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Comments to the 220th General Assembly

by on July 4, 2012

I bring you greetings from Colorado Springs, Colorado where the fire burning to the west edge of the city is approximately 80% contained, and they hope it will be 100% by Sunday, though the growth potential of the fire remains set at “high.” Eight families from my congregation were evacuated and are being allowed to return to their homes. As far as I’m told, they sustained only smoke damage. My custodian’s brother’s house was burned to the ground. We have appreciated the prayers of the nation these past many days, and the prayers of this Assembly.

Two weeks ago this morning people in Colorado Springs awoke to a typical summer day: warm, devoid of humidity, bright, and beautiful. On Saturday we would recognize a sight not entirely unfamiliar to us—smoke rising from a fire—but we were not overly concerned about it.

A fire needs three things to exist: heat, fuel, and oxygen. Last Tuesday Colorado Springs set its record for all time highest temperature. The fire that had begun on Saturday had spread through the mature and dry pine forests to the edge of a neighborhood. Then as evening fell, a thunderstorm rolled in creating 65 MPH winds. And the Waldo Canyon Fire had everything it needed, and we watched in disbelieving horror as 347 houses were reduced to giant ashtrays in one night.

One week ago this morning people in Colorado Springs were focused on what matters most—helping others in need, remembering what is truly important, holding more loosely our material things. That fire was the exigency that led us to this more faithful perspective.

Fellow Commissioners, our liturgy of ordination and installation has placed before us a number of times already the passage from Ephesians 4 which urges us to, “live a life worthy of the calling we have received.” Of course, Ephesians is referring to our baptismal calling, exemplified by the destruction of the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile, our baptismal calling to practically live out the reconciliation we have with God and with one another in Christ.

For me, the exigencies of this General Assembly have focused my attention more faithfully. In my presbytery, the dismissal of churches was the exigency that provided for my serving the 220th General Assembly. In my committee, the contentious issues we considered were the exigencies that provided for my deep thinking about the state of our denomination—thinking for ways to uphold our ordination vows of seeking the peace, unity, and purity of the church, of being obedient to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, while being continually guided by our confessions, of being a friend among our colleagues, of serving the church with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love. These are the very things we are striving to do at this General Assembly, and I would have returned home from Pittsburgh, having done these things, with a tremendous sense of satisfaction and gratitude.

But another exigency has emerged, and now I find myself called to serve as vice-moderator for this Assembly and for our denomination for the next two years. And should this council confirm this calling, I will lean even further—how it is possible, I do not know—into the opening exhortation of Ephesians to, “live a life worthy of the calling I have received,” knowing that he who is glorified in the church and in Christ Jesus is able to do immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within me. Thank you for the joy it is to serve with you all, and thank you, Mr. Moderator, for inviting me into this stewardship. Thank you.

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