Dear Friends  –

Last week this eNews began with “Whoa!” because I was overwhelmed – ok – panicked! – as I tackled 1100 pages of reading for my next  Pittsburgh Seminary Church Planting and Revitalization, or CPR, class.  This week I’ve got nearly half the reading done (530 pages under my belt!) – and you guys – the stuff I am learning!!!! 

The first book, a commentary on Acts by Willie James Jennings, was so dense, so rich, it was like sitting down and eating filet mignon and fresh steamed crab (dipped in butter!) for days!

Jennings helped me to see again that Acts announces a new beginning with God; it reveals God’s deepest desire; the divine delight is for all people, all creation, to come together.  Acts is about “a holy joining orchestrated by God” in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit.

That means there is no divine final break up with Israel (I’m done with you people!), so God could go after the Gentiles (finally, somebody gets Me!), but the Holy Spirit is joining the two – Jew and Gentile together, which…wait for it… “opens up endless new possibilities of life together with others.” The church really is “a mixed group moving in the same direction.”

I was challenged in a ton of ways by what I read.  Here are a couple:

1 Jennings believes “The single greatest challenge for disciples of Jesus is to imagine and then enact actual together life, life that interpenetrates, weaves together, and joins to the bone,” – which means I have to ask myself, “who are the people nearest me that the Spirit is pressing me to get to know, come to appreciate, and ultimately join?”  

2 For Jennings, the challenge is that, “The Spirit presses us to join with people we do not want to join with…”  There is a “need for imagining and enacting forms of life together that transgress the boundaries we all know so well – racial, ethnic, economic, social, gendered, and nationalist.” Jennings then pulls out all the stops, going after people like me:  The problem is “too many pastors and church leaders have made themselves the high priest of segregationist practices. They have settled for the love of their own people instead of a love that creates a people. They have, out of the sheer need to be accepted, embraced, and celebrated, refused the holy work of the people of God to accept, embrace and celebrate others different from themselves.”  I’m asking myself: How am I a “high priest of segregationist practices”?  And how can I be about ending those segregationist practices?

See what I mean?  I’m learning so much – and that’s only one book (only 570 pages to go!)  I want to tell you all about the second book I finished, Eat What is Set Before You: A Missiology of the Congregation in Context, by Scott Hagley (one of my professors), but I’ll leave that for another eNews…

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This Sunday’s sermon text is Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-21 where Jesus talks about what messes people up doesn’t come from the outside, and gets to the heart of the matter… 

Hope to see you in worship!

Pastor Heidi

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