
Don’t get me wrong. I love special services, including our time in Lent, the start of Advent, and
Christmas Eve. Not to mention our own special services like Graduation Sunday, World
Communion Sunday, the start of VBS, and all the others. And in case you have not noticed, I
think Easter Sunday is the most exciting day on the church calendar.
But there is something beautiful about an ordinary Sunday, with our ordinary hymns, our
ordinary liturgy, our ordinary prayers, listening to an ordinary sermon, as we go about our
ordinary routine. I think it is so beautiful because even in the ordinary, we still come. We come
admitting that we are sinful and need a love bigger than ourselves. We come looking for
connection with one another and with God. We come open to the Holy Spirit changing
everything about us. We come trusting that God will fill us up with grace and love and send us
out with enough strength to follow Jesus Christ for just one more week. We come with the
audacity of expecting to get a glimpse of God’s Kingdom in our ordinary service. Which in turn,
prepares us to witness God’s Kingdom in our ordinary days, in our ordinary routines, throughout
our ordinary week. Which reminds me of the words in Brian Andreas poem:

Anyone can slay a dragon, said the knight.
But try waking up every morning,
and loving the world all over again.
That’s what takes a real hero.
Perhaps there is nothing ordinary about us gathering each week at all. Perhaps instead of
ordinary time, we should call it extraordinary time. Extraordinary because each week, God
calls us together, fills us with the Holy Spirit and then sends us out to love the world all over
again. No matter what time of year it is, that is pretty extraordinary. Join us, each Sunday, as we
begin this ordinary, NO WAIT, extraordinary time.
Yours in Christ,

If you follow the church calendar we are in the season of Easter. Some call it, Eastertide.
Eastertide is the 50 days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost. It is a season of hope, as it
should be. After all, Easter reminds us that hate, and death are not the victor over God’s love and
life. With God there is always new life and new hope.
However, as Eastertide gets closer and closer to that 50th day, some days it feels as if Easter hope
was years away. Just over the past few weeks, we were reminded of the fear within our society
after three young people were injured and another young lady killed after they either mistakenly
rang the wrong doorbell, opened the wrong car door, or entered the wrong driveway (and those
are just the ones that were reported). We are also in constant reminder of the increasing concerns
over a slowing economy, threats of World Wars, and countless people leaving their homes &
risking their lives, in search of new opportunities. With such news lingering, not to mention our
own personal loss and complex lives, Easter hope can be hard to find. So, I wonder where do you
see Easter hope?
In her poem, “kitchenette building,” Gwendolyn Brooks ponders alongside each of us as she
questions hope in the ordinary routine days of our lives.
We are things of dry hours and the involuntary plan,
Grayed in, and gray. “Dream” makes a giddy sound, not strong
Like “rent,” “feeding a wife,” “satisfying a man.”
But could a dream send up through onion fumes
Its white and violet, fight with fried potatoes
And yesterday’s garbage ripening in the hall,
Flutter, or sing an aria down these rooms
Even if we were willing to let it in,
Had time to warm it, keep it very clean,
Anticipate a message, let it begin?
We wonder. But not well! not for a minute!
Since Number Five is out of the bathroom now,
We think of lukewarm water, hope to get in it.
Every day we all wake up and tend to life. Some days are better than others. Easter says in the
good, bad, and ordinary days, there is hope even when those dreams seem far away. As we move
through Easter, I invite you to come by the church, pick up the phone, or stop me one Sunday to
have a conversation on hope.
● What scene is Brooks describing above? Can you relate?
● What is keeping your hope down? What keeps you moving forward?
● Does it feel as if tending to your dreams is a task or no longer hopeful?
● Where might we find hope in the mundane?
● Where have you seen the hope of God, even in those lukewarm days?

