Sunday, June 25, 2006

Jesus Calms Chaos

Mark 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

Jesus Calms Chaos

Dr. Jon Burnham preached this sermon

at Batesville Presbyterian Church on June 25, 2006

       We live in a chaotic world. A chaotic world that makes us afraid. We are afraid we are running out of oil. We are afraid of global warming. We are afraid Korea may use a nuclear bomb against us. We are afraid Iran may develop a nuclear bomb. We are afraid to pull our troops out of Iraq. We are afraid not to pull our troops out of Iraq. We are afraid of being outsmarted by another church. We are afraid another church has better facilities. We are afraid we may get fired and find ourselves living on the street. We are afraid we are running out of time. We are afraid of getting old. We are afraid of death.

              We are awash in a sea of fear. And in the midst of our chaos we reach out for the steady hand of Jesus only to discover that Jesus is not standing where we thought he would be.  This happened to Jesus' disciples as they were traveling by boat across a large and deep lake called the Sea of Galilee. When a torrential storm came upon them in the dead of night, instead of being present on deck, ready for action, Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat. The disciples were horrified. This storm was more than they could handle. Even the experienced fishermen on board had never seen a storm so severe. This storm at sea is the setting for a powerful story.

        Let's put ourselves into the story and experience the wonder and power of a chaotic event with Jesus. The waves are banging the side of the boat. Gales of wind sound like a train coming down the tracks. We know we are in deep trouble. We are in over our heads. There is only one hope for us now. Jesus. We must find Jesus. We rummage around in the darkness. Groping here. Peeping there. Stumbling. Falling. Waving. Shouting. Searching for Jesus in the middle of a storm.

        Then, thanks be to God, we finally find Jesus. We are shocked to discover he is asleep. We hate to wake him up. We feel sorry that it seems we only look for him when we are desperate. When our child is sick. When our mother is dying. When we are facing surgery. Yet we cannot help but wake him up. He is our only hope for survival. So we reluctantly touch his shoulder. "Jesus. Master. Wake up." He doesn't budge. We put our fingers on his shoulder and move them. "Jesus. Get up. We're in a storm." He is still sound asleep. Finally, in desperation we put both hands on his shoulders and shake him and cry, "Jesus. Get up! Help! Help! We're dying here!"

        Jesus starts to wake up. He rolls over. He moans, "What?! What?! What do you want?!"

        We say, "Jesus! We're going down!"

        Jesus rolls over on his hands and knees and stretches himself aright in the tossy turvy boat. He tries to stand up but the boat pitches starboard and he falls down. So he starts crawling. Crawling across the floor to the hatch that leads to the deck. We watch him and don't know what to do. He shouldn't go up on that deck because he may get thrown overboard. But we want him up there where the trouble is because he is the only one who may be able to handle the situation. Crawling. He makes it to the deck. He climbs up on the wet surface of the rocking deck. It is dark. Other disciples are stumbling around, hanging on, cursing and crying. Not even aware Jesus is now on deck.

        Fully awake now, Jesus speaks to the wind as if he were addressing a barking dog in the night: "Be quiet! Pipe down." Wind takes note. Train sound stops. Jesus snarls at the storming sea: "Stop it. Settle down!" Sea snorts back then sniffles and settles. We disciples look out at wind and sea as if to say, "Yea, take that!" The boat keeps rocking but not as hard. The waves are settling down. The deck slowly rocks from right to left until it stands still. The wind runs out of breath; the sea becomes smooth as glass.

        Jesus reprimands us: "Why are you such cowards? Don't you have any faith at all?"

        We are in absolute awe, staggered. "Who is this, anyway?" we ask. "Wind and sea at his beck and call!"

        We put ourselves into the story because this story is our story. It happens to us again and again. Crisis strikes and our memory fails us. Tragedy hits and our courage flees. Each time chaos comes we think this time is not like last time. This time it is different. This time we will not survive. We fear we'll never make up the deficit in the church budget before the end of the year. We'll never find someone to replace a church staff member. How quick we are to disregard the way Jesus has guided our congregation through terrible storms during the past 165 years. Jesus calmed stormy waters in this congregation before the Civil War. He put out the fire when Union troops set our first sanctuary ablaze. Jesus stood with grieving women of this congregation who mourned the loss of father, husband, or son, in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean, Vietnam War and Wars in Iraq. Jesus dried their tears and rode home with them to an empty house. Jesus enabled this congregation to build Batesville Presbyterian Church from four or five different congregations in this community. Jesus calmed the chaos in this congregation during the Civil Rights Movement and even today. Jesus is still here. He hasn't left us. We will find him if we look. Seek and ye shall find.

