Blog Archives

Pastor’s January 2018 Column

January ’18 Newsletter Pastor’s Column

Pastor’s December Column

December Newsletter Pastor’s Column

Pastor’s October Column

The month of October brings us to the season of Stewardship – our annual opportunity to make commitments for supporting the work of HPC in the coming year. In 2017, we are also commemorating the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, symbolically associated with Martin Luther’s posting of topics for debate on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. These two themes are deeply intertwined.

 

A hallmark of the Reformation was the idea that all people are gifted by God with skills, abilities, talents, and opportunities. All of us are “called” by God to give glory to God through the work we do. We are also urged to honor God and serve others by how we use the income from our work. The Reformers brought back the biblical idea of tithing, setting aside one-tenth of one’s earnings to be used for God’s purposes.

 

In my own life, I have decided that I give for three reasons: because I can; because I want to see good accomplished; and because I should.

 

I give because I can. Most of us were raised in a competitive environment, constantly comparing ourselves with others. Whether it’s grades or clothes or athletic ability or income or wealth, we look at our neighbors and so often find ourselves wanting. This “scarcity thinking” blinds us to the abundance in our lives. As middle class Americans, we are wealthier than the vast majority of the world’s people. Most of us really have more than we absolutely need, thus we have the ability and privilege of being able to give.

 

I give because I can in a second sense. There are things I would like to do but cannot. I will never be physically able to pull dry-wall out of someone else’s flooded home. But I can financially support others who are able to do so. My dollars often go where I cannot.

 

Second, I give because I want to see good things accomplished and to be part of God’s good work in the world. There is so much good that can be accomplished when we share our resources: hungry people can be fed and refugees welcomed; the sick can be comforted and visitors welcomed; children can grow up in faith and pastors can be educated; worship can uplift our spirits and open our hearts; faith can be nurtured and we can become advocates for justice. When I make a gift to HPC, I know these things happen and much more, and I am deeply glad.

 

Finally, I give because I should. This is not a popular reason today, but it has deep roots in our Reformed tradition. The Westminster Larger Catechism is an important part of our theological legacy. It taught the faith to generations of Presbyterians. One section looks at the Ten Commandments, in each case asking not only what we should not do, but asking also what duties the commandment teaches. Regarding “thou shalt not steal,” there is a long list of such duties. One is this: “giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others.” Giving is part of our discipleship. It’s how we live our faith. It is a sign of faithfulness.

 

For several years, the Session has set a goal of $800,000 in pledges from at least 300 individuals or households. We have not yet achieved either goal. If we do not make that goal this year, the work of this congregation in 2018 will be cut back. Please help us expand our ability to share hope from the heart of the Highlands.

 

Cynthia M. Campbell, Pastor

 

Pastor’s September Column

How do we commemorate the past? That question is front and center in our civic as well as religious life. Currently, we are engaged in an increasingly-tangled debate about what to do with monuments to the Confederacy. Also, this October marks the 500th anniversary of the event that many think of as “launching” the Protestant Reformation. Both events – the American Civil War and the Protestant Reformation – were hugely disruptive and cost hundreds of thousands of lives. The Civil War brought slavery to an end in the United States. The Reformation was essentially a spiritual renewal movement that reconnected Christianity with its biblical foundations. But how do we remember these events? What do they have to teach us?

 

A few years ago, as plans began to mark the anniversary of the Reformation, Protestant leaders (mostly Lutherans) decided to call this a “commemoration” rather than a “celebration.” They wanted to recognize not only the achievements of the Reformation but also the damage that was done. The Reformation was a protest against ways that the institutional church and church officials had amassed political and military power and great wealth. It was a theological revolution that brought Christians back to understanding salvation as God’s free gift of grace. Perhaps its most enduring legacy was the translation of the Bible into languages that people could    understand and eventually read for themselves.

 

But the Reformation also disintegrated the unity of the Body of Christ in Western Europe. Christians came to look upon one another as strangers and enemies. They banned each other from one another’s worship. Martin Luther was a great scholar and teacher; a man of towering faith and courage and deep theological        insight. He was also deeply anti-Semitic and wrote horrific things about Jews and Jewish faith. He demonized other Protestant leaders whom he thought to be too radical. He condemned an uprising of poor peasant
farmers.

 

An honest commemoration of the Protestant Reformation means coming to terms with the larger truth about what happened and why. Things that once were overlooked have been brought to the fore, and it is to the great credit of the World Lutheran Federation that they issued a public apology for Luther’s teaching against the Jews.

 

What about the Civil War? Clearly, this was a complex tragedy that divided literal families as well as the nation itself. But at its core, the war was about the right of some people to own other people as property. No one today affirms that so-called “right.” Do the monuments to those who led and fought for the Confederacy memorialize something else worth claiming? And what about the fact that nearly all the monuments were  erected during particularly violent times when Jim Crow laws were enforced with public lynching and when the Ku Klux Klan had its biggest following?

 

We should never try to erase history, but we must always try to understand it and above all tell the truth about it. It is also the case that, with the passage of time, our values change and that effects how we tell the   story of the past. As the poet James Russel Lowell said, “New occasions teach new duties; time [sometimes] makes  ancient good uncouth.”

 

Cynthia Campbell, Pastor

 

Contributors

Weekly Email Newsletter

Keep up to date with the Week-at-a-Glance