Yours in Christ,

Two parades…One coming from the west and the other from the east. Two parades…one comes
with the leader riding on a massive war horse, followed by rattling drums and the marches of
hup-two-three-four. While the other leader comes riding on a donkey, with twelve motley crew
disciples following as they waddle through the streets. Two parades…one comes to make sure
his arrival is noticed, to create fear and to keep everyone in their place. The other one comes
quietly (at first), to create joy and remind the people of their identity. Two parades…one comes
daring people to be disruptive. While the other one comes to create disruption. Two
parades…one from the western gate of the city and the other from the eastern gate of the city.
One occurred annually. The other the first and only time. Two parades…the same day…at the
same time.
One parade occurred annually right before Passover; Pontius Pilot would travel into Jerusalem
through the most western gate in a military parade. The purpose was to stop any provocative
ideas by the Jewish people as they gathered for Passover and as tradition read Exodus, to remind
them of their liberating God who freed their ancestors from Pharoah’s tyranny. Now living in an
occupied city, Pilot parades in to make sure the Jewish people do not get any ideas of liberation.
The second parade occurred only once. This parade came from the east. Jesus’ parade mocked
and challenged the parade on the other side of town. Jesus reminded the people of their identity
and freedom seen in Exodus. And the people loved it! So much so they got caught up in the
moment. They pulled down branches and laid them on the side of the road. They danced and
hugged and sang and quoted scripture, Hosanna! Blessed be the one who comes in the name of
the Lord! Hosanna! They shouted in celebration.
Two parades…one to remind people of their place and the other to remind people of their
identity. Two parades…one representing strength and peace through violence, fear, and scarcity
and the other representing strength and peace through grace, love, and forgiveness. Two parades
that eventually turn into a third parade. Jesus leads the third parade too but instead of riding a
donkey Jesus carries a cross. This time the disciples are nowhere to be found and the soldiers do
not follow behind their leader but walk alongside Jesus mocking him while also beating and
whipping him. This time the same crowds that shouted “Hosanna” now shout “Crucify!”
What happened? Why does the Bible take us from such a triumphal and joyous Palm Sunday
entry to this third parade seen on Good Friday? Presbyterian Pastor, Scott Black-Johnston
suggests three reasons. First because it is true. This is how our world works. This is a realist
account of not only that week but the world we live in. The Bible does not deny the suffering of
the cross. To do so would deny the suffering of this world. It would deny the pain we are
witnessing in Nashville, Ukraine, South Sudan, and in many homes across our nation. A second
reason is that Jesus came to show us an alternative way. Jesus’ way turns this world’s idea of
power upside down. Jesus mocks the triumphant entry of Pilot, tells Peter to put down his sword,
and refuses to murmur a word. I think the crowds got so excited the day Jesus rode in on a
donkey because at our best we all long for the alternative world that Jesus offers yet collectively
we often settle for something less. Lastly, the third parade reminds us there is more work to be

done. Eventually when the parade ends we find our savior, Jesus Christ, hanging on a cross with
his arms wide open. Arms open is the posture of a servant leader. Until heaven and earth are
reconciled, we are called and are challenged to keep the cross not only in our eyesight but in the
eyesight of those that lead this world. Those in charge are called to lead not with the cadence of a
hut-two-three-four but one of a suffering servant.
If we stick around long enough, we will find out the third parade ends with a twist. What appears
to be the end is only the beginning of yet another parade. This parade begins quietly and in the
dark with God raising Jesus from the tomb and calling us to follow. This parade begins with God
reminding the world that death and hate are no match for the grace and love of God. Which also
reminds us that it is God’s power, not ours, that saves the world. The good news of Easter is that
we are not the saviors of the world. Jesus is. Jesus invites us to join him in a resurrected parade,
telling and showing the world that death, hate, tyranny, are not the victors over the love, grace,
and freedom of God.
But not so fast. Without the parades of Holy Week and the cross there is no Easter. Therefore, I
invite you to join us this week as we travel with Jesus from the eastern gates of Jerusalem to the
cross, to the empty tomb where Jesus will be ahead of us already calling us to join the parade.