        Remember the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Remember how howling winds rocked our little boat. The waves which towered some four stories high crashed down on us again and again. The lightening flashed in crazy white patterns against the cloud darkened black night sky. The thunder rolled. We didn't think we would make it. Jesus wasn't on deck. We had to search for him in the darkness. We finally found him. He staggered up on deck. He rebuked the wind and it became calm. He laid down the law to the sea and the waters became smooth as glass. He shut down the storm. We were amazed. We are still amazed when we think about it.

      Jesus calms chaos. He has the power to calm chaos. He has the will to calm chaos. He has the intention to calm chaos. Seek and you will find him. Knock and he will open the door. Ask and he will give it to you. For whoever seeks finds. Whoever knocks, the door is opened unto them. Whoever asks receives. No storm is too strong for Jesus. No wind is too high. No waves are too wild. No tragedy is too severe. No relationship is too broken. No person is too far out of control. The chaos is our lives is not beyond him. Jesus calms chaos. Let's find him. Let's beg for his help. Let's marvel at the miracle. Jesus still calms chaos even today. Jesus calms chaos.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

God's Unlikely Choice

We make hundreds of choices every day. We make simple decisions such as what to eat for breakfast. We make harder choices such which puppy to adopt. According to the Bible, even God has to make choices. Our story today tells us about God's unlikely choice for king of Israel.

We makes our choices based on some kind of yardstick. He comes from money. She's beautiful. Smart as a whip. Fast as lightening. These are phrases of measurement. We keep score. It seems to be part of our fallen human nature. The one who dies with the most toys wins.

Taking this philosophy to the extreme may become dangerous. Already, wealthier people are able to enhance their beauty through plastic surgery. In the next couple of decades procedures to enhance our mental abilities are likely to be legal, available, and possibly expensive. Imagine a world where you can purchase an upgrade to your mental abilities. A world where memory is enhanced, concentration increased, and problem solving ability multiplied.

So called "brain steroids" are widely used on American college campuses. We've heard about high school and professional athletes using steroids to gain a competitive advantage. Some high school and college students now use prescription drugs to increase mental abilities as they cram for exams. According to a story in this week's Washington Post "brain steroids" can be purchased on many campuses for as little as $3 to $5 per pill, though they are often obtained free from friends with legitimate prescriptions, students report.

Students using brain drugs such as adderall and ritalin are often the best students. They want to achieve a 4.0 grade point average instead of a mere 3.8 grade point average. They are, in a sense, the best of us. They mirror our desperation for success. We want to excel. We want to be the smartest and richest and most beautiful people we can be. We want to be recognized, admired and loved by the people we respect. And there is even a spiritual dimension to our desire to excel. For we want God in heaven to notice us and approve of us and say to us, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." The craving for God's approval is a good and noble desire. Yet God's measurement is based on a different criterion. God is not impressed with physical beauty. Bank accounts and stock portfolios do not impress the Holy Spirit. Jesus describes God as owning the cattle on a thousand hills. According to our story today, God uses a different yardstick when God judges people. Let's take a look at this remarkable story.

God sends the prophet Samuel to anoint a new king in Israel. This is a dangerous mission for Samuel since the current King Saul is still alive and intends to continue being king. Even so, God orders Samuel to anoint another king from one of the sons of Jesse. Samuel courageously goes and finds Jesse and gets all Jesse's sons to gather for a ritual to anoint a new king of Israel. 

When Jesse's sons arrive, Samuel takes one look at Eliab and thinks, "Here he is! God's anointed!" Samuel's choice of Eliab was made on his first impression. In the intriguing book called "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking," author Malcolm Gladwell argues that our best choices are the ones we make without thinking. Often Gladwell is right. As his book illustrates, our first impressions are often correct. However, that is not true in every case. And it was not true in the case of Samuel anointing a new king of Israel.

Samuel's first impression was to anoint Eliab as king. But God told Samuel, "Looks aren't everything. Don't be impressed with his looks and stature. I've already eliminated him from consideration as king. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart." God's judgement goes beneath the surface all the way down into our heart.  God knows our intentions and motivations.

In his ministry, Jesus provides an excellent illustration of how God judges people based on their heart. Jesus enters a house there where he doesn't think he will be found, but he can't escape notice. He is barely inside when a woman who has a disturbed daughter hears where he is. She comes in and kneels at his feet, begging for help. The woman was a Gentile, a Greek, Syro-Phoenician by birth. She asked him to cure her daughter.

He said, "Stand in line and take your turn. The children get fed first. If there's any left over, the dogs get it."

