Monthly Blog Posts

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

wither.

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,

Barrett

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,

Barrett

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,

Barrett

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,

Barrett

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!