Yours in Christ,

Over the past 50 years, the church within the United States has seen a decline in membership and
relevance. This decline has been exacerbated within the 21st century and even more over the past
three years, moving us into a new period for the church. It is my belief that within church
history, we are in a space of restoration and growth. Throughout scripture there is often a yo-yo
movement of God calling us back and facing our grief before moving us ahead. The space in
between this grief and forward movement is what we call renewal. This is the space the Israelites
find themselves in after leaving Egypt, before moving into the Promised Land. After losing her
husband and two sons, Naomi, along with Ruth are called back to Naomi’s land before Ruth and
Naomi move forward. After Jesus is baptized, God sends Jesus into the wilderness before Jesus
begins his ministry. In Jeremiah 15:16 it says, “If you return, I will restore you; you will stand in
my presence.” Renewal with God means that we go back to grieve what we have lost, while God
prepares us to face what is ahead. In the Bible this renewal often occurs in the wilderness. A
place where we go to be made new again. It is here that God equips us biblically and
theologically through connection, care, and growth to deepen our trust in God, find joy in the
strength of Jesus Christ, and equip us to follow Jesus Christ spreading the love of God in all our
walks of life.
What I find interesting in God’s renewal is both the simplicity and the difficulty that
accompanies it. In Nehemiah when the Israelites go back to Israel after years of exile, their
renewal does not begin with rebuilding the temple, infrastructure, strategic plans, or electing new
officers. Instead, the first thing they do together is read scripture. Nehemiah 8 says “they read the
book, from the law of God, with interpretation.” (v.8). “For the joy of the Lord is your strength”
(v.10). God’s renewal is simple because it does not suggest we create a five-year strategic plan or
develop the best church programs or measure our success by attendance. As an alternative to the
ideas of society, God’s renewal begins with the simple act of communities gathering and
together reading scripture. Yet this is difficult because to read scripture together takes time,
vulnerability, and intention. It is also difficult because this is not how we are trained to do
“church.” We either expect to come to church to “sit and get” an individual message and leave,
or we measure the success of the church by programs. Yet, scripture suggests God’s measure of
success is, did we as a church create connection, care, and growth.
It is this connection, care, and growth that I believe our communities beyond the church are
longing for as well. With loneliness, anxiety, and depression all contributing to the loneliness
epidemic that is touching most families within the United States, the church has a unique
opportunity to meet our communities within their search of connection and meaning. To me, the
church, with the grace of God, is the safest place to provide connection and meaning. In fact,
every year we carve out six weeks in our calendar to concentrate specifically on renewal. We call
this period within our calendar Lent.
Lent points to the cross, where Jesus is lifted up with his arms outstretched with compassion and
welcome. Lent also points beyond the cross to the empty tomb, where Jesus offers new and
abundant life. But before we get to the cross and the empty tomb, God calls us into the
wilderness for renewal. Our renewal is not to prepare us for one man’s resurrection. Jesus’
resurrection is for the whole world to receive. Easter is hope for us all. God brings us back to a
place of renewal for our resurrection so that we can follow Jesus Christ and protest for peace,
speak out for the muted, call for justice, point to light when there is only darkness, and share the

love of God with all we meet. God brings us back for renewal to remind us of our identity and
why we do what we do as a church and as followers of Jesus Christ.
To prepare us for Easter, this year in worship we will spend time in the book of Exodus and walk
beside the Israelites and their journey through the wilderness. I also invite you to join us at
Lillington United Methodist each week at noon for a community Lenten service and on Thursday
nights at 6:30 pm for our Lenten study, “Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve
Loved” by Kate Bowler.
Yours in Christ,

Throughout the 12th chapter of Mark, the religious leaders are asking Jesus one question after
another. Finally, one of the scribes asks Jesus, what is the greatest commandment? After Jesus
answers the scribe’s question, the passage says that no one dared to ask (Jesus) any questions.
To me it is interesting that the religious leaders stopped asking questions. The passage never says
that Jesus told them to stop or that Jesus did not want them to ask questions. So why did they
stop asking questions? Perhaps they stopped because they understood questions flatten the
hierarchy? It is the person with the answers who has the authority. Questions level the plain and
provide space for curiosity. I wonder if the religious leaders were scared of losing their authority.
I wonder if the Church has been frightened to lose its authority over the years and in doing so has
become less curious and more authoritative.
I have heard it said that the church is the answer. I do not think that is true. The church is not the
savior of the world nor does the church have the answers. Jesus is our Savior. Jesus has the
answers. The church provides space for people to come with our complex questions so that
together we can walk alongside one another and listen to Jesus for the answers. This is what it
means when we say that Lillington Presbyterian Church is a safe place to know Jesus.
In our annual meeting on Sunday, we asked the question, “What is the one question you dared
not ask your Sunday School teacher growing up?” We received a lot of fascinating questions, but
the one that stuck out to me the most was from our children. They said, “We can ask our Sunday
School teachers anything!” In other words, our children said that LPC is a safe place for them to
know Jesus. Our children feel safe to be curious, ask questions, and grow. This is a huge
compliment to everyone at LPC, especially our teachers. But this is not only happening with our
children. I have seen this openness everywhere from Adult Sunday School to Youth Group to
Bible Studies to the Come to the Table Cohorts. LPC is a place where people can come and be
curious with Jesus.
As we walk next to each other on a quest to know Jesus, it is important to have a physical space
that is as inviting and welcoming as the people in the church. Over the past three years we have
worked diligently to create such a space with renovations to both our sanctuary and Christian Ed
building. In doing so we have replaced the roof, 5 A/C units, sound system and all the flooring.
We removed the asbestos from the church, fixed the flooding downstairs, and the mildew in the
fellowship hall. We also removed non-necessary fixtures, painted the walls, and stained the wood
trim. We updated the bathrooms, pew cushions, technology, artwork, rugs, and the library
conference table. In essence we updated our space to be as open and inviting as the members of
our church. Thank you!
One amazing thing about these renovations is that we were able to pay for 2/3 of the updates as
we went. We did this through money saved in the capital fund, special gifts, and budget
surpluses. Now that the renovations are complete, we have one more step to be fully finished.
Our outstanding debt is $110,000. The session made a goal to pay this off within two years and
they are asking for your help. To give towards this debt, you may do so by check or online