She said, "Of course, Master. But don't dogs under the table get scraps dropped by the children?"

Jesus was impressed. This woman had heart. She was not from the right race, she did not practice the right religion, she may not have been attractive. But she had heart. She had spunk. She was determined. She was humble. Jesus said to her: "You're right! Dogs under the table get scraps dropped by the children. On your way! Your daughter is no longer disturbed. The demonic affliction is gone." She goes home and finds her daughter relaxed on the bed, the torment gone for good. Jesus gazed into this woman's heart and responded to her cry for help.

Jesus was called the Son of David because he was literally a descendant of King David. Our story today tells us how God chose David to be King of Israel. The prophet Samuel gathers the sons of Jesse and from them the Lord will choose one to be King of Israel. Samuel's first impression says Eliab should be anointed king. God disagrees and says Eliab is not the one.

Jesse then called up his son Abinadab and presented him to Samuel. Samuel said, "This man isn't God's choice either."

Next Jesse presented Shammah. Samuel said, "No, this man isn't either."
Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel. Samuel was blunt with Jesse, "God hasn't chosen any of these."

Then he asked Jesse, "Is this it? Are there no more sons?"

"Well, yes, there's the runt. But he's out tending the sheep."

Samuel ordered Jesse, "Go get him. We're not moving from this spot until he's here."
Jesse sent for him. He was brought in, the very picture of health— bright-eyed, good-looking. Even so, David had done nothing to merit being chosen as king. In the story, David utters not one word. David merely appears when he is summoned. God is the main character in this story.

God said, "Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one." Our story gives no explanation for why God chose David. The Psalmist will later explain why God chose David to be King of Israel.  

   You love the right
      and hate the wrong.
   And that is why God, your very own God,
      poured fragrant oil on your head,
   Marking you out as king
      from among your dear companions. (Psalm 45:7)

Samuel takes his flask of oil and anoints David as King of Israel, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God enters David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowers him for the rest of his life.

Samuel leaves and goes home to Ramah. Such is the life of a prophet. We go where God tells us to go and do what God tells us even when doing so is dangerous. Even when doing so means learning to use another yardstick to measure people. Even when we must lay aside our cultural heritage and current worldview and learn a new way of measuring people as God does, according to their heart.

The Bible claims God who uses a different criterion for judgment. God tells Samuel, "Looks aren't everything. Don't be impressed with looks and stature. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart."
In Matthew 5, Jesus describes how different the world would look if humans judged people according to their hearts. If the world judged people according to their hearts then the meek would be ruling the earth, those who mourn would be finding comfort, and the poor would be inheriting the earth.

Jesus' vision is right in line with the God he calls "Abba," meaning "Daddy." The story of God's choice of David is a story of expectations reversed. The last is made first. God chooses the runt of the litter to serve as king. God looks below the surface. God looks into our heart. Let's judge one another like God judges us, according to our heart. Since we have no x-ray vision this will be difficult. In fact, we may find judging people according to their heart to be beyond our ability as human beings. Perhaps that is why in our story for today God gets to choose the King of Israel. And God chooses David, an unlikely choice.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Resurrection Life

Romans 8:12-17 (MSG)

So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Daddy?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him!

Resurrection Life
Dr. Jon Burnham preached this sermon at Batesville Presbyterian Church
on  Trinity Sunday, June 11, 2006  

A rich official approached Jesus one day and asked what to do to follow Jesus. One may imagine Jesus' disciples feeling flattered that a rich official wanted to know how to join their cause. Judas, as the money manager of the group, must have been delighted at the prospect. Then imagine the disciples feelings when Jesus told the rich official the cost of discipleship saying, "Sell everything you have and give the money to the poor then come and follow me." The disciples, dumbfounded, may have looked at one another with bulging eyes of disbelief. Not surprisingly, the rich official deferred from such a demanding offer. The price was too high. (Cf. Luke 18:18-30)

Perhaps the rich official was like that ultimate American icon, a self-made man. Perhaps he's made his money the old-fashioned way -- he'd earned it - and so was reluctant to be parted from his dearly beloved assets. We don't know how he got his wealth for the Bible doesn't say. The Bible does say the man was morally pure. Yet the issue between the rich official and Jesus went deeper even than money or morality. The issue went as deep as the mystery of a joyous God who offers resurrection life to any who are willing to die to give up everything to obtain it.

Jesus welcomed the rich official provided he packed light. To paraphrase what Jesus told his disciples before sending them out as missionaries around the countryside, "If you can't fit it in a backpack don't take it with you." Jesus put this requirement on the front end of the deal in his encounter with the rich official.

The problem for the rich official and for all us richer is our difficulty in letting go of possessions. You know what I mean if you've recently moved. There are precious memories associated with our possessions. We have invested ourselves in personal effects. We face a similar challenge when we have to clean out the house of a parent of relative who has died. We have to decide what to do with the matching bedside two-drawer chest in the master bedroom. Physical objects help us feel planted securely in the soil of a particular place.

We all share a human need for shelter and a sense of being loved. We seek security in our investments whether they be financial, physical or spiritual. We crave security especially in our relationships. The blessing and tragedy of family life is the unconditional love we have but sometimes experience and the love we sometimes lose. Our deep need for love goes beyond reason into our very subconsciousness and it is at that deeper level where Jesus meets us. Jesus meets us at the level of our deepest needs for security and unconditional love.

In the sacrament of baptism we enact our need for supportive relationships and God's unconditional love for us. The baptismal ritual reminds us of the give and take of Christian discipleship. Recall these questions for the baptismal candidate.

Do you renounce all evil,
and powers in the world
which defy God's righteousness and love?
I renounce them.

Do you renounce the ways of sin
that separate you from the love of God?
I renounce them.

Do you turn to Jesus Christ
and accept him as your Lord and Savior?
I do.

Will you be Christ's faithful disciple,
obeying his Word and showing his love,
to your life's end?
I will, with God's help.

Confession comes after renunciation and resurrection life comes after death to the old way of life. Even in our baptismal ritual we enact the challenge Jesus presented to the rich official.  The rich official was denied discipleship because he was unwilling to make the necessary renunciations. We all face the choice Jesus gave the rich official. This choice is incorporated into our baptismal liturgy. We say "Yes" to Christ only after saying "No" to the old way of life.

The Apostle Paul understood this concept. In our text for today Paul writes, "So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!" Paul calls our new life in Christ "resurrection life." Resurrection life is what Jesus offered the rich official and resurrection life is what Jesus offers us. And we take it. We take this resurrection life like a poor beggar grabs a $100 bill. We are desperate for a deep experience of God. We are as ready to journey with God into resurrection life as a small child ready to go on vacation with Mommy and Daddy.

Resurrection life is full of joy but it is not a cake walk. All is not fun and games even in Disneyworld. It is hot and humid in the Magic Kingdom and even a ham sandwich for lunch costs about $10. Resurrection life is not constant parades with Mickey and Minnie. Resurrection life is the daily decisions that come so fast we hardly have time to think. Hard choices. Costly choices. Resurrection life is paying our pledge to Christ's church when we'd rather upgrade to a cell phone with broadband service so we can watch ESPN or The Daily Show while we wait in line at the bank.

Resurrection life is not all miracles and glory and it never goes on sale 40% off. Resurrection life is being patient with tedious people and loving those whom we consider unworthy of our affection. Resurrection life is being open to the Spirit and ready to roll whenever and wherever God leads. As Jesus demonstrated in his challenge to the rich official, the price of admission to resurrection life is extraordinarily high. Renunciations come before profession. Good Friday comes before Easter Sunday. Crucifixion comes before resurrection.

Jesus challenges us to give up whatever holds us back from living the resurrection life. Pray about this and see if the Spirit shows you the price of discipleship in your own walk with Christ. Count the cost. Run the numbers. Resurrection life is worth the investment. With God's help, we will get what's coming to us -- an unbelievable inheritance. As Paul reminds us, we go through exactly what Christ goes through. The agony of the cross precedes the glory of the resurrection life. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him! Resurrection life. It is not cheap. It is not easy. But it is available. Let's live the resurrection life today.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Spirit Signs

Acts 2:1-8 (The Message)
When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them. There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn't for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, "Aren't these all Galileans? How come we're hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?

Spirit Signs
Dr. Jon Burnham preached this sermon
at Batesville Presbyterian Church on June 4, 2006

Language moved to the center of the political stage in America this week. Perhaps you didn't even notice the little insert in the Senate's immigration bill that would make English the official language of the United States. NPR commentator Daniel Schorr wonders why all of a sudden we need to officially establish English as our official language. He notes studies that demonstrate the Latin American immigrants walking our streets today are learning English more quickly than German immigrants of an earlier generation. While making English the official language the Senate did not provide additional funding for teaching English as Second Language in spite of the fact there are thousands of immigrants waiting in line to learn the English language.