( Please indicate “Renovations” or “Capital Fund”
with your gift. Thank you for prayerfully considering giving towards this debt over the next two
years. And thank you for creating space for questions, curiosity, and the movement of the Holy
Spirit. We are truly a safe place for people to know Jesus.

Yours in Christ,

In Matthew’s gospel we do not know anything about Jesus’ life from the time his parents left
Egypt until he was about 30 years old. We make assumptions. We assume his dad most likely
died during that time and that Jesus was a successful carpenter. But we are not sure if Jesus had
goals and aspirations outside of ministry, or if he had ever been in love, or had his heart broken.
However, what we do know is that on the day of his baptism, Jesus’ ministry begins with God
opening the heavens, sending down the Holy Spirit, and proclaiming publicly, “This is my son,
the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Notice, it is God who takes the initiative and begins
Jesus’ journey.
It is because God is the initiator that we baptize children. Long before we can choose Jesus, our
baptisms make it clear that God chooses us. This marks a distinctive belief within our church’s
theology, and it removes our fear of worthiness.
I believe that Jesus’ initiating proclamation of saying “I love you,” is where our faith and our
baptism meet. Each morning we wake up and Jesus says, “I love you.” On those really good and
faithful mornings, we jump out of bed and respond quickly “I love you too!” This interaction
continues all day with Jesus saying, “I love you” and us responding “I love you too.” However,
Jesus knows that at various moments in our lives our response times change. Sometimes it takes
hours, weeks, and even years to respond back to Jesus. Nonetheless, Jesus never stops saying to
you and to me, “I love you.” That is baptism. In our baptism we are reminded of God’s initiating
love and are promised that nothing can separate or prevent us from ever receiving this love.
I invite you to worship this Sunday, January 8 and January 15, as we celebrate the baptism of the
Lord and baptize Grant and Rhett Murchison respectively. In both services we are reminding
each other of our baptism. Which says to Grant, Rhett, you, and me:
“No matter our pain, how lost we feel, our worries, our strength, backgrounds,
credentials, successes or failures, in our baptism, our journey begins with God being
the initiator and taking risks to never stop telling us, ‘I love you!’”

As exciting as December 25 th was in my family, the 26 th brought its own joy. There were
no more presents to be had but there was one more dinner and lots of family. My mother was an
only child, but she had 10 first cousins and each year on December 26, we would gather at the
farm my grandmother grew up on. For me it defined joy! I spent the afternoon running and
playing with cousins, being hugged by great-aunts, and teased by great-uncles. By the end of the
night, my grandmother pulled out her keyboard and my cousin Joe, his guitar, and together we
sang Christmas carols. Within that circle were four generations of family and years of memories.
The farm has since been sold and we no longer gather with the larger family, but I think
back on those days with fondness including the people who were there with me, those who came
before me, and those that I have only met through Christmas cards. As they say, the stories the
walls could have told of all the loving and kind people who entered the farmhouse, as well as the
downright mean ones. Not to mention the cousins who played practical jokes and those that were
too shy to speak. There were also different political opinions spoken and through the ages the
farm brought systematic oppression that some fought to keep while others fought to liberate.
Some of our marriages did not last and others were married for 75 years. And of course, there
were both tragedies as well as unexpected joys. Together the good, the bad, and the boring make
up part of my story.
What does your story entail? No matter how similar or how different our childhood
Christmases look, it could probably be safely assumed that we all share both tragedy and triumph
passed down from one generation to the next. Jesus’ genealogy is no different. Matthew 1:1-17
gives us the family tree of Jesus. At first glance it looks like a list of names. However, when we
zoom out, we see a story that moves the Gospel forward and we see each of our stories woven
alongside Jesus’ story.
Advent marks the time in our calendar for us to lament the good ole days and the trauma
of the past. It also marks a time for us to look forward with the anticipation of the hope and joy
that Jesus brings to the future. Advent is a gift from God that weaves together our genealogy of
yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Over the next few weeks, we will take a closer look at how the Christmas story unfolds
and the characters that play a part in it. Most importantly we will explore the steadfast love
shown by God woven from one generation to the next. Enclosed in this package is a daily
devotional titled “Generation to Generation.” I invite you to participate in this daily reading and
exercise. For further exploration of God’s love through Advent, I invite you to join us on Sunday
mornings at 10:00 am for a special Intergenerational/Interactive Study, 11:00 am for Worship,
and/or Tuesdays at 10:00 am for Bible study.
Happy Advent,

As a country we recognize the first Thanksgiving meal celebrated in the United States was by the
Pilgrims after the conclusion of a grueling year. Just eleven months earlier they arrived at the tip of Cape
Cod, as author Nathaniel Philbrick describes, “fearful and uniformed.” Philbrick goes on to write, “They
spent the next month alienating and angering every Native American they happened to come across. By
all rights none of the Pilgrims should have emerged from the first winter alive.” However, leaning on
their faith and the extraordinary help from Native Americans, the Pilgrims survived. When the final
harvest was in, the Pilgrims took a day off from their labors to eat and celebrate together and to give
thanks to God.
Eating together to celebrate and praise God is as old as the Bible. For various reasons, these past
11 months brought another grueling year for many of us. However, we survived and continue to survive
and that is worth praising God and celebrating. I pray that each of you will celebrate with tremendous
gratitude this Thanksgiving. In addition to our traditional meals with family and friends this
Thanksgiving, we as a church will have ample opportunities to break bread together.
One opportunity will be on November 13, as we will celebrate with Manantial de Vida Erwin
Presbyterian Church on becoming a church and the ordination of their pastors, elders, and deacons. For
Manantial de Vida it has been many grueling and exciting years to get to this point. The ordination of this
church is a joy not only for the members but for our Presbytery, our county, and the town of Erwin. I
hope you can come, celebrate, and give thanks to God. The ordination worship service will begin at 3:00
pm on November 13, with a dinner to follow.
Two additional opportunities to share a meal together come on November 20. After worship on
Sunday, November 20, the stewardship committee will host a “Thank You” lunch. This lunch is to
celebrate you, our church, and the work that God is doing. During the lunch we look back on the year we
had and give thanks to God and each of you for the connection, care, and growth we encountered in 2022.
Please mark your calendars for November 20 at 12:00 pm. There is nothing you need to bring other than
your loving selves.
The second opportunity to gather for communion around the table on Sunday, November 20, is
after the Community Thanksgiving service. This year Lillington Presbyterian Church is hosting the
service and will provide light refreshments after the service. This is a wonderful opportunity to gather
with community friends and celebrate that through Jesus Christ, we are brothers and sisters. To participate
in providing light refreshments for this gathering, please contact the church office, Susan Ashworth, or
Brenda Paschal.
As exciting and important each of these three opportunities provide for connection, care, and
growth, the most important meal we share together as a church family is on November 6 and November
20, during worship at the Lord’s Table. Not only is it the most important meal we have together but it is
one of the most important things we do together as a church. Through eucharist we are reminded of the
reconciling love and grace of Jesus Christ. Additionally, the act of participating in the Lord’s Supper, we
are proclaiming that we are willing participants to be in community as God uses our community in
changing the world. The Lord’s Supper brings us together, transforms us, and equips us as a community
to follow Jesus Christ beyond the walls of the church and serve God with thanksgiving.
I hope to see you at each of these meals we have this month as my prayer for the church is
connection, care, and growth. However, if your calendar will only allow you to do a few of them, begin
with setting aside the Lord’s Supper as a priority. While the world predicts another grueling 12 months,
we know by starting at the Lord’s Supper there is hope through Jesus Christ.
Yours in Christ,