Language matters. That is the message the Senate wants to send to the immigrants and voters back home. The Bible would certainly agree. Not necessarily with the Senate's immigration bill. But the Bible acknowledges the importance of language. You can see it in our text today in Acts 2. Language plays a crucial role on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit
emboldened and enabled the disciples to speak the languages of people from all over the world. When they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. The people heard the Spirit speaking their own language and the fire of the Spirit burned within them. When people hear the Spirit speaking to them in a language they can understand people change. It happened in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. It happened again some 1600 years later in Whittenburg, Germany during the Protestant Reformation.

One of the key developments in the Protestant Reformation was the publication of the Bible in the language of the people. The invention of the printing press made that possible for the first time. Before the printing press the only way to copy the Bible was by hand. This was a time intensive process and there were few copies of the Bible. Before the Reformation the average person never once saw a Bible written in a language they could read. When they finally read the Bible in their own language the Spirit set the continent of Europe on fire with the power of the Spirit. As Presbyterians we trace our history back to the Protestant Reformation and we are certainly people of the Bible, the written Word.

On the day of Pentecost the Spirit spoke in a way more powerful than even the written word. The Spirit spoke in the language of the people with a human voice on the day of Pentecost. People from over 15 different countries heard the disciples speaking to them in their own language. The result was rather dramatic. Peter stepped forth and preached to the crowd gathered in Jerusalem and that day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers. Pentecost was a powerful group experience of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Presbyterians get a chance to experience how the disciples felt on the day of Pentecost. We get that chance every other year at the opening worship service of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). I have attended three of these worship services and found them to be a powerful experience of the Holy Spirit in action. This year's General Assembly begins later this month in Birmingham, Alabama. One of our church members, Ginnie Monteith, is a Youth Advisory Delegate to this year's General Assembly.

Liturgical dancers at the 216th General Assembly.
Liturgical dancers, under the direction of Kathryn Sparks, brought color and movement to the opening worship celebration at the 216th General Assembly in Richmond, Virginia.
Photo by David P. Young

Perhaps Ginny will attend the Ecumenical Service of Worship at the General Assembly. If so, she will witness a Presbyterian version of the day of Pentecost. Judging from past experience this worship service may look something like this as you look down to the ground level from high your seat high up in a coliseum. First come the liturgical dancers waving batons with long red streamers to signify the entrance of the Holy Spirit. Then comes the multitude of banner bearers with a banner from each presbytery across the United States. These are followed by many ministers of Word and Sacrament in their various robes and stoles and elder representatives who will be serving the sacrament of the Lord's Supper during the service. The sermon is always interesting because someone stands near the preacher and interprets the sermon in sign language for the hearing impaired. The highlight of the service comes after the sermon when a host of missionaries who will be commissioned to service all over the world, taking the message of the Spirit to the people in their own language in a modern day Presbyterian version of the day of Pentecost. The visual and auditory signs of the opening worship service of the Assembly reinforce the theme of diversity and inclusiveness, which is a priority for our denomination and which was the sign of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

The Spirit spoke to people in more than 15 different languages on Pentecost. The folks in Jerusalem on Pentecost day couldn't for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, "Aren't these all Galileans? How come we're hearing them talk in our various mother tongues? They're speaking our languages, describing God's mighty works!" (Acts 2:6-12, MSG)

We recognize the importance of communicating to people in their own language so we give away Spanish language Bibles in Honduras. Our mission to Honduras is our own version of a very Presbyterian tradition of sending missionaries into the world to share the gospel with people in their own languages. This is still happening today.

Even today we have Presbyterian Mission Workers such as Kara VanderKamp who serves in Niger. In a recent letter Kara shared some of what she is doing on our behalf. Here is part of her letter from May 9, 2006.

Dear Friends and Family:
The sun burns the head and then it burns the heart.
This is the Hausa saying that Alio, my language teacher, told me when
we were discussing the impact that the sun and heat have on people.
(Hausa is a language and people group in Niger.) We are now in the
midst of the hot season, and I was telling him how the extreme heat is
affecting the way I relate to people. I'm not very proud of it, but I
find myself becoming irritated more easily and quickly. And I'm
apparently not the only person who is feeling the heat! In general,
people seem to be tired and on edge.
Despite the heat, life goes on.

That is Kara's story and that is our story as well. Despite the heat, life goes on. Whatever heat may come from this General Assembly life will go on. And thanks to our Presbyterian missionaries such as Kara VaderKamp, we are sharing the Spirit in the Hausa language in Niger and all across the world. The Spirit the language of the people wherever the people may be. Let us speak the language of the Spirit which is the language of love.

We will continue to speak the spiritual language of love in the native tongues of every person in every land. Painting pictures with our words. Calling forth the best from every person. Saying no to gossip. Saying yes to spirit signs. That is the way forward. That is the road we walk together as Presbyterians and as Christians.