Growing up in a farming community, many of you know, firsthand, that farmers work on thin margins

and a successful farm is careful and precise in everything they do. Even if we know very little about

farming, we have all heard experts tell us to be careful and precise when starting a business, building a

house, or planting a church in order to maximize our return on investment. However, in the parable of the

Good Sower (Luke 8:4-9), Jesus tells us about a sower who takes none of this into consideration. Instead,

the sower throws seeds recklessly. Why is the sower so reckless? Why would Jesus tell us a parable about

a careless businessperson?

Ted Wardlaw suggests, maybe Jesus does this in order to remind us that the gospel is bigger than just

good soil. Which brings up the possibility that maybe we have been calling this parable by the wrong

name for centuries. What if this parable is not at all about being the good soil but instead about the good

sower? What if Jesus is inviting us to experience a God who is willing to throw seeds so recklessly and

anywhere to suggest that “anywhere” is within the arena of God’s care and redemptive activity within the

world and our lives? What if Jesus is not telling us to be good soil but is acknowledging that life is not

setup in nice and tidy rows? What if each destination that the seeds land is a destination that we may find

ourselves on any given day?

Despair as if a seed falling on a path and was trampled on.

Selfishness as if seeds fall on rocks and the plants grow but due to lack of moisture, they


Loneliness as if seeds fall among thorns, grew and then are choked

Joy as if seeds fall among good soil and produce a hundredfold.

The late and legendary preacher, Fred Craddock, once said the wonderful thing about the Bible is that the

Bible understands our lives because it was written by people who had to put life together with short pieces

of strings. I think God knows this so Jesus tells us about a God whose reckless love will come to us

wherever we find ourselves. Moreover, Jesus reminds us that God’s seeds are filled with hope and love

and can see potential everywhere including wherever you find yourself today.

What if Jesus was also reminding us that God’s love is so expansive that God is not only inviting us to

receive this hope and love but God is calling us to follow Jesus and recklessly share it? What would it

look like, as a church, if we accepted this invitation and shared God’s love never caring about the

potential or margins but recklessly and at random shared God’s love and hope wherever we went?

This is how I hear this parable today. I invite you to read it. Did you hear the same thing? Perhaps

something else caught your attention? Maybe a little of both? There is no interpretation that is 100%

correct or wrong. If parables were simple with one meaning, they would not have stayed around for 2000

years. Over the next 6 weeks we will look at various parables in the Gospel according to Luke. I invite

you to join us each Sunday at worship to go deeper. If you want to explore the parables even further,

there are two opportunities to do so:

Wednesday between 6:00-7:00 pm at Lillington Presbyterian Church

Thursday between 11:30-12:30 at Bubs and Spankie Coffee House (6 W. Ivey St.).

Yours in Christ,


A few months ago, the McCormick family gathered in the Lillington Presbyterian Church

sanctuary to celebrate the life of Ed McCormick. Lydia, Ed’s daughter, tells of many afternoons

when she was relaxing on the couch and Ed would gently place his hand on her shoulder and say,

“Can you come here, I need to show you something.” This was Ed’s way of teaching Lydia,

Duncan, and many others. He would invite them to look at a situation, such as a dirty room,

gather their opinion, and politely ask them to make a few changes.

The 18 th chapter of Jeremiah begins with God inviting Jeremiah to the potter’s house. God says

to Jeremiah, “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words”

(Jeremiah 18:1). In essence, God is placing his hand on Jeremiah’s shoulder and saying, “I need

to show you something.”

I wonder if this is what God is doing to us each week on Sunday mornings? What if God is

placing God’s hand on our shoulder and saying to us, “Come here, I would like to show you

something.” What if God is inviting us to see (experience) the Kingdom of God and through

worship at church, God is at work changing us?

The church word, liturgy, is a word we use to describe what goes into our worship service. The

prayers, the songs, and the readings. The word liturgy comes from two Latin words, one meaning

people and the other work. Worship is the work of God’s people. On the majority of Sundays

this work is predictable. We begin by welcoming each other, then we call each other to worship,

which is followed by confessing all the ways we have not connected what we say within the

walls of the church with how we live outside of them. By confessing our sin at the beginning of

worship, we also remind ourselves of God’s steadfast promise that there is nothing that we can

do or leave undone that can offend or anger God to the point that God does not want to draw us

to God’s own heart. After receiving the gift of forgiveness, we are prepared to praise God in

song, open our hearts and minds to God’s Word, pray for those in need, and offer God a portion

of the resources of our work.

What if during this service, God is spending God’s time molding and shaping us like a potter

does a clay jar? What if God uses this time so we can see God’s work on us? Which may then

prepare us to see God’s work everywhere we go. In other words, what if God is molding us to be

able to recognize God’s fingerprints on the faces we meet, the landscape we drive by, and the

communities we encounter? I do not know about you but that gets me excited to come to church.

It excites me to know that no matter how old I get, God is not through molding and shaping

me…not only that but God is not through molding and shaping the world. Not to who we want

to be but who God imagines us to be.

I pray you hear and accept God’s invitation to “show us something” and worship in this

wonderful community as God molds and shapes us beyond our imagination.


Yours in Christ,


In the book of Jonah, God calls Jonah to Nineveh but instead of going to Nineveh, Jonah tries to

go to Tarshish. We do not know much about the city of Tarshish. It is only mentioned in

scripture a handful of times. It is a town where metals like gold and silver could be purchased

and brought home. In 1 Kings, it says that every three years the Israelites would travel to

Tarshish and bring home gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks (1 Kings 22:48). Peacocks!

When we think about Tarshish we can think tropical, sun, and fun; where everyone feels

comfortable. Moreover, Tarshish is that place in our minds where everything is “right.” The

grass is always green, the air is clear, people think like we think, few arguments occur, and most

importantly people will respect and listen to what we say. Tarshish is Jonah’s happy place. Jonah

was in search for the perfect place. A place we all know does not exist.

I wonder how often, without us knowing it, we are in search for the perfect place? At a young

age we seek camps, activities, friends that make us happy. At Christmas we ask for toys and

gadgets that will provide happiness. In middle and high school, we stress over AP and Honor

courses so we can get into a college that will make us happy. In college we declare a major that

will provide a job that will make us happy. When we begin to work, we seek a place of

employment that will make us happy. We earn a paycheck so we can buy things and go places

that make us happy. We then search for a spouse, house, town, that will make us happy. We even

seek churches in the name of happiness. Before we know we have all helped create a society

where our achievement in life is happiness.

Do not get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with seeking happiness or being happy. Nor is

there anything wrong with, striving for the school of our dreams, buying the latest gadget, going

on vacation, earning a promotion, changing jobs, finding a new church, or achieving goals that

make us happy. However, if we expect these things to sustain us, they are incapable. Happiness

always has a beginning and an end. Therefore, when happiness becomes the society’s main

achievement, we live a life bouncing from one place to the next in search of the next thing that

will fulfill us. This then gives us the illusion that we are in control. So we venture off to a new

Tarshish seeking for an achievement that is incapable of sustaining the joy that we all seek.

I wonder if God called Jonah to Nineveh as much for Nineveh as for Jonah. God says to Jonah he

needs Jonah to go to Nineveh (who are trying to conquer the world perhaps in pursuit of their

own happiness) and tell them to change their ways and repent and turn to God. Maybe while God

is calling Jonah to Nineveh, God is also at work in Jonah’s life too?

I invite you to join us at VBS beginning in worship this Sunday, July 31, and continuing the

evenings of August 1-3 as we explore the book of Jonah. It is a short book and one of the books

in the Bible that are meant to be funny while also teaching us about the grace of God. If you are

not able to join us next week, I pray we see you soon. Lillington Presbyterian Church is not

Tarshish. We are not perfect, but we try to turn to God and we could use your help and the gifts

that God has given you to teach us about God’s grace.

Yours in Christ,


Over the past six weeks, throughout our country, there has been a loud cry for FREEDOM:

Freedom to bear arms

Freedom to protest

Freedom of religion

Freedom of choice

But what is freedom? If asked, how would you define freedom?

When I was 16, freedom was defined by a new driver's license. Windows rolled down, radio turned up

and the open road…free to go where I wanted. What will that mean when I am no longer able to drive?

Am I no longer free?

In the United States, freedom seems to be currently defined in the lyrics of a 20th century Frank Sinatra

song, “I Did It My Way.” Commenting on this song, Sam Wells, says that this song is “powerful because

it elevates independence. Not just to the level of virtue but to the level of being the only virtue that really

matters.” For some freedom is defined by happiness received through individual rights. Wells warns that

if we are not careful, this type of freedom leads us to do whatever makes us happy with no regards or

apologies to anyone else.

Some may suggest that freedom is what was declared to “all” in the Declaration of Independence. It is

written, “That all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable

rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (At the time these words were

written they did not apply to women nor the 700,000 slaves living in the colonies. Our nation would

struggle to live into these ideals ultimately leading us to fight a bloody civil war. It appears, there is still

so much work to be done). However, for the author, Thomas Jefferson, freedom was not as much about

doing whatever makes one happy. Freedom for Jefferson and this new country was defined by the

independent right not to be indentured to a government.

Paul challenges all of these definitions in his letter to the churches of Galatia. Paul states that freedom

does not come from human endeavors but through Jesus Christ (Gal. 5:1). This is quickly followed by

Paul’s concern of how some were exploiting the newly defined freedom in Christ. He warns that

followers of Jesus Christ should not use their freedom as opportunities for self-indulgence, but through

love become slaves to one another. He then goes on to say, “For the whole law is summed up in a single

commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:13-14). Paul then goes on to

suggest that without the help of God’s love we are not capable of loving each other in this way. If left up

to human beings only, Paul warns us that we will be imprisoned with idolatry, strife, jealousy, and other

human desires. However, when we are dependent on God’s love to love ourselves and others AND

receive love from others, we are completely independent to live in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,

generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:19-23). Scripture defines freedom not based

on individual desires of happiness or even freedom from government but living a life dependent on God

and the community. In other words, without God and you, I am not free. How radical is that? Scripture’s

definition of freedom and independence is to be fully and completely dependent!


Yours in Christ,


Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday to the Church, Happy Birthday to you!

This Sunday marks the birthday of the Universal Christian Church. Each year we celebrate the

gift of the Holy Spirit descending on the people, bringing the people together into community,

inspiring the community to proclaim Easter hope as they are empowered to minister and bring

mission to the world. We call this day the Day of Pentecost.

This Sunday we will also celebrate with eight youth as they are confirmed. Unlike Pentecost,

confirmation is not the beginning of a journey. Confirmation marks a chapter in the journey.

However, like Pentecost our journey begins with God’s initiation in our lives. Baptism is a sign

of God’s initiation. In baptism we are marked with God’s claim on us as a child, the name

beloved, and the reminder that nothing can separate from God’s love. Our Christian journey is

not complete until death.

If confirmation is not the mark of a new journey nor the end of a journey, then where in the

journey does confirmation fall? Like any relationship there must be communication. Our

baptism is God communicating to us that God loves us. Think back to when you were dating

and someone across from you initiates the I love you for the first time. That person takes the risk

and makes the initial gesture of moving the relationship further. Confirmation is telling that

person across from you (in this example God) I love you too. If you say nothing in return, God

does not leave, instead God keeps saying it over and over. However, if you say, I love you too

then the relationship goes deeper.

As we know from being in relationships, this next phase in any relationship gets more

complicated and communication is vital. No matter how much we love someone in return, the

relationship can only continue if we are in communication. God continues to come to us over

and over and say to us I love you. As we continue to feel this love and as we continue to say I

love you back, then we begin to change (transform). This transformation is the Holy Spirit at

work in our and the church’s lives. If we continue to look at our lives and we are not changing at

all, we must ask ourselves are we actually telling God that we love God back or are we holding

onto our ideology of God?

During confirmation class we encourage the youth to ask questions, dig deeper and begin

deconstructing their childlike beliefs with the idea that as they continue their journey, with God’s

help, they will reconstruct their beliefs. This is what it means to be transformed or as

Presbyterians call it “once reforming always reforming.” Thank God for transformation!

Because if God is not changing us then the only place for us to go in God’s forever changing

world is lost.

If Pentecost is the celebration of God’s birth of the Church as God sent the Holy Spirit to guide

the Church’s forever transformation. Then confirmation invites our youth to join the church in

this forever transformation. I cannot think of a better birthday gift, can you? Thanks be to God!